On June 21, 1547, a horrific fire engulfed Moscow, almost destroying the Kremlin and the capital built almost entirely of wood. The estimated death toll was over 3,700 lives. Thousands of people were left homeless.
Russian author and historian, Nikolay Karamzin, described the blaze:
“The fire flowed like a river, and soon the Kremlin, Kitai Gorod and the Trading Quarter burst into flames… The crackling of fire and the cries of people, from time to time, were drowned out by explosions of gunpowder, which was stored in the Kremlin and other parts of the city.”
The fire began several months after Ivan IV (“Ivan the Terrible”) was officially crowned as first Tsar of Russia. The fearful scenes of a burned down city deeply affected Ivan who at the time was only 16 years old.
The young Tzar realized that he could no longer leave the power in the hands of the nobles and had to take full responsibility for ruling his country. Thus, Ivan turned all his attention to restoring the city and ensuring fire safety in Moscow.
However, rebuilding the city was not the only challenge Tsar Ivan IV was faced with that year. Rumors of witchcraft, riots, and a new era of governance were all consequences of the fire that terrified Moscow on this day…