Military Review

Moscow fire of 1611


Prince Pozharsky led the militia. Chromolithograph by T. Krylov picture. 1910

How the First Militia was born

Moscow patriots have established contact with the residents of Smolensk and Nizhny Novgorod. After the Battle of Klushino, part of the Smolensk nobility, in order to save their estates, entered the service of the Polish king. However, their stay in the royal camp brought them severe disappointment. The Poles plundered their possessions, took people prisoner. They could not get justice from Sigismund. They reported their troubles to Moscow. They wrote a whole story about it. In January 1611, a Moscow messenger brought the story of the sufferings of the Smolyans to Nizhny Novgorod, as well as an appeal from the residents of Moscow. The patriots urged the residents of Nizhny Novgorod not to believe the traitor boyars and to start fighting against foreign invaders.

The zemstvo movement grew and widened ("We must choose a tsar for ourselves, free from the Russian clan"). More and more cities refused to submit to the Seven Boyars. The Duma called on Sigismund to send new troops to fight the opposition. The Polish army was bound by the siege of Smolensk. Therefore, the Polish king sent ataman Nalivaiko with the Cherkasy (Cossacks) to Moscow. They had to walk through the Kaluga, Tula and Ryazan places. The Moscow government sent governor Sunbulov to Ryazan. He was supposed to join forces with Nalivaiko and defeat Lyapunov's forces. In December 1610, the Cossacks burned Aleksin and began to threaten Tula. The Cossacks divided their forces: Nalivaiko remained near Tula, and other atamans went to the Ryazan region to unite with Sunbulov.

Ryazan became the center of the uprising against the Seven Boyars. The local townspeople and the nobles were the first to respond to the call of Prokopiy Lyapunov. But the leaders of the uprising hesitated with the collection of rati, not expecting an enemy attack. In winter, Lyapunov left for his estate on the Pron River. The agents of the Semboyarshchyna discovered this and informed Sunbulov, who moved to the Prone places. Lyapunov managed to take refuge in the ancient Ryazan fortress of Pronsk. There were about 200 soldiers under his command. Sunbulov's warriors and the Cossacks laid siege to Pronsk. Finding himself in a difficult situation, Procopius sent out messengers asking for help. Zaraysk voivode Dmitry Pozharsky was the first to respond. He set out for Pronsk, on the way he was joined by detachments from Kolomna and Ryazan. The appearance of a significant army in the rear frightened Sunbulov, he retreated without accepting the battle. Prince Dmitry, having liberated Pronsk, solemnly entered Ryazan. The people enthusiastically greeted the warriors.

This is how the First Zemstvo Militia was born.

Unification of Ryazan and Kaluga

The inhabitants of Zaraysk asked the governor to return. Pozharsky returned to Zaraisk.

Sunbulov, leaving the Ryazan region, decided to punish Zaraisk on the way to Moscow. However, he miscalculated his strength. Zaraisk was well fortified. The stone detinets could withstand any siege, and Prince Dmitry defended him. Approaching the city at night, Sunbulov's troops occupied the posad. But at dawn Pozharsky led his troops into the attack, he was supported by the townspeople. The enemy fled. Sunbulov left for Moscow. Cossacks - to the border. Pozharsky's victories near Pronsk and Zaraisk were the first successes of the militia and inspired the rebels.

After the death of the impostor, obstacles fell on the path of uniting forces that fought against the boyar government and foreigners. The attack by Sunbulov and Nalivaiko showed the need for a military alliance between Ryazan and Kaluga. Pozharsky defeated the enemy in Zaraysk, ataman Zarutsky ousted the Cherkassians from near Tula.

The Ryazan uprising became an example for the whole of Russia.

The ground for the explosion was prepared long ago. In a vast area from Severshchina to Kazan in the east and Vologda in the north of the city, one after another, they announced the support of the zemstvo militia. Posad worlds refused to recognize the authority of the boyar government, which cooperated with the Poles. In a number of cities, the resistance was led by local governors.

In other cities, for example, in Kazan, the people revolted and overthrew the proteges of the Boyar Duma. In Kazan, there were more archers and other servicemen than the townspeople. There was a large rifle garrison in the city - three orders. The Kazan world in December 1610 sent a clerk Evdokimov to the capital. He was unable to establish contact with the patriarch Hermogenes or the local resistance. But the clerk's stories about the actions of the Polish invaders in Moscow made a stunning impression on the citizens of Kazan. The people revolted. The world vowed to fight the Lithuanian people to death and recognized the power of False Dmitry II (Kazan did not yet know about his death). Local voivode Bogdan Belsky went against the world and was killed.

In Murom, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Vladimir, the performances were held peacefully. In January 1611, the citizens of Nizhny Novgorod informed Lyapunov that, on the advice of the whole land and the blessing of the patriarch, they were going to liberate Moscow from the apostate boyars and Lithuanian people. Voivode Mosalsky came to help Nizhny from Murom with a detachment of nobles and Cossacks. Lyapunov sent his people to Nizhny, led by Birkin, to work out a general plan of action.

Hike to Moscow

The Boyar Duma initially had an advantage in strength. However, when Gonsevsky began to send his people to "feed" from the cities, the situation changed radically. The cities revolted. And the boyars did not have troops to bring them into submission. At the end of winter, the Duma was able to collect several regiments and sent them to Vladimir. The boyars wanted to disrupt the gathering of the militia on the outskirts of Moscow and ensure the supply of food from the Vladimir-Suzdal land. The residents of Vladimir managed to inform Lyapunov about this. He sent a detachment to the rear of the boyar Kurakin coming from Moscow. On February 11, 1611, Kukin tried to destroy the detachments of Izmailov and Prosovetsky near Vladimir. However, the boyar troops fought without enthusiasm and, at the first failure, fled.

Lyapunov more than once announced the beginning of the campaign against Moscow, but each time he postponed it. Boyar troops controlled Kolomna, a well-fortified fortress that covered the capital from Ryazan. The Duma managed to occupy the fortress with loyal troops. Only when a detachment of the former boyar impostor Ivan Pleshcheev with the Cossacks left in the vicinity of Kolomna, the situation changed. Local residents went over to the side of the rebels. With their support, the Cossacks occupied Kolomna. Learning about the fall of Kolomna, Lyapunov ordered to transport the cannons and a collapsible wooden fortress - walk-gorod - there. After the capture of Kolomna, the militia won another important victory. The Seven Boyars was holding another important fortress on the outskirts of Moscow - Serpukhov. However, as soon as the Polish mercenaries left there, the townspeople revolted. Zarutsky sent Cossacks to help, and Lyapunov sent Ryazan and Vologda riflemen.

Having entrenched himself on the near approaches to Moscow, Lyapunov urged detachments from Vladimir, Nizhny and Kazan to go to Kolomna in order to unite with the Ryazan militia. Detachments from Kaluga, Tula and Severshchina were to launch an offensive from Serpukhov. However, this plan was never implemented. Zamoskovye governors did not want to gather in Kolomna. They did not trust the former "thieves' Cossacks" of False Dmitry II. Moreover, they did not want to leave their cities without garrisons. Prince Kurakin received reinforcements from Moscow and was located between the Vladimir and Pereyaslavl roads. Only in March 1611, the Zemstvo militia from Pereyaslavl defeated the advanced forces of Kurakin and forced him to retreat to Moscow. The threat to the towns of Moscow was eliminated.

As a result, each voivode led his detachment on his own path. Lyapunov made a speech with Ryazan on March 3, 1611. The Vladimir governor Izmailov with the ataman Prosovetsky, with the citizens of Nizhny Novgorod and Murom left in a week. The Yaroslavl and Kostroma militias set out almost in mid-March.

Moscow uprising

Meanwhile, the situation in Moscow continued to escalate. The influence of the boyar government steadily declined not only in the country, but also in the capital itself. Boyars and Poles felt confident only in the central parts of the city - the Kremlin and Kitai-Gorod. They occupied a very small part of the capital. At the top of the Kremlin hill were palace buildings, cathedrals, a metropolitan house, two monasteries, the courtyard of Mstislavsky and several other boyars. On the "hem", under the mountain, there were houses of clerks and service people. The Kremlin was the center of supreme power. Kitay-gorod is a shopping center in Moscow. Noblemen and wealthy townspeople, mostly merchants, lived here. Shopping arcades and warehouses occupied a significant area. The overwhelming majority of the population lived in the White and Wooden (Earthen) cities, which occupied a huge territory.

The Duma issued a decree on the seizure weapons from Muscovites. The soldiers took away not only squeaks and sabers, but axes and knives. Those who violated the ban were executed. At the city outposts, the guards carefully searched the carts. Weapons were often found, they were taken to the Kremlin, and the driver was drowned in the river. The executions, however, did not help. In March, when the zemstvo militias had already advanced to Moscow, the capital world was preparing to oppose the boyars and foreigners. Patriotic circles were preparing for an uprising. Warriors secretly arrived in the city, brought weapons. The archers returned to the capital at night. The townspeople willingly hid them at home. Having changed into city dress, the warriors got lost in the street crowd. The neighborhoods, densely populated by artisans and urban poor, as well as the streltsy settlements, became the main centers of fermentation in the capital.

Palm Sunday came on March 17, 1611. This church holiday gathered in the city large masses of people from the surrounding villages and villages. The head of the Polish garrison, Gonsewski, was afraid of a large crowd of people and ordered to ban the holiday.

Mstislavsky did not dare to carry out this instruction. He was afraid of an explosion of popular hatred and the fact that he would be called a servant of foreign atheists. To the festive chime of hundreds of bells, Hermogenes left the Kremlin at the head of the festive ceremony. Usually the king himself walked and led the donkey, on which the head of the church sat. This time he was replaced by a nobleman who replaced the prince Vladislav. The whole festive procession followed them. Muscovites out of habit congratulated each other. But the city was on the verge of exploding. In the Kremlin and Kitay-gorod, horse and foot companies of mercenaries stood in full combat readiness. And the people in the White City and the suburbs did not hide their hatred for the traitor boyars and the godless "Lithuania".

In such a situation, an ordinary quarrel could result in a large-scale uprising. A crowd of townspeople closed the narrow streets on Kulishki. At this time, a wagon train drove out of the city gates into the street. The armed servants began to push the Muscovites aside, clearing the way. Excited Muscovites responded with stakes. The wagon servant fled. The boyars sent their people, they were met with abuse and threats, and they hurried to retreat.

On the morning of March 19, Mstislavsky, Saltykov and Gonsevsky began to prepare the inner fortresses for the siege. Additional weapons were installed on the walls. Ordinary people did not skimp on ridicule and abuse in relation to "Lithuania". Near the Water Gate, the Poles decided to attract cab drivers to the hard work, they refused to help the soldiers. The mercenaries tried to force them. A fight broke out, which quickly escalated into a massacre. The cabbies deftly wielded with shafts, but could not resist firearms and sabers. Many Russians were killed.

Moscow fire of 1611
Chinatown on the plan (1638) by Matthäus Merian highlighted in yellow


Gonsevsky first wanted to end the carnage, but then waved his hand. Like, let the mercenaries finish the job they started. The skirmish turned into a battle. Polish companies went on the offensive. The mercenaries stabbed and hacked everyone they met.

The massacre in Kitai-Gorod prompted a response in the White and Earthen City. Thousands of Muscovites took up arms. The uprising of the townspeople was supported by the archers. The Poles tried to "restore order" in the White City, but ran into strong resistance. As soon as the enemy appeared on the street, the townspeople immediately erected barricades from improvised means. Everyone, young and old, got to work, carried bundles of firewood, threw away tables, benches, barrels, turned out logs. The Polish cavalry could not overcome the rubble. The streets were narrow, the riders were showered with stones, they tried to reach them with poles and lances, they fired from windows and from roofs. In several places the townspeople even got guns and put them on the streets. "Lithuania" rolled back to Kitay-Gorod and the Kremlin. Her place was taken by German mercenaries.

At this time, Prince Dmitry Pozharsky was in Moscow. Apparently, he headed one of the advanced militia detachments that were already reaching Moscow. He arrived in the city to assess the situation and prepare an uprising. If the attack of the militia had been supported by the uprising inside the city, then the fate of the Seven Boyars and the occupiers would have been decided.

However, the uprising began spontaneously, the main forces of the militia had not yet approached Moscow. Nevertheless, Pozharsky tried to organize the rebels. On March 19 he was on Sretenka near the Lubyanka in his mansion. When the carnage began, the voivode went to the nearest streltsy settlement. Gathering the archers and townspeople, the prince gave battle to the enemy, who appeared on Sretenka near the Vvedenskaya church. Then he led his people to the Pushkar order. The gunners rebelled and brought several guns with them. The mercenaries had to retreat along Sretenka to Kitai-Gorod.

Many thousands of townspeople took up arms. Strelets' settlements became the main centers of resistance. Against the Ilyinsky Gate, the archers were led by Ivan Buturlin. An attempt by the Poles to break into the eastern part of the White City failed. Buturlin's people fought back on Kulishki and did not let the enemy go to the Yauz gate. Streletsky settlements on Tverskaya Street did not allow the companies that were trying to break into the western quarters. The soldiers did not reach the Tverskaya Gate and retreated. In Zamoskvorechye, the rebels were led by Ivan Koltovsky. The rebels erected high barricades near the floating bridge and fired at the Kremlin's Water Gate.

The soldiers were completely defeated in the White City. The fury of the Muscovites was boundless. They threatened to sweep all obstacles out of the way. Seeing no other means, how to escape, Gonsevsky ordered to set fire to Zamoskvorechye and the White City. Russian chronicles report that Saltykov suggested the decision to set fire to Moscow to Gonsevsky. Boyarin led the battle at his courtyard. When the rebels began to overpower him, Saltykov ordered to set fire to the estate so that no one would get his goods. A fire started. The rebels retreated. Assessing Saltykov's "success", Gonsevsky ordered the whole city to be set on fire.

True, the Poles were not able to do this right away. The winter was long, the frosts lasted until the end of March. The Moskva River was covered with ice, there was snow everywhere. The soldiers could not set fire to the frozen logs of fences and houses. As one of the torchbearers recalled, each building was set on fire several times, but in vain, the houses did not burn. In the end, the efforts of the arsonists paid off. The city as a whole was made of wood. Soon, whole neighborhoods were engulfed in flames. The Muscovites had to stop fighting and put all their strength into fighting the fire.

The terrible fire helped the Poles break the resistance of the townspeople on Kulishki and at the Tverskiye Vorota. The wind drove the flames into the White City. The soldiers of Gonsevsky followed the fiery barrage. Only in the Lubyanka did the “Lithuania” fail to gain the upper hand. Here Pozharsky continuously attacked the enemy until he "trampled" him into Kitai-Gorod. The Poles did not dare to leave the walls.


At night, the advanced detachments of the militia entered Zamoskvorechye. The news of their arrival spread throughout the capital. All night long the rebels were preparing for a new battle. The warriors gathered on Sretenka and in Chertolye. Thousands of archers gathered under the walls of the Kremlin at the Chertolsky Gate. The square was covered with barricades. In the morning, the boyars suggested that the rebels stop their resistance and lay down their arms. Their proposals were met with abuse. The boyars and their servants chose to leave. While they were distracting the attention of the insurgents, the Poles and Germans, across the ice of the Moskva River, went into the rear of the archers who were defending themselves in Chertolye. The enemy set fire to buildings that were adjacent to the barricades. The archers, cut off from their wall of fire, fought to the death with the Germans, but could not hold the position.

The Boyar Duma, which knew the situation in the capital better, proposed to strike the main blow at Zamoskvorechye in order to break through the ring of rebellious suburbs and clear the way for the king's troops coming from Mozhaisk. Gonsevsky ordered to set fire to Zamoskvorechye. The soldiers set fire to the walls of the Wooden City. From the walls, the fire spread to the adjacent neighborhoods. The Strusy regiment was able to break into the city center and linked up with Gonsevsky.

Meanwhile, the fire was growing. On the first day, a small part of the city burned down. On the second day, the weather was windy. The fight died down. One of the lieutenants recalled:

None of us managed to fight the enemy that day; the flames devoured houses one after another, fanned by a fierce wind, it drove the Russians, and we slowly followed them, constantly increasing the fire, and only in the evening did we return to the Kremlin.

Retreating before the fire element, the militia units, together with the population, left Zamoskvorechye. Fearing no longer an attack from the south, Gonsevsky renewed his attacks in the White City. On Kulishki, his soldiers moved forward quickly. But on Sretenka, Muscovites erected a fortification near the Vvedenskaya Church. To break the resistance of the enemy, the Poles transferred reinforcements here. The Poles broke into the prison. Most of his defenders were killed. In a fierce battle, Prince Pozharsky was seriously wounded. He, barely alive, was able to take out of the city. Moscow burned for several more days. At night it was as bright as day. The sight of the dying city reminded contemporaries of hell. On the fourth day of the fire, barely a third of the city remained. Thousands of people died, others were left without housing and livelihood.

Gonsevsky received news of the appearance of militia forces on the Vladimir road and ordered the eastern part of the city to be set on fire in order to prevent the enemy from establishing himself there. On March 21, the detachments of Ataman Prosovetsky, the regiments of Izmailov, Mosalsky and Repnin entered the outskirts of Moscow. Waiting for the approach of the main forces of the militia with Lyapunov, the warriors decided to gain a foothold 7 versts from the eastern gates of the capital, occupied by the enemy. But they didn't have time. The Poles went on the offensive. Gonsevsky threw almost all available forces against Izmailov. The few detachments of Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod and Murom were forced to retreat.

Thus, Lyapunov was unable to organize a simultaneous attack on Moscow. The Polish command and the traitorous boyars were able to separately defeat the insurgents, then the advanced militia units.

Most of the capital was burned during the battle.

A. Vasnetsov. Street in Kitay-gorod. XVII century
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  1. Korsar4
    Korsar4 April 8 2021 05: 12
    The history of Moscow is the history of fires.
    1. Sofa batyr
      Sofa batyr April 8 2021 05: 57
      Quote: Korsar4
      The history of Moscow is the history of fires.

      Yes, both "Semboyarshchina" and "Semibankirshchina" are painfully familiar to our ears.

    2. WHAT IS
      WHAT IS April 8 2021 05: 58
      In the history of any major city, its main milestones are always marked by big fires. London, San Francisco, Hamburg, Chicago and Paris - they all burned repeatedly and tastefully. But our Golden-headed one manages to stand out against this background, we can safely say that the history of Moscow is the history of its great fires. A significant part of them was associated with various enemy invasions, but there were no fewer episodes when the city caught fire "by itself." Three-quarters. Fires were considered more localized, turning to ashes slightly less than half of the city, if old Moscow caught fire, then it burned well and conscientiously. Both before and after 15 there were fires: already in 1611 there was another great fire, in during which all the archives of the Tsar's court burned down, that is, almost all the acts of the Moscow state before the indicated date. In the fire of 1626, about 1634 yards, the Swedish court and the Church of the Most Pure Mother of God of Kazan in Kitay-Gorod burned down. Investigations by the authorities concluded that the fire began to spread precisely from the Swedish court, or rather from the coal that fell out of the pipe. This led to the publication of the first anti-smoking laws: a caught smoker was punished with 5000 blows on the heels with a stick, and in case of a relapse, his nose was cut off. The salt revolt of 60 was also marked by a terrible fire:
      "Moscow burned out from Neglina to the Chertolsky gates, and not a single stake remained in the White City, only Pavlov Monastery remained in the White City near the Petrovsky, with three hundred courtyards, and outside the city beyond the Chertolsky gates, settlements burned out to the Zemlyanoy city; thrown over from the Neglinsky bridge, and the kruzhechny courtyard burned out. "
      1. Black lotos
        Black lotos April 8 2021 22: 50
        Quote: WHAT IS
        But our Golden-headed one manages to stand out against this background, we can safely say that the history of Moscow is the history of its great fires. A significant part of them were associated with one or another enemy invasions, but there were no fewer episodes when "itself caught fire. by oneself"

        A bad place, ”he said clearly. - Outside the border, cities have been standing for a thousand years, but I don't remember this one - when it didn't even burn ... (Peter 1. Tolstoy A.)
        There, in a short time, it still burned. Just like that, and someone set fire to (tradition or something).
        In this case, 1701. Three day fire
        After this fire, Peter I issued a decree "not to build a wooden structure, but to build invariably stone houses or, at least, huts, and to build not among courtyards, as it was in the old days, but with a ruler along the streets and lanes"
        For more than 100 large fires in Moscow, the most recent was 1812. After the burning of Moscow under Napoleon, the city did not burn like that anymore.
        In general, such fires are associated with the presence of fuel and a poorly established extinguishing system and winds. All the great cities were burning. Moscow is simply the most famous fire capital.
        1. Korsar4
          Korsar4 April 9 2021 06: 34
          Here it is interesting how its post-fire appearance changed. Sometimes, very dramatically.
  2. sergo1914
    sergo1914 April 8 2021 07: 13
    Moscow patriots have established contact with the residents of Smolensk and Nizhny Novgorod.

    The Ryazan uprising became an example for the whole of Russia.

    The ground for the explosion was prepared long ago. In a vast area from Severshchina to Kazan in the east and Vologda in the north of the city, one after another announced support ...

    In Murom, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Vladimir, the performances were held peacefully.

    Meanwhile, the situation in Moscow continued to escalate.

    The Duma issued a decree on the confiscation of weapons from Muscovites

    Meanwhile, the situation in Moscow continued to escalate. The influence of the boyar government steadily declined not only in the country, but also in the capital itself.


    Interesting. Has anyone from the Russian Guard or FSO read this article?
  3. Richard
    Richard April 8 2021 07: 27
    Author: the Polish king sent ataman Nalyvaiko with the Cherkasy (Cossacks) to Moscow

    The author does not confuse anything? Or he again embarked on an alternative. He tells the story of the year 1611. Ataman Severin Nalivaiko was quartered in Warsaw on July 7 (17), 1596
    I am orienting Comrade. Samsonov - Sigismund turned for help not to Nalivaiko, but to Hetman Pyotr Kononovich Sagaidachny.
    Considering the weakness of the crown in the struggle for the Moscow throne and the Sejm's unwillingness to help the dynasty, Sahaidachny set a number of conditions (an increase in the register, Cossack jurisdiction over a number of voivodships in Southern Russia, weakening of the persecution of Orthodoxy). The king did not agree to all the concessions, the register was immediately increased, and the rest was agreed to be discussed later.
    In August, twenty thousand Sagaydachny Zaporozhye Cossacks moved from the Sich to Moscow.
    1. BAI
      BAI April 8 2021 11: 33
      There was also another Nalivaiko:
      Not all Cossacks, of those who participated in the civil war, took the side of False Dmitry II. So, for example, the fact is known that in parallel with the Cossacks, who acted under the leadership of Ruzhinsky, in the Vladimir lands, a rather large detachment, led by a certain ataman Nalyvayko, rampaged. Quite possibly a relative of the same Severin Nalyvayko, whom the Polish authorities executed a few years earlier for a riot in Ukraine.
      1. Richard
        Richard April 8 2021 12: 49
        Severin (Semeria) Nalivaiko had one brother - Demyan (Damian) Nalivaiko - a famous Western Russian Orthodox priest, poet and polemicist. Demyan Nalivaiko was a teacher at the Ostrog Slavic-Greek-Latin school. He served as a priest of the home Orthodox church of Prince K. Ostrog. He was a member of the Ostroh Society of Scientists and Enlighteners against Catholic Expansion and Union in 1596. He supervised the work of printing houses in the Derman Monastery in the village. Dermani in Volhynia 1602-1605, and in Ostrog (1607, 1612). Later he moved to Vilno, where he became one of the leading figures of the Vilna Orthodox brotherhood. He died in Ostrog (now Rivne region).
        According to the Barkulabovskaya Chronicle, kept in the Department of Manuscripts of the State Historical Museum in Moscow (Synodal Assembly, No. 790), Vol. Konstantin Ostrozhsky, at the request of Damian Nalyvayko, made King Sigismund not accept reprisals against the young children of the executed Severin Nalivaiko. The descendants of Nalivaiko were exiled to the Plock voivodeship, where the Ostrozhskys intermarried them with the noble family of the Tsiolkovsky family, adopting their surname - Tsiolkovsky. The branch of the Tsiolkovsky family, to which Konstantin Eduardovich Tsiolkovsky belongs, traces its genealogy from the ataman Severin Nalivaiko.
        a photo Sheet of the Barkulab Chronicle

        This is all that is known about his direct relatives. But we do not know anything about his cousins, so your guess is quite realistic