Pugachev uprising

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The Pugachev uprising from September 1773 to January 1775 , also known as the Russian Peasants 'War , was initially an uprising by the Ural Cossacks against the authorities of the Russian Empire , which over time turned into a widespread peasants' war under the leadership of Yemeljan Pugachev . Pugachev presented himself as Tsar Peter III. from which Catherine allegedly escaped him attempted murder. Before his murder in 1762, Peter had announced far-reaching reforms, including the abolition of serfdom , and therefore had a legendary reputation among the people even a decade after his death. Pugachev benefited from this fact. The uprising ultimately ended with the victory of the imperial troops under Alexander Suvorov in early 1775 and with the capture and execution of Pugachev.


The general desire of the Cossacks in the Urals and Don to regain their former independence and the desire of the Russian authorities to form a regular military unit from them created insurmountable contradictions. The relationship between the peasants and the government had also deteriorated, especially as a result of the decree of the tsarina of 1767, which completely forbade direct submissions to the empress from the peasantry. The farmers felt abandoned by the state and also under pressure from the emerging industries in the Urals. The serfs lived in desperate circumstances and no longer had any opportunity to improve their situation vis-à-vis their landlords, as they had lost all opportunities for political participation. The Cossack stronghold of Uralsk was then called Jaiksk (also Jaizk) after the river Ural (then Jaik ) that ran through it . As early as 1772 there was the first Cossack uprising against the local commander General von Traubenberg , who was murdered along with some other officers on January 12th of that year. Traubenberg had insisted on cutting off the Cossack beards and finally did the same "on the public market"; After the uprising was suppressed and the ringleaders were punished , several hundred insurgents fled into the surrounding swamps.

In connection with the charge of high treason, the Cossack Pugtashov was brought to Kazan on January 4, 1773, according to official authorities , and arrested after the interrogation. His appeal by the Senate in Petersburg was rejected and a trial sentenced him to life imprisonment in the city of Pelym, which lies beyond the Urals . The sentence arrived in Kazan on June 1, 1773, three days after the prisoner managed to escape from the local prison. The search for the fugitive was unsuccessful. Pugachev hid in remote Talovi steppe farms near the city of Jaizk , where he met with veterans of the failed Cossack uprising of 1772, including IN Sarubin-Chikoj, MG Shigajev, TG Myasnikov, DK Karavaev, and MA Koshevnikov.

In consultation with them, Pugachev decided to take on the name and title of "Tsar Peter III" and to move the Cossacks to a new armed uprising in the hope of support from the peasants. Pugachev's remarks about the prospects and results of the uprising he and his supporters were preparing did not go beyond naive ideas about the possibility of building a Cossack-like peasant state led by a "peasant tsar" whose policies were aimed at serving the social interests of the rural population , out. In addition to the core area around the Ural River, the uprising soon also included the area around Orenburg , the areas on the Kama , Bashkiria , part of Western Siberia and areas on the middle and lower reaches of the Volga . In addition to the Cossacks, the Bashkirs , Tatars , Kazakhs , Kalmyks , the workers from the Urals and numerous serfs from the affected Russian governorates took part in the uprising.

Military history


Pugachev holding court, painting by Vasily Perow (1879)

The uprising began on September 17, 1773 with the proclamation of the Pugachev Manifesto, which was addressed to the Cossacks of the Jaitsk region. He gathered a group of volunteer Cossacks and approached the city of Jaizk, but since he had no artillery, he did not dare to storm the city. From here Pugachev's troops advanced eastward towards Orenburg . After Pugachev had conquered the Priajitski fortress and several Cossack towns, replenished his troops with Orenburg Cossacks and took over the weapons of the garrisons, he took positions around the city of Orenburg. On October 5, 1773, Pugachev's troops began the siege of Orenburg, where the garrison under Colonel Johann Heinrich Rheindorp had around 3,000 soldiers and 70 artillery pieces. Catherine II sent 1,500 men under Major General Vasily Kar to suppress the rebellion there. A common battle did not take place, but the weak government troops were successfully forced to retreat by Pugachev's military leader A. Owchinnikow.

Influenced by the Pugachev appeals from his Berdsk encampment, hundreds of volunteers (including Bashkirs, Tatars, Kalmyks, etc.) who had left their landowners flocked to him every day. They strengthened the rebel army again, which grew to over 15,000 people by the end of 1773. The Bashkire Salawat Julajew was appointed by the authorities in October 1773 to take action from the east against the uprising of the Jaizk (Ural) Cossacks. Instead, he ran over to Pugachev's side with the army department of the city of Sterlitamak, whose men were besieging Orenburg at the time. Julayev received from Pugachev initially the rank of colonel. He then recruited a force of over 10,000 men in northeast Bashkiria and advanced towards Perm . In November 1773, Pugachev's armies defeated the tsarist troops sent to support the besieged Orenburg and captured the weapons and troops under the command of Colonel PM Chernyshev. By December 1773 his troops had grown to around 25,000 men and 86 cannons. Already in the first months of the uprising, Pugachev's outstanding qualities as a leader of the mass movement became known: extraordinary energy, bravery, a great natural spirit, military knowledge. At his headquarters in Berd, he formed a secret military college from his most experienced comrades-in-arms, which organized the “main army” and maintained contact with the widely dispersed departments operating in remote centers of the uprising. Dozens of emissaries with manifestos and Pugachev's decrees were sent from Berd to places where the people were promised the abolition of serfdom and other benefits and were invited to serve in the army of "Sovereign Peter III." During the advance, members of numerous aristocratic families were killed, their properties plundered and the economic and infrastructural development of the southeastern regions set back by decades.

On November 29th, General Alexander Bibikow was appointed to succeed the unsuccessful General Kar. A manifesto prepared by the authorities was awkwardly drafted, had no effect on the rural population and forced Bibikow to take decisive military action. After his arrival in Kazan on December 26th, Bibikov was indignant about the suggestion of the local governor Jakob von Brandt that he should only defend the province of Kazan and leave the Orenburg region to the insurgents. Major General Larionov, a militarily little qualified relative of Bibikov, then took command of the Kazan garrison. Bibikow had too few troops for an offensive and first had to strengthen the spirit of the population loyal to the government and at the same time tried to win over the local nobility. After the rebellion in Samara could first be suppressed and Alexejwskoye was taken at the end of December, Major General Mansurov received orders to advance along the Samara River in order to establish union with General Freyman's corps, which was concentrated in the Bugulma area. The goal remained the relief of Orenburg.


Iwan Iwanowitsch Michelson

In early January 1774, the Pugachev movement covered a large part of the territory of the Orenburg province and adjacent districts of the Kazan and Tobolsk provinces . The following atamans, sent by Pugachev, acted in the largest uprising centers : IN Zarubin-Chika in the Ufa area , IN Beloborodow in Yekaterinburg , IN Grjasnow in Chelyabinsk , IF Arapov in Samara , VI Tornow in Sainsk , Salavat Yulayev and IS Kuznezow in Kungur and Krasnoufimzow .

From mid-January 1774, the military situation of Pugachev and his atamans deteriorated. The troops of the new Commander-in-Chief General Alexander I. Bibikov launched an offensive from the banks of the Volga to the east, suppressed numerous centers of resistance of the rebels and then approached Orenburg. On March 22, the combined forces under Generals Pyotr Golitsyn , Yuri Bibikov, Freyman and Mansurov recaptured the fortress of Tatishchev after a victorious battle, and on March 24, Colonel Ivan Ivanovich Michelson , who had succeeded General Larionov , lifted the blockade from Ufa on. Soon the cities of Chelyabinsk , Yekaterinburg and Kungur were also freed by the insurgents.

The corps of General Golitzyn formed the vanguard of Bibikov's penal army and defeated the army of Pugachow at the fortress of Tatichev in a six-hour battle on March 22, 1774 and ten days later in another battle on the Sakmara . Pugachev escaped with about three hundred horsemen who stayed with him across the Belaya River to the Ural factories, where he was able to quickly recruit a new army, which was replenished by factory farmers, Isatic Cossacks and Bashkirs. With this newly created army he began his active operations in early May 1774 and soon took over the fortresses of Karagai, Petropavlovsk and Stepnoye.

A planned march to Siberia was prevented by the corps of General IA Dekolong whose troops the rebels on May 21 at Troitsk defeated. Pugachev wanted to move with the rest of the army to Chelyabinsk, but he was blocked there by the corps of Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Michelson, who attacked him successfully for the first time on May 22nd at the Kundrawinska settlement. During the persecution, Michelson beat Pugachev in the Urals Mountains in early June . But his opponent, skillfully mastering the tactics of guerrilla actions, escaped the enemy every time, saving his main forces from final defeat and quickly recruiting thousands of volunteers. Pugachev escaped to Bashkortostan and ensured that the uprising soon re-emerged.

Colonel-General Bibikow did not live to see the outcome of his orders, he died on April 20 (9) 1774 in Bugulma of cholera . On the instructions of her minister Nikita Panin , Catherine II decided that his brother Lieutenant General Pyotr Panin was appointed the new commander-in-chief by decree of July 29, in order to "contain the rebellion and restore internal order in the provinces of Orenburg, Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod " .

Pugachev's new force stood on the banks of the Kama in mid-June . He decided to lead his army to Kazan and from there to undertake a long-planned campaign against Moscow. The Cossack army was supported by Tatars and Udmurt peasants as well as Bashkir cavalry. Only the Cossacks had firearms, the Bashkirs were mostly armed with bows, while the peasants were mostly only equipped with clubs and stakes. On July 12, the Battle of Kazan began , Pugachev units broke into the city, but were unable to take the city's Kremlin, behind whose walls the local garrison found refuge. That evening, Michelson's corps, approaching Kazan, attacked the rebel army entrenched on the apron, defeated him in a fierce battle and forced him to withdraw from the city. A second battle for Kazan took place on July 15 and ended with another defeat for the rebels. Pugachev escaped to Kokshaisk, where he crossed the Volga.

With the flight of Pugachev over the right bank of the Volga the new rise of the peasant movement began. The uprising in the Volga provinces was brought about by the announcement of the Pugachev manifestations, which called for the liberation of the peasants from serfdom, the surrender of land to the people and the annihilation of the nobility. The rebellious peasants on the Volga became the main reservoir for rearming the rebel troops. Pugachev refused to go back to Moscow and headed south towards the Don , hoping to find support from the Don Cossacks . Followed by the Corps Michelson, he advanced to the south and occupied in July and August 1774, the cities Kurmjsch, Saransk , Penza , Petrovsky, Saratov and Kamyshin . The newly formed settlements of the Volga Germans were attacked, Kazakh-Kyrgyz equestrian groups kidnapped over 1,500 settlers, only half were later liberated, the rest were killed or enslaved. Advancing through the Volga steppe to Tsaritsyn , Michelson's troops overtook the enemy and confronted them in the Solenikow area in the battle of Khorny Yar (August 25, 1774). Pugachev's army suffered one last heavy defeat. With two hundred Cossacks, Pugachev managed to break away from the pursuers and escape to the left bank of the Volga. He recruited a new department into the depths of the Trans-Volga steppe region without realizing that a group of Cossacks had already formed a conspiracy against him. After the conspirators, led by FF Chumakow, IP Feduljew and I. Vorogow, had reached an agreement on September 8, 1774, they captured Pugachev in his camp near the Bolshaya Uzen river and brought him back to the city of Jaizk. Pugachev tried twice in vain to flee. On September 14, the conspirators handed over the prisoners to the city authorities on the night of September 15. Here Pugachev was interrogated for the first time by the Guard Captain SI Mawrin.


On September 18, 1774, a convoy led personally by Lieutenant General AV Suvorov brought the captured Pugachev to Simbirsk . There he was interrogated by the Commander-in-Chief Pyotr I Panin and the chief of the investigative commission, Major General PS Potemkin. Pugachev was transported to Moscow in a wooden cage on a two-wheeled cart, where he arrived on November 4, 1774 and was repeatedly interrogated during the month by Colonel General MN Volkonsky and the chief secretary of the Senate, Scheschkowski . The work of the commission and the court, which took place from the end of December, was carried out according to the instructions of Catherine II. According to a court order by the Empress on January 20 (9), 1775, Pugachev was sentenced to death and on January 21 (10), together with his closest collaborators, AP Perfiljew, MG Shigayev, TI Pododurow and VI Tornow, on the Executed Bolotnaya Square. IN Zarubin-Chika, who was later captured, was transferred to Ufa with the same verdict, where he was executed on January 24th.

Salawat Yulayev continued the fighting for a few months after Pugachev was already under arrest. He was captured on December 5, 1774 in the village of Medjasch and transferred to Moscow via Ufa. In September 1775 he was sentenced to life imprisonment together with his father, who was also involved in the uprising, and imprisoned in the Estonian fortress Rogervik near the town of Paldiski .

In view of the uprising of the Yaik Cossacks against their government, on January 15, 1775 , Catherine II ordered the renaming of the Yaik River to Urals and the city of Yaiksk to Uralsk . The memory of the fallen Jaik Cossacks should be erased and the new name Ural Cossacks should enable a new tradition.

Numerous literary works were dedicated to the Pugachev uprising, including the historical novels The Captain's Daughter and Pugachev by Alexander Pushkin . In official Soviet propaganda, the Pugachev uprising was glorified as an early phase of the class struggle .


  • Valentin Gitermann : History of Russia . 2nd volume. European Publishing House, Frankfurt am Main 1965, pp. 223–234. Documents pp. 457-461.
  • Erich Donnert : Ideology and social ideal of the Pugačev movement. Society and culture of Russia in the second half of the 18th century Halle 1982, pp. 87–120
  • Eike-Christian Kersten: Pugatschow uprising 1773–1775 - participants and motives . GRIN Verlag, Munich 2007. ISBN 978-3638675826
  • Dorothea Peters: Political and social ideas in the uprising movement under Pugačev (1773-1775) . Wiesbaden, Berlin 1973. ISBN 3447014954
  • Petra Plambeck: Journalism in Russia in the 18th Century: Analysis of the Appeals at the Time of the Pugačev Uprising, 1773–1775 . Hamburg 1982. ISBN 9783871185069
  • Alice Plate: The Pugačev Uprising: Cossack glory or social protest. Popular uprisings in Russia. From the time of turmoil to the "Green Revolution" against Soviet rule . Wiesbaden 2006. ISBN 978-3-447-05292-4

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans Eggert Willibald von der Lühe (ed.): Militair-Conversations-Lexikon . Volume 6: N, O, P, Q. Verlags-Bureau, Adorf 1836, p. 648 f.