Khodynka Tragedy

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For other uses, see Khodynka (disambiguation).
Victim of the stampede

The Khodynka Tragedy was a human stampede that occurred on 30 May [O.S. 18 May] 1896, on Khodynka Field in Moscow, Russia during the festivities following the coronation of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II, which resulted in the deaths of 1,389 people.

Events[edit]

People gathered at Khodynka

Nicholas II was crowned Tsar of Russia on 26 May [O.S. 14 May] 1896. Four days later, a banquet was going to be held for the people at Khodynka Field. In the area of one town square, theaters, 150 buffets for distribution of gifts, and 20 pubs were built for the celebrations. Near the celebration square was a field that had a ravine and many gullies. On the evening of 29 May, people who had heard rumours of coronation gifts from the tsar began to gather in anticipation. The gifts which everybody was to receive were a bread roll, a piece of sausage, pretzels, gingerbread, and a cup. (Khodynka actually took place on May 30th/18th, four days after the coronation).

At about 5 o'clock in the morning of the celebration day, several thousand people (estimates reached 500,000[1]) were already gathered on the field. Rumours spread among the people that there was not enough beer or pretzels for everybody, and that the enamel cups contained a gold coin. A police force of 1,800 men failed to maintain civil order, and in a catastrophic crush and resulting panic to flee the scene, 1,389 people were trampled to death, and roughly 1,300 were otherwise injured. [2]

Aftermath[edit]

An Orthodox church on Khodynka Field commemorating the incident

The parties, receptions and balls following the Coronation were darkened by the catastrophe at Khondinka, where 2,000 people were crushed to death. The same day as the catastrophe, I was taking a walk along the Khondinka and I met many groups of people coming back from that site and carrying the Tsar's gifts. The strange thing, though, was that not one person mentioned the catastrophe, and I did not hear about it until the next morning, at the Governor General's palace, where General Prefect of Police Vlasovski brought a special report. Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich was very depressed by what had happened; he gave Vlasovski orders to return to him every hour with detailed reports on the progress of the investigation into the causes of the disaster.

Alexei Volkov[2]

Nicholas and Alexandra were informed about the tragedy, but not immediately. The new Tsar and his wife spent the remainder of the celebration day visiting people who had been hospitalized as a result of the stampede. A festive ball was to be held that night at the French embassy to Russia. Nicholas thought it best not to attend, because it would make him appear he had no grief over the loss of his subjects. However, the younger brothers of Tsar Alexander III still wielded much influence over the court, and Nicholas' uncles said that not attending the ball would be a slap in the face of Paris, which could be even worse for him than to appear uncaring about the Russian people. Despite the deaths, Nicholas attended the ball for diplomatic reasons.

A large amount of government aid was given to the families of the dead, and a number of minor officials were dismissed. In the aftermath of the accident, the negligence of the imperial authorities caused further public indignation in Russia. Mystics had prophesied that Nicholas' refusal to decline the invitation to the coronation ball would lead to his doom. Konstantin Balmont wrote in 1907 that "Who started his reign with Khodynka, will finish it by mounting the scaffold".

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, (London: George Allen and unwin Ltd., 1960), 19.
  2. ^ a b "Timelines.com". 17 October 2010. 

Coordinates: 55°47′14″N 37°31′52″E / 55.78722°N 37.53111°E / 55.78722; 37.53111