|Khodynka Stampede victims|
Public domain -- copyright expired
This story is really about a bizarre aspect of human nature. In large groups, we can become like cattle, trampling without thought or regard to the people around us. This is particularly true when there is desperation in the group, though herd behavior has happened for something as ludicrous as pop music. In the case of the Khodynka Stampede in Moscow, it was about food and beer.
On May 30, 1896, a group that has been estimated to number upwards of 500,000 gathered at the Khodynka Field where pubs and giveaway stations had been set up to celebrate the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II. You may know him as the father of the famous Anastasia and the last emperor of Russia. He was only four days into his reign when his people gathered to collect their gifts from the tsar. They amounted to some scraps of food and a cup. That people were so eager to collect these things is indicative of the state of Russia at the time.
Some time into the celebration, a rumor got out that there would not be enough pretzels and beer for the entire crowd. Astoundingly, this led to a massive human stampede. Nearly 1,400 people died and almost as many as that were injured. It was an appalling tragedy that now seems portentous of what was coming for Russia and its last royal ruler.
Nicholas tried to handle the issue with respect, but it appears that some factions were determined to hate him and others as determined to control him. In the end, the royal family paid out to the families of victims and tried to help the survivors, several employees involved in the celebration were fired and life went on until a revolution changed everything.