The Lena Goldfields Massacre and the Crisis of the Late Tsarist State
Eastern European Studies - Labor History - Eastern European Studies
6 x 9, 264 pp.
16 b&w photos., 3 maps., 11 tables.
Pub Date: 01/27/2006
Eugenia & Hugh M. Stewart '26 Series on Eastern Europe
  cloth
Price:        $50.00 x

978-1-58544-474-8
  paper
Price:        $24.95

978-1-58544-508-0

Published by Texas A&M University Press
  THE CONSORTIUM

To Receive E-News
 
 
 

 

The Lena Goldfields Massacre and the Crisis of the Late Tsarist State

By Michael Melancon

In 1912 a thin line of Russian soldiers, confronted by a large crowd of gold miners on strike for several weeks, reacted with fear and anger. At their officers’ orders, they opened fire, shooting five hundred unarmed protestors. The event reverberated across Russia.

The Lena goldfields massacre can be viewed from several distinct viewpoints, each presenting a contrasting story. Author Michael Melancon avoids prematurely picking a “right” way of looking at the massacre. Instead, he explores all aspects of the incident, from the despair of the miners at the poor conditions they faced, to the calculations and priorities of the mining entrepreneurs and state officials, and even the rationale of the soldiers who pulled the triggers.

The Lena Goldfields Massacre and the Crisis of the Late Tsarist State will appeal to anyone interested in labor relations, in revolutionary movements, and in transitions associated with modernization. Its comparative framework will be helpful for generalists and Europeanists. It will also provide food for thought for those who seek a carefully researched examination of Russian society during the early twentieth century.

Michael Melancon, who received his Ph.D. from Indiana University, is a professor of history at Auburn University.

What Readers Are Saying:

“The author has done an exemplary job. There is no other book in English that covers the subject, and none in any language does so as well as it does. Anatomy of a Massacre is important, well-researched, well written, and has a greater than average chance of making an impact on the field (this latter I consider high praise, not faint praise).”--Rex A. Wade, George Mason University

“The author has done an exemplary job. There is no other book in English that covers the subject, and none in any language does so as well as it does. Anatomy of a Massacre is important, well-researched, well written, and has a greater than average chance of making an impact on the field (this latter I consider high praise, not faint praise).” --Rex A. Wade, George Mason University

“An excellent piece of historical detective work and analysis. The subject is one of those major watershed events that seem to define an era, in this case a strike in 1912 and the state’s violent response that rank alongside such catalytic events in the late Imperial Russian history as Bloody Sunday and the outbreak war in 1914. Melancon makes his case for the importance of the Lena Goldfields strike and makes it tellingly. . . a work of impeccable scholarship sand of patient investigation of the events itself. Melancon tells the story in minute but compelling detail from all possible points of view.” --Daniel Orlovsky, Professor of History, Southern Methodist University

“When an irrational crowd, under the influence of evil agitators, throws itself on the armed forces, the armed forces can do nothing else but shoot…Thus it has always been, thus it will always be.’ (p. 177). Thus the Russian Minister of the Interior defended the killing of hundreds of striking gold miners in the Siberian town of Nadezhdinsk on April 2, 1912. --The Russian Review
In the spirit of Dashiell Hammett’s Continental Op, Michael Melancon’s readers will be tempted to count how many lies can be found in those few words. The author’s meticulous reconstruction of events indicates, for example, that the crowd was not under the influence if agitators, evil or otherwise; that the workers conducted themselves peacefully even in the aftermath of the shooting; and that some officials on the scene tried desperately to prevent other from giving the orders to shoot. Melancon’s assessment also challenges the minister’s conclusion: Russia, he suggests, has not always been thus, and the Lena episode might even be seen as a portent of emerging social consensus and reconciliation.” --The Russian Review

“Historians of late imperial Russia have long been familiar with the dramatic impact on the emerging crisis within the tsarist state of the events of 4 April 1912, when hundreds of striking gold miners along the Lena River in the depths of Siberia were shot down by tsarist troops at the behest of the mining company while peacefully petitioning for the release of their arrest leaders. The even is widely seen as a turning point in the unraveling of the Stolypin system, which had put an end the turmoil of 1905-07, and the start of a period of what Soviet historians used to call the ‘new revolutionary upsurge.’ Yet few historians are more than vaguely familiar with the Siberian events themselves, which in most works on the period are summarized in few sentences. Indeed, apart from some dated Soviet studies, little has been published about the Lena events themselves, the strike that precipitated them, and the Siberian gold mining industry in general. As the only significant study in English of the Lena shooting in its full historical, national, and regional contexts, Michael Melancon’s carefully researched monograph ably fills this gap in the literature.” --Slavic Review

“Not only labor historians but also historians of late imperial Russian society and politics have long considered the Lena events an anchor in the era’s periodization. It is therefore remarkable that we have not had a thorough investigation of the event and its repercussions before Michael Melancon’s thoroughly researched and engagingly written study. The early chapters of this book read like an adventure story in which a motley assortment of migrants, including religious dissidents, prospectors, land-hungry peasants, and outlaws, found their way to the sparsely populated Lena River region. . . . Melancon seeks a reinterpretation of late imperial society that can accommodate evidence of an emerging consensus on matters of labor-management relations and social welfare. What is at stake is nothing less than our understanding of where revolutions come from; not, perhaps, from social fragmentation, but from profound, possibly shocking, and usually fleeting unanimity.” --American Historical Review

“Thoroughly researched and engagingly written study.” --American Historical Review

“Michael Melancon’s painstaking reconstruction of the massacre of hundreds of striking gold miners in the Siberian settlement of Nadezhdensk on 4 April 1912, an event often cited as pivotal to the history of pre-revolutionary labour unrest, is the most detaled available in any language…. There is much new and valuable here, particularly regarding relations between mine workers and socialist activists…. Exhaustively researched and energetically written study. Melancon makes very valuable contributions to the history of labour, economic development, regional development, political radicalism, state crisis management, and social relations in late Imperial Russia and this book should be recommended to students as well as specialists.” --Canadian Slavonic Papers

“Provides a detailed, perhaps definitive, study of the April 4, 1912, massacre of Siberian gold miners . . . . He captures how extraordinarily exploitative conditions were at these isolated, remote mines in northeastern Siberia . . . this is a valuable study of the Lena goldfields massacre.” --Journal of Modern History, Volume 80, Number 2

OF RELATED INTEREST

World of the Mexican Worker in Texas
Black Unionism in the Industrial South
Way of Work and a Way of Life
Mexican Coal Mining Labor in Texas and Coahuila, 1
Review Copy Request Form Desk Copy Request Form