Lena Massacre

Also found in: Wikipedia.

Lena Massacre


a massacre of workers by tsarist troops on Apr. 4 (17), 1912. The massacre occurred in the diggings of the Lena Gold Mining Partnership (“Lenzoto”) on the Lena River and its tributaries the Vitim and Olekma, 2,000 km north of the railroad at Irkutsk.

Merciless exploitation secured huge profits for the British and Russian shareholders of the company, who included the major Russian entrepreneurs A. I. Vyshnegradskii and A. I. Putilov (both members of the board of the company), Count S. Iu. Witte, and Empress Mariia Fedorovna, the mother of Nicholas II. Work conditions were extremely difficult: the miners’ workday was as long as 15–16 hours, and in 1911 alone there were more than 700 injuries for every 1,000 people. Wages were low; part went for fines and part was dispensed in the form of coupons for the company stores.

A strike began spontaneously on February 29 (March 13) at the Andreevskii field. The immediate cause of the strike was the distribution of putrid meat at the store. The strikers’ demands were worked out on March 4 (17) and included an eight-hour day, a 30 percent increase in wages, the abolition of fines, and improved provisions. Not one of the most important demands was satisfied by management. By the middle of March, the strike had swept all the fields (more than 6,000 workers). It was led by the Central Strike Committee and the Central Bureau, including Bolsheviks (among them, P. N. Batashev, the chairman of the committee, G. V. Cherepakhin, R. I. Zelionko, and M. I. Lebedev) and also Mensheviks, Socialist Revolutionaries, and others. The government sent troops from Kirensk and Bodaibo. Nearly all of the members of the strike committee were arrested in the early hours of April 4. Later that day the workers demanded their release, and 2,500 people went to the Nadezhdinskii field to deliver their complaints about the arbitrary behavior of the authorities to an official of the procurator’s office. The workers were met by soldiers, who opened fire on the order of the gendarme cavalry squadron commander Treshchenkov. There were 270 people killed and 250 wounded. Under pressure of public opinion, the government sent a commission to the fields to investigate. A new hiring agreement did not satisfy the workers. The strike continued until August 12 (25), when the last party of workers left the fields (including families, a total of about 9,000 people left).

The Lena massacre gave rise to strikes and protest meetings in the country involving about 300,000 people. In the context of the revolutionary upsurge of 191–14 the Lena events spurred the development of revolutionary fervor into a mass offensive against tsarism and capitalism.


Lenin, V. I. Poln. sobr. soch, 5th ed. vol. 21, pp. 247–48, 267, 335–42, 345–46; vol. 23, pp. 195–97, 296–97, 298–99; vol. 25, p. 378–79.
Lenskie priiski: Sbornik dokumentov. Moscow, 1937.
Aksenov, Iu. S. Lenskie sobytiia 1912. Moscow, 1960.
Lebedev, M. I. Vospominaniia o lenskikh sobytiiakh [2nd ed.]. Moscow, 1962.


References in periodicals archive ?
Lars Lih's probing review in this journal of several studies of late tsarist Russia, including my history of the Lena massacre and a book by Leopold Haimson, raises several interesting issues.
2, Slavic Review 2 4, 1 (1965): 1-22; "'The Problem of Political and Social Stability in Urban Russia on the Eve of War and Revolution' Revisited," Slavic Review 59, 4 (2000): 846-75; Michael Melancon, "Unexpected Consensus: Russian Society and the Lena Massacre, April 1912," Revolutionary Russia 15, 2 (2002): 1-52.
More substantively, Melancon puts too many of his eggs in one basket, namely, the immediate reaction to the Lena massacre.
Melancon provides an excellent example when he traces the Lena massacre back to the gold mining industry's monopoly position and its many personal connections within high state circles.