Pugachev, Emelian Ivanovich (yĭmĭlyänˈ ēväˈnəvĭch pōgəchôfˈ) [key], c.1742–75, Russian peasant leader, head of the peasant rebellion of 1773–74. A Don Cossack, he exploited a widespread peasant belief that Peter III had not actually been murdered. Claiming (1773) to be Peter III, he soon found himself at the head of an army and of a revolutionary movement. His followers—Cossacks, peasants, runaway serfs, Tatar bands, and serfs from the mines and factories—all belonged to the lower classes, whose rights and liberties had been increasingly curtailed in the past two centuries. Pugachev announced the abolition of serfdom. His army overran the middle and lower Volga districts and the Ural region and took Kazan and several fortresses, committing barbarous excesses and threatening the throne of Catherine II, who was waging war on the Ottoman Empire. However, the rebels lacked experienced leadership and were ultimately defeated. Pugachev was betrayed, taken to Moscow, and beheaded. As a result of the rebellion Catherine introduced the administrative reform (1775) that increased the central government's control over outlying areas and more firmly entrenched the institution of serfdom.
See A. Pushkin, The History of Pugachev (1983).