Fr. George Gapon
At the beginning of the XX Century, Fr. George Gapon was
among the most prominent of Russia's reformist clergy,
noted for his extraordinary personal generosity as well
as for his efforts to create active Orthodox charitable organisations.
However, he was by many accounts emotionally unstable,
and had a scandalously close friendship with an orphan girl who
eventually became the widowed priest's de facto second wife
and bore him a child. In January of 1905, Fr. Gapon led
a religious-political procession of workers through the
streets of St. Petersburg; besides their icons and sacred banners,
the marchers carried a petition calling upon their "father"
the Emperor to improve working conditions and, more radically, to
establish an elected democratic government.
The violent response of police and Cossack soldiers when the
march reached the Winter Palace led to over a hundred fatalities;
"Bloody Sunday" was the start of the
Fr. Gapon himself survived the violence at the Winter Palace and
fled to Geneva. Expelled from the clergy, he attempted to make himself
the leader of the Revolution; when that failed, he tried to
serve as a mediator between the revolutionaries and the government.
Like many figures of the Russian Left, his relationship to the
Okhrana or secret police was highly ambiguous, and he found himself caught
between the Terrorists and the authorities, trusted by neither.
In March of 1906 he was brutally murdered (hanged for spying)
by his revolutionary colleagues.
Fr. Gapon's religious sincerity has frequently been denied, and the
imperial government suspected his charitable activities were
from the start fronts for subversion. Modern biographers, however,
tend to view him as a genuine religious radical who hoped to
play a Philaret-like role in Nicholas II's court as the
Emperor's conscience and the people's spokesman.
Norman Hugh Redington
The Story of My Life, (1905).
London: Chapman-Hall, 1905.
Oddly, written in English and serialised
in The Strand, and only later translated into Russian.
It may have been ghost-written.
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