|Твори О.С. Пушкіна.Переклад англійською мовою.>A HISTORY OF PUGACHEV|
This incomplete piece of historical research was to form part of a larger project, which I have since abandoned. Here I have brought together everything about Pugachev that the government has made public and everything that I have found trustworthy in the foreign authors treating him. I have also had an opportunity to make use of some manuscripts, oral traditions, and accounts of eyewitnesses still alive.
The legal case against Pugachev, still sealed as of this writing, used to be kept at the State Archives in St. Petersburg, among other important documents that were at one time secret government papers but have subsequently become source materials for the historian. On ascending the throne, His Imperial Majesty issued a decree to have these documents put in order. Out came all these treasures from the cellars, where they had been inundated several times and nearly destroyed.
The future historian who has permission to unseal Pugachev's case will easily be able to correct and augment my work - which is of necessity imperfect but at least conscientious. A page of history on which the names of Catherine, Rumiantsev, two Panins, Suvorov, Bibikov, Mikhelson, Voltaire, and Derzhavin occur must not be lost for posterity.
November 2, 1833
The Village of Boldino
To render a proper account of all the designs and adventures of this impostor would, it seems, be almost impossible not only for a historian of average abilities but even for the most excellent one, because all of this impostor's undertakings depended, not on rational considerations or military precepts, but on daring, happenstance, and luck. For this reason (I think) Pugachev himself not only would be unable to recount all the details of these undertakings, but would not even be aware of a considerable portion of them, since they were initiated, not just by him directly, but by many of his unbridled daredevil accomplices in several locations at once.
ARCHIMANDRITE PLATON LIUBARSKII
The origin of the Iaik Cossacks. — A poetic legend. - The Tsar's charter. — Piracy on the Caspian Sea. — Stenka Razin. — Nechai and Shamai. — Peter the Great's intentions. — Internal disturbances. — The flight of a nomadic people. — The Iaik Cossacks' riot. — Their suppression.
The Iaik River, renamed Ural by Catherine II's decree, issues from the mountains that have given it its present name. It flows southward along the mountain range to the point where Orenburg was at one time to be founded and where Fort Orsk is now located. Here it turns to the west, dissecting the rocky mountain ridge, and follows a course of more than 2,500 versts to the Caspian Sea. It irrigates part of Bashkiriia; it serves as the southeastern boundary of almost all of Orenburg Guberniia; the trans-Volga steppes stretch up to its right bank; and from the left bank extends the gloomy wilderness where the primitive tribes known to us as the Kirgiz Kaisaks lead their nomadic existence. Its current is swift; its murky waters abound in fish of all kinds; its banks are mostly clayey or sandy and treeless, in places expanding into water meadows suitable for cattle-raising. Near its delta it is overgrown with tall reeds - a hiding place for boars and tigers.
The Don Cossacks, who had been crossing the Khvalinsk [Caspian] Sea, appeared on the banks of this river in the fifteenth century. They spent the winters on its banks, at that time still wooded and safe due to the river's remoteness. They set sail for the sea in the spring, plundered until late fall, and returned to the Iaik with the onset of winter. Moving farther and farther upstream from one place to the next, they at last chose for permanent settlement Kolovratnoe Point, sixty versts from today's Uralsk.
Some Tatar families, split off from the nomad camps of the Golden Horde and seeking free pastures on the banks of the same Iaik, roamed the new settlers' neighborhood. At first the two tribes were at enmity, but with the passage of time they entered into friendly dealings: the Cossacks began to take wives from the Tatar camps. According to a poetic legend, the Cossacks, passionately attached to their unmarried life, resolved among themselves that each time they embarked on a new campaign they would kill all the newborn infants and abandon their wives. One of their atamans, by the name of Gugnia, was the first to take pity on his young wife and break this cruel resolution; the rest of the Cossacks, following his example, submitted to the yoke of family life. To this day the people living on the banks of the Ural, by now civilized and hospitable, drink to the health of Grandmother Gugnikha at their feasts.
Living by plunder and surrounded by hostile tribes, the Cossacks felt the need for a powerful protector, and during the reign of Mikhail Fedorovich they sent an envoy to Moscow with the request that the Sovereign take them under his mighty patronage. Settling the Cossacks on the unclaimed lands along the Iaik was probably regarded as a gain of obvious significance. The Tsar received his new subjects kindly and presented them with a charter for the Iaik River, granting it to them from its upper reaches to its delta, and permitting them to bring any free people there for settlement.
Their number grew rapidly. They continued crossing the Caspian Sea, joining up with the Don Cossacks to raid Persian merchant ships and plunder seaside settlements. The Shah complained to the Tsar. Admonitions were sent from Moscow to both the Don and the Iaik.
The Cossacks sailed up the Volga to Nizhnii Novgorod in boats still loaded with loot; whence they proceeded to Moscow and presented themselves at Court, pleading guilty and each carrying an ax with an executioner's block. They were sent to Poland and to Riga in order to earn pardon for their misdeeds. Some Streltsy, who were later to merge into one tribe with the Cossacks, were dispatched to the Iaik region.
Stenka Razin visited the settlements along the Iaik. According to the testimony of chronicles, the Cossacks received him as an enemy. Their town was taken by this daring mutineer, and the Streltsy stationed there were either slain or drowned.
According to tradition, confirmed by a Tatar chronicler, the campaigns of two Iaik atamans, Nechai and Shamai, took place in this same period. The first, having collected a band of volunteers, went to Khiva in the hope of rich loot. Luck was on his side. After a difficult passage, the Cossacks reached Khiva. The Khan with his army was away at war just then. Nechai occupied the city, meeting no resistance; but he gave himself over to the good life and set out for the return march too late. Loaded down with loot, the Cossacks were overtaken by the Khan who had come home; they were defeated and annihilated on the bank of the Syr Daria. No more than three returned to the Iaik with the news that the brave Nechai had perished. A few years later another ataman, named Shamai, set out in the tracks of the first. But he was taken captive by the Kalmyks of the steppe. Meanwhile, his Cossacks proceeded farther, lost their way, and never reached Khiva, arriving instead at the Aral Sea, on whose shore they were forced to spend the winter. Hunger overtook them. The luckless adventurers killed and ate one another. The majority perished. The survivors at last sent a message to the Khan of Khiva, asking him to receive them and save them from starvation. The Khiva Tatars came out for them, captured them all, and took them back to their city as slaves. There they all vanished. As for Shamai, the Kalmyks brought him back to the Iaik Host a few years later, evidently to be ransomed. After this, the Cossacks lost their taste for far-flung campaigns. They gradually grew accustomed to civilized family life.
The Iaik Cossacks obediently bore offices according to the hierarchy of ranks issued by Moscow, but at home they preserved their original mode of government. A perfect equality of rights; atamans and elders, elected by the community as temporary executors of communal resolutions; circles, or meetings, at which each Cossack had a free voice and where all public issues were decided by majority vote; no written resolutions; into a sack and into the water for treason, cowardice, murder, and theft - these were the main features of their polity. To the simple, crude laws brought along from the Don the Iaik Cossacks added others of local importance, relating to fishing, which was the main source of their revenue, and to the right of hiring the necessary number of Cossacks for service - extremely complex laws, defined with the greatest attention to detail.
Peter the Great introduced the first measures aimed at incorporating the Iaik Cossacks into the general system of state government. In 1720 the Iaik Host was put under the authority of the War College. The Cossacks rioted and burned their town with the intention of fleeing into the Kirgiz steppes, but were cruelly brought to heel by Colonel Zakharov. A census was taken, services were defined, and wages were set. The Sovereign appointed the ataman of the Host himself.
Under the reigns of Anna Ivanovna and Elisaveta Petrovna, the government intended to complete the actions initiated by Peter. This was facilitated by the discord that had arisen between the Host's ataman Merkurev and its elder Loginov, dividing the Cossacks into two factions: the ataman's on the one hand and Loginov's, or the people's, on the other. In 1740 it was decided that the Iaik Cossacks' polity should be reorganized, and Nepliuev, the governor of Orenburg at the time, submitted a project for new laws to the War College. For the most part, however, the plans and directives were not carried out until the accession to the throne of the Empress Catherine II.
As early as 1762 the Iaik Cossacks of the Loginov faction began complaining about the oppressive measures taken by the chancery officials whom the government had imposed on the Host: they complained about the withholding of allotted wages, about arbitrary taxes, and about infringements of ancient fishing rights and customs. The civil servants sent to investigate their complaints were either unable or unwilling to placate them. The Cossacks rioted several times, so much so that Major Generals Potapov and Cherepov (the first in 1766, the second in 1767) were obliged to resort to the force of arms and to the horror of executions. An investigating commission was set up in the Cossacks' town, Iaitskii Gorodok. Among its members were Major Generals Potapov, Cherepov, Brumfeld, and Davydov, and Captain of the Guards Chebyshev. The Host's ataman, Andrei Borodin, was dismissed; Petr Tambovtsev was elected in his place; and the chancery officials were enjoined to pay, over and above the sums withheld, a considerable fine to the Host. The officials, however, managed to evade obeying this injunction. The Cossacks did not lose heart: they attempted to bring their legitimate complaints to the attention of the Empress herself. But the men they sent on this secret mission were arrested in Petersburg on the orders of Count Chernyshev, president of the War College; they were put in fetters and punished as mutineers. In the meanwhile an order was issued to detail several hundred Cossacks for service in Kizliar. The local authorities used this opportunity to take new oppressive measures against the people in revenge for its resistance. It became known that the government intended to press the Cossacks into cavalry squadrons, and that orders had already been given to have their beards shaved. The sending of Major General Traubenberg to Iaitskii Gorodok for this purpose aroused general indignation. The Cossacks were in a state of turmoil. At last, in 1771, mutiny burst out with full force.
What had set it off was another event of equal importance. Peaceful Kalmyks, who had come from the borders of China at the beginning of the eighteenth century to live under the white Tsar's suzerainty, were roaming about in the immense steppes of Astrakhan and Saratov, in the region between the Volga and the Iaik. Ever since their arrival they had served Russia faithfully, guarding her southern borders. Russian police officials, taking advantage of their simplicity and remoteness from the central institutions of government, began to oppress them. The complaints of these peaceable and well-meaning people did not reach the higher administration. At last, having lost their patience, they decided to leave Russia and to enter into secret negotiations with the Chinese government. It was easy for them to move right up to the bank of the Iaik without arousing suspicions. Then, suddenly, all 30,000 of them forded the river and set out across the Kirgiz steppes toward the boundaries of their former homeland. The government took hasty measures to stop the unexpected flight. The Iaik Host was ordered to pursue the fugitives, but the Cossacks (with very few exceptions) failed to obey, and openly refused to perform any service.
The local authorities resorted to the strictest measures in an attempt to end the mutiny, but by now no punishment could subdue the embittered Cossacks. On January 13, 1771, they gathered in the town square, took the icons from the church, and went, under the leadership of the Cossack Kirpichnikov, to the house of Captain of the Guards Durnovo, who was in Iaitskii Gorodok at the time, involved in the business of the investigating commission. They demanded the dismissal of the chancery officials and the payment of withheld wages. Major General Traubenberg confronted them with troops and cannon, and ordered them to disperse, but neither his commands nor the admonitions of the ataman had any effect. Traubenberg gave orders to open fire; the Cossacks rushed the cannon. A battle ensued; the mutineers gained the upper hand. Traubenberg tried to flee but was killed at the gate of his house; Durnovo was covered with wounds, Tambovtsev hanged, the chancery officials put under arrest, and new officials appointed in their place.
The mutineers triumphed. They sent elected representatives to Petersburg, delegated to explain and justify the bloody incident. In the meanwhile Major General Freymann had been dispatched from Moscow with a company of grenadiers and artillery to subdue them. Freymann arrived in Orenburg in the spring, waited there until the rivers subsided, and then, taking two light field detachments and a few Cossacks with him, went on to Iaitskii Gorodok. The mutineers, numbering 3,000, came out to face him: the two sides met at a point 70 versts from the town. Hot battles took place on June 3 and June 4. Freymann cleared his path with grapeshot. The mutineers galloped home to gather up their wives and children, and they started crossing the Chagan River with the intention of escaping to the Caspian Sea. Freymann, who entered the town right on their heels, managed to hold the populace back by threats and remonstrance’s. Those who had already left were pursued and captured almost to a man. An investigating commission was set up in Orenburg under the chairmanship of Colonel Neronov. A good many of the mutineers were brought there. Since the prisons were overflowing, some were kept in stalls at the market hall and barter court. The earlier Cossack polity was liquidated. Leadership was put in the hands of the commandant of Iaitsk, Lieutenant Colonel Simonov. The Host elder Martemian Borodin and the other (civil) elder, Mostovshchikov, were commanded to assist at his chancery. The ringleaders of the riot were whipped; about 140 people were exiled to Siberia; others were conscripted (N.B. all of them deserted); the rest were pardoned and administered a second oath of allegiance. Outwardly, these strict and necessary measures restored order, but the peace was uncertain. "Just watch out," the pardoned mutineers kept saying, "we shall yet lay our hands on Moscow." The Cossacks were still divided into two factions: the acquiescent and the dissident (or, as the War College aptly translated these terms, the obedient and the disobedient). Secret conferences took place at taverns and remote hamlets across the steppe. Everything portended a new mutiny. Only a leader was missing. A leader was soon found.
Pugachev's arrival on the scene. — His escape from Kazan. — Kozhevnikov's testimony. — The Pretender's first successful steps. — The Ilek Cossacks' treason. — The taking of Fort Rassypnaia. — Nurali-Khan. — Measures taken by Reinsdorp. — The taking of Nizhne-Ozernaia. — The taking of Fort Tatishchev. — The council in Orenburg. — The taking of Chernorechenskaia. — Pugachev in Sakmara.
In this time of trouble an unknown vagrant drifted about among the Cossack homesteads, taking jobs now with this, now with that master, and dabbling in all manner of handicrafts. Having witnessed the suppression of the mutiny and the chastisement of its ringleaders, he went to a schismatic community on the Irgiz for a while. This community sent him at the end of 1772 to buy a supply of fish in Iaitskii Gorodok, where he stayed at the house of the Cossack Denis Pianov. He was noted for the boldness of his statements — for heaping abuse on the authorities and inciting the Cossacks to flee to the lands of the Turkish Sultan. He claimed that the Don Cossacks would not take long in following them, that at the border he had 20,000 rubles in cash and 70,000 rubles' worth of goods waiting for him, and that some pasha or other was to supply the Cossacks with 5,000,000 after their arrival, until which time he had promised to pay each of them a monthly wage of 12 rubles. Further, the vagrant claimed that two regiments had set out from Moscow against the Iaik Cossacks, and that a riot around Christmas or Epiphany was inevitable. Some of the "obedient" Cossacks wanted to take him prisoner and hand him over as a rabble-rouser to the commandant's chancery, but he vanished, along with Denis Pianov, and was caught only later in the village of Malykovka (today's Volsk), where a peasant, with whom he had traveled the same road, pointed him out. This vagrant was Emelian Pugachev, a Don Cossack and schismatic who had come from Poland with false documents intending to settle among the schismatics living on the Irgiz River. Taken into custody, he was conveyed first to Simbirsk and then to Kazan; and since everything concerning the affairs of the Iaik Host could be important under those circumstances, the governor of Orenburg deemed it necessary to send a report about his arrest, dated January 18, 1773, to the State War College.
Mutineers from the Iaik region were no rarity in those days, and therefore the Kazan authorities paid no particular attention to the offender sent to them. Pugachev was not confined with any greater strictness than the other prisoners. In the meanwhile his followers were not asleep. One day, escorted by two soldiers of the garrison, he walked about town collecting alms. At the corner of Zamochnaia Reshetka (as one of the main streets of Kazan was called) stood a troika, ready to take off. Pugachev stepped up to it and, suddenly pushing one of his escorts aside, got into the wagon aided by the other, who went galloping out of town with him. This happened on June 19, 1773. Petersburg's sanction of Pugachev's sentence — flogging and exile to Pelym for penal servitude - was received in Kazan three days later.
Pugachev turned up on the farmlands of a retired Cossack, Danila Sheludiakov, for whom he had previously worked as a farmhand. On these farms the conspirators gathered to confer.
At first the possibility of fleeing to Turkey - an idea long entertained by all discontented Cossacks - was discussed. Under the reign of Anna Ivanovna, as is well known, Ignatii Nekrasov [Nekrasa] put that idea into practice, carrying off a large number of Don Cossacks. Their descendants are still living in territories under Turkish rule, preserving in an alien country the faith, language, and customs of their former homeland. In the last Turkish war they fought against us desperately. Some of them came to the Emperor Nicholas after he had crossed the Danube in a Zaporozhe boat: like the remaining members of the Sech, they pleaded guilty in the name of their fathers and returned under the sovereignty of their legitimate monarch.
But the Iaik conspirators were too strongly attached to their bountiful native riverbanks. Instead of fleeing, they decided to riot again. Imposture, they thought, would be a reliable motive force. All it required was a bold and resolute vagabond not yet known to the people. Their choice fell on Pugachev. It did not take long to persuade him. They immediately started recruiting followers.
The War College circulated information about the escape of the Cossack convict in all the locations where it was thought he might be hiding. Lieutenant Colonel Simonov soon learned that the fugitive had been seen on farms around Iaitskii Gorodok. Detachments were sent to capture Pugachev, but they had no success. Pugachev and his chief associates eluded their pursuers by moving from one place to another, all the while augmenting their band. In the meantime strange rumors were spreading... Many Cossacks were put under arrest. Mikhailo Kozhevnikov was captured and brought to the commandant's chancery, where the following important testimony was extracted from him by torture:
At the beginning of September he was on his farm when Ivan Zarubin came to him and told him confidentially that a highborn person was staying in their region. He asked Kozhevnikov to shelter this person on his farm. Kozhevnikov agreed. Zarubin left and returned that night just before dawn with Timofei Miasnikov and a stranger, all three on horseback. The stranger was of medium height, broad-shouldered, and lean. He had a black beard just beginning to turn gray. He wore a camel's hair coat and a blue Kalmyk hat, and was armed with a rifle. Zarubin and Miasnikov left for the town in order to notify the people, while the stranger, remaining at Kozhevnikov's, informed him that he was the Emperor Peter III, that the rumors about his death had been false, and that in fact, with the help of the officer guarding him, he had escaped to Kiev, where he hid for about a year. Then, he continued, he spent some time in Tsaregrad [Constantinople] and served in the Russian army, under an assumed identity, during the last Turkish war; from there he went to the Don region, and was later captured in Tsaritsyn, but his faithful Cossacks soon liberated him. He had spent the last year on the Irgiz and in Iaitskii Gorodok, where he was arrested and subsequently taken to Kazan; once again, he was set free by his guard, bribed with 700 rubles by an unknown merchant. After his escape, he headed for Iaitskii Gorodok, but, having heard from a woman that passports were being very strictly demanded and scrutinized, he turned back and took the highway toward Syzran. He drifted about on this highway until at last Zarubin and Miasnikov met up with him at the Talovin tavern and brought him to Kozhevnikov. Having told his absurd story, the pretender began laying out his plans. In order to circumvent the garrison's resistance and to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, he would not reveal his identity until after the Cossack Host had left for the trip (the fall fishing expedition). He would appear among the Cossacks during the expedition, have the ataman tied up, head straight for Iaitskii Gorodok, occupy it, and post guards on each highway, so that the news about him would not spread prematurely. Failing to accomplish this, he intended to fall on Russia, win over to his side all her inhabitants, appoint new judges everywhere (for, as he said, he had observed much injustice perpetrated by those presently in office), and place the Grand Duke on the throne. "As for myself" he said, "I no longer wish to reign'' Pugachev spent three days at Kozhevnikov's farm, after which Zarubin and Miasnikov came to take him to Usikhina Rossash, where he was planning to hide until the time of the expedition. Kozhevnikov, Konovalov, and Kochurov accompanied him.
The arrest of Kozhevnikov and of the Cossacks who were implicated by his testimony hastened the unfolding of events. On September 18 Pugachev made his way from the Budarino outpost to the vicinity of Iaitskii Gorodok with a mob numbering 300; he stopped at a distance of three versts from the town, beyond the Chagan River.
The town was thrown into confusion. Inhabitants, only recently pacified, began crossing over to the side of the new rebels. Simonov sent a force of 500 Cossacks, reinforced by infantry and two pieces of artillery and under the command of Major Naumov, to confront Pugachev. Two hundred of the Cossacks, with Captain Krylov in charge, were sent forward as a vanguard. They were met by a Cossack holding a seditious manifesto from the pretender above his head. Krylov's Cossacks demanded that the manifesto be read aloud to them. Krylov refused. A mutiny followed, with half of the detachment deserting to the pretender's side and dragging along 50 loyal Cossacks by the bridles of their horses. Seeing this treason among his troops, Naumov returned to the town. The Cossacks spirited away by force were led before Pugachev, who ordered II of them hanged. These first victims of Pugachev's were Lieutenants Vitoshnov, Chertorogov, Rainev, and Konovalov, Sublieutenants Ruzhenikov, Tolstov, Podiachev, and Kolpakov, and Privates Sidorovkin, Larzianev, and Chukalin.
The next day Pugachev approached the town, but when he saw troops coming out to meet him, he began retreating, scattering his band across the steppe. Simonov did not pursue him because he did not want to detach any Cossacks, fearing their betrayal, and he did not dare move the infantry to any distance from the town, whose inhabitants were on the verge of revolt. He sent a report about all of this to the governor of Orenburg, Lieutenant General Reinsdorp, asking him for a troop of tight cavalry that could pursue Pugachev. But direct communication to Orenburg was already severed, and Simonov's report did not reach the governor for a whole week.
With his band multiplied by new rebels, Pugachev headed straight for Iletskii Gorodok, sending its commandant, Ataman Portnov, an order to meet him outside the fort and join him. He promised the Cossacks to vouchsafe the cross and the beard (all the Ilek Cossacks, like their Iaik brethren, were Old Believers), and to grant them their rivers, meadows, wages and provisions, lead and gunpowder, and freedom in perpetuity. In case of disobedience he threatened revenge. Faithful to his duty, the ataman tried to resist, but the Cossacks tied him up and received Pugachev with ringing bells and bread and salt. Pugachev hanged the ataman, celebrated his victory for three days, and then, taking all the Ilek Cossacks and the garrison cannon with him, he marched toward Fort Rassypnaia.
The forts erected in that region were no more than villages enclosed by wattle or wooden fences. The handful of aging soldiers and local Cossacks stationed in these forts under the protection of two or three cannon were safe enough from the arrows and lances of the nomadic tribes that roamed the steppes of Orenburg Guberniia and its environs. On September 24 Pugachev besieged Rassypnaia. The Cossacks deserted here, too. The fort was taken. The commandant, Major Velovskii, a few officers, and a priest were hanged; and the garrison platoon and 150 or so Cossacks were enlisted into the insurgents' ranks.
The rumor about the pretender spread quickly. While still at the Budarino outpost, Pugachev had written to the Kirgiz Kaisak Khan, signing himself Emperor Peter III and demanding the Khan's son as a hostage along with an auxiliary corps of 100 men. Nurali Khan went to Iaitskii Gorodok under the pretext of negotiations with the authorities, offering them his services. They thanked him and answered that they hoped they could cope with the rebels without his help. The Khan sent the governor of Orenburg a copy of the pretender's manifesto in Mongolian, containing the first announcement of his arrival in the region. "We people who live on the steppes," Nurali wrote to the governor, "do not know who this person is, riding about the riverbanks: is he an impostor or the real Sovereign? The scout we had sent out came back declaring he had learned nothing except that the man had a light brown beard." Using this opportunity, the Khan demanded that the governor return the hostages he was holding, the cattle that had been driven off the Kirgiz lands, and the slaves who had run away from the Horde. Reinsdorp hastened to reply that the death of the Emperor Peter III was common knowledge throughout the world, that he, Reinsdorp, had himself seen the Sovereign in his coffin and kissed his dead hand. He admonished the Khan to hand the pretender over to the government if he should happen to flee to the Kirgiz steppes; the Empress would not forget such a service, Reinsdorp asserted. The Khan's requests were complied with. In the meanwhile Nurali entered into friendly negotiations with the pretender, though he ceaselessly assured Reinsdorp of his loyalty to the Empress; and the Kirgiz were getting ready to attack.
Right after the communication from the Khan reached Orenburg, the report from the commandant of Iaitsk, sent via Samara, was received. Soon Velovskii's report about the taking of Iletskii Gorodok arrived, too. Reinsdorp hastened to take measures aimed at eradicating the rising evil. He directed Brigadier Baron von Bulow to set out from Orenburg with 400 troops, both infantry and cavalry, and six fieldpieces, and to head for Iaitskii Gorodok, gathering into his troops more people from outposts and forts on the way. The commander of the Verkhne-Ozernaia district, Brigadier Baron Korf, was ordered to come to Orenburg as fast as possible, and Lieutenant Colonel Simonov was to send Major Naumov with a field detachment and Cossacks to join Bulow. The chancery at Stavropol was instructed to supply Simonov with 500 armed Kalmyks. The Bashkirs and Tatars living in the vicinity were to assemble a corps of 1,000 men with the greatest possible speed and to link up with Naumov. Not one of these orders was carried out. Bulow took charge of Fort Tatishchev and was about to move on to Nizhne-Ozernaia, but on hearing some cannonade at night while he was still 15 versts away from his destination, he became frightened and retreated. Reinsdorp ordered him a second time to hasten to defeat the rebels, but Bulow paid no attention and stayed on at Tatishchev. Korf tried to evade action under various pretexts. Instead of 500, fewer than 300 armed Kalmyks were assembled, and even those ran off along the way. The Bashkirs and Tatars paid no heed to the instructions. Major Naumov and the Host elder, Borodin, left Iaitskii Gorodok and trailed Pugachev at a distance; they arrived in Orenburg from the steppe side on October 3, bringing tidings of nothing but the pretender's triumphs.
From Rassypnaia Pugachev proceeded to Nizhne-Ozernaia. On the way there, he crossed paths with Captain Surin, who had been sent to Velovskii's aid by the commander of Nizhne-Ozernaia, Major Kharlov. Pugachev hanged him, and his platoon joined the rebels. Having learned of Pugachev's approach, Kharlov sent his young wife, the daughter of Elagin, commander of Tatishchev, to her father, while he himself made preparations for the defense of his fort. His Cossacks deserted to Pugachev's side. Kharlov was left with a handful of soldiers of advanced age. On the eve of September 26 he hit on the idea of raising his soldiers' morale by firing his two cannon - occasioning the cannonade that scared Bulow and made him retreat. By the morning Pugachev had arrived at the fort. He rode at the head of his troops.
"Take care, Your Majesty," an old Cossack said to him, "lest they kill you with a cannon shot."
"Old age must have gone to your head," answered the pretender; "cannon are not forged to kill Tsars."
Kharlov ran from one soldier to another, commanding them to fire. Nobody obeyed. He grabbed the fuse, fired one cannon, and dashed to the other one. At that moment the rebels occupied the fort, threw themselves on its single defender, and covered him with wounds. Half dead, he thought of ransoming himself, and led his attackers to his cottage, where his possessions were hidden. In the meanwhile the gallows were already being put up outside the fort; Pugachev sat in front of them, receiving oaths of allegiance from the fort's inhabitants and garrison. Kharlov, be dazed by his wounds and bleeding profusely, was led before him. One of his eyes, poked out by a lance, dangled over his cheek. Pugachev ordered him executed, along with Ensigns Figner and Kabalerov, a scribe, and the Tatar Bikbai. The garrison troops started pleading for the life of their good-hearted commander, but the Iaik Cossacks leading the rebellion were implacable. Not one of the victims betrayed a faint heart. Bikbai, a Muhammadan, crossed himself as he mounted the scaffold, and put his neck in the noose himself. The next day Pugachev set out for Tatishchev.
This fort was under the command of Colonel Elagin. The garrison was augmented by Billow's detachment, since he had sought refuge there. On the morning of September 27 Pugachev's troops appeared on the hills around the fort. All the inhabitants could see him placing his cannon there and aiming them at the fort with his own hands. The rebels rode up to the walls of the fort, trying to persuade the garrison not to obey the boyars and to surrender voluntarily. They received fire in response. They retreated. Shooting with no effect continued from noon till evening, when some haystacks close to the fort were set on fire by the besiegers. The flames soon reached the wooden breast-work. The soldiers rushed to put the fire out. Pugachev, taking advantage of the confusion, attacked from the other side. The Cossacks stationed in the fort defected to his side. The wounded Elagin and even Bulow put up a desperate fight. At last the rebels charged into the fort's smoking ruins. The commanders were captured. Bulow was beheaded. Elagin, a corpulent man, was skinned; the scoundrels cut his fat out and rubbed it on their wounds. His wife was hacked to pieces. Their daughter, Kharlov's wife, widowed the day before, was led before the victor who had presided over the execution of her parents. Pugachev was struck by her beauty and decided to make the poor woman his concubine, sparing her seven-year-old brother for her sake. Major Velovskii's widow, who had escaped from Rassypnaia, was also there: they strangled her. All the officers were hanged. A number of regulars and Bashkirs were marshaled into a field and killed by grapeshot. The rest of the soldiers were shorn after the Cossack fashion and signed into the rebel forces. Thirteen cannon came into the victor's possession.
Reports of Pugachev's successes were reaching Orenburg one after the other. No sooner had Velovskii reported the taking of Iletskii Gorodok than Kharlov was reporting the fall of Rassypnaia; right afterwards Bulow reported from Tatishchev that Nizhne-Ozernaia had been taken, and Major Kruse from Chernorechenskaia, that shooting had been heard at Tatishchev. Finally (on September 28) a troop of 300 Tatars, assembled with great difficulty and dispatched to Tatishchev, came back with the news of Elagin's and Bulow's fate. Reinsdorp, alarmed by the speed with which the conflagration was spreading, convened a council consisting of the leading officials of Orenburg, and the following measures were decided on:
1. All the bridges over the Sakmara to be dismantled and sent floating downstream.
2. The Polish Confederates stationed in Orenburg to be disarmed and conveyed to Fort Troitsk under the strictest supervision.
3. People of the third estate who had arms to be assigned places in the defense of the city under the supervision of the commander-in-chief, Major General Wallenstern; the others, to prepare to fight fires under the command of the director of the customhouse, Obukhov.
4. The Seitov Tatars to be brought into the city and placed under the command of Collegiate Councillor Timashev.
5. The artillery to be commanded by Actual State Councillor Starov-Miliukov, who had at one time served as an artilleryman.
In addition Reinsdorp, concerned about the safety of Orenburg itself, ordered the commander-in-chief to repair the fortifications, making them ready for the city's defense. The garrisons of smaller forts not yet taken by Pugachev were ordered to come to Orenburg, either burying or throwing into the rivers whatever heavy equipment and gunpowder they had.
On September 29 Pugachev left Tatishchev and marched on Chernorechenskaia. In that fort there remained a few veterans under the command of Captain Nechaev, replacing the commandant, Major Kruse, who had stolen away to Orenburg. They surrendered without resistance. Pugachev hanged the captain because one of his serfs, a young woman, complained against him.
Pugachev, bypassing Orenburg on the right, proceeded to Sakmara, whose inhabitants were awaiting him impatiently. He went there on October 1 from the Tatar village Kargala, in the company of a few Cossacks. An eyewitness describes his arrival in the following words:
In the fort, before the Cossack command post, carpets were spread out and a table laid with bread and salt. The priest was waiting for Pugachev with cross and holy icons. When he entered, the fort bells were rung and people bared their heads, and when he climbed off his horse, two of his Cossacks supporting him by the arms, all prostrated themselves. He kissed both the cross and the bread and salt, and seating himself in the chair provided for him, said, "Rise, my children." Then they all came to kiss his hand. He inquired about the Cossacks of the town. He was told that some were away in state service; others had been ordered to Orenburg with their ataman, Danilo Donskoi; only 20 men had been left behind for stagecoach duty, but even they had vanished. He turned to the priest and sternly commanded him to find the men, adding, "You are their priest, be their ataman, too. You and all who live here will answer for them with your heads." Then he went to the house of the ataman's father, where dinner had been prepared for him. "If your son were here," he said to the old man, "this dinner would be worthy and honorable, but as it is, your bread and salt are tainted. What kind of an ataman is he, if he has deserted his post?" After dinner, drunk, he was about to have the old man executed, but the Cossacks accompanying him dissuaded him; in the end the old man was just put in fetters and locked up at the Cossack command post for one night. The next day the Cossacks who had been tracked down were brought before Pugachev. He treated them kindly and took them with him. They asked him, "What provisions should we bring with us?"
"Just a hunk of bread," he answered: "you will accompany me only as far as Orenburg."
In the meanwhile the Bashkirs sent by the governor of Orenburg had surrounded the town. Pugachev rode out to meet them and without a gunshot attached them all to his own troops. On the bank of the Sakmara he had six people hanged.
Thirty versts away from Sakmara there was a fort called Prechistenskaia. The major part of its garrison had been taken by Bulow on his march to Tatishchev. Pugachev with one of his detachments occupied it without a fight. The officers and the garrison came out to meet the victors. The pretender, as usual, attached the soldiers to his own troops and, for the first time, disgraced the officers by sparing them.
Pugachev gathered strength: it had only been two weeks since he had arrived below Iaitskii Gorodok with a handful of rebels, yet he now had as many as 3,000 men, both infantry and cavalry, with more than 20 cannon. Seven forts had been either taken by him or surrendered to him. His army grew by the hour at an incredible pace. He decided to take advantage of his good luck, and during the night of October 3, crossing the river below Sakmara by a bridge that had been left standing despite Reinsdorp's orders, he marched on Orenburg.
Measures taken by the government. — The state of Orenburg. — Reinsdorp's manifesto about Pugachev. — The bandit Khlopusha. — Pugachev below Orenburg. — The village of Berda. — Pugachev's companions. — Major General Kar. — His lack of success. — The demise of Colonel Chernyshev. — Kar leaves the army. — Bibikov.
The affairs of Orenburg Guberniia took a bad turn. A general mutiny of the Iaik Host was expected at any moment; the Bashkirs, stirred up by their elders (whom Pugachev had already managed to endow richly with camels and goods wrested from Bukhara merchants), began to raid Russian villages and to join up, in large numbers, with the rebel forces. Kalmyks on military duty at the outposts were running off. The Mordvin, the Chuvash, and the Cheremis no longer obeyed Russian authorities. Seignorial serfs openly showed their allegiance to the pretender, and soon not only Orenburg Guberniia, but other, adjacent guberniias were showing an alarming instability.
Various governors - von Brandt of Kazan, Chicherin of Siberia, and Krechetnikov of Astrakhan in addition to Reinsdorp - were sending reports to the State War College about the events in the Iaik region. The Empress anxiously turned her attention to the emerging calamity. The conditions that prevailed at the time favored disorders. Troops had been drawn away from every region to Turkey and to a seething Poland. Because of the strict measures taken all over Russia in an attempt to curb the plague that had only recently raged, there was widespread discontent among the rabble. Recruiting levies added to the problems. Several platoons and squadrons from Moscow, Petersburg, Novgorod and Bakhmut were ordered to hasten to Kazan. They were put under the command of Major General Kar, who had distinguished himself in Poland by an unwavering execution of the strict measures that his superiors had prescribed. He was in St. Petersburg at the time, enlisting new recruits. He was ordered to hand his brigade over to Major General Nashchokin and to hurry to the endangered regions. Major General Freymann, who had already pacified the Iaik Host once and was familiar with the theater of the new disturbances, was to be attached to his staff. The military commanders of neighboring guberniias were also ordered to take appropriate measures. On October 15 the government issued a proclamation announcing the appearance of a pretender and admonishing those deceived by him to renounce their criminal error before it was too late.
Let us return to Orenburg.
There were up to 3,000 troops and 70 cannon in the city. Such resources not only made it possible to liquidate the rebels, but put the commanders under an obligation to do so. Unfortunately, however, not one among the military commanders knew his business. Frightened from the beginning, they gave Pugachev time to gather momentum and deprived themselves of the opportunity for offensive action. Orenburg suffered through a calamitous siege, of which Reinsdorp himself has left a curious record.
For some days, Pugachev's appearance as a pretender remained a secret to the citizens of Orenburg, but rumors about the taking of forts soon spread, and Billow's hasty departure confirmed them. There was unrest in Orenburg itself: the Cossacks grumbled menacingly, and the terrified citizens talked of surrender. The instigator of the disturbances, a retired sergeant sent by Pugachev, was caught. He confessed during the interrogations that he had intended to assassinate the governor. Agitators began operating in villages around Orenburg. Reinsdorp published a manifesto about Pugachev, revealing the pretender's true identity and earlier crimes. This manifesto, however, was written in a tangled, obscure style. It stated that "the man engaged in villainous acts in the Iaik region is rumored to be of an estate different from the one to which he truly belongs," and that in fact he was a Don Cossack, Emelian Pugachev, who had been flogged and had his face branded for previous crimes. This allegation was incorrect. Reinsdorp had given credit to a false rumor, thereby enabling the rebels triumphantly to accuse him of slander.
It seemed that every measure Reinsdorp had taken was working against him. In the Orenburg prison there was at this time a villain kept in irons who was known by the name of Khlopusha. He had been committing robberies in those parts for 20 years, had been banished to Siberia three times, and had found a way to escape three times. Reinsdorp took it into his head to use this sharp-witted convict to transmit some admonitory leaflets to Pugachev's band. Khlopusha swore he would fulfill his mission faithfully. Set free, he went directly to Pugachev and handed all the governor's leaflets to him.
"I know what's written on them, brother," said the illiterate Pugachev, presenting Khlopusha with half a ruble and the clothes of a recently hanged Kirgiz. Since Khlopusha was thoroughly familiar with the region, which he had so long terrorized with his robberies, he became indispensable to Pugachev. He was appointed to the rank of colonel and entrusted with pillaging and stirring up factories. He lived up to Pugachev's expectations. He proceeded along the Sakmara River, inciting rebellion in the villages of the area. He descended on the landings at Bugulchan and Sterlitamak, and on factories in the Urals, whence he sent Pugachev cannon, ball, and powder. His band grew, swelled with serfs assigned to factory work and with Bashkirs — his accomplices in brigandage.
On October 5 Pugachev and his forces pitched camp on a Cossack pasture five versts from Orenburg. They immediately moved on the city, setting up, under gunfire, one battery on the portico of a church in a suburb and another at the governor's suburban house. The heavy cannonade, however, drove them back. That same day the suburb was burned down at the governor's orders. The only two buildings left standing were a cottage and Saint Georgii's Church. The inhabitants, who had been moved to the city, were promised full compensation for their losses. The moat ringing the city was cleaned out and chevaux-de-frise were set up around the ramparts.
During the night stacks of hay, stored for the winter outside the city, flared up all around. The governor had not had time to have them transferred within the city walls. The next morning Major Naumov (who had only just arrived from Iaitskii Gorodok) led an offensive against the incendiaries. He had 1,500 troops with him, both cavalry and infantry. Encountering artillery, they stopped, exchanged fire with the rebels for a while, and eventually withdrew without any success. His regular soldiers were fearful, and he did not trust his Cossacks.
Once more Reinsdorp convened his council, now consisting of both military and civil officials, and asked them to submit written opinions on whether to attempt another offensive against the villain or to await the arrival of new troops under the protection of the city's fortifications. At this council meeting Actual State Councillor Starov-Miliukov was the only one to voice an opinion worthy of a military man, namely, "To march against the rebels" All the others, fearing that a new failure might throw the citizens into utter despondency, thought only of defense. Reinsdorp agreed with them.
On October 8 the rebels raided the barter court, three versts outside the city. A detachment sent out against them routed them, killing 200 people on the spot and taking 116 prisoners. Reinsdorp, wishing to take advantage of an event that had raised the morale of his troops a little, wanted to take the field against Pugachev the next day, but his senior officers unanimously reported that the troops were entirely unreliable: the soldiers, disheartened and confused, fought unwillingly; and the Cossacks might cross over to the rebel side on the very field of battle, which could lead to the fall of Orenburg. Poor Reinsdorp was at a loss. Eventually he managed to awaken his subordinates' conscience, and on October 12 Naumov made another sally out of the city with his unreliable troops.
A battle ensued. Pugachev's artillery pieces outnumbered those brought out of the city. The Orenburg Cossacks, intimidated by the unfamiliar cannon fire, stayed close to the city, under the protection of the cannon ranged on the ramparts. Naumov's detachment was surrounded by multitudes on all sides. He drew up his troops in square formation and began retreating while maintaining fire. The engagement lasted four hours. Counting those who had deserted as well as the dead and the wounded, he lost a total of 117 men.
Not one day passed without an exchange of fire. Mobs of rebels rode around the city ramparts attacking foraging detachments. Pugachev went right up to Orenburg with all his forces several times, but he had no intention of storming it.
"I will not waste men," he said to some Cossacks from Sakmara. "I'll wipe the city out by famine."
He found many an opportunity to get his inflammatory leaflets into the hands of Orenburg citizens. Several rascals sent by the pretender and equipped with explosives and fuses were caught in the city.
Orenburg was soon gripped by a shortage of fodder. Since all military and civilian horses were emaciated and incapacitated, it was decided to round them up and send them off, some to Iletskaia Zashchita, others to Verkhne-Iaitsk, still others to the Ufa area. But rebel peasants and Tatars captured the horses a few versts from the city and brought their Cossack drivers before Pugachev.
Cold weather set in earlier than usual that fall. The first frost came on October 14, and on the 16th it snowed. On the 18th Pugachev, having burned his camp, left the Iaik with his full train and headed for the Sakmara. He camped outside the village of Berda, close to the summer road along the Sakmara, seven versts from Orenburg. His flying squadrons, based here, relentlessly harassed the city, attacking foraging detachments and posing a constant threat to the garrison.
On November 2 Pugachev moved up to Orenburg with all his forces once more, and having positioned batteries all around the city, began a fearful bombardment. He was answered in kind from the city walls. In the meanwhile 1,000 men from Pugachev's infantry crept into the burned-down suburb from the side of the river, up almost to the rampart and the chevaux-de-frise and, hiding in cellars, pelted the city with bullets and arrows. Pugachev himself led them. The jaegers of the field command drove them out of the suburb. Pugachev was almost taken prisoner. The firing ceased in the evening, but all through the night the rebels answered the chiming of the cathedral clock, marking each hour with a burst of gunfire.
The next day the firing resumed despite the cold and a blizzard. The rebels took turns warming themselves by a campfire lit in the church and by the stove of the one cottage that had been left standing in the burned-down suburb. Pugachev had one cannon placed on the portico of the church and another hoisted up to the bell tower. The rebels' main battery was positioned on top of a tall target that had been set up at a verst from the city for artillery practice. Both sides continued firing all day. At nightfall Pugachev drew back, having suffered some insignificant losses and having caused virtually no harm to the city's defenders. In the morning a group of convicts, guarded by Cossacks, was sent out of the city to raze the target and other barricades, and to demolish the cottage. In the chancel of the church, where the rebels had been bringing their wounded, there were puddles of blood. The frames of icons had been ripped off, and the altar cloth had been torn to pieces. The church had also been desecrated by horse dung and human excrement.
The frosts were intensifying. On November 6 Pugachev and his Iaik Cossacks moved from their new camp into the village of Berda proper. The Bashkirs, Kalmyks, and factory peasants stayed at the camp, in covered wagons and dugouts. The movement of flying squadrons, the raids, and the skirmishes went on relentlessly. Pugachev's forces grew by the day. His army numbered 25,000 at this point. The Iaik Cossacks and the regular soldiers commandeered from forts formed its nucleus, but an unbelievable multitude of Tatars, Bashkirs, Kalmyks, rioting peasants, escaped convicts, and vagabonds of all kinds gathered around the main body. All this rabble was armed in a makeshift fashion: some with spears, pistols, or swords taken from officers, others with bayonets stuck into long staffs, still others with clubs. But a good many had no weapon at all. The army was divided into regiments of 500 each. Only the Iaik Cossacks received regular pay; the rest had to content themselves with plunder. Vodka was purchased from the state. Horses and fodder were obtained from the Bashkirs. Desertion, it was announced, would be punished by death. Each corporal answered for his men with his own head. Frequent patrolling and the posting of guards were instituted. Pugachev strictly supervised the guards, riding around to check them himself, sometimes even at night. Drills (especially in the artillery units) were held almost every day. There was a daily church service. During ektenia prayers were offered for Emperor Petr Fedorovich and his wife, Empress Ekaterina Alekseevna. Pugachev, a schismatic, never went to church. Riding around the market or the streets of Berda, he always scattered copper coins among the populace. He held court and pronounced judgment seated in an armchair in front of his cottage. On either side of him there sat a Cossack, one with a mace, the other with a silver ax in hand. Those approaching him had to bow to the ground, make the sign of the cross, and kiss his hand. Berda was a veritable den of vice and murder. The camp was full of officers' wives and daughters, given over to the bandits to violate at will. There were executions every day. The ravines outside Berda were filled with the corpses of victims shot to death, strangled, or quartered. Bands of marauders swarmed in all directions, carousing in the villages, and robbing public coffers and the possessions of the nobility, but never touching the property of peasants. Some daredevils would ride right up to the chevaux-de-frise by the Orenburg walls; others would shout, waving their hats stuck on the tips of their spears, "Cossack sirs! It is time to come to your senses and serve your Emperor Petr Fedorovich!" Still others clamored for the extradition of Martiushka Borodin (the Host elder who had come from Iaitskii Gorodok to Orenburg with Naumov's detachment) or issued invitations to the Cossacks, saying, "Our Father doesn't spare his wine!" Sorties were made against them from the city, resulting in skirmishes, at times quite hot ones. Pugachev himself was frequently there to show how plucky he was. Once he arrived drunk, hatless and swaying in his saddle; but for some Cossacks who dragged his horse away by the bridle, he would have fallen into the garrison's hands.
Pugachev was not despotic. The Iaik Cossacks who had instigated the revolt controlled the actions of the vagabond, whose only merits were a degree of military know-how and exceptional daring. He never undertook anything without their consent, whereas they frequently acted without his knowledge and sometimes even against his wishes. Outwardly, they showed him respect, baring their heads in his presence and bowing down before him in public, but in private they treated him as a comrade, getting drunk with him, sitting in their shirt-sleeves and with their hats on in his company, and singing barge haulers' songs. Pugachev chafed at their guardianship. "My path is narrow," he once said to Denis Pianov, as they were feasting at the wedding of Pianov's younger son. Distrustful of outside influences on the tsar they had created, they did not allow him to have other favorites or confidants. At the beginning of the revolt Pugachev had made Sergeant Karmitskii his scribe, having pardoned him under the very gallows. Karmitskii had soon become his favorite. The Iaik Cossacks strangled the man during the taking of Tatishchev and threw him into the river with a rock tied to his neck. Pugachev inquired after him. "He left," they answered him, "to visit his mother down the Iaik." Pugachev let the matter go without a word. The young Kharlova had the misfortune of winning the pretender's affections. He kept her at his camp below Orenburg. She was the only person allowed to enter his covered wagon at any time; and at her request he gave orders to bury the bodies of all those who had been hanged at Ozernaia at the time the fort was taken. She became suspect in the eyes of the jealous villains and Pugachev, yielding to their demand, gave his concubine up to them. Kharlova and her seven-year-old brother were shot. Wounded, they crawled up to each other and embraced. Their bodies, thrown into the bushes, remained there in each other's arms for a long time.
Most prominent among the chief rebels was Zarubin (nicknamed Chika), Pugachev's mentor and close associate from the very beginning of the revolt. He had the tide of field marshal and held the highest office next to the pretender. Ovchinnikov, Shigaev, Lysov, and Chumakov commanded the army. They were all nicknamed after grandees surrounding Catherine's throne at the time: Chika was called Count Chernyshev, Shigaev Count Vorontsov, Ovchinnikov Count Panin, and Chumakov Count Orlov. The pretender had full confidence in the retired artillery corporal Beloborodov, who, together with Padurov, looked after all paperwork for the illiterate Pugachev and introduced strict order and discipline into the rioters' bands. Perfilev, sent to Petersburg on behalf of the Iaik Host at the beginning of the uprising, had promised the government to bring the Cossacks under control and to hand Pugachev over to the legal authorities, but after he arrived in Berda he proved to be one of the most desperate rebels, linking his fate with that of the pretender. The robber Khlopusha, just recently flogged and branded by the executioner's hand, with nostrils slit to the very cartilage, was one of Pugachev's favorites. Ashamed of his mutilated features, he either wore a loosely woven cloth over his face or held his sleeve over it as if protecting it from the frost. These were the people who rocked the state to its foundations!
In the meanwhile Kar arrived at the boundary of Orenburg Guberniia. Before Kar's arrival the governor of Kazan had managed to assemble a few hundred soldiers, some retired, some brought in from garrisons and military settlements, and had deployed some of them near the Kichui entrenchment, and some along the Cheremshan River, halfway between Kichui and Stavropol. On the Volga there were about 30 regulars, commanded by one officer, whose task was to catch plunderers and to keep an eye on the rebels' movements. Von Brandt had written to the commanding general of Moscow, Prince Volkonskii, to ask for troops, but the whole of Moscow garrison was away on a recruiting mission, and the Tomsk Regiment, which had been brought to Moscow, was manning the sentry posts around the city that had been instituted during the raging plague of 1771. Prince Volkonskii was able to release only 300 regulars and one field-piece, but he sent these off in a wagon train to Kazan without delay.
Kar instructed the commandant of Simbirsk, Colonel P. M. Chernyshev, who was proceeding up the Samara Line toward Orenburg, to take Tatishchev as soon as possible. Kar's intention was to reinforce Chernyshev's troops with those of Major General Freymann as soon as the latter returned from Kaluga, where he had gone to receive new recruits. Kar had full confidence in victory. "The only thing I am afraid of," he wrote to Count Z. G. Chernyshev, "is that as soon as these bandits get wind of the troops' approach they will flee to the places where they came from, not giving the troops an opportunity to get close to them." He foresaw difficulties in pursuing Pugachev only because of the winter and a shortage of horses.
Kar began pressing forward at the beginning of November, without waiting for the artillery, for the 170 grenadiers sent off from Simbirsk, or for the armed Bashkirs and Meshcheriaks dispatched from Ufa to join him. On his way, at about 100 versts from Orenburg, he learned that the convicted robber Khlopusha, having cast some cannon at the Avziano-Petrovsk ironworks, and having rallied the factory peasants as well as the Bashkirs of the vicinity - all at Pugachev's behest — was returning to Orenburg. Anxious to cut Khlopusha off, on November 7 Kar sent Second Major Shishkin with 400 regulars and two fieldpieces to the village of Iuzeeva, while he himself, accompanied by General Freymann and First Major F. Warnstedt who had just come from Kaluga, set out from Sarmanaeva. Shishkin ran into 600 rebels right outside of Iuzeeva. The Tatars and armed peasants who were with him defected immediately, yet Shishkin managed to disperse the whole mob by a few shots. He occupied the village, where Kar and Freymann also arrived toward four in the morning. The troops were so exhausted that it was impossible even to detail mounted patrols. The generals decided to wait till daylight to make their assault on the rebels. When dawn broke, they saw before them the same mob that had been dispersed the day before. An admonitory manifesto was delivered to the rebels; they took it, but rode off swearing and saying that their own manifestos were more trustworthy; they started firing from a cannon. They were dispersed once more... At this point Kar heard four distant bursts of cannon fire in the rear of his position. He grew alarmed and beat a hasty retreat, supposing himself cut off from Kazan. Suddenly over 2,000 rebels galloped up from all sides and opened fire from nine fieldpieces. Pugachev himself was leading them. He and Khlopusha had managed to join forces. Scattered about the fields just within cannon range, they were perfectly safe. Kar's cavalry was exhausted and small in number. The rebels, who had good horses, fell back from the infantry charges, deftly hauling their field-pieces down one hill and up another. They accompanied the retreating Kar in this manner for 70 versts. He tried to return the fire from his five fieldpieces for a full eight hours while retreating. He abandoned his supply train; and up to 120 of his men (if one can believe his own report) were either killed or wounded or had deserted. There was no sign of the Bashkirs expected from Ufa; and those under Prince Urakov's command, who were by now not far away, took to their heels as soon as they heard the gunfire. Kar's soldiers, the majority of whom were either advanced in years or just recently conscripted, grumbled loudly and were ready to surrender; their young officers, who had never been under fire, did not know how to raise their morale. The grenadiers who had been dispatched from Simbirsk under Lieutenant Kartashov's command were traveling in so lax a manner that they did not even have their guns loaded and they all slept in their sleighs. They surrendered after the rebels' first four cannon shots - the same shots that Kar heard from Iuzeeva.
Kar suddenly lost his self-assurance. Reporting his losses, he declared to the War College that in order to defeat Pugachev they needed, not small detachments, but whole regiments, with reliable cavalry and strong artillery. He also hastily dispatched an order to Colonel Chernyshev not to leave Perevolotskaia but to try to fortify it while awaiting further instructions. The emissary carrying this order was, however, too late to catch up with Chernyshev.
Chernyshev left Perevolotskaia on November 11 and arrived at Chernorechenskaia on the night of the 13 th. Here two Ilek Cossacks, brought to him by the ataman of Sakmara, informed him of Kar's defeat and of the capture of the 170 grenadiers. Chernyshev could not doubt the truth of this last report, since he himself had sent the grenadiers off from Simbirsk, where they had been on a recruiting assignment. He did not know what to do: whether to draw back to Perevolotskaia or to hurry on to Orenburg, to which he had sent notification of his approach just the night before. At this moment five Cossacks and one regular soldier presented themselves to him, claiming to have defected from Pugachev's camp. One of these people was a Cossack centurion, and another was Padurov, a former delegate to the Legislative Commission. He assured Chernyshev of his loyalty, displaying his commission badge as proof, and advised the colonel to go to Orenburg immediately, along a safe route that he, Padurov, would show him. Chernyshev believed him and left Chernorechenskaia immediately, without beat of drum. Padurov led him across the hills, assuring him that Pugachev's advance patrols were far away, and that even if the patrols should catch sight of them at daybreak, by then they would be out of danger and would be able to get into Orenburg without hindrance. Chernyshev arrived at the Sakmara River by the morning and started crossing it on the ice at Maiak Point, five versts from Orenburg. He had 1,500 regulars and Cossacks, 500 Kalmyks, and 12 fieldpieces with him. Captain Rzhevskii crossed the river first with the artillery train and a light field detachment; reaching the other side, he immediately galloped into Orenburg in the company of just three Cossacks, and presented himself to the governor with the news of Chernyshev's arrival. At that same moment cannon fire could be heard in Orenburg; it continued for a quarter of an hour, then ceased... A little later Reinsdorp received the intelligence that Chernyshev's entire battalion had been captured and was being taken to Pugachev's camp.
Chernyshev had been deceived by Padurov, who in fact led him straight to Pugachev. The rebels suddenly charged at his troops and seized his artillery. The Cossacks and Kalmyks defected. The infantry, exhausted from the cold, hunger, and the night's march, was unable to put up any resistance. All were captured. Pugachev hanged Chernyshev, together with 36 officers, an ensign's wife, and a Kalmyk colonel who had stayed loyal to his unfortunate commander.
Brigadier Korf was approaching Orenburg at the same time with 2,400 troops and 20 fieldpieces. Pugachev attacked him too, but was repulsed by garrison Cossacks.
The Orenburg authorities, it seemed, were panic-stricken. On November 14 Reinsdorp, who only the day before had made no attempt to help the battalion of the unfortunate Chernyshev, took it into his head to make a strong sally. All the troops within the walls of the city (even those who had just arrived) were ordered to take the field under the leadership of the commander-in-chief. The rebels, true to their usual tactics, fought from a distance and from all directions, incessantly firing from their numerous fieldpieces. The garrison's emaciated cavalry could not even hope for success. Wallenstern, who had lost 3 2 men, was eventually forced to draw his troops into square formation and retreat. That same day Major Warnstedt, dispatched by Kar along the New Moscow Road, ran into a strong rebel force and, after losing some 200 men, hastily retreated.
When Kar learned how Chernyshev's battalion had been captured, he lost heart altogether, and from then on he was concerned, not with defeating the despicable rebel, but only with his own safety. He reported all that had transpired to the War College, voluntarily resigned from the commandership under the pretext of illness, offered a few clever pieces of advice about how to operate against Pugachev, and leaving his army under Freymann's care, left for Moscow, where his arrival raised a general hue and cry. The Empress issued strict orders to discharge him from the service. He spent the rest of his life in his village, where he died at the beginning of Alexander's reign.
The Empress saw that strong measures were called for against the growing evil. She looked for a reliable commander to succeed the pusillanimous Kar, and settled on General of the Army Bibikov. Alexander Ilich Bibikov was one of the most illustrious personalities of Catherine's time, which abounded in remarkable people. While still in his youth he had distinguished himself both on the battlefield and in civic affairs. He served with honor in the Seven Years' War, attracting the attention of Frederick the Great. Important tasks were assigned to him. In 1763 he was sent to Kazan to pacify the rioting factory peasants. By firmness and prudent moderation he soon managed to restore order. In 1766, when the Legislative Commission was initiated, he oversaw the election of delegates in Kostroma. He himself was elected, and later appointed marshal of the commission. In 1771 he replaced Lieutenant General Weimarn as commander-in-chief in Poland, where he not only quickly introduced order into a disorganized state of affairs, but also won the love and trust of the vanquished.
During the period under discussion he was in St. Petersburg. Having recently yielded his commandership of Poland to Lieutenant General Romanius, he was preparing to leave for Turkey, to serve under Count Rumiantsev. The Empress had been cool in her reception of him on this occasion, though heretofore she had always shown kindness toward him. It is possible that she was displeased with some indelicate expressions he had let fly in a moment of irritation; for Bibikov, though diligent in his assignments and sincerely devoted to the Empress, tended to be querulous, and bold in voicing his opinions. But Catherine was able to overcome personal grudges. At a Court ball she approached him with her former affectionate smile and, while graciously conversing with him, gave him his new assignment. Bibikov answered that he had dedicated himself to the service of the fatherland, and cited the words of a folksong that applied to his own situation:
My sarafan, dear sarafan,
You are useful everywhere,
And if not needed, sarafan,
You just lie under the bench.
He accepted the complex, difficult assignment without any conditions, and on December 9 left Petersburg.
Arriving in Moscow, Bibikov found the ancient capital apprehensive and dejected. Its citizens, who had only recently witnessed riot and plague, trembled at the thought of a new calamity. Many noblemen whose homes had been ravaged by Pugachev or were threatened by the upheaval had fled to Moscow. The serfs they had brought with them filled the streets with rumors about the emancipation of peasants and the extermination of landlords. Moscow's multitudinous rabble, getting drunk and staggering about the streets, awaited Pugachev with obvious impatience. The citizens greeted Bibikov with an enthusiasm that revealed how greatly endangered and threatened they felt. He soon left Moscow, hastening to justify the trust the inhabitants had placed in him.
The rebels' movements. — Major Zaev. —The taking of Fort Ilinskaia. — The death of Kameshkov and Voronov. — The state of Orenburg. — The siege of Iaitskii Gorodok. — The battle at Berda. — Bibikov in Kazan. — Catherine II as a Kazan landowner. — The opinion of Europe. — Voltaire. — The decree about Pugachev's house and family.
The defeat of Kar and Freymann, the annihilation of Chernyshev, and the unsuccessful sallies of Wallenstern and Korf increased the rebels' boldness and self-assurance. As their ranks surged every which way, ravaging villages and towns and inciting people to rebellion, they met no resistance. Tornov revolted at the head of 600 men and ransacked the whole district of Nagaibak. In the meanwhile Chika marched on Ufa with a 10,000-strong division and invested it by the end of November. The city lacked the kind of fortifications Orenburg had, but its commandant, Miasoedov, together with the noblemen who had sought refuge there, resolved to defend themselves. Chika, not daring to mount a strong offensive, set himself up in the village of Chesnokovka, 10 versts away from Ufa, rousing the neighboring villages - inhabited mostly by Bashkirs - and cutting the city off from all communication. Ulianov, Davydov, and Beloborodov were operating between Ufa and Kazan. At the same time Pugachev sent Khlopusha with 5 00 troops and six fieldpieces to take the forts of Ilinskaia and Verkhne-Ozernaia, situated to the east of Orenburg. The governor of Siberia, Chicherin, had detailed Lieutenant General Dekalong and Major General Stanislavskii to defend their region. The former guarded the borders of Siberia; the latter stayed in Fort Orsk, operating timidly, losing heart at the approach of the slightest danger and refusing to carry out his duty under various pretexts. Khlopusha took Ilinskaia, slaying its commandant, Lieutenant Lopatin, in the assault, but sparing its other officers and leaving the fort itself standing. He marched on Verkhne-Ozernaia. The commandant of that fort, Lieutenant Colonel Demarin, repulsed the attack. On learning this, Pugachev himself hurried to Khlopusha's assistance and, joining forces with him on the morning of November 26, laid siege to the fort. The bombardment lasted all day. The rebels made several attempts to storm the fort with spears, but were repulsed each time. In the evening Pugachev drew back to a Bashkir village 12 versts from Verkhne-Ozernaia. Here he learned that Major General Stanislavskii had dispatched three platoons from the Siberian Line to Ilinskaia. He set out to intercept these troops.
The commander of this detachment, Major Zaev, managed, however, to get to Ilinskaia and to occupy it (on November 27). Khlopusha had not burned the fort on vacating it. Its inhabitants had not been forced out. There were a few captive Confederates among them. Some of the walls and a few of the cottages had been damaged. All the garrison had been removed, except for one sergeant and a wounded officer. The storehouse had been left open: some quarter-measures of flour and pieces of rusk were lying about the yard. A cannon was abandoned by the gate. Quickly taking what measures he could, Zaev set up the three cannon he had brought with him on three of the bastions (the fourth was left without one), posted guards and sent out patrols, and awaited the arrival of the enemy.
It was already getting dark when Pugachev appeared at the fort the next day. His men came right up to the fort and, riding around it, shouted to the guards, "Don't shoot; come out: the Emperor is here." A cannon was fired at them. The ball killed a horse. The rebels withdrew, but reappeared from behind a hill an hour later, spread out across the field, and galloped toward the fort under Pugachev's leadership. They were driven off by cannon fire. The soldiers and the captive Poles (especially the latter) fervently implored Zaev to let them make a sally, but he refused, fearing their betrayal. "Stay here and defend the fort," he said to them. "The general did not commission me to make sallies."
Pugachev approached once more on the 29th, moving up two fieldpieces on sleds, behind several wagons of hay. He rushed the bastion that had no cannon. Zaev made a hasty attempt to set up two cannon there, but before the transfer could be accomplished, Pugachev's balls pierced the bastion's wooden facing; the rebels stormed it, tearing down the remaining planks, and rushed into the fort with their usual battle cry. The soldiers, their ranks now broken, began to flee. Zaev, almost all his officers, and 200 of the rank and file were killed. The remaining soldiers were herded to a nearby Tatar village and lined up facing a loaded cannon. Pugachev, accompanied by Khlopusha, rode up dressed in red Cossack attire. As soon as he appeared, the soldiers were ordered to kneel. He said to them, "The Lord God and I, your Emperor Peter III, grant you pardon. Arise." Then he gave orders to turn the cannon around and fire it into the steppe. Captain Kameshkov and Ensign Voronov were brought before him. These modest names must be recorded in history.
"Why did you fight against me, your Sovereign?" asked the victor.
"You're no sovereign to us," answered the captives; "we Russians have our Sovereigns, the Empress Ekaterina Alekseevna and Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich. You are a bandit and an impostor."
They were hanged on the spot. Then Captain Basharin was led forth. Pugachev was about to have him hanged without addressing a word to him, but the captive soldiers began pleading with him for their captain's life. "If he's been good to you," said the pretender, "I'll grant him pardon." He ordered the captain, like his soldiers, to be shorn Cossack-fashion, and he had the wounded carried to the fort. The Cossacks of the detachment were greeted by the rebels as their comrades. When asked why they had not joined the besiegers sooner, they said they had been afraid of the regular soldiers.
From Ilinskaia Pugachev turned toward Verkhne-Ozernaia once more. He wanted to take it at any price, all the more so since Brigadier Korf's wife was there. He threatened to hang her in revenge for her husband's scheme of entrapping him through false negotiations.
On November 30 Pugachev invested the fort again, bombarding it by cannon all day and making attempts to storm it now from this, now from that side. Demarin, in order to keep up his garrison's spirit, stood on the rampart throughout the day, loading the cannon with his own hands. In the end Pugachev withdrew; he was going to march against Stanislavskii, but having intercepted the Orenburg mail, he changed his mind and returned to Berda.
Reinsdorp wanted to make a sally during Pugachev's absence, and a detachment did indeed leave the city on the night of the 30th, but the emaciated horses collapsed and died in the effort to pull the artillery, and some Cossacks defected. Wallenstern was forced to withdraw behind the city walls.
The shortage in provisions was beginning to be felt in Orenburg. Reinsdorp requested some from Dekalong and Stanislavskii. Both found excuses for refusing him. He expected reinforcements to arrive momentarily, but since he was cut off from communication on all sides except Siberia and the Kirgiz Kaisak steppes, he could receive no information about them. In order to take a prisoner who might reveal some news, he had to send out as many as 1,000 men, and at times even such a great effort brought no results. On Timashev's advice he even resorted to setting up traps outside the ramparts in an attempt to catch night-roaming rebels like wolves. The city's defenders themselves laughed at this military ploy, though in general they were not much disposed to laughter; as for the rebels, Padurov in one of his letters sarcastically rebuked the governor for his unsuccessful stratagem, at the same time predicting his ruin and scornfully advising him to capitulate to the pretender.
Iaitskii Gorodok, this first hotbed of rebellion, remained loyal for a long time due to the intimidating presence of Simonov's troops. But Pugachev's followers in the town were emboldened by frequent communication with the rebels and a false rumor about the fall of Orenburg. Cossacks whom Simonov regularly sent out to patrol the environs and catch agitators from Berda began to disobey orders quite openly, letting the captured rebels go, tying up elders loyal to the government, and paying visits to the pretender's camp. A rumor spread about a rebel force approaching. On the night of December 29 the elder Mostovshchikov set out with a detachment to counter it. Scarcely had a few hours passed when three of the Cossacks who had gone with him came back to the fort at a gallop, reporting that Mostovshchikov and his men had been surrounded at a place seven versts from town and had all been taken prisoner by a huge band of rebels. There was great confusion in the town. Simonov lost courage, but fortunately there was a captain in the fort named Krylov, a resolute and level-headed man. From the first moment of the upheaval, he took over command of the garrison and saw to the necessary measures. On December 31 a rebel detachment led by Tolkachev entered the town. The citizens received him with enthusiasm and immediately joined his forces, arming themselves as best they could. They besieged the fort from all the side streets, took up positions in tall houses, and began shooting from windows. A witness says the hail of bullets that hit the fort sounded like the beating of 10 drums. People - not only if they were caught in the open but even if they happened to raise their heads momentarily from behind barriers - fell in large numbers. The rebels were safe at a distance of only 10 sazhens from the fort, and since they were mostly hunters, they could hit even the openings through which the defenders were shooting. Simonov and Krylov tried to set the adjacent houses on fire, but either the bombs fell in the snow and fizzled out or else the attackers managed to pour water on them. Not one of the houses started burning. At last three regulars volunteered to set fire to the closest building, and they succeeded. The flames spread quickly. The rebels came out; the cannon from the fort fired at them; they withdrew carrying their dead and wounded. Toward evening the garrison, its spirit buoyed, sallied out and succeeded in setting several other houses on fire.
There were about 1,000 garrison soldiers and obedient Cossacks within the walls of the fort; they had plenty of ammunition but not enough food. The rebels invested the fort; erected log barricades on the burned-out square and across the streets and alleys leading to it; set up 16 batteries behind the barricades; built a second wall in front of the houses exposed to fire, filling the gaps between the walls with dirt; and began digging underground tunnels. The defenders, confining their efforts to keeping the enemy at a distance, periodically cleared the square and stormed the fortified houses. These dangerous sorties took place daily, sometimes even twice daily, and were always crowned with success: the regular soldiers were frenzied, and the obedient Cossacks could hope for no mercy from the rebels.
The situation in Orenburg was becoming terrible. Flour and groats were confiscated from the citizens, and a daily ration was introduced. The horses had been fed with brushwood for some time. Most of them died and were eaten. Hunger was intensifying. A sack of flour sold (on the most secret black market) for 2 5 rubles. On the advice of Rychkov (an academician living in Orenburg at the time), the citizens started frying bull and horse hides, chopping them into small pieces, and mixing them in dough. People fell ill. The grumbling grew louder. It was feared that a mutiny might break out.
In this extreme situation Reinsdorp decided to try his luck at arms once more, and on January 13 all the troops stationed in Orenburg sallied out in three columns under the command, respectively, of Wallenstern, Korf, and Naumov. But the darkness of the winter dawn, the depth of the snow, and the exhaustion of the horses hindered the coordination of the troops. Naumov arrived at the designated place first. The rebels caught sight of him, which gave them time to take countermeasures. They prevented Wallenstern from occupying, as the plan called for, the hills near the Berda-Kargala road. Korf encountered heavy artillery fire; and bands of rebels were beginning to encircle the columns. The Cossacks, left in reserve, fled from the rebels to Wallenstern's column, causing general confusion. Wallenstern found himself under fire from three directions, and since his soldiers were beginning to flee, he beat a retreat; Korf followed suit; and Naumov, who had been operating quite successfully at first, flung after them, afraid of being cut off. The whole corps ran back to Orenburg in disorder, with the loss of some 400 men killed or wounded, and left 15 fieldpieces in the bandits' hands. After this fiasco Reinsdorp did not dare mount another offensive; he simply waited for liberation under the protection of the city walls and cannon.
Bibikov arrived in Kazan on December 25. He found neither the governor nor the other leading officials in the city. The majority of the noblemen and merchants had fled to guberniias not yet threatened. Von Brandt was in Kozmodemiansk. Bibikov's arrival revived the despondent city; citizens who had left were beginning to return. On January 1, 1774, after a mass and a sermon by Archbishop Veniamin of Kazan, Bibikov summoned the nobility to his house and made a clever and effective speech. After describing the widespread calamity and the government's efforts to eliminate it, he addressed his appeal to the class that was as much doomed by the rebellion as the government, requesting its cooperation out of patriotism and loyalty to the crown. His speech made a deep impression. Those gathered pledged to assemble and arm at their own expense a corps of cavalry, furnishing one recruit for each 200 serfs. Major General Larionov, a relative of Bibikov's, was elected commander of the legion. The nobility of Simbirsk, Sviiazhsk, and Penza followed this example, assembling two more cavalry corps, one under the command of Majors Gladkov and Chemesov, the other under that of Captain Matiunin. The Kazan council also outfitted a squadron of hussars at its own expense.
The Empress conveyed to the Kazan nobility her imperial favor, goodwill, and patronage; and in a separate letter to Bibikov, which she signed as a Kazan landowner, offered to add her share to the common effort. Makarov, the marshal of the nobility, answered the Empress with an oration composed by Second Lieutenant of the Guards Derzhavin, who was serving on the staff of the commander-in-chief at the time.
Bibikov, in an attempt to raise the morale of the citizens and his subordinates, put on a show of equanimity and good cheer, but in fact worry, irritation, and impatience were gnawing at him. The difficulty of his position is vividly described in his letters to Count Chernyshev, Fonvizin, and his family. On December 30 he wrote to his wife:
Now that I have become acquainted with all the circumstances here, I find the situation so appalling that I could not find the language to express it even if I were to try: my position is much worse and more vexing than it was on my arrival in Poland. I do everything in my power, writing day and night, never letting the pen out of my hand; and I pray to the Lord for His help. He alone can set matters right with His grace. There's no denying, we wake up a little too late. My troops began arriving yesterday: a battalion of grenadiers, and the two squadrons of hussars I had transported by stagecoach, are come. But they will not suffice for stamping out the pestilence. The evil afflicting us is like the Petersburg fire (you remember), which burned in so many places at once that it was well-nigh impossible to keep pace with it. Despite all, I will do whatever is in my power, and place my hope in the Lord. Poor old Governor von Brandt is so worn out that he can hardly drag himself about. He who confounded the affairs of this region in short order and left his army in the lurch will have to answer before God for innocent blood and the demise of many. My health, incidentally, is fair, only I desire no food or drink, and sugary victuals offend my taste. The evil is great and frightening. I beg my sire, whom I know to be the kindest of fathers, to offer his paternal prayers for me. Pray remember me to the holy Mother Evpraksiia. Oh! I do feel bad!
The situation was indeed terrible. A general uprising by Bashkirs, Kalmyks, and other peoples scattered about the region interdicted communication on all sides. The army was small and unreliable. Commanding officers deserted their posts, fleeing at the sight of a Bashkir with bow and arrows or a factory serf with a club. Winter exacerbated the difficulties. The steppes were blanketed with deep snow. It was impossible to move forward unless one had a good supply of firewood as well as of food. The villages were deserted; the major cities either besieged or occupied by bands of rebels; the factories plundered and burned. The mobs rioted and wrought havoc everywhere. The troops dispatched from different regions of the country were slow in their approach. The evil, unimpeded, spread far and wide with great speed. The Iaik Cossacks were rioting from Iletsk to Gurev. The guberniias of Kazan, Nizhnii Novgorod, and Astrakhan were brimming over with bands of brigands; the conflagration threatened to spread into Siberia itself; upheavals were commencing in Perm; Ekaterinburg was in danger. The Kirgiz Kaisaks, taking advantage of the absence of troops, began crossing over the unguarded border, pillaging hamlets, driving off cattle, and taking captives. The trans-Kuban peoples were stirring, incited by Turkey, and even some European powers considered taking advantage of the difficult situation in which Russia had found herself.
The instigator of all this terrible upheaval attracted general attention. In Europe he was considered an instrument of Turkish politics. Voltaire, a typical representative of the public opinion of the time, wrote to Catherine: "C'est apparemment le chevalier de Tott qui a fait jouer cette farce; mais nous ne sommes plus au temps de Demetrius, et telle piece de theatre qui reussissait il у a deux cents ans est sifflee aujourd'hui." The Empress, irritated by European gossip, answered with a degree of impatience: "Monsieur, les gazettes seules font beaucoup de bruit du brigand Pougatschef lequel n'est en relation directe, ni indirecte avec m-r de Tott. Je fais autant de cas des canons fondus par l'un que des entreprises de l'autre. M-r de Pougatshcef et m-r de Tott ont cependant cela de commun, que le premier file tous les jours sa corde de chanvre et que le second s'expose a chaque instant au cordon de soie."
Although the Empress despised the chief bandit himself, she seized every opportunity to bring the misguided mob to reason. Admonitory manifestos were widely distributed, and a reward of 10,000 rubles was offered for the capture of the pretender. Intercourse between the Iaik and Don Cossacks was especially feared. Ataman Efremov was dismissed, and Semen Sulin was chosen to replace him. Instructions were sent to Cherkassk to burn Pugachev's house and belongings, and to convey his family, without insult or injury, to Kazan, where they could reveal his true identity if he was caught. The local authorities carried out Her Majesty's command to the letter: since Pugachev's house in Zimoveiskaia had been sold by his impoverished wife, and, dismantled, had been transported to another homestead, they had it hauled back to its previous location and burned in the presence of the clergy and the whole village. The executioners scattered the ashes to the winds, dug a trench, and erected a fence around the yard, forever to be left desolate as an accursed place. The officials asked for permission in the name of all the Zimoveiskaia Cossacks to resettle in some other place, even if it was less well-situated. The Empress did not permit the villagers to prove their zeal in such a wasteful fashion; she simply renamed their village after Potemkin, erasing the gloomy remembrance of the rebel by the glory of a new name that was already becoming dear to her and to the fatherland. Pugachev's wife and his son and two daughters (all three still minors) were sent to Kazan, together with his brother, who had served as a Cossack in the Second Army. At the same time testimony revealed the following detailed information about the villain who had shaken the foundation of the state.
Emelian Pugachev of the village of Zimoveiskaia, a Cossack formerly in state service, was the son of Ivan Mikhailov, long deceased. He was forty years old, and of medium height, had a dark complexion, and was lean; he had brown hair and wore a small black goatee. He had lost one of his upper front teeth in his adolescence, in a fistfight. He had a white blemish on his left temple and on his chest traces of the so-called Black Death. He was illiterate and crossed himself according to the schismatic practice. Ten years previously he had married the Cossack maiden Sofia Nediuzhina, who subsequently bore him five children. He joined the Second Army in 1770; participated in the taking of Bender; and after a year was furloughed to the Don for reasons of ill health. He took a trip to Cherkassk, seeking a cure. When he returned to his native village, the ataman of Zimoveiskaia asked him at a communal meeting where he had obtained the chestnut horse he had ridden home. Pugachev replied that he had bought it in Taganrog; but the Cossacks, familiar with his dissolute ways, did not believe him, and sent him back to obtain written proof. Pugachev left. While he was away, it became known that he had been inciting the Cossacks who lived near Taganrog to flee beyond the Kuban. It was resolved that Pugachev should be handed over to government authorities. When he returned home in December of that year he tried to hide on his farm but was caught; he did manage to run away, however; he gadded about no one knew where for three months, until at last, during Lent, he came back to his house one evening and rapped on the window. His wife let him in and informed the other Cossacks of his arrival. Pugachev was taken into custody again and was conveyed under guard first to the police investigator, the elder of Nizhnii Chir, Makarov, and then on to Cherkassk. On the way there he managed to escape once more, and after that he never again appeared in the Don region. It was already known from Pugachev's own testimony, which he had given before the Court Chancery at the end of 1772, that after his escape he had gone into hiding beyond the Polish border, in the schismatic settlement of Vetka; then obtained a passport, pretending to be an emigrant from Poland, at the Dobriansk frontier post; and finally journeyed to the Iaik region, begging for food along the way. All this information was made public, but at the same time the government forbade all talk about Pugachev because his name stirred up the rabble. This temporary police measure remained in force until the late Emperor's accession to the throne, at which time permission was granted to write about Pugachev and publish materials relating to him. Even today, the aged witnesses of that upheaval who are still alive are reluctant to answer questions about it.
Measures taken by Bibikov. — The first success. — The taking of Samara and Zainsk. — Derzhavin. — Mikhelson. — The fortress of Iaitskii Gorodok under continued siege. — Pugachev's marriage. — The destruction of Iletskaia Zashchita. — Lysov's death. — The battle at Tatishchev. — Pugachev's flight. — The execution of Khlopusha. — The lifting of the siege of Orenburg. — Pugachev's second defeat. — The battle at Chesnokovka. — The liberation of Ufa and Iaitskii Gorodok. — The death of Bibikov.
At last the various forces dispatched against Pugachev from different directions were approaching their destination. Bibikov directed them toward Orenburg. Major General Prince Golitsyn's assignment was to secure the Moscow Road from Kazan to Orenburg. Major General Mansurov was entrusted with the right flank, providing coverage for the Samara Line, where Major Muffel and Lieutenant Colonel Grinev had been sent with their detachments. Major General Larionov was dispatched to Ufa and Ekaterinburg. Dekalong shielded Siberia and was ordered to send Major Gagrin with a field detachment to defend Kungur. Lieutenant of the Guards Derzhavin was transferred to Malykovka to protect the Volga on the side of Penza and Saratov. Success proved that these were the correct measures. At first Bibikov had misgivings about the morals of his army. In one corps (the Vladimir Regiment) there was indeed some indication of the presence of Pugachev's followers. But the commandants of the towns through which the regiment passed were instructed to send officials disguised as peasants around the taverns, and with their help the agitators were discovered and apprehended. Thereafter Bibikov was satisfied with his regiments. "My affairs, thanks to God, are fast improving," he wrote in February. "The troops are approaching the robber's den. I can see from all the letters I receive that they are satisfied with me in Petersburg; I only wish someone had asked the goose, as it toddled on the ice, whether its feet were not feeling frozen."
On December 29 Major Muffel and his field detachment advanced on Samara, which had been occupied by a band of rebels the day before. The rebels came out to counter him in the open field; he crushed them and chased them all the way back to the city. Once inside, they thought they could hold out under the protection of the city's cannon, but Muffel's dragoons cut their way into the city with their sabers, hacking at the fleeing rebels and trampling them underfoot. At this same moment some Stavropol Kalmyks, coming in to reinforce the rebels, appeared two versts outside Samara; they fled, however, as soon as they saw the cavalry detachment sent against them. The city was cleared of rebels. The victors took six cannon and 200 prisoners. Lieutenant Colonel Grinev and Major General Mansurov arrived in Samara right after Muffel. Mansurov detached a troop to subdue the Kalmyks at Stavropol, but the Kalmyks scattered in all directions, and the detachment had to return to Samara without as much as setting eyes on them.
Colonel Bibikov was detached from Kazan with four platoons of grenadiers and a squadron of hussars to reinforce the troops of Major General Freymann, who had been staying in Bugulma without any action. Bibikov proceeded to march on Zainsk, whose seventy-year-old commandant, Captain Mertvetsov, had received a band of brigands with reverence and put them in full control of the town. The rebels had erected whatever fortifications they could; Bibikov was still five versts from the town when he heard their cannon fire. But their chevaux-de-frise were smashed, their batteries wrested from them, and the outskirts of the town occupied: they all took to their heels. Twenty-five rebel villages were pacified in the area. Up to 4,000 repentant peasants came to Bibikov each day; they were issued documents and allowed to go home.
Derzhavin, who commanded three platoons of musketeers, brought under control the schismatic settlements on the Irgiz and the hordes of nomads that roamed the region between the Iaik and the Volga. Having heard on one occasion that a multitude of common people had gathered in a village with the intention of joining Pugachev's forces, he rode with two Cossacks directly to the meeting place and demanded an explanation from the crowd. Two ringleaders stepped forward, declared their intentions, and started toward Derzhavin leveling accusations and threats. The whole crowd was ready to run riot. But Derzhavin, speaking in a tone of authority, ordered his Cossacks to hang both ringleaders. His order was carried out immediately, and the mob scattered.
Major General Larionov, the commander of the legion sponsored by the nobility, who had been sent to liberate Ufa, did not justify the general trust placed in him. "As a punishment for my sins," wrote General Bibikov, "this cousin of mine A. L. has been foisted on me. He volunteered to command the special detachment himself, but now he won't budge." Larionov stayed in Bakaly, taking no action. His inability to perform his duty forced the commander-in-chief to replace him with an officer who had at one time been wounded under Bibikov's eyes and had distinguished himself in the war against the Confederates - Lieutenant Colonel Mikhelson.
Prince Golitsyn assumed command of Freymann's troops. On January 22 he crossed the Kama. On February 6 Colonel Bibikov joined him, and on the 10th Mansurov. The army was advancing on Orenburg.
Pugachev was aware of its approach, but paid little attention. He trusted that the regulars would defect and the commanding officers would make blunders. "They'll fall into our hands of themselves," he kept telling his associates when they repeatedly advised him to meet the approaching troops midway. In case of a defeat he intended to flee, leaving his horde at the mercy of fate. For this purpose he kept 30 choice fast horses on the best fodder. The Bashkirs suspected what was on his mind, and grumbled. "You roused us up," they said, "but now you want to leave us, letting them hang us as they hanged our fathers." (The executions of 1740 were still fresh in their memory.) The Iaik Cossacks, on the other hand, contemplated handing Pugachev over to the government, thus winning pardon for themselves. They guarded him as if he were a hostage. As the following remarkable lines written to Fonvizin show, Bibikov read both their minds and Pugachev's: "Pugachev is no more than a plaything in the hands of these scoundrels, the Iaik Cossacks: he is not important; what matters is the general discontent."
Pugachev left his camp near Orenburg for Iaitskii Gorodok. His arrival put new life into the rebels' actions. On January 20 he himself led a memorable assault on the fortress. In the night part of the wall was blown off under the battery facing the Staritsa (the Iaik's former riverbed). The rebels, in full battle cry, rushed at the fortress through the smoke and dust, occupied the moat, and tried to scale the wall with ladders, but were toppled and driven back. All the townspeople, including women and children, tried to bolster the assault. Pugachev stood in the moat with spear in hand, first trying to fan the attackers' ardor with blandishments, later stabbing at those who tried to flee. The assault lasted nine hours without interruption, accompanied by the incessant firing of cannon and musketry. At last Second Lieutenant Tolstovalov made a sortie with 50 volunteers, cleared the moat, and drove off the rebels, killing some 400 at the price of no more than 15 of his own men. Pugachev gnashed his teeth. He swore to hang not only Simonov and Krylov themselves, but also Krylov's family, which was in Orenburg at the time. Thus a death sentence was pronounced on a four-year-old boy, who was later to become the famous Krylov.
While in Iaitskii Gorodok, Pugachev saw a young Cossack girl, Ustinia Kuznetsova, and fell in love with her. He went to ask for her hand. Her amazed mother and father replied, "Have mercy on us, Sovereign! Our daughter is neither princess nor duchess: how could she be your wife? And in any case, how could you marry while the Empress, mother to us all, is still alive?" Nevertheless, Pugachev married Ustinia at the beginning of February, naming her Empress and appointing Cossack women in Iaitsk as her ladies-in-waiting and maids of honor. He expressed his wish that, during ektenia, prayers be offered for both the Emperor and Petr Fedorovich and his wife, the Empress Ustinia Petrovna, but his priests refused, saying they had not received permission from the Holy Synod. This upset Pugachev, but he did not persist in his request. His wife remained in Iaitskii Gorodok, where he came to visit her every week. Each time he arrived there was a new attempt on the fortress. But the besieged did not lose heart. Their cannon never grew silent, and their sorties never ceased.
On the night of February 19 a little boy came into the fortress from the town and reported that a tunnel leading to the foundation of the bell tower had been completed the day before, and that 20 pood of gunpowder had been placed in it. Pugachev, he said, had chosen the next day for storming the fortress. The report did not seem creditable. Simonov supposed that the urchin had been deliberately sent in order to cause groundless panic. The defenders, though they had engaged in countermining operations, had not heard any sound of excavations; and 20 pood of powder would have scarcely sufficed to blow up the tall, six-tiered structure. On the other hand, the fortress's whole powder supply was kept in the cellar under the tower (which the rebels could well have known). The defenders decided to bring the powder out at once; they also tore up the brick floor of the cellar and began countermining. The garrison was all prepared for an explosion and an assault. Two hours had scarcely passed when the mine exploded, causing the bell tower to sway gently. Its lower chamber collapsed and the six upper tiers settled on it, crushing some people who had been standing close by. The stones of the structure, not scattered by the detonation, collapsed into one pile. The six sentries posted at a cannon on the top tier dropped down alive; one of them, asleep at the time, not only did not suffer any harm, but did not even wake up as he fell.
Even as the tower was still in the process of collapsing, the fortress's cannon were already being fired; the garrison troops, who had been standing under arms, immediately occupied the ruins of the tower and set up a battery amid the rubble. The rebels, who had not expected to be met quite this way, stopped in bewilderment; a few minutes later they issued their usual cry, but none went forward. In vain did the leaders shout, "Charge, brave atamans, charge!" No assault transpired. The war cries continued until dawn, when the rebels dispersed, grumbling against Pugachev, who had assured them that when the bell tower blew up, it would shower stones on the fortress and crush the whole garrison.
The next day Pugachev received news from his camp of Prince Golitsyn's approach. He hurriedly left for Berda, taking 500 cavalrymen and a supply train of some 1,500 wagons with him. The news reached the defenders of the fortress too. They rejoiced, calculating that a relief force would reach them in a couple of weeks. But in fact the moment of their liberation was still far off.
During Pugachev's frequent travels, Shigaev, Padurov, and Khlopusha directed the siege of Orenburg. Taking advantage of the leader's absence, Khlopusha concocted a plan for overrunning Iletskaia Zashchita (where rock salt is mined), and at the end of February, he stormed the outpost with 400 men. He was able to occupy it with the help of convicts working there - his own family among them. All government property was plundered; all the officers, except for one saved at the convicts' request, were slaughtered; and the convicts were signed into the rebels' band. When Pugachev returned to Berda, he was piqued at the bold convict's wantonness and reproved him for destroying Zashchita, causing damage to state property. He took the field against Prince Golitsyn with 10,000 selected troops, leaving Shigaev below Orenburg with 2,000 men. On the eve of his departure he gave orders to strangle one of his faithful followers, Dmitrii Lysov. A few days earlier he and Lysov, both drunk, had quarreled on the way from Kargala to Berda. Lysov charged at Pugachev from behind and struck him with his spear. Pugachev fell off his horse, but the coat of mail he always wore under his clothes saved his life. Subsequently their comrades reconciled them, and Pugachev even sat drinking with Lysov a few hours before the latter's death.
Pugachev took forts Totskaia and Sorochinsk, and with his usual boldness, attacked Golitsyn's vanguard at night, in a heavy snowstorm. He was repulsed, however, by Majors Pushkin and Elagin. The courageous Elagin was killed in this battle. Just at this time Mansurov joined forces with Prince Golitsyn. Pugachev retreated to Novosergievskaia, with no time to burn the forts he was vacating. Golitsyn, leaving his supplies at Sorochinsk under the protection of 400 men and eight cannon, marched forward after two days. Pugachev at first moved toward Iletskii Gorodok, but then suddenly turned in the direction of Tatishchev; he took up position there and started improving its defenses. Golitsyn had earlier detached Lieutenant Colonel Bedriaga, with three squadrons of cavalry supported by infantry and artillery, to Iletskii Gorodok, while he himself advanced along a straight route to Perevolotskaia; Bedriaga subsequently rejoined him there. Leaving their supply train under the protection of a battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Grinev, they advanced on Tatishchev on March 22.
Pugachev had taken and burned that fort the year before, but by now it had been restored. The burned-down wooden palisades had been replaced by walls of snow. His preparations astonished Prince Golitsyn, who had not expected him to be so well versed in warcraft. Golitsyn at first detached 300 men to reconnoiter the enemy. The rebels hid, allowing the reconnoiterers to come right up to the fort, and then suddenly made a sally. Their thrust was checked, however, by two squadrons that had been sent forward to reinforce the reconnoiterers. Colonel Bibikov also threw into action his jaegers, who, skiing fast on top of the deep snow, occupied all vantage points. Golitsyn arranged his troops in two columns, advanced on the fort, and opened fire, to which the fort responded in kind. The shooting continued for three hours. Seeing that his cannon alone could not overpower the enemy, Golitsyn threw Freymann with the left column into attack. Pugachev brought seven fieldpieces outside to counter him, but Freymann's forces overran these and stormed the frozen walls. The rebels put up a desperate defense but had to yield to the superiority of a properly trained army; they soon fled in all directions. The cavalry, which until then had been kept in reserve, pursued them along all the roads. The bloodshed was horrendous. Some 1,300 rebels were slaughtered within a radius of 20 versts. Golitsyn lost about 400 men killed or wounded, among them over 20 officers. It was a decisive victory. The victor took 36 cannon and over 3,000 prisoners. Pugachev broke through the enemy lines with 60 Cossacks and arrived in Berda, bringing the news of his defeat, with a total of four companions. The rebels began to flee from the village, some on horseback, some in sleds. They piled their wagons high with their plunder. The women and children went on foot. Afraid of drunkenness and mutiny, Pugachev gave orders to smash the barrels of spirits standing near his house. The spirits poured out on the street. In the meanwhile Shigaev, seeing that all was lost, schemed to earn himself a pardon: he detained Pugachev and Khlopusha, and sent an emissary to the governor of Orenburg offering to hand over the pretender and asking the governor to signal his agreement with two shots from a cannon. The centurion Loginov, who had fled with Pugachev earlier, brought the offer to Reinsdorp. The poor governor could not believe his luck, and for two full hours could not make up his mind whether to give the required signal! In the meanwhile some convicts still in Berda released Pugachev and Khlopusha. Pugachev fled with ten fieldpieces, with his booty, and with the remainder of his mob, numbering 2,000. Khlopusha galloped to Kargala hoping to save his wife and son. The Tatars tied him up and sent word to the governor. The famous convict was brought to Orenburg, where they finally beheaded him in June 1774.
The citizens of Orenburg, learning of their liberation, dashed out of the city in large crowds, close on the heels of the 600 infantry soldiers Reinsdorp dispatched to the abandoned village of Berda, and helped themselves to provisions. Eighteen cannon, 17 barrelfuls of copper coins, and a large quantity of grain were found in the village. The people of Orenburg hastened to offer thanks to God for their unexpected liberation. They exalted Golitsyn. Reinsdorp wrote to him to congratulate him on his victory, calling him the liberator of Orenburg. Supplies began arriving in the city from all directions. Abundance had returned, and the harrowing siege of six months was forgotten in one joyous moment. On March 26 Golitsyn came to Orenburg and was received with indescribable enthusiasm.
Bibikov had been waiting for this turning point with impatience. He had left Kazan in order to speed up the military operations, but he had got only as far as Bugulma when news of the complete victory over Pugachev reached him. He could not contain his joy. "What a weight off my mind," he wrote to his wife on March 26. "My army will enter Orenburg today; I am hurrying there, too, to be able to direct the operations more easily. The streak of gray, God is my witness, has increased in my beard, and my hairline has receded even more; but even so I go around without a wig in the freezing weather."
In the meanwhile Pugachev, eluding all the patrols that had been sent out, reached the village of Seitov on the 24th, set it on fire, and advanced to Sakmara, collecting a new mob along the way. He evidently surmised that from Tatishchev Golitsyn would turn toward Iaitskii Gorodok with all his forces, and therefore he suddenly came back to reoccupy Berda, hoping also to take Orenburg by surprise. Golitsyn, however, was advised of this bold move by Colonel Khorvat, who had been on Pugachev's tracks ever since he had left Tatishchev. Reinforcing his troops with the infantry and Cossack detachments stationed in Orenburg — giving the Cossacks the last horses from under his own officers — Golitsyn set out against the pretender immediately, and made contact with him at Kargala. Pugachev, realizing he had miscalculated, beat a retreat, cleverly taking advantage of the topography of the area. He set up seven fieldpieces against Colonels Bibikov and Arshenevskii astride the narrow road and, under their protection, adroitly dashed off toward the Sakmara River. By now, however, Bibikov's fieldpieces had arrived too; his men took a hill and set up a battery. Khorvat, on his part, attacked the rebels in the last gorge through which the road passed, wrested their fieldpieces from them, routed them, and chased their hordes all the way to Sakmara, entering it close on their heels. Pugachev lost his last fieldpiece, 400 men killed, and 3,500 taken prisoner. His chief followers -Shigaev, Pochitalin, Padurov, and others — were among those captured. He fled with four factory serfs to Prechistenskaia, and from there to the Ural factories. The tired cavalry could not catch up with him. After this decisive victory, Golitsyn returned to Orenburg and detached Freymann to pacify Bashkiria, Arshenevskii to mop up along the New Moscow Road, and Mansurov to Iletsk to mop up that region and then proceed to liberate Simonov.
Mikhelson's maneuvers were just as successful. Having taken command of his detachment on March 18, he immediately set out for Ufa. Chika dispatched 2,000 men with four fieldpieces to block his advance. They waited for him in the village of Zhukovo. Leaving them at his rear, Mikhelson headed straight for Chesnokovka, where Chika stood with 10,000 rebels. On his way he scattered a few smaller rebel detachments, and at dawn on the 25 th he arrived at the village of Trebikova (five versts from Chesnokovka). Here a band of rebels with two fieldpieces engaged him, but Major Kharin crushed and scattered them while the jaegers took possession of the fieldpieces. Mikhelson was able to move on. His supply train was protected by 100 men with one fieldpiece, who also served as a rear guard in case of attack. He encountered more rebels at dawn on the 26th, outside the village of Zubovo. Some of them sallied forth on skis or on horseback and, spreading out on either side of the highway, tried to encircle him, while a force of 3,000 men, supported by 10 fieldpieces, met him head-on. At the same time a battery inside the village opened fire. The battle lasted four hours. The rebels fought bravely. At last Mikhelson, seeing that a detachment of horsemen was arriving to reinforce the rebels, flung all his forces at their central corps and ordered his own cavalry, which had dismounted at the beginning of the engagement, to remount and rush to the charge with sabers. The first line of the enemy's defense took to flight, abandoning the fieldpieces. Kharin, hacking at them all the way to Chesnokovka, entered the village close on their heels. In the meanwhile the cavalry detachment coming to reinforce them at Zubovo had been repulsed; its members, too, began to flee to Chesnokovka, were met by Kharin, and were captured to a man. The skiers, who had managed to get around Mikhelson's main corps and cut off his supply train, were smashed by two platoons of grenadiers. They scattered into the woods. Three thousand rebels were taken prisoner. Serfs assigned to factory work and peasants under the jurisdiction of the College of the Management of Ecclesiastic Affairs were sent home to their villages. Twenty-five fieldpieces and a large quantity of munitions were captured. Mikhelson hanged two leading insurgents: a Bashkir elder and the elected head of the village of Chesnokovka. The siege of Ufa was lifted. Mikhelson, without stopping, proceeded to Tabynsk, where Ulianov and Chika had escaped from Chesnokovka. There they were seized by some Cossacks and surrendered to the victor, who sent them to Ufa in fetters. Mikhelson detailed patrols in all directions and was able to restore order in most of the villages that had rebelled.
Iletskii Gorodok and the forts of Nizhne-Ozernaia and Rassypnaia, which had witnessed Pugachev's first successes, had by now been abandoned by the rebels. Their rebel commanders, Chuloshnikov and Kizilbashin, fled to Iaitskii Gorodok. The day they arrived, news of the pretender's defeat at Tatishchev reached them. Rebels fleeing from Khorvat's hussars galloped through the forts shouting, "Run for your lives, fellows, all is lost!" They hastily bandaged their wounds and hurried to Iaitskii Gorodok. The spring thaw set in, clearing the rivers of ice; the corpses of those killed at Tatishchev floated downstream, past the forts. Wives and mothers stood on the riverbanks, trying to identify their husbands or sons among the corpses. An old Cossack woman wandered along the Iaik by Nizhne-Ozernaia every day, drawing the floating corpses to the bank with a crooked stick and saying, "Is that you, my child? Is it you, my Stepushka? Are these your black curls, washed by the waves?" And when she saw an unfamiliar face she gently pushed the corpse away.
On April 6-7 Mansurov occupied the abandoned forts and Iletskii Gorodok, where he found 14 cannon. On the 15 th, as he was fording the swollen stream Bykovka under dangerous conditions, Ovchinnikov, Perfilev, and Degterev pounced on him. They were beaten back and scattered; Bedriaga and Borodin chased after them, but the bad condition of the roads saved the band's leaders.
The fortress at Iaitsk had been invested since the beginning of the year. Pugachev's absence had not cooled the rebels' fighting spirit. Crowbars and spades were forged at the smithies; new batteries were put up. The rebels assiduously continued their excavations, now breaking down the Chechora's levee, thereby cutting off communication between the two parts of the town, now digging trenches in order to block sorties. They were planning to dig a tunnel into the Staritsa's steep bank, all the way around under the fortress, in order to undermine the main church, the batteries, and the commandant's palace. The defenders found themselves in constant danger and were forced to dig counter-tunnels on all sides, working with great difficulty to break up ground that was frozen an arshin deep. They partitioned the inside of the fortress with a new wall and with barricades made of sacks filled with bricks from the blown-up bell tower.
At dawn on March 9, 250 regulars sallied out of the fortress with the aim of destroying a new battery that had been severely harassing them. They reached the town barricades, but there they encountered strong fire. Their ranks were broken. The rebels caught them in the narrow passages between the barricades and the houses to which they had intended to set fire; they slaughtered them, even those already wounded and falling; they chopped their heads off with axes. The soldiers beat a retreat. Some 30 were killed, and 80 wounded. Never had the garrison suffered so much loss from a sortie. All they had succeeded in doing was to burn down one battery, not the main one at that, and a few houses. The testimony they extracted from three rebels brought back as prisoners deepened the defenders' despondency, for the prisoners told them about the mines under the fortress and about Pugachev's expected arrival. The frightened Simonov gave orders to start new projects: they kept probing the ground around his house with augers and began digging a new trench. The men were exhausted, not only because of the hard work, but also because they got scarcely any sleep at night: half of the garrison always remained under arms, and the other half was only allowed to sleep sitting up. The hospital filled with invalids; the provisions left could not last more than 10 days. The soldiers' daily ration was reduced to a quarter of a pound of flour, one-tenth of their regular allowance. They ran out of both groats and salt. The soldiers would boil some water in a common cauldron, whiten it with a little flour, drink a cupful - and that was their daily meal. The women, unable to endure the hunger any longer, began asking for permission to leave the fort, and they were told they could go. A few debilitated and sick soldiers followed their lead. These men were not admitted into the town at all; but the women were kept under arrest for a night and then herded back to the fortress with the promise that they would be received and fed if the rebels' comrades kept in the fortress were released. Simonov, wary of increasing the enemy's numbers, could not agree to that condition. The hunger became more and more horrible every day. The horsemeat, which had been distributed by the pound, was all gone. Everyone began eating cats and dogs. Some dead horses thrown out on the ice at the beginning of the siege three months before were now remembered, and people eagerly gnawed at bones already stripped bare of their meat by the dogs. Finally even this supply ran out. New resources for sustenance were being invented. A kind of clay was found that was exceptionally soft and free of sand. People tried to cook it, making a kind of blancmange from it, and started eating it. The soldiers lost all their strength. Some could no longer walk. Infants of sick mothers wasted away. The women tried several times to touch the rebels' hearts, throwing themselves at their feet and begging to be allowed to stay in the town. They were chased back with the earlier demands. Only some Cossack women were admitted. The long-expected relief had not come. The defenders had to postpone their hopes from day to day, from week to week. The rebels shouted to the garrison that the government's troops had been crushed, that Orenburg, Ufa, and Kazan had already bowed down before the pretender, and that he would soon be coming to Iaitskii Gorodok, by which time there would be no mercy. On the other hand, they promised in his name that surrender would bring not only pardon but even rewards. They tried to impress the same on the minds of the poor women who were pleading to be allowed into the town. The commanders could not raise the hopes of the besieged by references to relief soon to come, because nobody would even listen to them without indignation: such despair had gripped them in their long futile waiting! What the commanders did try to do was to maintain the garrison's loyalty and obedience by emphasizing that no one could save his life by a disgraceful desertion, since the rebels, enraged by the garrison's long resistance, would not spare even those who broke their oaths. They tried to awaken in the souls of their unfortunate soldiers a trust in God, omnipotent and omniscient; and the sufferers, their spirits raised, would repeat that it was better to put one's fate into God's hands than to serve the impostor. Indeed no more than two or three men defected from the fortress during the whole time of the harrowing siege.
Passion Week came. The defenders had been eating nothing but clay for 15 days. None wanted to die of starvation. They decided that all of them (except those entirely incapacitated) would participate in a last sally. With no hope for victory (the rebels had erected such fortifications that they were unapproachable from the fortress on any side), they simply wanted to die the honorable death of soldiers.
On Tuesday, the day assigned for the sally, the sentries posted on the roof of the main church noticed that the rebels were running about town in confusion, saying good-bye to one another, congregating in large groups, and eventually riding out into the steppe. The Cossack women were going with them. The besieged suspected that something unusual was going on, and their hopes were raised once more. "All this buoyed our spirit so much," writes an eyewitness who had lived through all the horrors of the siege, "as if we had each eaten a piece of bread." But the confusion gradually abated, and everything seemed to have returned to normal. The defenders fell into even deeper despondency. In silence they fixed their gaze on the steppe, whence, only a short time before, they had expected their liberators to emerge... Then, suddenly, toward five o'clock in the afternoon, clouds of dust appeared in the distance, and whole legions could be seen galloping out in disarray one after another, from behind a wood. Everybody dashed to the gates, each to the one closest to his house. The besieged realized that the insurgents had been beaten and were on the run; but they still did not dare rejoice, fearing a last desperate assault. The townspeople ran up and down the streets as if the town were burning. Toward evening they rang the bells in the cathedral, gathered in a circle, and approached the fortress in one great throng. The defenders were getting ready to beat them back, but they noticed that the rebels were leading forward their leaders, Atamans Kargin and Tolkachev, tied up. The crowd came up close and loudly pleaded for mercy. Simonov admitted them, though he could hardly believe his deliverance. The garrison threw themselves on the loaves of bread brought by the townspeople. "There were still four days left until Easter Sunday," writes one eyewitness of these events, "but for us that day was already the holy day of resurrection." Even those who had been bound to their beds by weakness or disease recovered on the instant. The whole fortress was in an uproar, with everybody giving thanks to God and congratulating each other; that night no one slept a wink. The townspeople told the defenders about the lifting of the siege of Orenburg and Mansurov's impending arrival. On April 17 he did arrive. The gates of the fortress, which had been locked and obstructed since December 30, were opened. Mansurov assumed command of the city. The leaders of the rebellion, Kargin, Tolkachev, and Gorshkov, as well as the pretender's illegitimate wife Ustinia Kuznetsova, were taken to Orenburg under guard.
Such was the success that crowned the measures taken by an experienced, intelligent commander-in-chief. But Bibikov did not have the opportunity to complete what he had begun: tired out by work, worry, and troubles, taking little care of his already failing health, he developed a fever in Bugulma. Sensing that his end was approaching, he gave some last instructions. He sealed all his confidential papers, with instructions to have them delivered to the Empress, and handed the commandership over to his highest-ranking officer, Lieutenant General Shcherbatov. He still had time to send a report to the Empress about the liberation of Ufa, of which he had just received some oral reports, but soon after, on April 9 at II a.m., he died. He was in his forty-fourth year. His body had to remain on the bank of the Kama for several days, because it was impossible to cross the river at the time. The citizens of Kazan wanted to inter their deliverer in their cathedral, erecting a monument to him, but Bibikov's family wished to have his body brought to his village. A ribbon of the Order of St. Andrew, the tide of senator, and the rank of Colonel of the Guards were too late to reach him alive. On his deathbed he had said: "I do not feel sorry to leave my wife and children, for the Empress will look after them; I feel sorry to part with my fatherland."
A rumor attributed bis death to poisoning, supposedly by a Confederate. Derzhavin wrote a poem about his demise. Catherine wept over him and showered his family with favors. Petersburg and Moscow were seized with fear. Soon the whole of Russia was to realize what an irreparable loss had befallen her.
Pugachev's new success. - Salavat, the Bashkir. - The taking of forts in Siberia. - The battle at Troitsk. - Pugachev's retreat. - His first encounter with Mikhelson. - In pursuit of Pugachev. - The inactivity of the government troops. - The taking of Osa. - Pugachev outside Kazan.
Pugachev, whose position seemed to be desperate, turned up at the Avziano-Petrovsk metalworks. Ovchinnikov and Perfilev, pursued by Major Shevich, rode across the Sakmara Line with 300 Iaik Cossacks and managed to join forces with Pugachev. The Stavropol and Orenburg Kalmyks wanted to follow suit, and advanced, with 600 covered wagons, toward Fort Sorochinsk. Retired Lieutenant Colonel Melkovich, an intelligent and resolute man, was in the fort at the time on a foraging mission. He assumed command of the garrison, attacked the Kalmyks, and forced them to return to their respective residences.
Pugachev moved quickly from one place to another. Mobs started to gather around him as before; the Bashkirs, who had been almost entirely pacified, rebelled again. The commandant of Fort Verkhne-Iaitsk, Colonel Stupishin, penetrated Bashkiriia and burned down some deserted villages; he caught one of the rebels, had his ears, nose, and right-hand fingers cut off, and let him go with the threat that he would do the same to all the other insurgents. But the Bashkirs did not relent. The old troublemaker Iulai, who had gone into hiding at the time of the executions of 1741, reappeared among them with his son Salavat. The whole of Bashkiriia rose up in arms, the conflagration spreading with even greater force than before. Freymann was supposed to pursue Pugachev while Mikhelson made every effort to cross his path, but the spring condition of the roads saved him. The highways were impassable; people were mired in bottomless mud; rivers swelled to widths of several versts; and streams became rivers. Freymann stopped in Sterlitamak. Mikhelson, who had managed to cross the Viatka while it was still iced over, and the Ufa in eight boats, continued his forward march despite all the impediments, and on March 5, near the Sim metalworks, caught up with a horde of Bashkirs under the command of the fierce Salavat. Mikhelson routed them, liberated the factory, and continued his advance the next day. Salavat took up position 18 versts from the metalworks, waiting for Beloborodov. They subsequently joined forces and took the field against Mikhelson with 2,000 rebels and eight fieldpieces. Mikhelson beat them once more, seizing their fieldpieces, slaying some 300 of their numbers on the spot, and scattering the rest. He then hurried on to the Uiskoe metalworks in the hope of catching up with Pugachev himself, but soon learned that the pretender was already at the Beloretsk plants.
Beyond the Iuriuzan River Mikhelson succeeded in crushing another rebel horde, pursuing them all the way to the Satkin works. Here he learned that Pugachev, having rallied some 6,000 Bashkirs and peasants, had advanced on Fort Magnitnaia. Mikhelson decided to move deeper into the Ural Mountains in the hope of joining forces with Freymann near the headwaters of the Iaik.
After plundering and burning down the Beloretsk metalworks, Pugachev quickly crossed the Ural Mountains, and on May 5 he set siege to Magnitnaia, even though he had no cannon with him. Captain Tikhanovskii defended the fort bravely. Pugachev himself took an arm wound from grape-shot and withdrew, having suffered considerable losses. It appeared as though the fort had been saved, but it soon became evident that there was a traitor within: one night the fort's powder magazine was blown up, after which the rebels stormed it, tore down the palisades, and rushed inside. Tikhanovskii and his wife were both hanged; the fort was plundered and burned down. The same day Beloborodov joined Pugachev with a mob of 4,000 rebels.
Lieutenant General Dekalong advanced from the recently liberated Cheliabinsk in the direction of Fort Verkhne-Iaitsk, hoping to catch Pugachev still at the Beloretsk works, but no sooner had he reached the Orenburg Line than he received a report from Colonel Stupishin, the commandant at Verkhne-Iaitsk, informing him that Pugachev was proceeding up the Line from one fort to another, just as he had done at the beginning of his dread career. Dekalong hurried on toward Verkhne-Iaitsk. As soon as he reached it, he heard of the taking of Magnitnaia. He set off toward Kizilskoe. He had already covered 15 versts when he learned from a captured Bashkir that Pugachev, having heard of the approach of government troops, was no longer heading for Kizilskoe but was taking a route straight across the Ural Mountains toward Karagaiskii. Dekalong turned around. Arriving at Karagaiskii, he saw only smoking ruins: Pugachev had left the day before. Dekalong hoped to catch up with him at Petropavlovka but missed him there, too. The fort was ravaged and burned, and its church had been plundered, the icons stripped of their frames and smashed to smithereens.
Dekalong left the Line and took a shortcut straight to Fort Uiskoe. He was down to his last day's supply of oats. He thought he might be able to catch up with Pugachev at Fort Stepnaia if not before; but he soon learned that even Stepnaia had already been taken; he rushed to Troitsk. On the way there, in Sanarka, he found a great many people who had escaped from the destroyed forts in the vicinity. Officers' wives and children, barefooted and in rags, were sobbing, not knowing where to seek refuge. Dekalong took them under his protection, entrusting them to the care of his officers. On the morning of May 21, after a forced march of 60 versts, he drew near Troitsk and at last set eyes on Pugachev, who had pitched camp outside the fort, which he had taken the day before. Dekalong attacked immediately. Pugachev had more than 10,000 troops and some 30 cannon. The engagement lasted four long hours. Pugachev lay in his tent through it all, suffering from the wound he had received at Magnitnaia. Beloborodov was in charge of operations. At last the rebels' ranks were broken. Pugachev, his arm in a sling, got on his horse and rushed from one place to another, trying to restore order, but his troops were all scattered and running. He got away with one fieldpiece and headed toward Cheliabinsk. It was impossible to pursue him; the cavalry was far too tired. Dekalong found some 3,000 people of both sexes, of all ages, from all walks of life, at the camp: they had been rounded up by the pretender and consigned to doom. The fort was saved from fire and pillage, but its commandant, Brigadier Freierwahr, had been killed in the previous day's assault, and his officers had been hanged.
Pugachev and Beloborodov, knowing that the exhaustion of Dekalong's troops and horses would not allow him to take advantage of his victory, reassembled their scattered hordes and began an orderly retreat, taking forts and mustering fresh forces along the way. Majors Gagrin and Zholobov, detached by Dekalong the day after the battle to pursue them, could not catch up with them.
Mikhelson in the meanwhile was advancing along little-known roads across the Ural Mountains. The Bashkir villages were deserted. It was impossible to obtain the necessary supplies. His detachment was in constant danger from the many bands of rebels swirling around it. On May 13 a group of Bashkirs, led by their seditious elder, fell on him. They fought so frantically that they would not surrender even when he had driven them back, into a swamp. All, except one who was forcibly saved, were slain together with their leader. Mikhelson lost one officer and 60 men killed or wounded.
The captive Bashkir, whom Mikhelson treated with kindness, told him about the taking of Magnitnaia and the movements of Dekalong. Mikhelson, finding these reports consistent with his own assumptions, left the mountains and advanced on Troitsk in the hope of either being able to liberate that fort or encountering Pugachev should he be retreating. He soon heard about Dekalong's victory and proceeded to Varlamovo with the intention of blocking Pugachev's way. And indeed, on the morning of May 22, as he approached Varlamovo, he ran into Pugachev's vanguard. Seeing an orderly troop, Mikhelson could not at first imagine this to be the remnant of the horde beaten just the other day, and he took it (as he says jokingly in his report) for the corps of Lieutenant General Cavalier Dekalong. He soon realized his mistake, however, and he stopped, retaining his advantageous position next to a forest that provided cover for his rear. Pugachev at first marched on him, but then suddenly turned off toward Fort Chebarkul. Mikhelson cut across the wood and intercepted Pugachev. This was the first time the pretender came face to face with the man who was to strike so many blows at him and was to put an end to his bloody enterprise. Pugachev immediately attacked his left flank, threw it into disarray, and wrested away two fieldpieces. But Mikhelson bore down on the rebels with the whole of his cavalry and managed to scatter them in one minute, taking back his fieldpieces along with the last cannon that had remained in Pugachev's possession after his defeat at Troitsk.
Some 600 rebels lay slain on the field, 5 00 were taken prisoner, and the rest were pursued for several versts. Nightfall interrupted the chase. Mikhelson spent the night on the battlefield. In the next day's orders he severely reprimanded the platoon that had lost its fieldpieces, and he stripped the soldiers of their buttons and brassards until such time as they merited them again. Indeed the platoon soon made amends for its dishonorable conduct.
On the 23 rd Mikhelson marched on Fort Chebarkul. The Cossacks stationed there had mutinied, but Mikhelson administered a new oath to them, signing them into his own corps, and they gave him no reason thereafter not to be perfectly satisfied with them.
Zholobov and Gagrin operated slowly and indecisively. Having informed Mikhelson that Pugachev had rallied his scattered horde and was mustering new forces, Zholobov refused to march against the rebel under the pretext of flooding rivers and bad roads. Mikhelson complained to Dekalong. Although Dekalong promised to come forward to extirpate Pugachev's last remaining forces, he in fact remained in Cheliabinsk and, to make matters worse, ordered Zholobov and Gagrin to join him.
Thus the task of pursuing Pugachev was left to Mikhelson alone. Having heard of the presence of some Iaik Cossack rebels at the Zlatoust metalworks, he went there, but the rebels learned of his approach and escaped. The farther their traces led, the less distinct they became, and they finally disappeared altogether.
On May 27 Mikhelson arrived at the Satkin works. Salavat was ravaging the surrounding countryside with a fresh band. The Sim metalworks had already been plundered and burned by him. Hearing of Mikhelson, he crossed the Ai River and stayed in the mountains, where Pugachev, no longer pursued by Gagrin and Zholobov, managed to join him with a ragtag mob of 2,000.
At the Satkin works, which had been saved thanks to his celerity, Mikhelson took his first rest since his departure from Ufa. He set out against Pugachev and Salavat two days later and came to the bank of the At The bridges had been dismantled. The rebels, seeing the small size of Mikhelson's detachment, felt safe on the other side of the river.
On the morning of the 30th, however, Mikhelson ordered 50 Cossacks to swim their horses across the river, each double riding with a jaeger behind him. The rebels were ready to fall on this group but were scattered by cannon fire from the other side. The jaegers and Cossacks held the bridgehead as best they could while Mikhelson forded the river with the rest of the detachment: the gunpowder was carried by the cavalry, and the fieldpieces were sunk to the bottom and dragged across by ropes. Mikhelson quickly attacked the enemy forces, crushed them, and pursued them for 20 versts, killing some 400 and taking a great many prisoners. Pugachev, Beloborodov, and Salavat - the last one wounded - just barely managed to escape.
The surrounding countryside was deserted. Mikhelson could find no one to tell him where the enemy had fled. He set out in a randomly chosen direction, and during the night of June 2 Captain Kartashevskii, whom he had detached with a vanguard, found himself surrounded by Salavat's band. Mikhelson arrived at the location in the morning, in time to help. The rebels scattered and fled. Mikhelson pursued them with utmost caution: his infantry protected his supply train, and he himself rode at the head of the column, accompanied by some of the cavalry. This arrangement was what saved him. A large band of rebels suddenly surrounded his supply train and attacked his infantry. Pugachev himself led them: in a matter of six days he had gathered some 5,000 rebels around the Satkin works. Mikhelson galloped back to the supply train to help, and stayed there with the infantry while Kharin went off to consolidate the cavalry. The rebels were beaten and took flight once more. Mikhelson learned from captives that Pugachev intended to march on Ufa. He rushed ahead to intercept him and on June 5 encountered him again. An engagement was inevitable. Mikhelson attacked quickly, defeating and driving away the enemy once more.
Despite all his success, Mikhelson saw that he needed to interrupt his pursuit of the enemy for a while. He had run out of both provisions and munition. Each man had only two cartridges left. Mikhelson went to Ufa in order to stock up with everything he needed.
While Mikhelson, rushing this way and that, kept striking at the enemy, the other leaders of the army remained stationary. Dekalong stood at Cheliabinsk and, envying Mikhelson's success, deliberately avoided cooperating with him. Freymann, a physically courageous man but a timid, indecisive leader, stayed at Fort Kizilskoe, fretting about Timashev, who had gone off to Fort Zilair with his best cavalry. Stanislavskii had already distinguished himself by cowardice in all the proceedings, but when he heard that Pugachev had gathered a significant mob and was near Fort Verkhne-Iaitsk, he refused all further service and fled to Fort Orsk - his favorite hiding place. Colonels Iakubovich and Obernibesov, together with Major Duve, were near Ufa, but they allowed the rebellious Bashkirs to assemble all around them undisturbed. Birsk was burned down almost under their very eyes, but they just marched from one place to another, avoiding the remotest danger and not giving one thought to coordinating their actions. In obedience to Prince Shcherbatov's instructions, Golitsyn's troops remained in the vicinity of Orenburg and Iaitskii Gorodok, where they were entirely useless since these places were already out of danger, while the region where the conflagration was spreading again, was left defenseless.
Pugachev, driven away from Kungur by Major Popov, was about to advance on Ekaterinburg, but hearing of the troops stationed there, he turned off toward Krasnoufimsk.
The Kama region was left open, and Kazan exposed to danger. Von Brandt hurriedly dispatched Major Skrypitsyn with a garrison detachment and armed peasants to the town of Osa, and at the same time wrote to Prince Shcherbatov demanding immediate help. Shcherbatov, however, placed his hopes in Obernibesov and Duve, who were supposed to come to Major Skrypitsyn's assistance in case of danger, and he took no new measures.
On June 18 Pugachev appeared outside Osa. Skrypitsyn took the field against him, but on losing three cannon at the very beginning of the engagement, he hastily withdrew into the fort. Pugachev ordered his men to dismount and to storm the fort. They entered the town and burned it, but they were driven away from the fort itself by cannon fire.
The next day Pugachev and some of his chief associates rode over to the Kama, looking for a convenient place to cross it. He ordered his men to cover muddy stretches of the highway with logs and brushwood. On the 20th he stormed the fort once more, and was driven back once more. After this, Beloborodov advised him to encircle the fort with wagons full of hay, straw, and birch bark with which to set the wooden walls on fire. Fifteen wagons were drawn by horses to within a short distance of the fort, and then pushed forward by men who were safe behind them. At this juncture Skrypitsyn, who had already wavered somewhat, asked for a one-day truce, and on the following day he surrendered, receiving Pugachev on his knees, with icons and bread and salt. The pretender treated him kindly and allowed him to continue wearing his sword. The hapless major thought that in time he could justify himself, and he composed, together with Captain Smirnov and Lieutenant Mineev, a letter to the governor of Kazan, which he carried around with him, waiting for an opportunity to send it off secretly. Mineev told Pugachev about this. The letter was confiscated, Skrypitsyn and Smirnov were hanged, and the informer was promoted to colonel.
On June 23 Pugachev crossed the Kama and advanced on the Izhevsk and Votkinsk distilleries. The director, Wenzel, was tortured to death, the plants were plundered, and the workers were signed into the villainous horde. Mineev, who had earned Pugachev's trust by his treachery, advised him to march straight on Kazan. Familiar with the precautions the governor had taken, he offered to lead Pugachev, guaranteeing success. Pugachev did not vacillate for long: he marched on Kazan.
The news of the fall of Osa frightened Shcherbatov. He sent an order to Obernibesov to occupy the ferry at Shuni and dispatched Major Mellin to the one at Shurma. Golitsyn was ordered to proceed to Ufa as fast as possible and to operate in that region according to his best judgment. Shcherbatov himself set out for Bugulma with a squadron of hussars and a platoon of grenadiers.
There were only 1,500 troops in Kazan, but 6,000 of the local citizenry were armed in haste. Von Brandt and the military commandant, Banner, prepared to defend the city. Major General Potemkin, the chairman of the secret commission created to investigate the Pugachev revolt, helped them in every way he could. Major General Larionov, on the other hand, did not wait for Pugachev's arrival: he and his men crossed the Volga and decamped for Nizhnii Novgorod.
Colonel Tolstoi, commander of the Kazan cavalry legion, took the field against Pugachev and on July 10 made contact with him 12 versts from the city. A battle ensued. The brave Tolstoi was killed, his troops scattered. The next day Pugachev appeared on the left bank of the Kazanka and pitched camp near the Troitsk mill. In the evening he rode out, in plain view of all the inhabitants, to inspect the city, then returned to his camp, postponing the assault until the next morning.
Pugachev in Kazan. - Catastrophe in the city. - Mikhelson's arrival. -Three battles. - The liberation of Kazan. - Pugachev meets his family. -Refutation of a libel. - Measures taken by Mikhelson.
At dawn on July 12 the rebels, under Pugachev's command, stretched their columns from the village of Tsaritsyn across Arskoe Field, pushing wagons loaded with hay and straw interspersed with fieldpieces. They quickly occupied the brick barns built close to the suburb, a coppice, and Kudriavtsev's suburban house; there they set up their batteries, sweeping aside the small detachment that guarded the highway. The detachment retreated in square formation, defending itself by using chevaux-de-frise.
The city's main battery was positioned directly opposite Arskoe Field. Pugachev did not attack on that side, but sent a detachment of factory peasants from his right wing, under the command of the traitor Mineev, toward the suburb. This herd of riffraff, mostly unarmed and driven forward by the Cossacks' whips, nimbly ran from gully to gully and hollow to hollow, scrambling across ridges exposed to cannon fire, until it reached the ravines on the very edge of the suburb. This dangerous point was defended by grammar school students equipped with one cannon. Despite fire from this cannon, the rebels carried out to the letter the instructions Pugachev had given them: they clambered onto the promontory, chased the students away with their bare fists, took charge of the cannon, and occupied the governor's summer residence, which had a gate opening into the suburb; they placed the cannon in that gate, started firing into the streets, and burst into the suburb in packs. On the other side, Pugachev's left wing assaulted the Drapers' Quarter. The drapers (of different classes, but most of them skilled boxers) were encouraged by Archbishop Veniamin to arm themselves as best they could; they set up a cannon at Gorlov's tavern, and were ready to defend the area. The Bashkirs shot their arrows at them from Sharnaia Hill and charged into the streets. The drapers were about to counterattack with crowbars, spears, and sabers, but their cannon blew up, killing the cannoneer, the first time they tried to fire it. At the same time Pugachev set up his fieldpieces on Sharnaia Hill and fired grapeshot at both his own men and the drapers. The quarter caught fire. The drapers fled. The rebels swept away the guards and the chevaux-de-frise, and dashed into the streets of the city. Seeing the flames, the citizens and the garrison left the cannon behind and rushed inside the fortress — their last refuge. Pugachev entered the city. It became the rebels' prey. They rushed to plunder the houses and stores; burst into churches and monasteries, stripping the iconholders; and slew anybody in German clothes who fell into their hands. Pugachev set up his batteries in the tavern of the market hall, behind the churches by the triumphal gates, and opened fire on the fortress, especially on the Monastery of the Savior, whose ancient walls, barely holding together, formed its right-hand corner. On the other side, Mineev pulled up a cannon to the gates of the Kazan Monastery and another one to the portico of a church: from these positions he could hit the most sensitive areas inside the fortress. One of his cannon, however, was smashed by a ball from the fortress. The bandits decked themselves out in women's dresses and priests' surplices, and ran around the streets screaming, plundering, setting houses on fire. Those engaged in the siege of the fortress envied them, fearing to be left out of the booty ... Suddenly Pugachev ordered them to withdraw. Setting fire to a few more houses, they returned to their camp. The wind rose. A sea of flames spread across the whole city. Sparks and charred pieces of wood were blown into the fortress and set several wooden roofs on fire. At this moment part of a wall collapsed with the boom of a thunderclap, crushing several people. The besieged, huddled in the fortress, sent up a wail, believing that the villain had burst in and their last hour had struck.
Those who had been captured were being herded out of the city, and the loot was being hauled away. Although Pugachev had strictly forbidden them to do this, the Bashkirs drove the people forward with whips and kept jabbing at the women and children who fell behind with pikes. A great many drowned while fording the Kazanka River. When the captives had at last been driven to the camp, they were lined up on their knees in front of cannon. The women burst into a howl. Then the whole crowd was told they had been pardoned. They all shouted "Hurrah!" and rushed to Pugachev's platform. Seated in an armchair, he was receiving gifts from the Kazan Tatars who had come to pay their respect to him. The question was put, "Who wishes to serve the Emperor Petr Fedorovich?" - Many were the volunteers.
During the entire siege, Archbishop Veniamin was inside the fortress, at the Cathedral of the Annunciation, praying on his knees with the citizenry for the deliverance of the faithful. The cannonade had hardly ceased when he raised the miracle-working icons and, defying the conflagration's unbearable heat and the falling pieces of wood, went all around inside the fortress, accompanied by all his clergy and all the citizenry, singing hymns. Toward evening the storm abated and the wind changed direction. Night set in - a night of horror for the citizens! Kazan, turned into heaps of burning charcoal, smoked and glowed in the dark. No one could sleep. At dawn the citizens hurried to the battlements and fixed their gaze on the side from which a new assault was expected. But instead of Pugachev's hordes they beheld, to their amazement, Mikhelson's hussars galloping toward the city under the command of an officer who had been sent with a report to the governor.
Nobody knew that Mikhelson had already fought a ferocious battle with Pugachev seven versts from the city and that the rebels had retreated in disorder.
Last time we mentioned Mikhelson he was doggedly pursuing Pugachev in his precipitate dash across the land. Subsequently, the colonel left his sick and wounded in Ufa, attached Major Duve to his own corps, and by June 21 arrived in Burnovo, a few versts from Birsk. The rebels had put up a new bridge to replace the one Iakubovich had burned. About 1,000 rebels came out to counter Mikhelson, but he crushed them. He detached Duve against a band of Bashkirs gathered nearby: Duve scattered them. Mikhelson advanced toward Osa, and on June 27 he learned from a group of Bashkirs and Tatars whom he had subdued along the way that Pugachev had taken Osa and crossed the Kama. Mikhelson followed in his tracks. There were no bridges standing over the Kama, nor were there any boats available. The cavalry swam across, and the infantry made rafts. Mikhelson bypassed Pugachev on his right, heading straight for Kazan; by the evening of July 11 he was only 50 versts away.
His detachment moved closer during the night. In the morning, at a distance of 45 versts from Kazan, cannon fire was heard. By noon a thick crimson cloud of smoke announced the fate of the city.
The midday heat and the exhaustion of his troops forced Mikhelson to take an hour's rest. In the meanwhile he learned that there was a group of insurgents nearby. He attacked them and took 400 prisoners; the rest fled to Kazan and informed Pugachev of the enemy's approach. It was then that Pugachev, fearing a sudden assault, withdrew from the fortress and ordered his troops to vacate the city as soon as possible. He took up an advantageous position near Tsaritsyn, seven versts from Kazan.
Having received information about this, Mikhelson led his troops across the intervening woods in one column. When he came out into the field he was confronted by the rebels arrayed in battle formation.
Mikhelson sent Kharin against their left flank and Duve against the right, while he himself advanced directly on the enemy's main battery. Pugachev's men, buoyed by their victory and strengthened by the cannon they had captured, countered the attack with heavy fire. In front of the main battery there was a marsh: Mikhelson had to cross this, while Kharin and Duve tried to turn the enemy's flank on either side. Mikhelson overran the main battery, and Duve, too, was able to wrest away two cannon on the right flank. The rebels now divided into two groups. One advanced toward Kharin and, setting up batteries in a ditch inside a ravine, opened fire; the other tried to circle around to the rear of the government corps. Mikhelson left Duve to his own devices and went to reinforce Kharin, whose men were advancing across the ravine under enemy fire. At length, after five hours of stubborn fighting, Pugachev was beaten and put to flight, at a cost of 800 men killed and 180 captured. Mikhelson's losses were insignificant. The darkness of night and the exhaustion of his troops prevented him from pursuing Pugachev.
Having spent the night on the field of battle, Mikhelson proceeded to Kazan just before dawn. As he approached the city he kept coming across groups of looters, who had been carousing among the charred ruins of the city all night. They were slain or taken prisoner. As he arrived at Arskoe Field, Mikhelson caught sight of the enemy approaching: realizing how small Mikhelson's detachment was, Pugachev had hurried to prevent him from joining forces with the garrison. Mikhelson sent a report about this to the governor, then opened up his cannon on the mob charging toward him, yelling and shrieking; he forced them to retreat. Potemkin arrived with the garrison in good time. Crossing the Kazanka, Pugachev withdrew to the village of Sukhaia Reka, 15 versts from the city. Mikhelson was unable to pursue him, for he had fewer than 30 sound horses in his detachment.
Kazan was liberated. The citizens thronged to the battlements to take a look at their liberator's camp from a distance. Mikhelson stayed out, expecting a new assault. Indeed Pugachev, provoked by his failures, had his heart set on subduing Mikhelson at last. He rallied new mobs on all sides, gathered in his various detachments, and on the morning of July 15, after a reading of a manifesto to his troops in which he declared his intention to advance on Moscow, he charged at Mikhelson for the third time. His army was a ragtag band of 25,000. These multitudes advanced up the same highway along which they had twice fled. Clouds of dust, wild shrieks, clatter, and rumble announced their approach. Mikhelson took the field against them with 800 carabineers, hussars, and Chuguev Cossacks. He occupied the site of the earlier battle near Tsaritsyn, dividing his troops into three detachments though keeping them in close proximity. The rebels charged at him. The Iaik Cossacks brought up the rear, with orders from Pugachev to strike at anyone who turned back.
But Mikhelson and Kharin mounted counterattacks on two sides, drove the rebels back, and chased them away. It was all accomplished in next to no time. In vain did Pugachev try to rally his scattered hordes, initially at his first campsite, then at the second. Kharin pursued him briskly, giving him no time to pause. At these camps there were kept some 10,000 Kazan citizens of both sexes, from all walks of Me. They were now liberated. The Kazanka was dammed up with corpses; the victor took 5,000 prisoners and nine cannon. Up to 2,000 men, mostly Tatars and Bashkirs, were killed in the engagement. Mikhelson lost about 100 troops killed or wounded. He entered the city to the hails of its enraptured inhabitants -eyewitnesses of his victory. The governor, debilitated by an illness that was to kill him in another two weeks, met the victor at the gate of the fortress accompanied by the nobility and clergy. Mikhelson went straight to the cathedral, where Archbishop Veniamin celebrated a thanksgiving mass.
Kazan was in a terrible state: 2,057 of its 2,867 buildings had burned down. Twenty-five churches and three monasteries had also been destroyed in the conflagration. The market hall, and the houses, churches, and monasteries left standing, had all been robbed. Some 300 inhabitants were found either dead or wounded; about 500 were missing without a trace. Among those killed were the principal of the grammar school, Kanits; several teachers and students; and Colonel Rodionov. Major General Kudriavtsev, aged one hundred and ten, had not been willing to seek shelter in the fortress despite eloquent exhortations: he had gone to pray on his knees in the Kazan Convent, and when some pillagers burst in, he started admonishing them; the scoundrels butchered him on the portico of the church.
Thus had the poor convict celebrated his return to Kazan, whence he had escaped only a year before! The prison where he had been waiting for a sentence of lashes and forced labor had now been burned down by him, and the prisoners, his comrades of yore, had been released. The Cossack woman Sofia Pugacheva and her three children had been kept at a Kazan barracks for several months. The pretender is said to have burst into tears when he saw them, but he did not betray his identity. Some accounts claim that he gave orders to transfer them to his camp, saying "I know this woman: her husband has done me a great favor."
The traitor Mineev - the chief instigator of the sack of Kazan - was taken prisoner at the time of Pugachev's first defeat and sentenced by a military tribunal to run the gauntlet to his death.
The Kazan authorities took measures to lodge the inhabitants in the buildings left standing. The citizens were invited to the rebels' camp to sort out the booty captured from Pugachev and take back what belonged to them. They hastened to divide the goods as best they could, but some who had been rich became poor, and some who had been indigent ended up wealthy!
History must refute a libel that was irresponsibly bandied about in society: it was asserted that Mikhelson could have prevented the sack of Kazan but deliberately gave the rebels time to plunder the city so that he too could lay hands on a rich booty. As if he could prefer profit of any kind to the fame, honor, and imperial favors that were awaiting the liberator of Kazan and the pacifier of the revolt! We have seen how speedily and how persistently Mikhelson had been pursuing Pugachev. Had Potemkin and von Brandt done their duty and held the city for just a few more hours, Kazan would have been saved. Mikhelson's soldiers did of course lay their hands on some riches; but it would be a shame to level an unsubstantiated accusation at a venerable warrior, who had spent all his life on the field of honor and who was to die as the commander-in-chief of a whole Russian army.
On July 14 Lieutenant Colonel Count Mellin arrived in Kazan and was detached by Mikhelson to pursue Pugachev. Mikhelson himself remained in the city in order to refresh his cavalry and reprovision. Other military leaders hastened to take some measures, knowing all too well by now that Pugachev, active and enterprising as he was, could still be dangerous despite his defeat. His movements were so fast and unpredictable that there was no way to pursue him; in any case the government cavalry was completely worn out. There were attempts to block his advance, but the troops, dispersed over large areas and unable to change direction speedily, could not get to the right places at the right time. It must also be stated that few of the military leaders of the time were capable of coping with Pugachev or even with his underlings.
Pugachev on the west side of the Volga. — A general uprising. — General Stupisbin's letter. — Catherine's plans. — Count P. I. Panin. — The movement of the troops. — The taking of Penza. — Vsevolozhskii's death. — Derzhavin's dispute with Boshniak. — The taking of Saratov. — Pugachev at Tsaritsyn. — The demise of the astronomer Lowitz. — Pugachev's defeat. — Suvorov. — Pugachev is handed over to the authorities. — The conversation with Count Panin. — The trials of Pugachev and his followers. — The execution of the rebels.
Pugachev fled, periodically changing horses, along the highway toward Kokshaisk, in the company of 300 Iaik and Ilek Cossacks. At last they reached a forest. Kharin, who had been chasing after them for full 30 versts, was forced to stop. Pugachev spent the night in the forest. He had his family with him. There were two new faces among his followers. One of them was Pulaski, younger brother of the famous Confederate. He had been living in Kazan as a prisoner of war and joined Pugachev's band out of hatred for Russia. The other one was a protestant pastor. He had been brought before Pugachev during the burning of Kazan, and the pretender recognized him as a person who had given him alms at the time he had been led about the streets of Kazan in fetters. The poor minister had been expecting his last hour, but
Pugachev received him with kindness and appointed him a colonel. The colonel-minister was subsequently placed on a Bashkir horse, and accompanied Pugachev in his flight for several days, until at last he dropped behind and returned to Kazan.
For two days Pugachev wandered now in this, now in that direction, thereby misleading his pursuers. His mobs, scattering about, carried on their usual depredations. Beloborodov was caught on the outskirts of Kazan, flogged, and then conveyed to Moscow for execution. Several hundred fugitives joined Pugachev once more. On July 18 he suddenly rushed down to the Volga, to the Kokshaisk ferry, and crossed the river with 5 00 of his select troops.
Pugachev's appearance on the other side of the river caused a general commotion. The whole region west of the Volga rose up in arms and joined the pretender. The seigniorial serfs rioted; non-Christians and new converts started killing Russian priests. Regional administrative officials began to flee from the cities, and landowners from their estates; the mob captured many of both groups and brought them before Pugachev. He guaranteed the people liberty, the extermination of the nobility, release from obligations, and the free distribution of salt. He marched on Tsivilsk, pillaged the town, and hanged the head of the regional administration. Dividing his band into two, he sent one division toward Alatyr and the other along the road to Nizhnii Novgorod, thereby cutting communication between that city and Kazan. The governor of Nizhnii Novgorod, Lieutenant General Stupishin, wrote to Prince Volkonskii that his city awaited the fate of Kazan, and that he could not even be sure of the safety of Moscow. All the military units stationed in Kazan and Orenburg guberniias were mobilized and dispatched against Pugachev. Shcherbatov from Bugulma and Prince Golitsyn from Menzelinsk each hurried to Kazan; Mellin crossed the Volga and on July 19 set out from Sviiazhsk; Mansurov advanced from Iaitskii Gorodok to Syzran; Muffel went to Simbirsk; and Mikhelson rushed from Cheboksary to Arzamas to block the way in case Pugachev should march on Moscow...
But Pugachev no longer had any intention of attacking the old capital. Surrounded by government troops on all sides and having no faith in his followers, he turned his attention to his own safety. His plan was to force his way either to the trans-Kuban region or to Persia. The chief rebels, on their part, could tell that their undertaking was doomed and were ready to strike a bargain for their leader's head. Perfilev, acting on behalf of all the culpable Cossacks, sent a secret emissary to St. Petersburg with a proposal to hand over the pretender. The government, which he had already deceived once, was disinclined to trust him, but nevertheless entered into negotiations. Pugachev was fleeing, but his flight seemed like an invasion. Never had his victories been more horrifying; never had the rebellion raged with greater force. The insurrection spread from village to village, from province to province. Only two or three villains had to appear on the scene, and whole regions revolted. Various bands of plunderers and rioters were formed, each having its own Pugachev...
The news of these sad events made a deep impression in St. Petersburg, overshadowing the joy there over the end of the Turkish war and the conclusion of the glorious Peace of Kuchuk Kainarji. The Empress, dissatisfied with Prince Shcherbatov's tarrying, had resolved as early as the beginning of July to recall him and to put Prince Golitsyn in command of the army. The courier conveying this order, however, was held up in Nizhnii Novgorod due to the hazardous conditions lying ahead. When the Empress subsequently learned of the fall of Kazan and the spread of the rebellion to the west of the Volga, she contemplated coming to this region of calamity and danger in order to lead the army in person. Count Nikita Ivanovich Panin managed to dissuade her. The Empress did not know whom to trust with the task of saving the homeland. At this time an aristocrat who was in disfavor and estranged from Court just like Bibikov volunteered to complete the noble deed left unfinished by his predecessor. This was Petr Ivanovich Panin. The Empress was grateful to see her noble subject's zeal, and Count Panin, just as he was setting out from his village to march against Pugachev at the head of his armed peasants and domestic serfs, received her order to assume command over the guberniias where the rebellion raged and over the troops sent there. Thus the conqueror of Bender was to wage war against the simple Cossack who had served under his command, unnoticed by him, four years previously.
On July 20 Pugachev's forces swam across the Sura below Kurmysh. The gentry and the government officials fled. The mob greeted the pretender on the bank of the river with icons and bread. A subversive manifesto was read to them. A troop of veterans was brought before Pugachev. Its commander, Major Iurlov, and a noncommissioned officer whose name, unfortunately, has not been recorded, were the only ones who refused to swear allegiance to the pretender and accused him of imposture to his face. They were hanged and, already dead, lashed with the whip. Iurlov's widow was saved by her domestics. Pugachev gave orders to distribute liquor among the Chuvash from the state warehouse; he hanged several noblemen who had been brought before him by their peasants; and he set out for Iadrin, leaving the town under the command of four Iaik Cossacks, assisted by 60 serfs who had joined the rebels. He also left behind a small band to slow down Count Mellin. Mikhelson, who was heading for Arzamas, sent a detachment under Kharin toward Iadrin - also the destination, as it turned out, of Count Mellin's troops. When Pugachev learned of this, he turned around toward Alatyr, but sent the small band on to Iadrin in order to secure his rear. This band was first beaten back by the head of the regional administration and the local citizenry; then it ran into Count Mellin and was finally dispersed. Mellin hurried on toward Alatyr, but first, on his way, he liberated Kurmysh, hanging several rebels and taking with him as an informant the Cossack whom they had called their commander. The officers of the troop of veterans who had sworn allegiance to the pretender justified themselves by claiming that their oath had "not come from a sincere heart, but it served Her Imperial Majesty's best interests." In their letter to Stupishin they wrote: "We repent as Christians of having broken our oath before God and Her Most Gracious Majesty, and of having sworn allegiance to that impostor; we beg with tears in our eyes to be forgiven for this involuntary sin, committed with no other motive than fear of death." Twenty people signed this shameful apology.
Pugachev dashed forward with exceptional speed, at the same time sending out bands in all directions. His pursuers could not tell which of these bands was his own. It was impossible to catch up with him, because he galloped along country roads, seizing fresh horses and leaving behind agitators who rode around the towns and the villages unopposed in groups of two, three, rarely more than five, and gathered new bands. Three such agitators turned up on the outskirts of Nizhnii Novgorod, but Demidov's peasants trussed them up and handed them over to Stupishin. He ordered them to be hanged on gallows erected on barges and left to float down the Volga, along the banks where the riots were taking place.
On July 27 Pugachev entered Saransk. He was received not only by the rabble, but also by the clergy and the merchants ... Three hundred nobles of both sexes and of various ages were hanged by him here; peasants and house serfs flocked to him in droves. He left the town on the 30th. The next day Mellin reached Saransk; he arrested Ensign Shakhmametev, who had been appointed commander by the pretender, as well as a number of other traitors from among the clergy and nobility, and ordered the common people to be lashed beneath the gallows.
Mikhelson set out from Arzamas to race after Pugachev. Muffel hurried from Simbirsk to meet him head-on, with Mellin following in his tracks. Thus three detachments were encircling the pretender. Prince Shcherbatov, impatiently waiting for the arrival of troops from Bashkiriia to reinforce the detachments already in action, intended to hurry after them himself; but on receiving the Empress's order of July 2, he handed over command to Golitsyn and left for Petersburg.
In the meanwhile Pugachev drew close to Penza. Vsevolozhskii, the regional administrator, managed to keep the rabble under control for a while, which gave the gentry an opportunity to escape. Pugachev appeared outside the city. The inhabitants came out to greet him with icons and bread, and knelt before him. He entered Penza. Vsevolozhskii, whose garrison had deserted, locked himself in his house with 12 noblemen, resolved to defend himself. The house was set on fire; the brave Vsevolozhskii and his comrades all perished; government buddings and noblemen's houses were plundered. Pugachev appointed a seignorial serf commander of the city and proceeded toward Saratov.
Hearing of the fall of Penza, the authorities at Saratov began taking measures.
Derzhavin was there at the time. As we have seen, he had been detached to the village of Malykovka in order to bar Pugachev's way in case he should flee toward the Irgiz. Having heard that Pugachev was negotiating with the Kirgiz Kaisaks, he set up a barrier between those peoples and the nomadic tribes roaming the region of the two Uzen rivers. Next he intended to liberate Iaitskii Gorodok, but General Mansurov anticipated him. At the end of July he arrived in Saratov, where his rank - Lieutenant of the Guards — his keen intelligence, and his ardent nature earned him considerable influence over public opinion.
On August I Derzhavin, together with the chief of the Board of Protection of Foreign Colonists, Lodyzhinskii, requested the military commander of Saratov, Boshniak, to hold consultations about measures to be taken under the circumstances. Derzhavin urged that the center of the city, around the state warehouses, be fortified and all government goods be transferred there; that the boats on the Volga be burned, batteries arrayed along the bank, and an offensive mounted against Pugachev. Boshniak would not hear of leaving his fortress, and proposed to hold out there, beyond the city. They argued, they raised their voices; Derzhavin, having lost his temper, proposed that the commander be put under arrest. Boshniak remained steadfast, repeating that he would not expose to plunder the fortress and holy churches of God entrusted to him. Derzhavin walked out and went to the city council, laying the motion before it that all the inhabitants to a man should report for digging at a place assigned by Lodyzhinskii. Boshniak complained, but no one listened to him. Derzhavin's vitriolic letter to the obstinate commander has been preserved as a memento of this dispute.
On August 4 word reached Saratov that Pugachev had set out from Penza and was approaching Petrovsk. Derzhavin requested a detachment of Don Cossacks, and rushed to Petrovsk to salvage government property, gunpowder, and cannon. As he drew close to the town, however, he heard bells ringing and saw the vanguard of the rebel forces marching into town, and the clergy coming out to greet the invaders with icons and bread. He rode on with a Cossack captain and two other Cossacks, but realizing there was nothing he could do, he galloped back toward Saratov with his three men. The rest of his detachment remained on the highway, waiting for Pugachev. The pretender, accompanied by his associates, rode up to the detachment. The Cossacks received him on their knees. Hearing them speak of an officer of the Guards, Pugachev immediately changed horses, seized a javelin, and chased after him with four Cossacks. He slew one of the Cossacks accompanying Derzhavin, but Derzhavin himself managed to get back to Saratov. The next day both he and Lodyzhinskii left the city, leaving its defense to the scorned Boshniak.
On August 5 Pugachev marched on Saratov. His army consisted of 300 Iaik Cossacks and 150 Don Cossacks - the latter having joined him the day before - as well as some 10,000 Kalmyks, Bashkirs, Tatar tributaries, seigniorial peasants, serfs, and other riffraff. About 2,000 were armed somehow or other; the rest marched with axes, pitchforks, and clubs. They had 13 fieldpieces.
On the 6th Pugachev approached Saratov and stopped at a distance of three versts from the city.
Boshniak detached some of Saratov's Cossacks to take a prisoner who might provide some information, but they defected to Pugachev. In the meanwhile the citizenry sent a secret emissary, the merchant Kobiakov, to the pretender with seditious proposals. The rebels rode right up to the fortress, engaging the garrison in conversation. Boshniak gave orders to fire at them. At that time, however, the citizens led by Major Protopopov openly defied his authority and confronting him, demanded that there be no hostilities until Kobiakov's return. Boshniak asked them how they had dared enter into negotiations with the pretender without his, Boshniak's, knowledge. They continued to wrangle. In the meanwhile Kobiakov returned with a manifesto inciting the people to riot. Boshniak snatched it from the traitor's hand, tore it up and trampled on it, and gave orders for Kobiakov's arrest. The merchants, however, pressed him with pleas and threats, so much so that he was forced to yield, and to release Kobiakov. Nevertheless, he made preparations for the city's defense. In the interim Pugachev occupied Sokolov Hill, overlooking Saratov, set up a battery there, and opened fire on the city. The first shot sent the inhabitants and the Cossacks stationed in the fortress scurrying in all directions. Boshniak gave orders to fire the mortar, but the shell dropped to the ground only 50 sazhens away. Going around to inspect his troops, he found dejection everywhere, but he did not lose heart. The rebels stormed the fortress. Boshniak opened fire and had already succeeded in driving the rebels back when suddenly 300 of his gunners pulled the wedges from under their cannon, snatched up the fuses, and ran out of the fortress to surrender. At this point Pugachev himself led an attack on the fortress from the hill. Boshniak decided to cut his way through the rebel hordes with one garrison battalion. He ordered Major Salmanov to sally forth with the first half of the battalion, but noticing the man's fright and suspecting him of treason, he removed him from command. However, when Major Butyrin interceded on Salmanov's behalf, Boshniak, once again showing weakness, agreed to leave Salmanov in his post after all. Turning to the second half of the battalion, Boshniak gave orders to unfold the banners and march out from behind the fortifications. At this moment Salmanov surrendered, and Boshniak was left with 60 soldiers, including his officers. The brave man sallied out of the fortress with this handful of followers and spent full six hours fighting his way through innumerable rebel hordes. Nightfall put an end to the fighting. Boshniak reached the bank of the Volga. What state funds and chancery papers he had on him he sent to Astrakhan by boat, and he himself managed to reach Tsaritsyn by August 11.
As soon as the rebels captured Saratov, they liberated prisoners, opened up the grain and salt warehouses, broke into the taverns, and plundered the houses. Pugachev hanged all the noblemen who fell into his hands, and forbade their burial. He appointed a Cossack lieutenant, Ufimtsev, local commander, and at noon on August 9 set out from Saratov. Muffel arrived in the ravaged city on the 11 th, Mikhelson on the 14 th. Joining forces, they hastened after Pugachev.
The pretender followed the course of the Volga. The foreigners who had settled in this region, mostly vagabonds and scoundrels, all joined his forces at the instigation of a Polish Confederate (not identified by name; certainly not Pulaski because he had already left Pugachev, disgusted by his bestial atrocities). Pugachev formed them into a hussar regiment. The Volga Cossacks also came over to his side.
Thus Pugachev mustered greater and greater forces by the day. His army already consisted of 20,000 men. His bands spread over the guberniias of Nizhnii Novgorod, Voronezh, and Astrakhan. The fugitive serf Evstigneev, also calling himself Peter III, took Insar, Troitsk, Narovchat, and Kerensk, hanged the regional administrators and the gentry, and set up his own administration everywhere. The bandit Firska marched on Simbirsk, and in the fray killed Colonel Rychkov, the successor of Chernyshev, who had perished near Orenburg at the beginning of the uprising. The garrison defected, but Simbirsk was saved by the arrival of Colonel Obernibesov. Firska engulfed the outlying areas in murder and plunder. Verkhne-Lomov and Nizhne-Lomov were ravaged and burned by other villains. The state of this whole huge region was horrifying. The nobility was doomed to extinction. The bodies of landowners or their stewards hung on the gates of manor houses in every village. The rebels and the detachments pursuing them confiscated the peasants' horses, supplies, and last belongings. Law and order were suspended everywhere. The simple people did not know whom to obey. If asked, "To whom do you swear, Petr Fedorovich or Ekaterina Alekseevna?," peaceable people dared not answer, not knowing to which side their questioners belonged.
On August 13 Pugachev approached Dmitrievsk (Kamyshin). He was countered by Major Dietz at the head of a 500-strong garrison, 1,000 Don Cossacks, and 500 Kalmyks under the command of Princes Dundukov and Derbetev. An engagement ensued. The Kalmyks scattered at the first cannon shot. The Cossacks fought bravely and were pressing close to the cannon, but when they found themselves cut off they surrendered. Dietz was killed. The garrison and all the cannon were captured. Pugachev pitched camp for the night on the battlefield; the next day he took Dubovka and moved on toward Tsaritsyn.
That well-fortified city was under the command of Colonel Tsypletev. The brave Boshniak had joined him. On August 21 Pugachev laid siege to Tsaritsyn with his usual daring. He was driven back with losses, and retreated to a distance of eight versts from the fortress. Fifteen hundred Don Cossacks were sent out against him, but of these only 400 came back: the rest had defected to his side.
The next day Pugachev made a new assault on the city, this time from the Volga side, but he was again repulsed by Boshniak. He also received news of the approach of government troops and hurriedly backed off toward Sarepta.
Mikhelson, Muffel, and Mellin arrived at Dubovka on the 20th, and entered Tsaritsyn on the 22d.
Pugachev fled along the Volga. On the riverbank he chanced on the astronomer Lowitz and asked him who he was. Hearing that Lowitz observed the movement of heavenly bodies, he ordered him hanged "as close to the stars as they could pull him." Lowitz's adjunct Inokhodtsev managed to escape.
Pugachev rested in Sarepta a full 24 hours, secluded in his tent with two concubines. His family was also at the camp. Then he set out toward Chernyi Iar. Mikhelson was on his heels. At length, at dawn on the 25 th he caught up with Pugachev 105 versts from Tsaritsyn.
The rebel forces occupied a hill between two roads. During the night Mikhelson went around them and positioned his troops facing them. In the morning Pugachev once again encountered his formidable pursuer, but he remained undaunted: he bravely fell on Mikhelson, throwing his pedestrian horde into combat against the Don and Chuguev Cossacks who had turned both his flanks. The engagement did not last long. A few cannon shots were enough to break the rebels' ranks. Mikhelson counterattacked. The rebels fled, leaving their cannon and the whole of their supply train behind. Pugachev, having crossed a bridge, tried to hold his men back, but all in vain: he had to flee with them. Mikhelson's troops butchered and pursued them for 40 versts. Pugachev lost some 4,000 men dead and 7,000 captured. The rest of his horde dispersed. Just above Chernyi Iar, 70 versts from the field of battle, he and his Cossacks, numbering no more than 30, crossed the Volga in four boats and entered the steppe. The cavalry chasing after them arrived a quarter of an hour late. Those of the fleeing rebels who had not managed to get into the boats plunged into the river, trying to swim across, but they drowned to a man.
This defeat was decisive and proved to be the last one. Count Panin, who had just arrived in Kerensk, was able to send the joyous news to Petersburg, paying full tribute in his report to Mikhelson for his speed, skill, and courage. In the meanwhile a new important personage appeared on the scene: Suvorov arrived in Tsaritsyn.
Bibikov was still alive when the State College, realizing the seriousness of the rebellion, had attempted to recall Suvorov, who was at the walls of Silistra at the time; but Count Rumiantsev refused to let him go, lest Europe attach too much significance to Russia's internal troubles. So great was Suvorov's fame! When the war came to an end, he received orders to proceed to Moscow immediately and report to Prince Volkonskii for further instructions. He joined Count Panin on his estate and reached Mikhelson's troops a few days after their last victory. He brought with him an order from Count Panin enjoining both the military leaders and the governors of the region to obey all his commands. He assumed command of Mikhelson's troops, mounted the infantry on the horses captured from Pugachev, and crossed the Volga at Tsaritsyn. In a village that had participated in the rebellion he confiscated 50 yoke of oxen as a punishment, and with this provision, plunged deep into the steppe, where neither wood nor water could be found, and where he had to orient himself by the sun during the day and by the stars at night.
Pugachev meandered about the same steppe. Troops were encircling him on all sides: Mellin and Muffel, who had also crossed the Volga, cut off the routes to the north; a light field detachment approached the rebel from the direction of Astrakhan; Prince Golitsyn and Mansurov barred the way to the Iaik; Dundukov was crisscrossing the steppe with his Kalmyks; patrol lines were set up from Gurev to Saratov and from Chernyi Iar to Krasnyi Iar. There was no way for Pugachev to slip through the net tightening around him. His followers, seeing inescapable doom on the one hand and hope for a pardon on the other, put their heads together and finally resolved to deliver him to the authorities.
Pugachev intended to head toward the Caspian Sea, hoping somehow to get through to the Kirgiz Kaisak steppes. The Cossacks pretended to agree, but, saying that they wished to take their wives and children with them, they drew him to the Uzen region - the usual refuge of criminals and fugitives. On September 14 they arrived at a settlement of Old Believers in that area. Here the Cossacks held their last council. Those not willing to surrender to the authorities dispersed; the others were to participate in delivering Pugachev.
Pugachev was sitting by himself, deep in thought. His weapons hung on the wall. Hearing the Cossacks enter, he raised his head and asked what they wanted. They started talking about their desperate situation, at the same time slowly moving closer in order to get between Pugachev and his weapons. Once more he tried to persuade them to go to Gurev. The Cossacks answered that they had been following him for a long time, and now it was time for him to follow them.
"What?" asked Pugachev. "Are you going to betray your Sovereign?"
"What else is there to do?" answered the Cossacks, throwing themselves on him. He managed to fight free. They drew back a few steps.
"I've been aware of your treason for a long time," said Pugachev. Then he called forth his favorite among them, the Ilek Cossack Tvorogov, and held his hands out to him: "Tie them!"
Tvorogov wanted to tie his arms behind his back, but Pugachev would not let him, asking angrily, "What am I? A bandit?" The Cossacks put him on a horse and led him to Iaitskii Gorodok. All along the way he threatened them with the Grand Duke's revenge. Once he managed to free his hands; he grabbed a sword and a pistol, wounded one of the Cossacks, and issued a command that the traitors be tied up. But nobody listened to him any more. The Cossacks rode up to Iaitskii Gorodok and sent word to the commandant. The Cossack Kharchev and Sergeant Bardovskii were dispatched to meet them; they took charge of Pugachev, put him in stocks, and had him carried into town, straight to Lieutenant Captain of the Guards Mavrin, who was a member of the investigating commission.
Mavrin interrogated the pretender. The latter revealed his true identity from the very beginning.
"It was God's will," he said, "to punish Russia through my devilry."
The citizens were ordered to gather in the town square, and all the rebels kept in irons were brought out; Mavrin led Pugachev forth and showed him to the people. Everyone recognized him; the rebels cast their eyes down. Pugachev started loudly implicating them, saying, "You were the ones who led me to ruin: you begged me for several days to assume the name of the late great Sovereign; I refused for a long time, and even after I agreed, I did everything according to your will and with your consent, while you often acted without my knowledge, and sometimes even against my will."
The rebels did not have one word to say.
In the interim Suvorov arrived in the Uzen region and learned from the hermits that Pugachev, tied up by his followers, had been carried off to Iaitskii Gorodok. Suvorov hurried after them. At night he lost his way and stumbled on the campfires that some Kirgiz freebooters had lit in the steppe. Suvorov set on them and chased them off, but not without losing some of his men, his adjutant Maksimovich among them. A few days later he arrived in Iaitskii Gorodok. Simonov handed Pugachev over to him. Suvorov questioned the famous rebel with curiosity about his military maneuvers and plans. He had him transported to Simbirsk, where Count Panin was due to arrive.
Pugachev sat in a wooden cage placed on a two-wheeled cart. A large detachment, supported by two pieces of artillery, surrounded him. Suvorov did not leave his side. In the village of Mosty (140 versts from Samara) a fire broke out close to the cottage where Pugachev was spending the night. He was taken out of the cage and tied to the cart, together with his son, a lively, bold little fellow. Suvorov himself guarded them all night. He crossed a choppy Volga on a stormy night from Samara to Kospore, and arrived in Simbirsk at the beginning of October.
The pretender was brought straight to the courtyard of the house occupied by Count Panin. The latter came out on the porch accompanied by his staff.
"Who are you?" he asked the pretender.
"Emelian Ivanov Pugachev" was the answer.
"How did you, jailbird, dare call yourself sovereign?"
"I'm no bird," responded Pugachev in an allegorical manner, which was customary with him. "I'm only a fledgling; the real bird is still flying about."
It should be mentioned that the Iaik rebels, in order to refute hearsay, had spread the rumor that though there had indeed been a certain Pugachev among them, this person had nothing to do with the Emperor Peter III who was commanding their forces. Noticing that Pugachev's bold reply had struck a responsive chord in the common people crowding around the courtyard, Panin beat him in the face till he bled and tore out a tuft of his beard. Pugachev raised himself on his knees and asked for mercy. He was placed under heavy guard, with his hands and feet in fetters and an iron loop, chained to the wall, fastened around his waist. The academician Rychkov, father of the murdered commandant of Simbirsk, saw him and left a record of their encounter. Pugachev was eating fish soup from a wooden bowl. Seeing Rychkov enter, he greeted him and asked him if he would like to share his dinner. "This," writes Rychkov, "revealed to me his base mind." Rychkov asked him how he had dared commit such crimes. Pugachev answered, "I am guilty before God and Her Majesty, but I will try to make amends for all my sins." And he added an oath to his words for greater emphasis ("revealing his base nature," Rychkov remarks again). Speaking about his son, Rychkov could not refrain from tears; Pugachev, looking at him, also burst into tears.
At last Pugachev was dispatched to Moscow, where his fate was to be decided. He was conveyed in a covered wagon driven by horses hired locally at each stage. His escorts were Captains Galakhov and Povalo-Shveikovskii - the latter having been his prisoner a few months before. He was kept in irons. The soldiers fed him with their own hands, and kept telling the children who crowded around his wagon, "Remember, children, you have seen Pugachev." Old people still tell stories about how boldly he responded to the questions of gentlemen passing him on the road. He was cheerful and calm all along the way. In Moscow he was met by a large crowd, which only recently had been impatiently awaiting his assault on the city and refrained from rebellion only because of the dreaded villain's arrest. He was kept at the Moscow Mint, where from morning till night, for two whole months, the curious could see the famous rebel, chained to the wall and still frightening even in his harmless state. It is said that many women fainted on meeting his fiery glance and hearing his menacing voice. Before the court, on the other hand, he betrayed an unexpected weakness of spirit. He had to be prepared gradually to hear his death sentence. He and Perfilev were condemned to be quartered; Chika to be beheaded; Shigaev, Padurov, and Tornov to be hanged; and another 18 men to be flogged and exiled into penal servitude. The execution of Pugachev and his followers took place in Moscow on January 10, 1775. From early morning an immense crowd stood gathered on the Boloto Square, where a tall scaffold had been erected. The executioners sat on the scaffold, drinking wine while they waited for their victims. Three gallows stood next to the scaffold. Infantry regiments were lined up on all sides. The officers wore fur coats because of the severe cold. The roofs of neighboring houses and stores were covered with people; the low-lying square and the adjacent streets were full of carriages and barouches. Suddenly a wave of stirring and clamor passed over the crowd; people shouted, "They're bringing him! They're bringing him!" Behind a detachment of cuirassiers came a sled with a tall platform where Pugachev sat, his head bare, facing a priest. An official of the secret commission also rode on the sled. As he was being driven along, Pugachev kept bowing to both sides. Some more cavalry followed; then came, in a group, the other convicted men. An eyewitness (then barely more than an adolescent, now a venerable old man, crowned with the fame of both poet and statesman) described the bloody spectacle in the following words:
The sled halted before the steps leading up to the place of execution. Pugachev and his favorite Cossack Perfilev, accompanied by a priest and two officials, had hardly mounted the scaffold when the command "Present arms!" was heard, and one of the officials began reading the sentence. I could hear almost every word.
When the official read the chief villain's name and full identification, including the name of the village where he had been born, the chief of police asked him in a loud voice:
"Are you the Don Cossack Emelka Pugachev?"
"Yes, sir, I am Emelka Pugachev, Don Cossack from the village of Zimoveiskaia," he answered in an equally loud voice.
Afterwards, all through the reading of the sentence, he fixed his gaze on the cathedral and frequently crossed himself, while Perfilev, a man of considerable height with stoop shoulders, a pockmarked face, and a fierce countenance, stood motionless, looking at the ground. When the reading of the sentence was over, the priest addressed a few words to them, blessed them, and descended from the scaffold. The official who had read the sentence followed suit. Pugachev, crossing himself, bowed to the ground facing the cathedral; then, with a hurried air, he turned to the crowd to say farewell, and bowed to all sides, uttering in a breaking voice:
"Farewell, Orthodox people: forgive me if I have trespassed against you; farewell, true believers!"
At this moment the executioner gave a signal, and the headsmen rushed on Pugachev to undress him: they pulled off his white sheepskin coat and started tearing at the sleeves of his crimson silk caftan. He clasped his hands and fell backwards, and a minute later a head dripping with blood was raised high.
The executioner had received secret orders to cut short the suffering of the condemned. The headsmen cut off the corpse's arms and legs and carried them to the four corners of the scaffold; it was in fact only after this that they displayed the head, stuck on the end of a long stake. Perfilev, making a sign of the cross, prostrated himself on the floor and remained motionless. The headsmen lifted him up and executed him the same way as Pugachev. In the meanwhile Shigaev, Padurov, and Tornov were already in their last convulsions on the gallows. The jingle of a bell was heard: Chika was being driven to Ufa, where his execution was to take place. Then the lesser punishments were meted out and the crowd dispersed; only a small group of the curious remained around the post to which those sentenced to be flogged were being tied one after the other. The chief rebels' severed limbs were taken around to the city gates, and a few days later were burned together with their torsos. The executioners scattered the ashes to the winds. Those rebels who were granted pardon were lined up before the Granovitaia Palace the day after the executions. The amnesty was announced to them, and their shackles were taken off in front of the people.
Thus ended the rebellion that had begun at the instigation of a handful of disobedient Cossacks, had intensified due to the inexcusable negligence of the authorities, and had rocked the foundations of the state from Siberia to Moscow and from Kuban to the Murom Forest. Complete tranquility could not be restored for a long time. Panin and Suvorov stayed in the pacified guberniias a whole year, bolstering weakened local administrations, rebuilding cities and forts, and eradicating the last remnants of the subdued rebellion. At the end of 1775 a general amnesty was announced, and it was decreed that the whole matter should be consigned to eternal oblivion. Catherine, wishing to obliterate the memory of the terrible epoch, stripped of its ancient name the river whose banks had first witnessed the insurgence. The Iaik Cossacks were renamed Ural Cossacks, and their town became Uralsk. But the name of the dreaded rebel still resounds in the regions where he wrought havoc. People still clearly remember the bloody epoch that they aptly call Pugachevshchina.
|Бібліотека ім. О. С. Пушкіна (м. Київ).