Yemelyan Pugatcheff, a Cossack chieftain and pretender to the throne of Russia, born at Simoveisk on the Don in 1726, executed in Moscow, Jan. 21, 1775. He first appeared as the leader of a band of disciplined robbers. In the seven years' war he served against the Prussians, and subsequently in the Russian campaign of 1769 against Turkey. Returning to his native land, he was imprisoned for seditious conduct; but having recovered his liberty, he went to Yaitzkoi, where a striking resemblance noticed between himself and Peter III. prompted him to pass himself off as the murdered monarch, to forge a tale about his escape from death, and to declare that he was now to set about the task of dethroning Catharine II. and regaining his crown. The insurrection broke out in the middle of 1773, when a manifesto of Pugatcheff in the name of Peter III. was published. After he had got possession of the fortress of Yaitzkoi, and the religious sect of the Raskolniks, of which he had become a member, had embraced his cause, the peasantry went over to his side in large numbers, and many Tartar and Finnish tribes joined him.

With these he took numerous fortresses on the Ural, the Volga, and the Don, and marched upon Moscow; but he was betrayed by his comrades for 100,000 rubles to Michelson and Suvaroff. In this insurrection 100,000 lives were lost.