On this day: the Khodynka Tragedy

Chodynka The Khodynka Tragedy (Russian Ходынская трагедия) was a human stampede that occurred on 30 May [O.S. 18 May] 1896, in Moscow Russia during festivities after the

The Khodynka Tragedy was a deadly stampede that happened during coronation celebrations for Russia’s last emperor, Nicholas II, in 1896.

Falling on the 18th of May on the old calendar (which equates to the 30th of May on the new calendar), 1389 people were trampled or suffocated to death when panic broke out in a crowd of many thousands.

Kratky,_Frantisek_-_Tragedie_na_Chodynskem_poli_(1896) Victim of the Khodynka Tragedy in Moscow Russia 1896

People crowd around one of the victims.

Evidence of the tragedy was cleared away before many at the event in Moscow became aware of it, and Nicholas and his wife Alexandra continued with their schedule, including attending a ball with French diplomats that evening. It was decided it was more important to have good relations with the French than to appease the people of the Russian Empire.

The minor imperial response to the disaster did no favours for the family’s public image.

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On this day: the execution of Seraphim Chichagov

seraphim_chichagov_in_prisonseraphin-chichagov-former-metropolitan-of-leningrad-in-soviet-prison-taganskoye-before-being-sentenced-to-death-and-shot-1937

In prison in 1937 X

Seraphim Chichagov, a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in Saint Petersburg (named Leningrad under Soviet rule), was executed by firing squad on the 11th of December, 1937.

He was one of more than 20 000 political prisoners executed at Butovo firing range outside Moscow during Stalin’s Great Purge of 1936-38.

Aged eighty-one at the time of his execution, Seraphim was ill and had lost most of his mobility. When he was arrested in his home on charges of spreading “monarchist propaganda”, Russian authorities had to carry him to prison on a stretcher.

On this day: the defection of Alexander Godunov

Alexander Borisovich Godunov (Nov 28, 1949-May 18, 1995), Ballet Dancer .

On the 21st of August, 1979 Soviet ballet dancer Alexander Godunov defected to the United States. His defection took place during a Bolshoi Ballet tour to New York City.

Alexander Godunov

A childhood classmate of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Godunov was one of the Bolshoi’s star dancers, and the gold medal winner at the 1973 Moscow International Ballet Competition.

He was also a known actor in the USSR.

Alexander Godunov People 21st April 1985 Cover

Godunov was married to a company soloist at the time of his defection, though his wife did not defect with him.

THE MONEY PIT Tom Hanks, Alexander Godunov, 1986.

He went on to become a principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre until he had a falling out with Baryshnikov, after which he toured internationally and became a known actor in Hollywood.

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Godunov was found dead in his home in May, 1995.

On this day: the bombing of the Kashmir Princess

The Kashmir Princess was a chartered Lockheed L-749A Constellation aircraft owned by Air India. On 11 April 1955, it was damaged in midair by a bomb explosion and crashed into the South China Sea.

The Kashmir Princess, an aircraft operated by Air India, was bombed and sank into the South China Sea on the 11th of April, 1955.

Of the nineteen people on board, sixteen died.

Zhou_Enlai_MeiyuanXincun17_Nanjing_1946Zhou Enlai (Chinese 周恩来; Wade–Giles Chou En-lai 5 March 1898 – 8 January 1976) was the first Premier of the People's Republic of China

Zhou Enlai in 1946

It emerged that the target of the bombing was China’s first Premier, Zhou Enlai, though he was not on the flight. More recently it has emerged that he might have known about the assassination attempt and so did not board the plane, even though he claimed to have been delayed due to surgery.

The aeroplane was supposed to have travelled from Bombay, India to Hong Kong and then on to Jakarta, Indonesia.

While China accused the United States’ CIA for the bombing, America has always denied the claims. Evidence points to Kremlin-backed Chinese nationalist party Kuomintang as the likely bombers.

December 1930: the Moscow execution of Ukrainian musicians

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In December 1930, 337 Ukrainian musicians were executed in Russia in an attempt to eliminate Ukrainian culture. Some historians place the date of the execution as 1933, but as with most things that happened in the Soviet Union, records are hard to come by.

Starved peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933.

Dead peasants in Ukraine during the genocide.

This atrocity took place around the same time as the Holodomor, Stalin’s genocide in Ukraine that rivalled the Holocaust for deaths.

Read more about the execution of the musicians.

 

On this day: the Night of the Murdered Poets in Russia

Flag of the Russian SFSR (1937-1954)

The flag of Russia in 1952

On the 12th of August, 1952, thirteen Jews from across the Soviet Union, including Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania were executed in Moscow on orders from the Russian government. All were falsely accused of espionage and treason, and their executions came after three years of imprisonment and torture.

Five of the murdered were Yiddish poets, hence the name of the infamous day.

Lina Stern Latvian Jew Persecuted by Russia and Stalin in the 1950s Women's History USSR Moscow

Lina Stern

A fourteenth person died in prison five months later, and a fifteenth, a Latvian scientist by the name of Lina Stern, was the only survivor. She spent time in a labour camp until Stalin’s death, but was officially declared “less guilty” so that the USSR could continue to make use of her medical research.

Neither the trials nor the executions were ever mentioned in the Russian media, however the families of the accused were exiled by Stalin. They did not learn the fates of their family members until 1955.