The copper riot, which was the result of perhaps the first serious inflation in Russia, was already the third after the Salt (1648) and Khlebny (1650).

Trouble just rained down on the head of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich the Quietest. Since the mid-1650s, Russia has been waging two wars simultaneously. Just at that time, the hetman of the Zaporizhian army, Bohdan Khmelnitsky, rebelled against the power of the Commonwealth, and the Pereyaslav Rada in 1654 spoke in favor of joining Russia. Khmelnitsky swore allegiance to the Russian Tsar. For Alexei I, this meant not so much an expansion to the West, but a war for Ukraine with Poland. But this was not enough. In 1656, the Quietest started a war with Sweden. The treasury was rapidly emptying. In search of income, the authorities introduced a “fifth money” – an emergency tax. Did not help.

Then Alexei I decided on a long overdue monetary reform. Russian money (kopeck, money and polushka, that is, half the money) in those days were of a very small denomination. They were printed from imported raw materials, that is, from German and Dutch silver thalers, which were melted down for this. Meanwhile, on the newly acquired lands of Belarus and Ukraine, thalers themselves were in use, equal to approximately 42-50 silver kopecks. Under the guise of increasing the denomination, the Moscow authorities began to mint thaler into Russian coins at 64 kopecks, receiving about 14 kopecks from each thaler. There was a benefit, of course, but not much. They decided to raise the price of the thaler even more and equated it to the ruble. They began to beat out the stigma and the year of issue on it. Brands, of course, immediately began to be faked, which instantly led to an increase in prices. The people got excited.

Then, in 1655, the important boyar Fyodor Rtishchev suggested that the tsar mint copper kopecks of the same form and price as silver ones. At first things went well. The people accepted copper quite favorably. The authorities were delighted and began to mint copper kopecks en masse at all five mints of what was then Russia. In five years, 20 million new rubles were issued! Corruption and counterfeiting flourished. In order to replenish the treasury with silver, from 1659 they decided to take taxes in old kopecks, and make payments in new ones, that is, in copper. As a result, copper money began to rapidly depreciate. By 1662, up to 900 copper kopecks were given for 100 silver kopecks. Inflation was rampant, but the authorities continued to pay service people worthless copper. Grain buyers took advantage of the situation and immediately raised prices. Bread was sold only for silver, which almost did not remain in circulation.

By the summer of 1662, the atmosphere in Moscow had heated up to the limit. “Thieves’ leaflets” began to circulate around the capital, where the boyars were accused of treason in favor of the Commonwealth. On the morning of August 4, a crowd of Muscovites came to the Execution Ground, where the “thieves’ leaflet” was read aloud. 500 soldiers immediately joined the rebels. The alarm was sounded in the churches, and a riot began. A crowd of 5 thousand people went to the royal residence in Kolomenskoye. Alexei Mikhailovich fearlessly went out to the people. The rebels seized the tsar by the buttons, demanding that traitors be handed over “to be killed” and that the tax burden be lightened. The king promised to investigate and persuaded the people to disperse.

At this time, boyar mansions were already smashed in Moscow. The crowd grabbed the 15-year-old son of a wealthy merchant Vasily Shorin and dragged him to Kolomenskoye. The first crowd, walking back to Moscow, collided with the second and turned back. Now the rebels were already about 10 thousand. The sovereign again went out to the people and began to pull the rubber, waiting for the troops loyal to him to approach. As soon as the archers reached Kolomenskoye, the tsar ordered the crowd to be cut down. In the end, “7,000 people were crossed and recaptured.” Three commissions conducted an investigation for several months – they were looking for the authors of the “thieves’ leaflets”. 15 thousand people were arrested, all literate Muscovites were forced to hand over handwriting samples, but no one was found. More than a hundred Muscovites were hanged near Kolomenskoye, 30 were branded with a red-hot iron, 1400, together with their families, were exiled forever to “distant cities”.

And yet the Copper Revolt cannot be called senseless. As early as 1663, copper money was banned. The salary was paid in silver, and copper was exchanged for silver at a rate of 20 to 1.

Illustration: painting by Ernest Lissner “Copper Riot”, 1938