Lena massacre


Lena massacre

The Lena massacre or Lena execution ("Ленский расстрел" in Russian) refers to the shooting of striking goldfield workers by Russia's tsarist army on OldStyleDate|17 April|1912|4 April in northeast Siberia near the Lena RiverRussian [http://express.irkutsk.ru/history/sob/xx/lr/ Lenzoloto strike in 1912] ] . It has been suggested that Vladimir Ulyanov adopted his more popular alias after the river Lena — "Lenin" — after this event, although he had in fact started using it years earlier [http://www.marxists.org.uk/archive/lenin/works/1904/aug/10yom.htm Lenin's note written August 10, 1904 in the Swiss mountains] ] .

The incident took place at the goldfields of the Lena Gold Mining Joint Stock Company (a.k.a. Lenzoloto), located along the shores of the Lena River near the town of Bodaybo north of Irkutsk. Merciless exploitation of the workforce provided enormous profits for the English and Russian shareholders, such as A.I.Vyshnegradsky, Alexei Putilov (both on the board of directors), Count Sergei Witte, Empress Maria Fyodorovna, and others. The working conditions at the goldfields were extremely harsh. The miners had to work 15 to 16 hours a day. For every thousand workers, there were more than 700 traumatic accidentsRussian [http://express.irkutsk.ru/history/sob/xx/lr/doc/index.htm Documents site about Lena execution in 1912] ] . One part of the low salary often had to be used to pay fines. The other part of it was given in the form of coupons to be used in stores at the mine itself. All this led a spontaneous strike at the Andreyevsky goldfield on February 29 (March 13). An immediate cause for the strike was distribution of rotten meat at one of the stores.

On March 4 (17), the workers established their demands: an 8-hour workday, 30% raise in wages, the elimination of fines, and the improvement of food delivery, among others. However, none of these demands were satisfied by the administration. With the Central Strike Committee and Central Bureau (P.N.Batashev, G.V.CherepakhinRussian [http://express.irkutsk.ru/history/sob/xx/lr/memo/01.htm G.V.Cherepakhin personal memoirs] ] , R.I.Zelionko, M.I.Lebedev, and others) in charge of the strike, it had extended to all the goldfields, and included over 6000 workers, by mid-March. The tsarist government sent troops from Kirensk to Bodaybo, and on the night of April 4(17), all members of the strike committee were arrested. The next morning, the workers demanded their immediate release. That afternoon, some 2500 people marched towards the Nadezhdinsky goldfield to deliver a complaint of the arbitrariness of authorities to the prosecutor's office. The workers were met by soldiers, who began shooting at the crowd by the order of Captain Treshchenkov, resulting in 270 dead and 250 wounded (as reported by a local newspaper "Zvezda"). These numbers were used for propaganda purposes during the Soviet times. However, one of the reports from the mine dated by the 5th of April mentions 150 dead and 100 wounded.

The public demanded the government send a commission to the goldfields to investigate the incident. Soon afterward, the administration offered its workers a new contract, which failed to meet their satisfaction. News of the massacre provoked nationwide strikes and protest meetings totaling more than 300,000 participants, with 700 political strikes during the month of April, and 1000 strikes on May 1 in the St. Petersburg area alone. The strike continued until August 12(25), when the last of the workers withdrew from the mines and moved elsewhere. Altogether, an estimated 9000 employees and family members abandoned the goldfields.

The Duma commission on the Lena execution was headed by Alexander Kerensky. His colourful and somewhat exaggeratedFact|date=April 2008 reports of the incident greatly promoted its publicity, as well as advanced his career from a backbencher to a popular leader of the Duma, as well as head of the Provisional Government of 1917.

References


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