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1930s & Earlier / Russian Coronation Free Beer Riot - 1896
On Tuesday, May 26, 1896, the elaborate coronation of Czar Nicholas II of Russia occurred in Moscow before an enormous crowd of onlookers. The following day, May 27, to celebrate the new emperor's reign, a massive party was scheduled for the general public. It was to be a large festival with free food, beer, and souvenir cups. The site chosen for the party was Khodynka Field outside Moscow, a venue normally used for military exercises. Khodynka was selected as it was the only place near Moscow large enough to hold the enormous number of citizens who would likely attend. Before the food and drink was handed out, rumors spread that there would not be enough for everyone. As a result, much of the crowd stampeded to get their share. Individuals were tripped and trampled upon. Many hapless onlookers suffocated in the dirt of the field. Of the estimated 100,000 people gathered for the party, 1,389 individuals died and roughly another 1,300 were injured. The Khodynka Tragedy, as it came to be known, was seen as an ill omen for the new czar. Furthermore, the Czar was badly advised to attend a ball on the evening of the catastrophe hosted by the French ambassador to Russia. Nicholas privately wished to observe a period of prayer and mourning for the dead, but his advisors and relatives insisted that he would damage critical Russian-French relations if he did not attend the ball. The decision was seen as callous by many Russian peasants who perceived Nicholas to be frivolous and uncaring toward his subjects.