The 3 Major Instances of Bloody Sunday in History

“Bloody Sunday” is a term used to describe several significant and often tragic events in history when violence erupted, resulting in bloodshed and loss of life.

Below, World History Edu present three of the most well-known “Bloody Sundays” in recent history:

Bloody Sunday (1905)

Bloody Sunday, which occurred on January 22, 1905, in St. Petersburg, Russia, involved the firing upon unarmed demonstrators led by Father Georgy Gapon. They were marching towards the Winter Palace to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II. Image: Crowd of petitioners, led by Father Gapon, near Narva Gate, St. Petersburg

Bloody Sunday in 1905 refers to a significant event in the history of the Russian Empire. It occurred on January 22 when peaceful protesters, led by Russian Orthodox priest Father Georgy Gapon, marched to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II (reigned: 1894 – 1917), requesting better working conditions, higher wages, and political reforms.

Image: Russian Orthodox priest Father Gapon who led crowd of petitioners

The march was part of the larger discontent among Russian workers and peasants due to harsh living conditions and widespread poverty. Gapon, a priest, had organized the Assembly of Russian Factory and Mill Workers of St. Petersburg to advocate for these reforms peacefully.

Last Tsar of Russia

Nicholas II, born on May 18, 1868, was the last Emperor of Russia, reigning from 1894 to 1917. About a year after abdicating the Russian throne, Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed on July 17, 1918.

However, the peaceful protest took a violent turn when the tsarist authorities, fearing the growing revolutionary sentiment, ordered the Imperial Guard to disperse the crowd. Troops fired upon the demonstrators, resulting in hundreds of casualties, with estimates of the death toll varying widely. According to the BBC up to 200 people perished that day.

Also known as Red Sunday, Bloody Sunday of 1905 deepened public discontent and played a role in fueling the revolutionary fervor that ultimately led to the Russian Revolution of 1917. It revealed the tsarist regime’s willingness to use force against its own citizens and eroded whatever trust remained in the autocracy. This event served as a precursor to the more well-known Bloody Sunday of 1905 when a similar peaceful protest ended in violence, further intensifying revolutionary sentiments across Russia.

Protesters were trying to present a petition to Czar Nicholas II when the authorities fired into the crowd. The protesters wanted the czar to grant things like universal suffrage, constituent assembly, amnesty for political prisoners, minimum wage, and eight-hour work day. They also wanted the separation of church and state. The tragic event of Bloody Sunday in 1905 triggered public outrage and massive strikes, marking the start of the 1905 Revolution. It is also seen as a precursor to the Russian Revolution of 1917. Bloody Sunday had significant consequences, contributing to the decline of the Tsarist autocracy. Image: Protests before Bloody Sunday in 1905

Bloody Sunday (1920)

Bloody Sunday in 1920 was a violent event during the Irish War of Independence. It occurred on November 21, 1920, in Dublin, Ireland. On that day, agents of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) carried out a coordinated operation to eliminate British intelligence agents and informers. They targeted individuals believed to be involved in spying and counterinsurgency efforts against the IRA.

In a series of carefully planned assassinations, IRA members killed several British officers and civilians. The most infamous incident of that day was the killing of 14 British intelligence officers in a house on Bachelors Walk in central Dublin. These attacks were a response to ongoing British repression and violence against the Irish population.

Bloody Sunday in 1920 had a significant impact on the Irish War of Independence. It escalated the conflict and increased tensions between the IRA and British forces. In reprisal, British forces opened fire on a crowd attending a Gaelic football match at Croke Park, killing 14 civilians and wounding many others. This event further fueled Irish nationalist sentiment and contributed to the eventual withdrawal of British forces from most of Ireland and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.

Bloody Sunday (1972)

Bloody Sunday, occurring in Derry, Northern Ireland in 1972, started as a peaceful but unlawful demonstration against the British government’s internment policy for suspected IRA members. Confrontations escalated into violence, with protesters clashing with British troops.

The army tried to disperse the protesters with rubber bullets and a water cannon. This ultimately resulted in a tragic incident with 13 demonstrators killed. Controversy surrounded the incident, with the army claiming they fired in self-defense, while the Catholic community contended that unarmed protesters were targeted.

An inquiry led by Lord Widgery concluded that demonstrators fired first, but the deceased were not armed. This led to calls for a new inquiry, resulting in the 2010 Saville Report, which found the army fired the first shot, and none of the victims posed a threat. This led to an official apology from Prime Minister David Cameron and compensation for victims’ families.

On January 30, 1972, in Derry, Northern Ireland, British paratroopers opened fire on a civil rights march organized by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Thirteen unarmed demonstrators were killed, and another died later from injuries. This event is one of the most notorious incidents of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. Image: The Catholic priest Edward Daly waving a blood-stained white handkerchief while trying to escort the mortally wounded Jackie Duddy to safety

Mainly comprised of Roman Catholic civil rights supporters, the demonstration took place in Londonderry, one of the largest cities in Northern Ireland. The tragic incident occurred in the Bogside area, a place just outside the city walls of Derry. It must be noted that the area is a majority Catholic/Irish republican area, and it is close to the Protestant/Ulster loyalist enclave.

Bloody Sunday, the tragic event in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1972, had significant repercussions. It bolstered support for the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which sought the UK’s withdrawal from Northern Ireland through violence. The incident was a longstanding source of controversy with differing narratives.

Did you know…?

The name of the city in Northern Ireland known as Derry is a subject of debate and preference among its residents. Nationalists, mainly Catholics, prefer “Derry,” while many unionists, typically Protestants, favor “Londonderry.” However, in everyday conversation, most Protestant residents also use “Derry.” Linguist Kevin McCafferty notes that this usage has become more common since the city council changed its name in the mid-1980s, though only a few Protestants still use the official “Londonderry” form.

Location of Londonderry (also known as Derry) within Northern Ireland


These various “Bloody Sundays” serve as reminders of the tragic consequences of political unrest, violence, and the struggle for civil rights and independence in different parts of the world. Each event has its own historical context and significance, but they share a common thread of loss and suffering.

Frequently Asked Questions

These frequently asked questions cover various incidents known as “Bloody Sunday” throughout history, each with its own unique context and significance.

What does the term “Bloody Sunday” generally mean?

“Bloody Sunday” is a term commonly used to refer to a specific event or incident in history where violence and bloodshed occurred, typically as a result of a conflict or protest. The term is often associated with tragic and significant historical events marked by the loss of life and injuries.

While the specific details and contexts of each “Bloody Sunday” may vary, the term itself has become emblematic of instances of government repression, civil rights struggles, and violent confrontations that resulted in harm to individuals involved.

It is important to note that “Bloody Sunday” is not a positive or celebratory term; rather, it serves as a reminder of the human cost and consequences of such events.

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When did Bloody Sunday in Russia occur?

The 1905 Bloody Sunday in Russia occurred on January 22, 1905, in St. Petersburg when unarmed demonstrators were fired upon by soldiers as they marched toward the Winter Palace to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II.

Image: Soviet painting of the Bloody Sunday massacre in St Petersburg.

What is the significance of Bloody Sunday in Russian history?

The 1905 Bloody Sunday in Russia marked a turning point in Russian history, sparking widespread protests and strikes. It is considered a prelude to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

When did the Bloody Sunday massacre in Croke Park, Dublin, occur?

The Bloody Sunday massacre in Croke Park, Dublin, occurred on November 21, 1920, during the Irish War of Independence when British forces attacked a Gaelic football match, resulting in the deaths of 14 people.

Bloody Sunday in 1920 had a profound impact on the course of the Irish War of Independence. It heightened tensions between the IRA and British authorities and contributed to the eventual withdrawal of British forces from most of Ireland. This led to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, marking a significant step toward Irish independence.

The Bloody Sunday massacre in 1920 has sometimes been termed as the Anglo-Irish Bloody Sunday.

What is the Anglo-Irish Bloody Sunday?

When did Bloody Sunday in Bereza Kartuska (1939) take place?

The 1939 Bloody Sunday in Bereza Kartuska happened on January 22, 1939, in the village of Bereza Kartuska, now part of Belarus. It involved the mass killing of Polish prisoners by Soviet authorities.

How many people were killed on Bloody Sunday in Derry (1972)?

Thirteen people were killed on Bloody Sunday in Derry in 1972 when British soldiers opened fire on unarmed civil rights demonstrators during a march.

Bloody Sunday memorial in the Bogside

Why did Bloody Sunday occur in Derry (1972)?

The 1972 Bloody Sunday in Derry occurred during a civil rights march protesting against the policy of internment without trial for suspected IRA members and other perceived injustices in Northern Ireland.

Did the UK government issue an apology for the 1972 Bloody Sunday?

Yes. In 2010, British Prime Minister David Cameron formally apologized for the events of Bloody Sunday in 1972, acknowledging the unjustified killings of civilians by British soldiers.

The 1972 Bloody Sunday took place in Derry, Northern Ireland, during a civil rights march. British soldiers fired on unarmed civil rights demonstrators, leading to the deaths of 13 people. It had profound implications for the conflict in Northern Ireland.

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