Yemelyan Ivanovich Pugachyov


Yemelyan Ivanovich Pugachov (1740 or 1742 - January 21 1775), also transliterated Emelian Pugachev , was a pretender to the Russian throne who led a great Cossack insurrection during the reign of Catherine II.

Pugachev, the son of a small Don Cossack landowner, married a Cossack girl, Sofia Nedyuzheva, in 1758, and, in the same year, participated in the Seven Years' War as part of the Cossack expedition to Prussia under the command of Count Zakhar Chernyshev. In the first Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774), Pugachev, now a Cossack junior lieutenant, served under Count Peter Panin and participated in the siege of Bender (1770).

Pugachev led for the next few years a wandering life. More than once, the authorities arrested and imprisoned him as a deserter. In 1773, after frequenting the monasteries of the Old Believers, who exercised considerable influence over him, he suddenly proclaimed himself Tsar Peter III and organized the insurrection of the Yaik Cossacks which ignited the flames of a full-blown insurrection in the lower Volga region.

Insurrection 1773–1774 (aka "Pugachev's Rebellion")

The story of Pugachev's strong resemblance to the murdered tsar Peter III, whom his wife, the future empress Catherine II, had overthrown in 1762, comes from a later legend. Pugachev was a Don Cossack and deserter of Catherine's Imperial army. Pugachev told the story that he and his principal adherents had escaped from the clutches of Catherine, and had now resolved to redress the grievances of the people, give absolute liberty to the Cossacks, and put Catherine herself away in a monastery.

Having amassed an army through propaganda, active recruitment and promises for reform, with this army and the coordination of his generals, Pugachev was able to overtake much of the region stretching between the Volga River and the Urals. Pugachev's greatest victory of the insurgency was the taking of Kazan.

In response, General Peter Panin thereupon set out against the rebels with a large army, but difficulty of transport, lack of discipline, and the gross insubordination of his ill-paid soldiers paralyzed all his efforts for months, while the innumerable and ubiquitous bands of Pugachev gained victories in nearly every engagement. Not until August 1774 did General Mikhelson inflict a crushing defeat upon the rebels near Tsaritsyn, when they lost ten thousand killed or taken prisoner. Panin's savage reprisals, after the capture of Penza, completed their discomfiture. On September 14, 1774 Pugachev's own Cossacks delivered him up when he attempted to flee to the Urals. Alexander Suvorov had him placed in a metal cage and sent to Moscow for a public execution which took place on January 10, 1775. In the public square, he was diced into quarters.

The Pugachev rebellion had a long lasting effect on Russia for years to come. While Catherine II tried to reform the provincial administration, the horrors of the revolt caused her to scrap other reforms, particularly attempts to emancipate the peasant serfs of Russia. Her regime became one of increasing conservativism. The Russian writer Alexander Radishchev, in Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, attacked the Russian government and, in particular the institution of serfdom. In the book, he refers to Pugachev and the rebellion as a warning.

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