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Iaitskii Gorodok -- The Rise and Fall of the Pugachev Rebellion

Exhibit Author: CW

The town of Ural’sk, located on the Ural River, was once named Iaitskii Gorodok, and the Ural River was known as the Iaik River.  Iaitskii Gorodok was home to the Iaik Cossacks but the town, the river, and the people were renamed by Catherine the Great in 1775.  Catherine’s decree was issued at the end of the Pugachev Rebellion and erased the identity of the Cossacks who had supported a pretender to the throne.  Emelian Pugachev, a Don Cossack, had claimed to be the former tsar Peter III and called on the disempowered sectors of Russian society (other Cossacks, serfs) to join him in overthrowing his “wife.”  Iaitskii Gorodok played a critical role in Pugachev’s rise and fall.  According to Alexander Pushkin, the writer of the first history about the Pugachev Rebellion, it was malcontent Iaik Cossacks who chose Pugachev to be their puppet leader.  The desire to rise up against Catherine’s officials was already there—all the oppressed needed was someone to lead them.  Pugachev’s first march as “Peter III” was on Iaitskii Gorodok, where he officially released a manifesto proclaiming himself to be the true tsar.  He ultimately took control of the town and returned to it multiple times throughout the rebellion.  The rebellion would also end at Iaitskii Gorodok, as it was where Pugachev’s supporters turned him over to the forces from Moscow.  Iaitskii Gorodok was not only a symbol of the development of the rebellion; it also played a causal role in its very unfolding.

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