Bulavin Revolt of 1707-09

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bulavin Revolt of 1707-09


an antifeudal peasant cossack movement in Russia provoked by feudal exploitation. It was named after K. A. Bulavin.

The Bulavin Revolt took place under the slogan of annihilation of those who “acted unjustly”: the boyars, voevody (military commanders), and “people in authority.” The basic forces promoting the revolt were fugitive peasants “living as cossacks.” Poor posadskie liudi (merchants and artisans) and oppressed nationalities—Tatars, Mordvinians, and others—were active participants in the revolt. The immediate stimulus to revolt was the activity of a punitive detachment under Prince Iu. V. Dolgorukii, which had been sent to the Don to search for and return fugitives. On the night of Oct. 7, 1707, more than 200 people led by Bulavin destroyed one party of the punitive detachment near the small town of Shul’gin on the Aidar River. The revolt quickly spread to the small towns in the upper reaches of the Don. Detachments of wealthy cossacks and Kalmyks were sent against the rebels, who were defeated in a battle on the Aidar River near the town of Zakotnyi; Bulavin and several followers fled to the Zaporozhskaia Sech’. The first outbreaks of the revolt were suppressed.

The second phase of the Bulavin Revolt began in late 1707; its center was the town of Pristanskii on the Khoper River, where Bulavin arrived in March 1708. The “enticing” letters with an appeal to revolt were sent from there. The revolt quickly spread to Verkhnelomovsk and Nizhnelomovsk districts and to the Left-bank and Sloboda Ukraine. In early April, Bulavin moved toward Cherkassk, the administrative center of the Don cossacks. On Apr. 9, 1708, he defeated the troops of Hetman L. Maksimov in a battle on the Liskovatka River below Panshin; the rank-and-file cossacks went over to the side of the rebels. On May 1 a revolt took place in Cherkassk, and the city came into the hands of the rebels almost without a struggle. Maksimov and five cossack commanders were executed, and the commanders’ property and the church treasury were distributed among the rebels, who set lower prices for bread.

On May 9, Bulavin was elected hetman of the troops. Organizing a march on Moscow, he tried to enlist the support of the Zaporozh’e and Kuban’ cossacks, the Old Believers, and the Nogai Horde. In an attempt to arrest the movement of tsarist troops to the Don, he dispatched a letter to Peter the Great. He sent the detachments of hetmans I. Nekrasov, I. Pavlov, and L. Khokhlach to the Volga. They captured Dmitrievsk on May 12-13, 1708, and on May 26 they besieged Saratov. However, they could not take the city, and they moved on to Tsaritsyn, which they conquered on June 7. The detachments of hetmans S. Dranyi, N. Golyi, and S. Bespalyi were sent to the Severnyi Donets and Sloboda Ukraine, and on the night of June 8, 1708, they destroyed the Sumy regiment on the Urazovaia River. Bulavin moved his main forces against Azov. The fragmentation of their forces facilitated the destruction of the rebels.

A special army of 32, 000 men was established under the command of V. V. Dolgorukii to suppress the Bulavin Revolt. On June 30 and July 2, 1708, the detachments of Dranyi and Bespalyi were seriously defeated near the small town of Tor and at the natural landmark of Krivaia Luka on the Severnyi Donets. The rebels’ attempt to take Azov on July 6 ended in failure. The cossack leaders who had provisionally joined the revolt left it after the capture of Cherkassk and organized a conspiracy. On July 7, 1708, the conspirators killed Bulavin. In the third phase of the Bulavin Revolt separate detachments of rebels from the poor under the leadership of N. Golyi, I. Nekrasov, S. Bespalyi, and I. Pavlov continued the struggle with tsarist troops. The remnants of the rebels were active along the middle and lower reaches of the Volga until the beginning of 1709.

The Bulavin Revolt was spontaneous and local and had tsarist tendencies. It was cruelly suppressed: all the small towns inhabitated by fugitive peasants were destroyed and the fugitives were returned to their owners. The Don region lost its independence. At the time of the Bulavin Revolt and during 1709-10 peasant disturbances occurred in many districts. Part of the rebels, led by Nekrasov, went to the Kuban’, and in 1740, saving themselves from the tsarist armies, they resettled in Turkey. In a foreign land they preserved their language, customs, and costume. In 1962 a large group of descendants of the Bulavin rebels returned to the USSR and settled in Stavropol’ Krai.


Chaev, N. S. “Bulavinskoe vosstanie (1707-08 gg.)” In Trudy istoriko-arkheograficheskogo in-ta AN SSSR, vol. 12. Moscow, 1935.
Novye materialy o vosstanii na Donu i v tsentral’noi Rossii v 1707-09 gg. [Prepared by E. P. Pod’iapolskaia.] In Materialy po istorii SSSR, vol. 5. Moscow, 1957.


Pod’iapol’skaia, E. P. Vosstanie Bulavina 1707-09. Moscow, 1962.
Lebedev, V. I. Bulavinskoe vosstanie (1707-1708). Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.