Riga. Shooting of Workers’ Demonstration. January 13

Video in Latvian language (also see in Russian below)

Video in Russian

January 9, 1905 in St. Petersburg occurred “Bloody Sunday.” The tsar’s troops shot down a peaceful demonstration of residents who were going to the tsar, carrying a petition to him asking him to ease their unbearable situation. This happened against the background of the developing revolutionary situation in Russia, against the background of the unresolved agrarian question, the workers’ question, the national question, against the background of the unsuccessful war with Japan.

In Riga, this bloody incident became known the next day, January 10, from the newspapers. There was no limit to the indignation of the workers and all the workers. The Riga Committee of the RSDLP of the Central Committee of the Latvian Social Democratic Workers ’ Party immediately met on the same day for an emergency meeting and decided to call on the workers to strike in protest.

On January 12, strikes began in the factories of Zadvinje. Workers left their jobs, took to the streets, went from one factory to another and called on their comrades to join the strike. By evening, the strike had spread to the city center. Almost the whole of Riga stood in protest against this bloody event. People with red banners and singing revolutionary songs filled the streets of our city.

Execution of a workers ’ demonstration on January 13, 1905.
With pictures of A. Mednis, A. Melnars, Y. Vilumanis

In 1905, the site was occupied by the Kuznetsov Porcelain Factory. In 2013, it was demolished, leaving only the pipe, and in its place now stands a shopping center. The same fate befell many industrial enterprises in Riga and entire branches of Latvian industry. And then, on January 12, 1905, the workers of this factory did not support the strikers. They continued to work under the protection of soldiers. The factory was dominated by Patriarchal attitudes. The workers lived far away from the city center, from the industrial Backwater, here in Moscow’s Forstadt, in factory barracks, mostly illiterate. But here, too, a Marxist circle had been operating for a whole year, and in 1904 the workers of the art workshops made demands for an increase in wages to the owner. And they achieved this increase under the threat of a strike. The consciousness of the workers began to grow stronger under the influence of difficult working conditions and the arbitrariness of the administration.

And so, the next day, on the morning of January 13, a huge crowd of striking workers came here from the city center to inspire their comrades to strike. The owners of the enterprise themselves gave the horn to the end of the work, fearing the indignation of the workers. The workers stopped working and came out here, to this square. An impromptu demonstration and rally took place here, after which a huge mass of strikers, about 25 thousand people, moved back to the city center, which is 5 km away, singing revolutionary songs, with red banners. All the people who are here: Latvians, Russians, Jews, Lithuanians, all went to the city center to protest, to defend their rights.

Along this Great Moscow Street, along this very pavement, masses of workers were marching to the center of the city to defend their interests, their right, their dignity. An eyewitness wrote about those events: “Riga has never seen anything like this. Never before had such an impressive mass of people seen these streets. Workers joined the demonstration singly and in small groups from the surrounding streets. Red flags were carried ahead. It all made a huge, unforgettable impression. The patrols of soldiers and policemen who met them shyly and shyly moved away and gave way to the workers.” They were walking toward the center of the city.

But the city authorities, frightened by yesterday’s strikes, have already prepared. Here, in the passage under the railway bridge, a half-company of a non-commissioned officer training detachment was built. The demonstrators did not expect that they would shoot at the people, at a peaceful demonstration and walked around this line from two sides, seeping further to the center of the city, to this square.

Monument to the fighters of the 1905 Revolution in Riga

As a result, many people, having passed through this passage, gathered in this square. But here they were blocked by a second half-company of soldiers, drawn up across the road. People have gathered in large numbers in this square. And then suddenly, without any command, without warning, volleys rang out. The soldiers began firing from both sides at the crowd. In the first few minutes, whole lines of workers fell. Then something unimaginable began to happen. The soldiers opened fire indiscriminately on the workers. The dead fell, the wounded fell, the living fell to avoid the bullets. The crowd rushed in different directions in fear and terror. Many rushed to the ice of the then frozen Daugava. And the soldiers continued to shoot at him.

As a result of the shooting, about 80 people were killed and more than three hundred were wounded.

The funerals of the dead were accompanied by new demonstrations. The entire working class, followed by the entire peasantry of Latvia and all of Russia, rose up for their rights, for their dignity, for their interests. Baronial castles burned, punitive expeditions traveled all over Russia. But the working class got its way. He achieved concessions, achieved the freedoms that the tsar was forced to declare in his manifesto. And 12 years later, the Great October Socialist Revolution took place and the world’s first state of workers and peasants was founded. The Revolution of 1905 served as its prologue.

Today, in honor of those events, the street is called “the 13th of January street,” and at the place of the shooting in 1960, a monument to the fighters of the revolution is installed, by sculptor Albert Terpilovsky and architect Karlis Pluksne. The working class of Latvia remembers the events of January 13, 1905. We should not forget about them and today’s exploiters of the working people, the destroyers of the country’s economy, those who appropriate and plunder the wealth created by people’s labor and sweat. History tends to repeat itself in new conditions.