The constitutional movement was a prelude to the 1905 Revolution, which was sparked by a massacre of workers on Palace Square in St Petersburg on 9 January - 'Bloody Sunday' as it became known. Its main leader, a priest called Gapon, had links to the Union of Liberation, which encouraged him.
Gapon had made a name for himself as a preacher in the workers' districts of St Petersburg. He told the urban poor who flocked to his church that the tsar had a holy obligation to satisfy their demands if 'the people' went to him in supplication. Gapon was drawing on the myth of the 'benevolent Tsar' (the tsar-batiushka) that had fuelled and legitimized so many protest movements in Russian history.
Bloody Sunday Massacre
On 3-8 January, when 120,00 workers went on strike in St Petersburg and began to speak about going to the tsar 'to seek truth and justice', Gapon took up their cause and drew up a list of demands to be presented to the tsar in a mass demonstration scheduled for the following Sunday.
On 9 January, 100,000 people marched with icons and portraits of the tsar towards the Winter Palace. Before they reached their destination, they were fired on by the tsar's troops: 130 people were killed and several hundred wounded. Dozens of demonstrators were shot dead by troops in other parts of the city.