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The Decembrist revolt

26 December 1825

On December 14 (26), 1825 in St.-Petersburg took place a revolt organized by the nobles confederate. Their objective was to transform Russia into a constitutional state and to abolish the serfdom.

In the morning the revolting troops started gathering at the snow-covered Senate square. The first to come were the soldiers of the Moscow regiment Life Guard led by A. Bestuzhev. Later they were joined by the sailors of the Guards crew and life grenadiers. They had to force the Senate to reject their oath to Nikolai and suggest them to publish a manifest addressed to the Russian people composed by the secret society members.

However the action plan developed the day before was disturbed from the first minutes: senators swore an oath to the emperor Nikolai early in the morning and had already left, not all military units supposed to come to the square arrived, and S. Trubetskoy, who was elected a dictator, did not show up at all at the Senate square.

Meanwhile Nikolai I was drawing up forces to the square, not hurrying to pass to decisive actions. M.A. Miloradovich, St.-Petersburg’s military governor-general, a hero of the Patriotic war of 1812 had tried to persuade the rebels to lay down their arms but was fatally wounded by a shot of P. Kahovsky.

After 4 p.m. Nikolai I ordered to open the artillery fire. Seven grapeshots were fired: one over the heads and six point-blank. The soldiers ran away. M.P. Bestuzhev-Ryumin, having formed a column of soldiers running over the Neva ice, tried to seize the Peter and Paul fortress but his plan failed.

By the evening of the same day the government had completely suppressed the revolt. As a result of the mutiny 1.271 persons were killed including 9 women and 19 children.

As a result of the investigation carried out on the Decembrists case five of them were sentenced to death: P.I. Pestel, K.F. Ryleev, S.I. Muraviev-Apostol, M.P. Bestuzhev-Ryumin and P.G. Kahovsky. Early in the morning of July 13, 1826 on the bank of one of Peter and Paul’s bastions the sentence was executed. Many of the revolt participants and the secret societies’ members related to its preparation were condemned to penal servitude in Siberia.

In 1856 the survived Decembrists were granted pardon.

Lit.: 14 декабря 1825 года: Воспоминания очевидцев. СПб., 1999; Музей декабристов. 1996-2003. URL:; Мемуары декабристов. Северное общество, М., 1981; Троицкий Н. Декабристы. Восстание // Троицкий Н. А. Россия в XIX веке: курс лекций. М., 1997.

From the Presidential library materials:

Decembrists in the history of Russia: collection;

Оболенский Е. П. В ссылке и заключении: Воспоминания декабристов / князя Оболенского, Басаргина и княгини Волконской. М., 1908;

Полное собрание законов Российской империи. СПб., 1830-1885. Т. 1 (С 12 декабря 1825 по 1827). № 381. С. 514; № 464. С. 753, № 465. С. 772;

Рылеев К. Ф. Процес декабристов: донесение, следствие, приговор, письмо Рылеева из крепости, указы. М., 1905;

Щеголев П. Е. А. С. Грибоедов и декабристы: (по архивным материалам). СПб., 1905;

Якушкин И. Д. Записки И. Д. Якушкина: Полное, без выпусков, издание. М., 1908.