Plague Revolt

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Plague Revolt


an uprising in Moscow in September 1771 caused by an epidemic of plague. The immediate crisis was aggravated by the discontent of many Muscovites with unemployment, famine brought on by the closing of factories as a quarantine measure, and an absence of medical help. The direct cause of the revolt was the attempt by Ambrosius, the archbishop of Moscow, to prevent crowds from gathering near the miracle-working icon at the Varvarka Gate of Kitai-Gorod; he thereby hoped to prevent the spread of the plague.

On September 15, responding to an alarm, a crowd of thousands that included landless household serfs, peasants on quitrent, tradesmen, and laborers pushed back the troops at the Varvarka Gate and set out for the Kremlin, where the city’s rulers were hiding. On the following day the mob stormed the Don Monastery and killed Ambrosius, who had taken refuge there; it then began destroying the quarantine barriers. Troops under G. G. Orlov were sent to crush the revolt, which was disorganized in character.

The Plague Revolt was cruelly suppressed. More than 300 of the participants were put on trial, of whom four were hanged (the merchant I. Dmitriev and the household serfs V. Andreev, F. Deianov, and A. Leont’ev) and 173 flogged and sentenced to hard labor. At the same time, the government was forced to take more effective measures against the plague and to provide assistance to the urban populace in the form of jobs and food. The Plague Revolt provoked disturbances among the peasants in the vicinity of Moscow and in the neighboring districts of Moscow Province.


Solov’ev, S. M. “Moskva 1770 i 1771 gg.” Russkaia starina, 1876, no. 10.
Alefirenko, P. “Chumnyi bunt v Moskve v 1771 g.” Voprosy istorii, 1947, no. 4.
Istoriia Moskvy, vol. 2. Moscow, 1953. Pages 368–77.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.