The Khodynka Tragedy (Russian: Ходынская трагедия) 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 Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II, which resulted in the deaths of 1,389 people.
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 of one 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 everybody was to receive were a bread roll, a piece of sausage, pretzels, gingerbread and a commemorative cup.
At about 6 o'clock in the morning of the celebration day, several thousand people (estimates reached 500,000) 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 crowd crush and resulting panic to flee the scene, 1,389 people were trampled to death, and roughly 1,300 were otherwise injured. Most of the victims were trapped in the 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.
Emperor Nicholas and Empress Alexandra were informed of the tragedy, but not immediately. A festive ball had been scheduled that night at the French embassy to Russia. Nicholas, under the circumstances, thought it best not to attend. His uncles, however, still wielded influence at court, and considered it worse for him not to attend, and to offend the French, than for him to appear callous towards the Russian people. Nicholas, therefore, attended the ball regardless. The following day, the Emperor and his new bride visited hospitalized victims of the stampede.
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 in Russia. The Emperor's uncle, 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". The fact that the court had declared mourning over the death of Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria a few days prior, but there was none over the deaths of 1,300 ordinary Russians, sent the wrong message.
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 1/2 hours before the report by [minister of war] Vannovski; a disgusting impression was left by this news. At 12 1/2 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
- Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film, (London: George Allen and unwin Ltd., 1960), 19.
- "Timelines.com". 17 October 2010.
"Трагедия на Ходынском поле" [The tragedy on the Khodynka Field]. ИМПЕРАТОР НИКОЛАЙ II. Omsk State University. Retrieved 2016-07-05.
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".]
- Memories of Alexei Volkov on the Khodynka Tragedy—view from inside the palace