Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 26, 2022

Spring Fair and the Khodynka Meadow

By ROLLIN HU | April 14, 2016


František Krátký via wikimedia commons The Khodynka tragedy was horrific and violent and left many dead.

I’m a freshman, so I don’t really know what to expect out of Spring Fair. I’ve heard a lot of hype about the food and events and am pretty excited for it. I just hope it doesn’t end up anything like what happened at Khodynka Meadow in May 1896.

Khodynka Meadow is located outside of Moscow, Russia. Judging from pictures on Google Images, it’s currently a big empty field with old airplane parts littered around.

However back in the good old days of Tsarist Russia, the Khodynka Meadow was a good place to hold military exercises because of all the natural ditches and trenches. It was also the only place big enough to throw a party fit for the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II.

Like Spring Fair, this festival was supposed to be a great outdoor celebration full of entertainment, day drinking and autocracy. There were supposed to be free bread rolls, sausages, Vyazemsky gingerbreads and fancy commemorative cups. And free beer.

The actual coronation of Tsar Nicholas II took place the day before and was only for the privileged classes and nobility to participate in. This festival at Khodynka was meant for the common masses of Moscow and the surrounding area to celebrate their ruler. Tsar Nicholas II was even scheduled to make an appearance, which was huge, because how often do you get to see a Russian autocrat in your life? Also I’d like to mention again that there was supposed to be free beer.

With all this promised free food and alcohol, tons of people turned up the night before and just slept on the field. By dawn there were reportedly half a million people waiting to get wasted.

And then some idiots started spreading some rumors that there wasn’t going to be enough food and beer. If you went to a party that promised free alcohol and Vyazemsky gingerbreads and heard that they were going to run out, how would you react?

Historian Robert K. Massie describes the people’s reaction in his book Nicholas and Alexandra.

“People began to run... Men tripped and stumbled into the ditches. Women and children knocked down in the mass of rushing, pushing bodies, felt feet on their backs and heads. Their noses and mouths were ground into the dirt. Over the mutilated, suffocating bodies, thousands of feet relentless trampled,” he wrote.

This passage kind of sounds like a description of people fleeing war and violence but is instead what happened when someone mentioned free stuff.

In the aftermath of this stampede, officials reported that over 1300 people were dead with around the same number wounded.

Why did such an idiotic thing happen? It’s ridiculous. Was trying to get all that free stuff worth the cost of these lives?

Tsar Nicholas II was heartbroken that so many people had died and had been injured at his after-party, so he did his best to try to pay reparations and express condolences. Except then he also had to go to a party thrown by the French Ambassador the same night. People gave him a lot of flak for it, calling him “Bloody Nicholas” and saying he was disconnected from the people.

Through the rest of the Tsar’s rule, he faced two revolutions by the people with the second revolution in 1917 forcing him from power and bringing communist rule to Russia. People reflecting on this moment said that this incident at Khodynka Meadow was the first revolt of the people under his reign. And this revolt happened all because of the promise of free stuff.

So Spring Fair is happening and I don’t know what usually happens. I just sure hope Spring Fair doesn’t end up in a violent stampede and a Bolshevik Revolution. On that note, have fun at Spring Fair!

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The News-Letter.

News-Letter Special Editions