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Mass Protests

There was a wave of strikes in protest against the massacre. In January alone, more than 400,000 workers downed tools across the country, the largest ever labour protest in Russian history. Educated society was outraged by the massacre. There were student protests at all the major universities. Professional unions organized themselves into a Union of Unions, later joined by a Women's Union for Equality, which campaigned for voting rights, and unions for railway workers and employees.

The protest movement quickly spread to the non-Russian borderlands. It was particularly strong in Poland, Finland, the Baltic provinces and the Caucasus, where social and political tensions were reinforced by a widespread hatred of Russian rule.

Rebellion overtook the countryside. Agricultural labourers went on strike. Peasants refused to pay rent to their landowners. They felled the gentry's trees and cut their hay, and in the summer began to seize their property, setting fire to the squires' manors to force them to flee the countryside. Nearly 3,000 manors were destroyed. Most of the violence was concentrated in the central agricultural zone, where peasant poverty was most acute and the largest estates were located.

The government sent in troops. From January to October the army was used no fewer than 2,700 times to put down peasant uprisings. But this accelerated the breakdown of army discipline, which had begun with the despatch of forces to Manchuria, for most of the soldiers were peasants and resented being used against their own people.

On 14 June the unrest spread to the Black Sea Fleet when the sailors of the Battleship Potemkin rebelled against their officers.

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