The first signs of plague in Moscow appeared in late 1770, which would turn into a major epidemic in the spring of 1771. The measures undertaken by the authorities, such as creation of forced quarantines, destruction of contaminated property without compensation or control, closing of public baths, etc., caused fear and anger among the citizens. The city’s economy was mostly paralyzed because many factories, markets, stores, and administrative buildings had been closed down.

Plague Trivia: Moscow Plague and Riot 1771
Plague Trivia: Moscow Plague and Riot 1771

All of this was followed by acute food shortages, causing deterioration of living conditions for the majority of the Muscovites. Dvoryane (Russian nobility) and well-off city dwellers left Moscow due to the plague outbreak. On the morning of September 17, 1771, around 1,000 people gathered at the Spasskiye gates again, demanding the release of captured rebels and elimination of quarantines. The army managed to disperse the crowd yet again and finally suppressed the riot. Some 300 people were brought to trial. A government commission headed by Grigory Orlov was sent to Moscow on September 26 to restore order. It took some measures against the plague and provided citizens with work and food, which would finally pacify the people of Moscow.

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