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Moscow fire and protest, 1547

Yury V. Bosin

Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Place Eastern Europe » Russia

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1500-1599

Key-Topics elite, representation, revolution, riots

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.01041.x


A major protest broke out against Ivan IV following a large fire that engulfed the city of Moscow over two days in June 1547, killing 4,000 people and displacing many residents. Rumor spread among the urban dwellers that the Glinskiy family, a noble clan in the tsar's entourage, was responsible for setting the fire. Some 42 years earlier, in 1505, Anna Glinskaya, Ivan IV's grandmother, whom many thought had the capacity to transform herself into a bird, was strangled for witchcraft. According to popular mythology, Muscovites believed that on June 21 Anna metamorphosed into a bird, spilling blood that set the city alight. This deep-seated superstition fueled popular protests for the execution of Glinskiy family members. On June 28, in a failed effort to calm the discontent, the Glinskiy family invited protesters to a liturgical mass at the Assumption Cathedral on the Kremlin grounds, the site of the imperial compound. The tactic failed just as the uprising was reaching its climax: the masses sacked Glinskiy mansions, killing members of the family. On June 29, insurgents rushed to the Sparrow Hills on the outskirts of Moscow, where 17-year-old Tsar Ivan had gone to escape the fire. The view of a huge crowd scared Ivan, who was forced to give generous promises to pacify the protesters. The riot lost momentum and ended in early July. Intimidated by the scope of the rebellion, Ivan instituted ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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