Khodynka Tragedy

Coordinates: 55°47′14″N 37°31′52″E / 55.78722°N 37.53111°E / 55.78722; 37.53111
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Khodynka Tragedy
A victim of the crush
Date30 May 1896
LocationKhodynka Field, Moscow, Russian Empire
Non-fatal injuries1,200–20,000[1][2]

The Khodynka Tragedy (Russian: Ходынская трагедия) was a crowd crush that occurred on 30 May [O.S. 18 May] 1896, on Khodynka Field in Moscow, Russia. The crush happened during the festivities after the coronation of the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II. While 1,282 corpses were collected from the scene,[1] injury estimates range widely from 1,200 to 20,000.[1][2]


Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra were crowned Emperor and Empress 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 a town square, theatres, 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 began to gather in anticipation. The gifts which everyone was to receive were a bread roll, a sausage, pretzels, gingerbread and a commemorative cup.[citation needed]


At about 6 o'clock on the morning of the celebration day, several thousand people (estimates reached 500,000[3]) were already gathered on the field. Rumours spread among the people that there were 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 a catastrophic crowd crush occurred.[citation needed]

Death toll[edit]

A total of 1,282 corpses were collected from the scene, and the injured numbered between 9,000 and 20,000, according to different estimates.[1] Another commonly cited figure reports "more than 2,600 casualties, including 1,389 deaths".[2]

Most of the victims were trapped in a ditch and were trampled or suffocated there. Despite the tragedy, the program of festivities continued as planned elsewhere on the large field, with many people unaware of what had happened. The Emperor and Empress made an appearance in front of the crowds on the balcony of the Tsar's Pavilion in the middle of the field around 2 p.m. By that time, the traces of the incident had been cleaned up.

Tsar's response[edit]

The parties, receptions and balls after the Coronation were darkened by the catastrophe at Khondinka [sic], where 2,000 people were crushed to death. The same day as the catastrophe, I was taking a walk along the Khondinka [sic] 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[4]

A festive ball had been scheduled that night at the French embassy. When Nicholas heard of the stampede, "he did not display the slightest emotion and that night attended a ball given in his honor".[5] Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich warned the tsar not to go to the French ball, but Nicholas II attended nonetheless. Li Hongzhang, China's Imperial Commissioner on a European tour, was the most notable witness. Li was amused and said a Chinese emperor would not have attended the ball.[1]

The government distributed a large amount of aid to the families of the dead, and a number of minor officials were dismissed. The negligence and the tone-deaf response of the imperial authorities, however, caused further public indignation. "The radiant smile on the face of Grand Duke Sergei prompted foreigners to remark that the Romanovs lacked judgment," Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich wrote.[6] Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, then Governor-General of Moscow, became known as "the Prince of Khodynka" and the Emperor received the nickname of "Nicholas the Bloody".[7]

19th of May. Saturday. Until now, everything was going, thank God, like clockwork, but today there was a great mishap. The crowd staying overnight at Khodynka, awaiting the start of the distribution of lunch and mugs pushed against buildings and there was a terrible crush, and awful to say trampled around 1300 people!! I found out about it at 10+12 hours before the report by [minister of war] Vannovski; a disgusting impression was left by this news. At 12+12 we had lunch and then Alix [Czarina] and I went to Khodynka to be present at this sad "national holiday." Actually there was nothing going on: we looked from the pavilion at the huge crowd that surrounded the stage from which the orchestra played all the time the anthem and "Glory." Went to Petrovsky [palace], where at the gate I received several delegations and then entered the yard. Here dinner was served under four tents for all township heads. I had to make a speech, and then another for the assembled marshals of the nobility. After going around the table, we left for the Kremlin. Dinner at Mama's at 8. Went to the ball at [French ambassador] Montebello's. It was very nicely arranged, but the heat was unbearable. After dinner, left at 2.

— From the diary of Emperor Nicholas II[8]


Leo Tolstoy was so moved by the tragedy that he wrote the epic tale "Khodynka: An Incident of the Coronation of Nicholas II".


  1. ^ a b c d e f Ferro, Marc (1991). Nicholas II: Last of the Tsars. Translated by Pearce, Brian. Harmondsworth: Viking UK. pp. 37–38. A total of 1,282 corpses were collected from the scene, and the injured numbered between 9,000 and 20,000, according to different estimates. Translated from French: Ferro, Marc (1990). Nicholas II. Paris: Payot.
  2. ^ a b c Anan'ich, Boris V.; Ganelin, Rafail Sh. (1995). "Nicholas II". Russian Studies in History. 34 (3): 72. doi:10.2753/RSH1061-1983340368. resulted in more than 2,600 casualties, including 1,389 deaths
  3. ^ Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, (London: George Allen and unwin Ltd., 1960), 19.
  4. ^ "". 17 October 2010. Archived from the original on 17 July 2011. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
  5. ^ Price, Kent de (1966). Diary of Nicholas II, 1917–1918, an annotated translation. University of Montana (Thesis). p. 31. Archived from the original on 8 November 2019.
  6. ^ Aleksandr Mikhailovich. Kniga vospominunii, vol. 2, Paris, 1933, p. 174. As cited in Anan'ich, Boris V.; Ganelin, Rafail Sh. (1995). "Nicholas II". Russian Studies in History. 34 (3): 72. doi:10.2753/RSH1061-1983340368.
  7. ^ "Трагедия на Ходынском поле" [The tragedy on the Khodynka Field]. ИМПЕРАТОР НИКОЛАЙ II. Omsk State University. Retrieved 5 July 2016. Сергей Александрович с тех пор получил в народе титул "князя Ходынского", а Николай II стал именоваться «Кровавым». [Sergei Aleksandrovich was thenceforth called the "Prince of Khodynka" amongst the people, while Nicholas II known as called "Nicholas the Bloody".]
  8. ^ "Дневник Николая II".

Further reading[edit]

  • Baker, Helen. "Monarchy discredited? Reactions to the Khodynka coronation catastrophe of 1896." Revolutionary Russia 16.1 (2003): 1–46.

External links[edit]

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