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January 9, 1905

If you live by the Gregorian Calendar, as most of us do, go home and come back on January 22. If you live by the Julian Calendar, by which Russia lived up until 1918, go home and come back on January 9. Which would be January 22. Get me?

Okay, well, never mind. Let's live a little bit dangerously, shall we?

Tomorrow is January 9, 2005 (Gregorian). On January 9, 1905 (Julian), several thousand people marched on the Royal Winter Palace in St. Petersburg attempting to present Tsar Nicholas II with a petition listing a number of grievances. The Tsar wasn't home, not that that probably made much difference.

Apparently this large crowd of people annoyed somebody, so the Tsar's Cossacks attacked the marchers and hundreds of them were killed. This became one of the many Bloody Sundays that populate our history books, and is regarded by many as the prelude to -- maybe even the beginning of -- the Russian Revolution.

Here in bullet points, if you will pardon the expression, is what the marchers were asking for:

I.  Measures against the ignorance of the Russian people and against its lack of rights

  1. Immediate freedom and return home for all those who have suffered for their political and religious convictions, for strike activity, and for peasant disorders.
  2. Immediate proclamation of the freedom and inviolability of the person, of freedom of speech and of the press, of freedom of assembly, and of freedom of conscience in matters of religion.
  3. Universal and compulsory public education at state expense.
  4. Accountability of government ministers to the people and a guarantee of lawful administration.
  5. Equality of all before the law without exception.
  6. Separation of church and state

II.  Measures against the poverty of the people

  1. Abolition of indirect taxes and their replacement by a direct, progressive income tax.
  2. Abolition of redemption payments, cheap credit, and the gradual transfer of land to the people.
  3. Naval Ministry contracts should be filled in Russia, not abroad.
  4. Termination of the war according to the will of the people.

III.  Measures against the oppression of labor by capital

  1. Abolition of the office of factory inspector.
  2. Establishment in factories and plants of permanent commissions elected by the workers, which jointly with the administration are to investigate all complaints coming from individual workers.  A worker cannot be fired except by a resolution of this commission.
  3. Freedom for producer-consumer cooperatives and workers' trade unions--at once.
  4. An eight-hour working day and regulation of overtime work.
  5. Freedom for labor to struggle with capital--at once.
  6. Wage regulation--at once.
  7. Guaranteed participation of representatives of the working classes in drafting a law on state insurance for workers--at once.

Outrageous. Simply outrageous. No wonder the Cossacks had to kill hundreds.

Every once in a while I think it is probably a good idea to take a moment to recall what living in a democracy really requires of you. Things like, for example, paying attention. See, because as a matter of actual fact, you aren't really entitled to anything -- certainly not to anything from that list above. Power is what gives you what you think you own, and in a democracy the power is supposed to belong to the people.

So, you know, don't forget to own it. Unless of course you don't mind finding yourself in some other Royal Palace Square someday, in the snow, the cavalry thundering across the cobblestones toward you. All for the sake of an eight-hour day.


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