Fire of Moscow (1571)

Fire of Moscow
Part of Russo-Crimean Wars
Date 1571
Result Ottoman-Crimean victory
Most of Moscow destroyed by fire
Ottoman Empire
Crimean Khanate
Tsardom of Russia
Commanders and leaders
Devlet I Giray Unknown
Units involved
[citation needed]
33,000 irregular Turks
7,000 Janissaries
8,000 Tatars
Casualties and losses
Unknown At least 60,000

The Fire of Moscow occurred on May 15, 1571,[1] when the Crimean[2] and Turkish army (8,000 Crimean Tatars, 33,000 irregular Turks and 7,000 janissaries)[citation needed] led by the khan of Crimea Devlet I Giray, bypassed the Serpukhov defensive fortifications on the Oka River, crossed the Ugra River, and rounded the flank of the 6,000-man Russian army. The sentry troops of Russians were crushed by the Crimean-Turkish forces. Not having forces to stop the invasion, the Russian army retreated to Moscow. The rural Russian population also fled to the capital. After defeating the Russian army, the Crimean-Turkish forces besieged the town Moscow, because in 1556 and 1558 Muscovy, violating the oath given to the Giray dynasty, attacked the lands of the Crimean Khanate — Moscow troops invaded the Crimea and burned villages and towns in the Western and Eastern Crimea, with many Crimean Tatars captured or killed. In 1561 Muscovites "received a letter from the Patriarch of Constantinople" (which turned out to be false[3]), which asserted the rights of Ivan the Terrible to claim himself the Tsar. By 1563, relations between the Muscovy and the Crimean Khanate finally deteriorated.[4][5]

The Crimean Tatar and Ottoman forces set the suburbs on fire on 24 May and a sudden wind blew the flames into Moscow and the city went up in a conflagration.[6] According to Heinrich von Staden, a German in the service of Ivan the Terrible (he claimed to be a member of the Oprichnina)," the city, the palace, the Oprichnina palace, and the suburbs burned down completely in six hours. It was a great disaster because no one could escape."[7] People fled into stone churches to escape the flames, but the stone churches collapsed (either from the intensity of the fire or the pressure of the crowds.) People also jumped into the Moscow River to escape, where many drowned. The powder magazine of the Kremlin exploded and those hiding in the cellar there asphyxiated.[8] The tsar ordered the dead found on the streets to be thrown into the river, which overflowed its banks and flooded parts of the town. Jerome Horsey wrote that it took more than a year to clear away all the bodies.[9]

It was one of the most severe fires in the history of the city. Historians estimate the number of casualties of the fire from 60,000[10] to as many over 200,000 people. Foreigners visiting the city before and after the fire have described a noticeable decrease in the city population, and Ivan the Terrible avoided the city for several years after the fire due to the lack of suitable habitation for him and his entourage. The khan's attempt to repeat the raid in 1572 was repelled in the Battle of Molodi.[11]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Robert Nisbet Bain, Slavonic Europe: Apolitical History of Poland and Russia from 1447 to 1796, (Cambridge University Press, 1908), 124.
  3. ^ К. Валишевский. «Иван Грозный», pages 144-145.
  4. ^ Карамзин Н. М. История государства Российского: в 12-и т. — СПб., 1816−1829
  5. ^ Эскендер Амет Демирджи. Оборона Крымского Ханства от экспансии Московского Государства (in Russian)
  6. ^ Isabel de Madariaga, Ivan the Terrible. First Tsar of Russia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 264.
  7. ^ Heinrich von Staden, The Land and Government of Muscovy: A Sixteenth Century Account ed. and trans. Thomas Esper(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1967), 47; Michael C. Paul, "The Military Revolution in Russia 1550-1682," The Journal of Military History 68, no. 1 (Jan. 2004), 40.
  8. ^ von Staden, "The Land and Government of Muscovy," 47; Jerome Horsey, "The Travels of Sir Jerome Horsey, Knight," in Russia at the Close of the Sixteenth Century. Edward A Bond, ed. (London: Haklyut Society, 1856), 164-166; Paul, "The Military Revolution in Russia," 40.
  9. ^ Madariaga, Ivan the Terrible, 266.
  10. ^ Hannibal Travis (2010). Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan. Carolina Academic Press. p. 171.
  11. ^ Madariaga, Ivan the Terrible, 267, 277.