Pugachev, Emelian Ivanovich

Pugachev, Emelian Ivanovich

Pugachev, Emelian Ivanovich (yĭmĭlyänˈ ēväˈnəvĭch po͞ogəchôfˈ), c.1742–75, Russian peasant leader, head of the peasant rebellion of 1773–74. A Don Cossack, he exploited a widespread peasant belief that Peter III had not actually been murdered. Claiming (1773) to be Peter III, he soon found himself at the head of an army and of a revolutionary movement. His followers—Cossacks, peasants, runaway serfs, Tatar bands, and serfs from the mines and factories—all belonged to the lower classes, whose rights and liberties had been increasingly curtailed in the past two centuries. Pugachev announced the abolition of serfdom. His army overran the middle and lower Volga districts and the Ural region and took Kazan and several fortresses, committing barbarous excesses and threatening the throne of Catherine II, who was waging war on the Ottoman Empire. However, the rebels lacked experienced leadership and were ultimately defeated. Pugachev was betrayed, taken to Moscow, and beheaded. As a result of the rebellion Catherine introduced the administrative reform (1775) that increased the central government's control over outlying areas and more firmly entrenched the institution of serfdom.


See A. Pushkin, The History of Pugachev (1983).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pugachev, Emel’ian Ivanovich


Born circa 1742 in Zimoveiskaia-na-Donu stanitsa (large cossack village); died Jan. 10 (21), 1775, in Moscow. Leader of the Peasant War (1773–75) in Russia.

The son of a cossack, Pugachev fought in the Seven Years’ War (1756–63) and, from 1768 to 1770, the Russo-Turkish War. In 1770 he was promoted to the rank of cornet (khorunzhii). Late in 1771 he evaded military service and escaped to the region of the Terek River. Arrested in February 1772 in Mozdok, he soon escaped, spending that spring and summer in Old Believer settlements near Chernigov and Gomel’. In the fall of 1772 he settled among the Trans-Volga Old Believers on the Irgiz River, where he learned of the rout of the Iaik Cossack uprising.

Pugachev began inciting the cossacks to flee to the free lands beyond the Kuban’ River. Soon, however, a denunciation led to his arrest, and in January 1773 he was brought to Kazan and sentenced to exile and hard labor in Siberia. In May 1773 he escaped from the Kazan prison, and in August of that year again stayed in settlements of the Iaik Cossack army. He made an agreement with a group of Iaik Cossacks, veterans of the 1772 uprising, to assume the name of the deceased emperor Peter III and to incite the cossacks to revolt again, hoping they would be supported by the peasantry. Pugachev’s views on the uprising’s ultimate aims went no further than the popular masses’ naive hopes of establishing a peasant-cossack state headed by a just “peasant tsar.”

The Peasant War revealed Pugachev’s extraordinary energy, courage, native intelligence, and outstanding gifts for military leadership and organization. On Sept. 8, 1774, he was arrested in the Trans-Volga steppes by conspirators, who betrayed him to the authorities. The investigation was conducted in Iaitskii Gorodok (now Ural’sk), Simbirsk (now Ul’ianovsk), and Moscow. The trial was held from Dec. 29 to 31,1774, in Moscow. In accordance with the Senate’s verdict, which was confirmed by Catherine II, Pugachev and four of his comrades—A. P. Perfil’-ev, M. G. Shigaev, T. I. Podurov, and V. I. Tornov—were executed in Moscow on Jan. 10,1775. His family, including his first wife, Sof’ia, and his children Trofim, Agrafena, and Khristina, as well as his second wife, the “empress” Ustin’ia Kuznetsova, were exiled for life to Keksgol’m (now Priozersk).


Krest’ianskaia voina v Rossii v 1773–1775 godakh: Vosstanie Pugacheva, vols. 1–3. Leningrad, 1961–70. (Bibliography, vol. 1, pp. 571–85.)
Limonov, Iu. A., V. V. Mavrodin, and V. M. Paneiakh. Pugachev i pugachevtsy. Leningrad, 1974.


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