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For the place in Azerbaijan, see Stepan Razin, Azerbaijanmarker.
Stepan (Sten'ka) Timofeyevich Razin ( ) Тимофеевич Разин, ; 1630 – ) was a Cossack leader who led a major uprising against the nobility and Tsar's bureaucracy in South Russia.

Early life

He is first noted by history in 1661, as part of a diplomatic mission from the Don Cossacks to the Kalmyks. That same year Razin went on a long-distance pilgrimage to the great Solovetsky Monasterymarker on the White Seamarker for the benefit of his soul. After that, all trace of him is lost for six years, when he reappears as the leader of a robber community established at Panshinskoye, among the marshes between the rivers Tishina and Ilovlya, from whence he levied blackmail on all vessels passing up and down the Volga.

A long war with Polandmarker in 1654-1667 and Swedenmarker in 1656-1658 put heavy demands upon the people of Russia. Taxes increased as did conscription. Many peasants hoping to escape these burdens fled south and joined bands of Razin's marauding Cossacks. They were also joined by many other disaffected with the Russian government, including people of the lower classes as well as representatives of non-Russian ethnic groups, such as Kalmyks, that were being oppressed.

Razin's first considerable exploit was to destroy the great naval convoy consisting of the treasury barges and the barges of the patriarch and the wealthy merchants of Moscowmarker. Razin then sailed down the Volga with a fleet of thirty-five galleys, capturing the more important forts on his way and devastating the country. At the beginning of 1668 he defeated the voivode Yakov Bezobrazov, sent against him from Astrakhanmarker, and in the spring embarked on a predatory expedition into Daghestanmarker and Persia which lasted for eighteen months.

Persian expedition

Sailing into the Caspian Seamarker, he ravaged the Persian coasts from Derbendmarker to Bakumarker, massacred the inhabitants of the great emporium of Rashtmarker, and in the spring of 1669 established himself on the isle of Suina, off which, in July, he annihilated a Persian fleet sent against him. Stenka Razin, as he was generally called, had now become a potentate with whom princes did not disdain to treat.

In August 1669 he reappeared at Astrakhan, and accepted a fresh offer of pardon from tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich there; the common people were fascinated by his adventures. The lawless Russian border region of Astrakhan, where the whole atmosphere was predatory and many people were still nomadic, was the natural milieu for such a rebellion as Razin's.

Open rebellion

Razin's rebels in Astrakhan, a Dutch engraving from 1681.
In 1670 Razin, while ostensibly on his way to report himself at the Cossack headquarters on the Don, openly rebelled against the government, captured Cherkasskmarker, Tsaritsynmarker and other places, and on June 24 burst into Astrakhan itself. After massacring all who opposed him (including two Princes Prozorovsky) and giving the rich bazaars of the city over to pillage, he converted Astrakhan into a Cossack republic, dividing the population into thousands, hundreds and tens, with their proper officers, all of whom were appointed by a veche or general assembly, whose first act was to proclaim Stepan Timofeyevich their gosudar (sovereign).

After a three weeks carnival of blood and debauchery Razin quit Astrakhan with two hundred barges full of troops to establish the Cossack republic along the whole length of the Volga, as a preliminary step towards advancing against Moscow. Saratovmarker and Samaramarker were captured, but Simbirskmarker defied all efforts, and after two bloody encounters close at hand on the banks of the Sviyaga River (October 1st and 4th), Razin was ultimately routed and fled down the Volga, leaving the bulk of his followers to be extirpated by the victors.

But the rebellion was by no means over. The emissaries of Razin, armed with inflammatory proclamations, had stirred up the inhabitants of the modern governments of Nizhny Novgorodmarker, Tambovmarker and Penzamarker, and penetrated even so far as Moscow and Novgorodmarker. It was not difficult to stir the oppressed population to revolt by promising deliverance from their yoke. Razin proclaimed that his object was to root out the boyars and all officials, to level all ranks and dignities, and establish Cossackdom, with its corollary of absolute equality, throughout Muscovy.
Even at the beginning of 1671 the issue of the struggle was doubtful. Eight battles had been fought before the insurrection showed signs of weakening, and it continued for six months after Razin had received his quietus. At Simbirsk his prestige had been shattered. Even his own settlements at Saratov and Samara refused to open their gates to him, and the Don Cossacks, hearing that the patriarch of Moscow had anathematized Stenka, also declared against him.

In 1671 he and his brother Frol Razin were captured at Kaganlyk, his last fortress, and carried to Moscow, where, after tortures, Stepan was quartered alive in the Red Squaremarker at the Lobnoye Mestomarker.

Razin is the subject of a symphonic poem by Alexander Glazunov and a cantata by Shostakovich.


  • Sakharov, Andrei Nikolaevich (1973) Stepan Razin (Khronika XVII v.) Moskva, "Mol. gvardiia", 319 p. Biography in Russian.
  • Field, Cecil (1947) The great Cossack; the rebellion of Stenka Razin against Alexis Michaelovitch, Tsar of all the Russias London, H. Jenkins, 125 p. Biography in English.


Stenka Razin is the hero of a popular Russian folk song (lyric is by Dmitri Sadovnikov (Дмитрий Николаевич Садовников) 1883, music is folk), better known by the words Volga, Volga mat' rodnaya. The song was dramatized in one of the very first Russian films, shot by Vasily Goncharov in 1908 and entitled Ponizovaya Volnitsa (~10 minutes long). The melody was used by Tom Springfield in the song "The Carnival Is Over" that placed The Seekers at #1 in 1965 in Australia and the UKmarker.

Words in Russian Transcribed English language version
Из-за острова на стрежень,

На простор речной волны,

Выплывают расписные,

Острогрудые челны.

Iz-za ostrova na strezhen',

Na prostor rechnoy volny,

Vyplyvayut raspisnye,

Ostrogrudye chelny.

From beyond the wooded island

To the river wide and free

Proudly sailed the arrow-breasted

Ships of Cossack yeomanry.

На переднем Стенька Разин,

Обнявшись, сидит с княжной,

Свадьбу новую справляет,

Сам веселый и хмельной.

Na perednem Sten'ka Razin,

Obnyavshis', sidit s knyazhnoy,

Svad'bu novuyu spravlyaet,

Sam veselyi i khmel'noy.

On the first is Stenka Razin

With his princess by his side

Drunken holds in marriage revels

With his beauteous young bride

Позади их слышен ропот:

Нас на бабу променял!

Только ночь с ней провозился

Сам наутро бабой стал . . . .

Pozadi ikh slyschen ropot:

Nas na babu promenyal!

Tol'ko noch' s nej provozilsja

Sam nautro baboy stal . . . .

From behind there comes a murmur

"He has left his sword to woo;

One short night and Stenka Razin

Has become a woman, too."

Этот ропот и насмешки

Слышит грозный атаман,

И могучею рукою

Обнял персиянки стан.

Etot ropot i nasmeshki

Slyshit groznyi ataman,

I mogucheju rukoju

Obnjal persijanki stan.

Stenka Razin hears the murmur

Of his discontented band

And his lovely Persian princess

He has circled with his hand.

Брови черные сошлися,

Надвигается гроза.

Буйной кровью налилися

Атамановы глаза.

Brovi chornye soshlisya,

Nadvigaetsya groza.

Buynoy krov'yu nalilisya

Atamanovy glaza.

His dark brows are drawn together

As the waves of anger rise;

And the blood comes rushing swiftly

To his piercing jet black eyes.

"Ничего не пожалею,

Буйну голову отдам!" —

Раздаётся голос властный

По окрестным берегам.

"Nichevo ne pozhaleyu,

Bujnu golovu otdam!" —

Razdayotsya golos vlastnyi

Po okrestnym beregam.

"I will give you all you ask for

Head and heart and life and hand."

And his voice rolls out like thunder

Out across the distant land.

"Волга, Волга, мать родная,

Волга, русская река,

Не видала ты подарка

От донского казака!

"Volga, Volga, mat' rodnaya,

Volga, russkaya reka,

Ne vidala ty podarka

Ot donskovo kazaka!

Volga, Volga, Mother Volga

Wide and deep beneath the sun,

You have never seen such a present

From the Cossacks of the Don.

Чтобы не было раздора

Между вольными людьми,

Волга, Волга, мать родная,

На, красавицу возьми!"

Shtoby ne bylo razdora

Mezhdu vol'nymi ljud'mi,

Volga, Volga, mat' rodnaja,

Na, krasavitsu voz'mi!"

So that peace may reign forever

In this band so free and brave

Volga, Volga, Mother Volga

Make this lovely girl a grave.

Мощным взмахом поднимает

Он красавицу княжну

И за борт ее бросает

В набежавшую волну.

Moshchnym vzmakhom podnimaet

On krasavitsu knyazhnu

I za bort eyo brosaet

V nabezhavshuyu volnu.

Now, with one swift mighty motion

He has raised his bride on high

And has cast her where the waters

Of the Volga roll and sigh.

"Что ж вы, братцы, приуныли?

Эй, ты, Филька, черт, пляши!

Грянем песню удалую

На помин ее души!.."

"Shto zh vy, bratsy, priunyli?

Ej, ty, Fil'ka, chert, pljashi!

Grjanem pesnyu udaluyu

Na pomin ee dushi!.."

"Dance, you fools, and let's be merry

What is this that's in your eyes?

Let us thunder out a chanty

To the place where beauty lies."

Из-за острова на стрежень,

На простор речной волны,

Выплывают расписные

Острогрудые челны.

Iz-za ostrova na strezhen',

Na prostor rechnoy volny,

Vyplyvajut raspisnye

Ostrogrudiye chelny.

From beyond the wooded island

To the river wide and free

Proudly sailed the arrow-breasted

Ships of Cossack yeomanry.

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