This page was created by Abraham Moffat. 

The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

Portal to the Pacific

The November 1905 Riots:

Vladivostok, among many places throughout the Russian Empire, experienced uprising and violence during the 1905 Russian Revolution.  Following the conclusion of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, a revolutionary fervor spread throughout many parts of the empire.  Particularly impacted by the desire to revolt were members of the military, who rioted and mutinied in many cities across Russia.

One resident of Vladivostok who provided an account of the riots was Eleanor Pray.  Pray and her husband were Americans who moved to Vladivostok in 1894.  Over the course almost three decades, Pray wrote over 2,000 letters to friends and female detailing life in Vladivostok.  On Sunday, November 12, 1905, Pray began to keep a running record of disturbances that had started in the afternoon:

The trouble began this afternoon in the Bazaar—the soldiers and sailors wrecked all the stalls there, beat an officer who remonstrated with them and two shots were fired.  […] There was a crowd of soldiers gathered [when] an officer came along and began to talk with them. They were respectful but not inclined to obey. […] [Eventually] the [fortress] commandant, Gen. Kazbek himself, came alone with exactly the same result[.]  […] About half past three some officers rode up [the road] for dear life, hugging as closely as possible to the necks of their horses, and the crowd on each side of the street throwing stones at them as they ran. Then two companies of soldiers were marched down the street to quell the disturbance and ever since there has been more or less shooting, mostly, we think, with blank cartridges. Just at dark we heard an awful crashing of glass, and the rioters were running up the other side of the street smashing every window they passed. We heard some stones go bang against the iron shutters in the Piankov block. […]  The last few hours [,] while interesting[,] have been anything but agreeable and we begin to wonder what will happen before morning.
The afternoon passed into evening, with no end to the disturbance appearing to be in sight.

There are big fires burning in three different places, some of them not far from us but we do not know where. . . . Our servants are frightened nearly out of their lives and have pinned blankets over the kitchen windows so the light will not show through. I have given them permission to sleep in the school room tonight where there are iron shutters. . . . With seventy thousand troops here, we ought to be safe but how many of that number are among the rioters? 

Concerned, Pray, remained awake throughout the night, keeping record of the goings on which she observed.

The fires are increasing in every direction and one never knows where the next one will break out. . . . I have all my trinkets on my neck and am prepared to pack my albums, etc., at a moment’s notice if this part of the town is threatened. We have neither water supply nor any adequate fire department. This will be a night of terror such as we read about, but do not care to experience personally.  […] A large section [of the city] about a quarter of a mile from us is on fire and they seem to have no power whatever to check it, and the fire at the other end of the town still rages but we can only guess what is burning, not being able to see more than the glare and smoke. Occasionally we hear shots and the last ones have been rather near.  The row down here in front continued for about half an hour, yells and pounding, etc., evidently against the Admiral’s fence, but is quiet now. We are slowly gathering our things together in as safe places as possible, in case we are homeless before morning as so many people will be. Who could have dreamed of this last night? That there would be trouble everybody thought, but few expected that it could or would assume these proportions.[1]

International Response:
Word of the rioting spread globally.  By Wednesday, American newspapers were running accounts of the Vladivostok Riots.  One San Francisco daily ran a cover story about the events across the Pacific under the titillating headline “VLADIVOSTOK GIVEN UP TO RIOTS AND FLAMES”:

The American embassy has received from Consul Greener at Vladivostok details of [an] outbreak, which [began] on Sunday afternoon immediately after the departure of the Russian armored cruisers Gromobol and Rossia.  The people, who had gathered in great crowds in the streets, became excited by inflammatory speeches.  Many soldiers and sailors also were in an angry mood, having expected to go home with the squadron.  The mob began to break windows and pillage and in the evening set fire to the theater, The Golden Horn Hotel, several blocks of Chinese buildings in the northern part of the city and the officers’ residences and other buildings in the eastern quarter.  The fires burned all night.  Seventy buildings were consumed.  Troops were summoned to restore order and fired five volleys, killing many persons.  Just before the American Consul telegraphed today[,] the commandant of the fortress of Vladivostok, assisted by priests and the leaders of the workmen’s organizations, addressed the mobs, urging them to keep the peace, but the Consul said he feared the appeal would be in vain.  Greener added that twenty-four merchant vessels in the harbor were now crowded with inhabitants.  The consul was on board a steamship when he sent his dispatch and expects to remain there.   

While the information received by the press tends to show that order was to-day partly restored, a large part of the garrison stood firm and the crisis has not passed.  Fears are expressed in Admiralty and general staff circles that mob violence has flared out again and this will necessitate a further resort to armed force.[2]




[1] Eleanor L. Pray, November 12, 1905, in Letters from Vladivostok, 1894-1930, ed. Birgitta Ingemanson (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013), 147-149.
[2] “Vladivostok Given Up to Riots and Flames,” San Francisco Call, November 15, 1905.  Available digitally at  


This page has paths: