Monday, November 28, 2005

Pugachev's Revolt

Last night I finished a short story by Aleksandr Pushkin entitled The Captain's Daughter, a romance set amidst Pugachev's Revolt in 1773 Russia. Emelian Ivanovich Pugachev, an illiterate Don Cossack pretending to be long-dead Tsar Peter III (forced to abdicate to Catherine, died in custody), found a loyal following throughout eastern European Russia. Pugachev played upon his likeness to Peter III (though I don't see it) and the peasant's longstanding belief that Peter III was never actually killed.

Accordingly, Pugachev was smart enough to employ longstanding greviences against Catherine, gaining followers not only among serfs but Ural factory workers, cossacks, Old Believers, Tatars, Bashkirs, and other minority peoples.

Immediately successful, he soon put forth his
own personal ukaz (proclamation having force of law). These proclamations sought to assure the peasantry that he would restore ancient freedoms (though, at the end of the 18th century, hundreds of rebellious outbreaks occurred). Likewise, he became adept at engaging in propaganda, promoting territorial elections, and producing a regular army.

Pugachev's contingent traveled north and south, burning Kazan to ashes and capturing Orenburg (
route map). Peasants were immediately hanged if they did not acknowledge him as the Tsar. As he advanced upon cities, his flag likely gave panic and flight to loyal subjects.

However, the military's quick success against armed peasants quickly vanquished the revolt. Shortly afterward, Pugachev was betrayed, captured, and caged- as he was sent to Moscow for torture and execution.

Of what consequence Pugachev? The revolt perhaps encouraged Catherine to strengthen her alliance with landowners and the gentry, the same interests who had supported her palace coup in the firtst place.

A Russian film by Alexander Proshkin, The Russian Revolt, is based upon Pushkin's
The Captain's Daughter along with his other work, The History of Pugachev . Like Pushkin, Proshkin visited the sites of Pugachev's revolt and interviewed locals who had age-old stories they had passed down over several generations.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, my father took me to a movie called The Tempest,
which focussed on Pugachev and his
uprising. Perhaps my father wanted to make me a populist for life by taking me to this unforgettable film. If so he succeeded.

10:04 PM  

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