General Bobrikoff

General Bobrikoff

In Brief

Shortly after Stephen and O'Madden Burke join the gathering in the newspaper office, J. J. O'Molloy alludes to some breaking news: "was it you shot the lord lieutenant of Finland between you? You look as though you had done the deed. General Bobrikoff." The shooting of Finland's Russian governor on the morning of 16 June 1904 would have held interest for Irish nationalists. 

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Nikolai Ivanovich Bobrikov, born in 1839 (not 1857 as Gifford's and Slote's annotations have it), was a Russian general and politician whom Tsar Nicholas II appointed in 1898 as Governor-General of Finland and the Finnish Military District. After Russia's 1808-9 war with Sweden, Finland had become a Grand Duchy of the Russian empire. The Grand Duke was the Russian Tsar, represented in his absence by a Governor-General. In the early decades of this arrangement, Finland gained a considerable amount of national autonomy, enjoying independence from bureaucrats not only in Stockholm but also in St. Peterburg. It had its own borders, a parliament, a capital, an army, a currency, and postage stamps, and its language and culture thrived. But Bobrikov was appointed to institute a policy of "Russification," and Finns soon came to despise their new governor. The hatred intensified when the Tsar gave him dictatorial powers in 1903.

At 11 AM Helsinki time on June 16 (8:35 in Dublin), on the stairs of the Senate building in Helsinki, a Finnish nationalist named Eugen Schauman shot General Bobrikov three times and himself twice. Schauman died immediately, Bobrikov in hospital the next morning. The story was reported on p. 3 of Dublin's Evening Telegraph (the paper that Bloom peruses in Eumaeus), but the chatter in Aeolus shows that everyone in the newspaper office has become aware of it by noon.

O'Molloy jokes about this grave incident ("was it you shot the lord lieutenant of Finland between you?"), and Stephen lightheartedly plays along ("We were only thinking about it"), because many Irish people saw Russia's empire as a brutally autocratic peer of England's. (They were not alone: Gifford quotes from a 17 June 1904 story in the The New York Times that describes Bobrikov as "a typical Russian tyrant.") Finland's loss of home rule seemed to be recapitulating Ireland's, and as Slote observes, "The role of the Russian Governor General in Finland was analogous to that of the British Lord Lieutenant in Ireland": O'Molloy inaccurately calls General Bobrikov "the lord lieutenant." Only moments after the banter about shooting the Russian governor, Myles Crawford regales his companions with an account of how Ignatius Gallaher reported the news of the Phoenix Park murders in 1882, which likewise were aimed at an emperor's viceregal representatives and likewise "cabled" to cities like New York at the speed of light.

JH 2023
Nikolai Ivanovich Bobrikov, Russian General of the Infantry and Governor-General of Finland, ca. 1900. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
1904 drawing of Eugen Schauman shooting General Bobrikov, by an unknown artist. Source: Wikimedia Commons.