I Had a Dream – The Mysterious Death of Father Gapon

A detailed look at Father Georgy Gapon, the Russian Orthodox priest who led the Bloody Sunday Revolution in 1905 and who was brutally murdered in March 1906. This essay explores the various responses to his death and the role it may have played in the development of Russia’s Zionist and Revolutionary movements.

At two o’ clock on the afternoon of March 27th 1906, just 24 hours before the 36-year old priest Father Georgy Gapon would be murdered by Socialist Revolutionary, Pinchas Rutenberg, Rutenberg’s comrade, Nickolai Tchaikovsky arrived the Fifth Avenue apartment of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn author, Mark Twain. Tchaikovsky said that he had come to America to gather funds for the overthrow of the Tsar and the founding of a Russian Republic. His friend, Maxim Gorky, was arriving soon and both men wondered if the celebrated Russian author would lend his support on their American campaign. A lecture and demonstration had been pencilled in for the 29th that month. Twain is said to have assured his visitor that he hated the Tsar and respected the “rebel’s cause.” He would do everything in his power to assist them but could not make that engagement at such short notice. Instead Twain would do the next best thing. He would compose a message that could be read at the gathering that expressed his sympathies with the revolution taking place in Russia. The tone he set was perfect: a “single family of drones” had ruled by “false promises, by lies, by treachery and the butcher’s knife” for their own aggrandizement. It was to be hoped that the “roused nation, now rising in its strength” could an end to the Romanov dynasty and “set-up a Republic in its place.” [1] The message was read out as planned by Paul Kaplan of the Society of American Friends of Russian Freedom at the Grand Central Palace on the 29th. Over 3,000 men and women had risen to their feet, waved their hats and cheered loudly as Kaplan introduced the author’s message and trumpeted the forthcoming arrival of man of the moment, Maxim Gorky. [2] In an interview with the New York Times conducted at Twain’s apartment just 72 hours before Gapon was murdered, Tchaikovsky had ripped into the priest, whose autobiography had just been published to extraordinary fanfare in the US: “Gapon was a man of no political principles”, griped Tchaikovsky. He had been little more than an organiser of workmen’s clubs for the government. He was an “administrator”, a civil servant, a priest “with all its insincere possibilities.” The events of January 9th 1905 had been a wave that had washed him forward. Whilst the priest understood the psychology of the masses, it was Tchaikovsky’s belief that Gapon lacked any clear idea of how to drive the revolution forward. It wasn’t the cheap platitudes and pacifying sentiments of a priest they needed now, it was weaponry. There was no way religion could help them. In Tchaikovsky’s estimation, religion was just “another name for State power.” To make matters worse, the church’s more ‘honourable’ representative, the priest, had taken the 30,000 roubles intended to cover damages to the workmen’s club and absconded. Their handsome Christian Titan had taken the money and run. [3] Little of it was true, and it was more than a little curious that Tchaikovsky should refer to the priest in the past tense when according to the official version of events he still had some 72 hours yet to live.


Within weeks of Tchaikovsky’s arrival in New York the following week, ‘Gorkymania’ was sweeping through North America like the proverbial runaway train. The Americans found him to be no less a merciless critic of Gapon than his support act, Tchaikovsky. Describing his former friend and ally as a “demagogue” and “adventurer” he repeated Tchaikovsky’s statement that Gapon had been swept along on the wave of a popular uprising. Yes he was warm hearted, yes he had star-appeal but he was by no means an intellectual. Talking to reporters in New York, Gorky painted an unflattering picture of Gapon on the day of the revolution, begging for his help to escape. He also reiterated the entirely fictitious account of taking large sums of money from Russia Okhrana. In the meticulously compiled records of collaborators and infiltrators contained in the archives of the Okhrana, which were opened and examined in 1924, there was not one reference to a man called Gapon in their pay. Nor did any officer of the secret police claim that Gapon had been his agent. [4]

Gapon finished his public flogging of Gapon with an appeal to the Jewish population of New York, in which he asserted that the future history of Russia would devote some of its most thrilling pages to the Jews. He said that collectively they evinced “superhuman courage in the Russian struggle for liberty.” The virulent spread of anti-Semitism being reported in their daily newspapers had been encouraged by the Tsarist government.  The monster they faced was not a malignant tumour at the heart of the Russian people. It was more like a Zombie Apocalypse, an infection that might be cured by killing the brain of the Walking Dead: the vile, marauding Romanovs.

Twain continued to join Gorky and Tchaikovsky at dinners and functions where it would be advantageous to have them seen with various Americans in respected literary and society circles. Gorky assured them with a smile that he was not an anarchist but a Socialist. He believed in law and order. Gorky’s 22 year-old adopted son was already here. He had made his way through Scandinavia and Canada some months before and was made busy in the mailroom of a magazine owned by Gorky’s ‘foxed-faced’ American sponsor, Gaylord Wiltshire. H. G Wells was another of the writers he met in New York. Wiltshire had organised a dinner in the Englishman’s honour and the poet Edward Markham was there too. On his second night in New York, Gorky was said to be in very high spirits. America, he said, is home as soon as one steps foot on its shores. The romance continued with Twain for weeks but came to an abrupt end when a reporter from the New York World revealed that the woman that Gorky was travelling with was not his wife or the mother of his son, but his mistress Maria Fyodorovna Andreyeva, the Russian actress. It was an embarrassing discovery for Twain and a calamitous public relations gaff for Gorky. Writing in The Future of America some years later, H. G. Wells shared his astonishment at the immediate change in attitude from the US public: “one day Gorky was at his zenith and on the next day he had been swept from the world … It was terrifying.” Within hours of the ‘Gorky Scandal’ breaking in the news, he was an obliterated man and impossible to find. A follow-up interview with Gorky’s wife by New York Herald didn’t entirely work out as expected. Contrary to their expectations, the novelist’s wife was more shocked to discover that America ‘the land of the free’ were so conservative and prejudiced in their attitudes that they should be so traumatized by the news he had a mistress. Although it remained unpublished in his lifetime, Twain offered his own witty and ambiguous take on the whole affair in a story called The Gorki Incident, which told the story of a ‘savage’, discovered in his inevitable nudity in Tierra del Fuego, who is brought to England and taught to dress, becomes an instant hit in Society circles but when invited to the court of the King, he dresses in his traditional national costume — which happens to be nothing at all. [5]

The arrival of the Jewish Revolutionary Bund’s more mysterious Dr Maxime Gregory aka Samuel Klevansky at the end of April was clearly designed not just to energize the Jews of America, but to provide a last-minute substitute for the disgraced and elusive Gorky. The “young man with a high forehead and piercing, black eyes” was a 27-year old Latvian railwayman who had declared, albeit briefly, the creation of the Baltic Republic in December 1905 — an astonishing feat that the Tsarist government took some weeks and a worrying number of troops to reverse. Triumph over Japan was looking increasingly unlikely and the revolutionaries had made every effort to further compromise the already over-stretched military resources of Imperial Russia. In the last few weeks of 1905 no less than three practically autonomous States had been declared: Finland, Georgia and now, for the time being at least, the Baltic Provinces, an Estonian and Latvian union that would last for a full two weeks with Gregory installed as President. The Republic’s capital was Riga, the very city where Gorky had fled after his much publicised release from jail that February.

As a result of the stand that he and his Worker’s Alliance had taken in Latvia, Maxime Gregory had become something of a living legend. Having already rejected the Tsar’s October Manifesto, the son of a wealthy Jewish merchant was in America to solicit funds in his native Yiddish tongue. The Bund were still strong in the country and with the support of people like Gorky they could be stronger still. Whilst stopping short of condoning the author’s promiscuity, he reiterated that Gorky’s relationship with the actress was perfectly acceptable in Russia and had little intention of prying into his private affairs. He was rather less neutral about Gapon; as far as Gregory was concerned, the priest was an agent of the Russian Government. [6]

By the time of Gregory Maxime’s arrival in New York, Gorky’s publicity trip was collapsing with equal intensity and pace. After being rejected by practically every hotel in town, the general perception among New York liberals was that he was a revolutionary, pure and simple. According to statement issued by the Russian Ambassador in Washington, the woman he was claiming to be his common-law wife, the actress Maria Fyodorovna Andreyeva, had been in receipt of revolutionary funds exceeding $1,500,00 from Russian cotton-king Savva Timofeyevich Morozov of Moscow and known to be a major donator to the RSDLP’s Iskra and the Moscow Art Theatre. [7] At the end of May 1905 Morozov was found with gunshot wounds to the head in Cannes, after returning from a short stay in Berlin. He had been forced to relocate after Tsarist Police discovered the extent of his secret relations with Gorky’s mistress, Mme. Andreyeva. A short time before his death this small, stocky and tightly-cut theatre and textile impresario was reported to have insured his life for a significant sum and designated Gorky’s mistress Maria Fyodorovna Andreyeva the policy’s controlling beneficiary. The three of them were said be part of a complex love triangle and were trying to work things through with all the various additional parties involved. According to Gorky expert Lidia Spiridonova, Morozov may also have been part of the circle that brought Gorky into contact with Gapon’s assassin, Pinchas Rutenberg for the first time, perhaps through Andreyeva herself. [8]

The inclusion of Russian-American theatre mogul Joseph Mandelkern in Gorky’s entourage would now make perfect sense, as he had featured prominently in US-Russian cultural exchanges with Morozov’s Art Theatre in Moscow. What didn’t make a lot of sense was the fact that Cannes would also feature in the series of falls and disgraces that would end in the death of Gorky’s star male lead, Father Gapon some 12 months later. More curiously still, at the time of Morozov’s death, Leonid Krassin, the head of the Bolshevik’s combat organisation and a mutual friend of the group, had arrived in town. He was to stay for just four days and then vanish.

The Events of Bloody Sunday

As astonishing as it is, the vast majority of people know little about the 1905 Revolution in Russia nor the spark that Gapon provided. The basic gist of what people know is this: on Sunday January 9 1905, a handsome young priest led a peaceful demonstration through the streets of St Petersburg to the Winter Palace. In his hands he held a petition that we wished to present in person to the Tsar. The thousands of ordinary workers who marched behind him with their children in tow were looking for reforms — improvements to working conditions, working hours, fairer wages. The only real challenge to the Tsar’s authority were the requests being made that would change the settings of Tsarist rule: the separation of church and state, the greater accountability of ministers, a more lawful administration, free of assembly, freedom of speech and the immediate return and pardon of all political exiles. Even if it didn’t end that way, it had never been Gapon’s intention to start a revolution. If we are to believe the priest’s description of his intent, it was a “dream” that he had. Not a nightmare. His petition had concluded with a pledge of obedience: “Give the order, swear to meet these needs, and you will make Russia both happy and glorious, and your name will be fixed in our hearts and the hearts of our posterity for all time.”

Helen Rappaport’s 2010 book, Conspirator provides one of the most chilling and vivid accounts of that day. By the morning of January 22nd 1905 the city-wide strikes among mill and factory workers had drawn in excess of 60,000 to the streets around Nesky Prospekt. They had a labour petition they wished to hand personally to their ‘Little Father’ Tsar Nicholas II. It was a crisp and frosty morning. The churches swelled with heartfelt worship and the frosted domes of the city’s oriental buildings sparkled in the low winter sun of a late Sunday morning. The air was bristling with expectation as the long, solemn column of peaceful demonstrators amassed around Nerva Gate, their inexpensive icons and their portraits of the Tsar cupped like sacraments in their hands. As Rappaport quite rightfully explains, the banners and likenesses of the Tsar were a “deliberate statement of their intentions”. This wasn’t a power grab. It was the humble plea of a child for more freedom and the simple opportunity to thrive. Like the glorious glazed cupolas all around them, they were here to let in the light of understanding in the dark recesses of the Tsar’s heart. They appealed to the Tsar for better conditions, a statutory working day and some basic civil liberties.

But the Tsar was nowhere to be seen that day. On the advice of his Uncle and Military Governor of St Petersburg, the Grand Duke Vladimir, Tsar Nicholas II already decamped to the relative safety of the Tsarskoye Selo outside the city. [9] Without warning the Duke gave the order to fire on the crowd as it approached. The 12,000 troops surged forward and with swords drawn the Cossacks and Cavalry tore into the crowd. Gapon takes up the story in an account published shortly before his murder in 1906: “The people quickly opened way, rushing to the footpaths on either side … The Calvary returned striking at the people with their swords and driving them into the adjoining streets where the soldiers cruelly wounded many and killed some. A small boy who had been wounded was being driven in a sledge, and seeing him, a cry for revenge arose from the crowd.” Gapon goes on to explain how news of massacres in adjoining streets had sent the crowd into a “fever of wrath”. A member of the fleeing procession remembered that there was an armoury shop in a nearby street and a rush was made for it. The fumbling, petrified storekeeper had turned the key on the Iron Gate and within moments a heap of rusty old swords and ancient Caucasian daggers flooded into the streets and passed from hand to hand and from student to student, like coals into the furnace. But whatever brave attempt had been made to disarm the soldiers, the sheer scale and volume of the mounted cavalry and squadron upon squadron of charging Cossacks cleaved fresh gaping wounds into the procession’s futile counter attack. Soon the infantry arrived and fired volley after volley into the crowd. One soldier who had grown bored of simply firing at random into the mass of flailing bodies had asked for a bayonet to add a touch of sport to the day’s event. The victim was said to be hardly more than a child. A student, testing the resilience of the soldiers had risen to feet and waved a red flag and cried, “If your conscience permit it — shoot!” A volley of shots rang out and he fell immediately. [10] By the end of the afternoon some 200 men, women and children lay dead with thousands more critically wounded The peaceful demonstration, organised at least in part by Aleksei Lopukhin had given Russia its Peterloo bloodbath.

In the midst of his despair someone grabbed him by the arm and dragged him away into a small side street. His rescuer, who describes as the “engineer of a large factory” who was Pinchas Rutenberg — a man who he remembered as having taken an especial interest in the particulars of the petition and any “definite plans” in the event of a serious “collision” with the military. [11] In three minutes Rutenberg had stripped the priest of his characteristic garb and replaced with a simple disguise. Within moments Gapon was being led to the home of Maxim Gorky, who Rutenberg knew well. His hair had been cut, his bear shaved off and the cassock in which he had strode so heroically forward had been sheepishly ditched for a suit. Gorky was said to have been excited by Gapon’s arrival, embracing him firmly and beginning to cry. The writer then pressed him to stay with and ride it out. There would be a secret meeting of intellectuals a little later in the day and there was talk of arming the people. Gorky immediately got to work on drafting an appeal that could be read at the meeting. After the meeting they were bustled into a side room by Rutenberg where the three of them discussed the question of weapons and organizing a counter-uprising. [12] It was also from Gorky’s apartment that the pair plotted their escape across the Russian border to Finland. From Finland they would travel to Switzerland and from Switzerland they would travel to Paris and from Paris they would slip into London, the Priest promising to return once his safety could be guaranteed. [13]

For Gapon and many of his assembly that day, there was no more God, no more Church and no more Tsar. A wanted man he fled to Geneva to meet with Lenin and discuss the purchase of arms with Japan’s Colonel Motojiro. In the end, the poor charismatic champion had either been radicalised by his own failed dreams or by the failure of Lopukhin to wake him from them in time — which may well have been his intention. Within weeks of the massacre a state of martial law had been declared and Lapoukhin was dismissed from his post. The massacre had provided the trigger for the wave of revolution that followed and which would culminate in Russia’s First State Duma, the more democratic form of government that Lopukhin and his fellow Liberals had favoured from the start.

The First Reports of Gapon’s Death

As Gorky’s New York fairytale began to fall apart, the first reports of Gapon’s death began to emerge in the press. Within 72 hours of the first report on the ‘Gorky scandal’ on April 15th, the New York Times was running a story on Father Gapon’s disappearance. He had been last seen about a week ago, around the time of Gorky’s arrival in New York, and his anxious wife now feared foul-play. Responding to enquiries from the press in Saint Petersburg, the Police were insisting he had not been arrested and that they knew nothing about his whereabouts. [14] Four days later, the full truth was laid bare in John Dover Wilson’s miraculous exclusive for the Manchester Guardian: Father Gapon’s End: Hanged Secretly by the Revolutionaries. [15]

The news was followed by a series of claims and counter-claims. Secret Guardian correspondent, David Soskice had swiftly dismissed Wilson’s claims as being the nonsense of an irresponsible journalist. By this point in time, Gorky had ditched his courtship with the press and was ramping up his appearances among US Socialists at the various lecture halls and meeting rooms of Boston, New York and Chicago. In an address to the Russian Social Democrats at the Grand Central Palace on the 25th, Gorky finally tackled “The Jewish Question.” His biggest gripe was with Count Witte who said that if Jews were to be promised a place in the First Duma, they were not to have a voice in the affairs of the Russian nation, only in their own unique ethnic affairs. There was no way for the Jews to move forward. Their place in the intended Duma was practically worthless on this basis alone. The man chairing the event that day was Meyer London, the former Talmudic scholar and American Socialist who eventually succeeded in his ambitions to become a member of the U.S House of Representatives. [16]

Just 24 hours before Gorky appeared at the Grand Central Palace, a rumour was circulating in the press that Gapon had not been murdered by Revolutionaries but had fallen into the hands of the Holy Synod, the leaders of the Russian Orthodox Church. A report in the New York Times painted a rather sorry picture; the high priests had condemned him for forsaking the priestly order and confined to indefinite exile in one of its many gloomy monasteries. [17] A few days later Charles E. Hands the Daily Mail’s war correspondent in St Petersburg assured his readers that the priest was living quietly at Kukokola in Finland. [18]

By April 30th, the name of Maxim Gorky’s friend, Pinchas Rutenberg was beginning to appear in connection with Gapon’s murder. The Times of London was the first to print the name, courtesy of a tip-off to its correspondent Robert Archibald Wilton in St Petersburg. Wilton, the son of a British mining engineer employed in Russia had just been pulled poached by The Times from Gordon Bennett Jnr’s Paris-based New York Herald. In later years Wilton would become known as a notorious anti-Semite who would propose that the execution of the Romanov family was part of a ‘blood libel’ ritual murder by a Jewish faction of Lenin’s Bolsheviks in Ekaterinburg. [19] It’s only fair to point that the evidence had been solicited by the White Russian General Kolchak who attributed the tyrannical spread of Bolshevism to the Jews and looked to the likes of Churchill for support during Russia’s ensuing counter-revolution led by the ‘White Russian’ Tsarists. Wilton, who would re-join the New York Herald in the 1920s would also be a key witness in the trial of former Kishinev Police Chief and Gapon’s ally in St Petersburg, A. A Lapukhin, who was being prosecuted for the part he was alleged to have played in the whole Yevno Azef affair (an agent provocateur for the Russian Secret Police). Joining Wilton on the stand that week would be was Miss Russell, the governess who had accompanied Lapukhin’s missing daughter during their two month stay in London and Bexhill in 1907. [20] The day would also be marked by the discovery of Gapon’s body in the house in Oserki. It was generally understood that the Police had known about its location for some time and a considerable amount of discussion has taken place over the years that has focused on the delay in the broader scope of a Police conspiracy. But both the timing of Gapon’s death and the discovery of his body some three weeks later had been very well judged; his death had come some two weeks before the convocation of Russia’s First Duma on April 27th and the ‘discovery’ that he was dead some three days later on April 30th. As expected, the Police waited another several days before confirming it with the press. If an announcement had been made prior to the opening ceremony of the First Duma, a violent reaction from the workers could have jeopardised the whole thing. The entire spectacle had been conceived by the Tsar and his ministers to defuse the worker rebellion and de-legitimise a revolution. Those who had carried out the execution just two weeks before the Duma’s launch at the end of April had clearly been eager to ignite a violent reaction and see the whole thing fall apart. This could have been the Socialist Revolutionary and Social Democratic extremists who had instructed their members to boycott the assembly or it could have been the far-right organs of Tsarist power who were determined to preserve the existing autocracy — or even elements within both groups working together.

The appearance of Rutenberg’s name in The Times of London was accompanied by another story. Reuters had received a despatch from Gapon’s solicitor Sergei Pavlovich Margolin in St Petersburg saying he had in his hands a letter from Berlin in a woman’s handwriting. Accompanying the letter was £190.00, a small pocket book owned by Gapon and a key to his safety deposit box in the bank vaults of the Crédit Lyonnais. The message had instructed the solicitor to act according to the directions provided, but no instruction had been provided. The pocket book contained a receipt signed by the person whose name begins with the letter ‘M’ and dated April 8th, the date on which Gapon had last been seen. A follow up message read that Father Gapon’s mistress had informed his solicitor that the priest had spent February in Saint Petersburg where he was visited by a “young Jewess” and had been joined by several of his associates from the Putilov Workers Assembly. The young woman telling the story had journeyed to Finland in early March and had been joined by Gapon a week or so later, accompanied by the ‘young Jewess’. According to the report by Reuters, the priest and the ‘young Jewess’ had left for an undisclosed location and he was never seen again. The workmen were now anxious to see if the £2,000 they had entrusted the priest with had been deposited in the Crédit Lyonnais. Dead or not they wanted their money. [21] As a matter of course Gapon’s solicitor Sergei P. Margolin headed to Berlin to track down the source of the letter. A few days later he too was dead.

The story was interesting on a number of counts. The letter had been mailed from Berlin. The venerable Jewish novelist S. An-sky, who had co-authored of Gapon’s appeal on behalf of the Jews to the peasants and workers of Russia during the height of his fame in London, had re-located to Berlin towards the end of 1905 and it was Berlin that his good friend Maxim Gorky had escaped to after leaving Riga around this time. The New York Times by contrast had given the ‘Young Jewess’ mentioned by Reuters an actual name: ‘Holstein’. It was claimed that ‘Holstein’ had been a member of the revolutionaries associated with Pinchas Rutenberg (known as ‘Martini’) and the Putilov section of the Worker’s Assembly. It is believed that she too had mysteriously vanished a short time later. The report in the New York Times appeared to suggest that the priest had been lured from Finland to the summer house in Oserki by the young Jewess — ‘an agent of the Reds’ — and that Gapon’s papers had then been forwarded to his lawyer by the Holstein woman. [22] Inevitably the story evolved, and before long it was alleged that Rutenberg had been in love with the young Jewess and murdered Father Gapon in a fit of jealous rage. The story had first been circulated in the Novoe Vremya and differed little in its basic claims from the story told by Rutenberg himself a little time later. There were, however some notable omissions. The later version of the story didn’t feature the young Jewess named Holstein and Rutenberg would claim that the death sentence had been passed by the Central Committee of the Socialist Revolutionary Party and not as the earliest reports suggested from the irate members of the Worker’s Tribunal acting autonomously. A few days after the first letter had been mailed to Gapon’s solicitor, another letter arrived, and again it was mailed from Berlin. In what was described as a “long preamble justifying the execution” it reported how the Workmen’s Tribunal had incontestable proof of Gapon’s secret relations with the Secret Police. [23] Three years later the story would change again. This time the kill-order would come from the Tsarist agent provocateur and Socialist Revolutionary traitor exposed by literary sleuth Vladimir Burtsev in London, Yevno Azef. But as Azef had disappeared by this point, he wasn’t able to confirm the story either way. The city he fled to was Berlin.

There were other discrepancies too. The story being told by local police was that Gapon had been killed at another location and then transported to the house and his whole execution staged. There was also strong support for Gapon coming from within the Worker’s movement. It was claimed that a number of resolutions had been passed by Russia Workers and Revolutionary organs pledging faith in Gapons actions. There were even said be sub-committees of the Socialist Revolutionary Combat Organisation who were planning to avenge Gapon’s death. They were more of the opinion that it was the Tsarist government that had murdered the priest. [24]

On May 4th Gapon’s lawyer issued a statement saying that he had proof that Gapon had NOT been murdered by Revolutionaries. [25] Ivan Narodny who had assisted Maxim Gorky on his fund-raising tour of America issued a similar statement: he had not been killed by Russian anarchists. On the contrary, he was alive and well in Switzerland. He added that only last Monday a friend in Washington DC had received a cable dispatch from Father Gapon. [26] As tales of his miraculous resurrection and certain death ebbed and flowed with all the capriciousness of Schrodinger’s Cat, the Attorney and Examining Magistrate returned from visiting the offices of the Crédit Lyonnais in St Petersburg with the news that the sums of money present in Gapon’s account did not exceed 14,500 roubles, contradicting any claim that he had been in receipt of huge sums of cash. The only other credit worthy of note was £560 in Bank of France notes. [27] The findings coincided with news that after a thorough examination of the body, there was no evidence of strangulation. It was concluded that he was murdered elsewhere and that his body was carried to the house. The body had also been positively been identified as that of the priest. The villa had been rented by two men on April 8 for the entire summer and a deposit had been paid by an as yet unknown man from St Petersburg, who after visiting the house on several separate occasions in the company of a young workman, had disappeared on April 11, taking the key with him. It was felt that Gapon’s corpse had been brought to the house on April 10th. [28] Why Rutenberg moved the date of the assassination back to March 28th in later interviews isn’t known, but the view of the coroner and the evidence provided to Gapon’s solicitor in the form of letters and receipts, not to mention the account provided by the woman who let the house, seemed to suggest that the time of death occurred between April 9th and April 10th.

In light of this discovery, John Dover Wilson of the Manchester Guardian updated his account of Gapon’s death, quoting the same source: Gapon had not been hanged from the ceiling. The rope around his neck had been tied to a large hook in one of the walls. No mention was made of the body having been moved to the house from another location. Instead the source reiterated how Witte’s secretary Ivan Fedorovich Manasevich-Manuilov, the son of a Jewish official exiled to Siberia for fraud, had boasted of how Gapon had shared a trove of important secrets with them about the revolutionaries. Manuilov however, was hardly a reliable source and there was much value to be had in supporting such a rumour: the Revolutionaries would panic and the panic might naturally engender further tensions and divisions, and a complete overhaul of existing practices. There was absolutely nothing to be gained from defending Gapon.

As it turns out, the entire story that had been handed to Wilson at the Manchester Guardian had been written-up originally by Manuilov at the Novoe Vremya — although it’s not clear whether Wilson simply lifted it for the Manchester Guardian or had secured it from another source. By 1906 Manuilov had been dismissed from his post in the Secret Police Department after he was found to be at the centre of large embezzlement scandal. During the war in 1916 he was arrested and sentenced to death for being involved in the sale of German War bonds. As a result there are two obvious questions: was Manuilov a reliable source and if he was a reliable source then how did he get the detail wrong about the hanging?

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[1] Innocents At Home, Mark Twain and Maxim Gorky in New York, Jon Swan, American Heritage, February 1965, vol. XVI, no. 2, pp 58-61

[2] ‘“We Want Arms!”’, says Tchaykovsky’, New York Times, March 25 1906, p.19

[3] ‘“We Want Arms”!, says Tchaykovsky’, New York Times, March 25 1906, p.19

[4] Georgy Gapon and the Russian Social Democrats in 1905, S. I Potolov, 2009

[5] Innocents At Home, Mark Twain and Maxim Gorky in New York, Jon Swan, American Heritage, February 1965, vol. XVI, no. 2, pp 98-101

[6] ‘Maxime Comes Here to Aid Revolution’, New York Times April 20, 1906, p.20

[7] ‘The Case of Maxim Gorky’, Washington Post, April 17, 1906, p.6

[8] Materiały I Recenzje, Roczniki Humanistyczne, Tom Lxiii, Zeszyt 7–2015, Lidia Spiridonova

[9] Conspirator, Helen Rappaport, Hutchison, 2009, p.107-109

[10] The Story of My Life, Georgii Apollonovich Gapon, Chapman and Hall, 1905

[11] The Story of My Life, Gapon, p. 174

[12] My Life Story, Georgi Apollonovich Gapon, E.P Dutton, 1906, pp.210-215

[13] The Story of My Life, Gapon, p.255, p. 247

[14] ‘Father Gapon Disappears’, New York Times, April 19, 1906, p.11

[15] ‘Father Gapon’s End: Hanged Secretly by the Revolutionaries’, Manchester Guardian, 23 April, 1906, p.6

[16] ‘The Jewish Question Discussed by Gorky’, New York Times, April 26, 1906, p.11

[17]  ‘Fate of Father Gapon’, New York Times, April 24, 1906, p.8

[18] Daily Mail, April 27, 1906, p.7

[19] The Last Days of the Romanov, Robert Wilton, Thornton Butterworth Ltd

[20] ‘The Tsar’s Spy’,  London Daily News,  April 15, 1909, p.5

[21] Manchester Guardian, April 30, 1906, p.6

[22] ‘Believe Gapon Dead’, New York Times, April 30, 1906, p.6; ‘Gapon Lured to Death’, Washington Post, April 30, 1906, p.1

[23] ‘Tribunal Justifies Gapon’s Execution’, New York Times, May 2, 1906, p.4

[24] New York Times, May 3 1906

[25] ‘Says Gapon Has Not Been Slain’, New York Times, May 4, 1906, p.5

[26] ‘Gapon in Switzerland’, Washington Post, May 7, 1906, p.3

[27] ‘Father Gapon’s Wealth’, The Observer, May 13, 1906, p.6

[28] The Washington Post, May 14, 1906, p.1