Russia’s History of Rebellions and the Wagner Group Mutiny

In this edition of Intel Insights, Cedric Leighton explores the history of rebellions and revolutions in Russia, highlighting their significance and impact on the country’s political landscape. He discusses notable events such as the Pugachev’s Rebellion in the 18th century, the Russian Revolution of 1905, and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Leighton also delves into the recent mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group and its implications for Russia’s foreign policy and military operations.

The history of Russia is not only fascinating but varied and violent as well. We’ve seen much upheaval throughout Russian history, so it’s safe to say that all of these events have kept life pretty interesting there. While you may think of the Russian Revolutions in 1905 and 1917, there have actually been many other key events that are part of a larger panoply in Russian history. 

Pugachev’s rebellion in the late 1700s was one of the largest and most serious in Russian history. Following that, more key events like the Decembrist revolt, multiple Russian Revolutions (two just in 1917), the Russian Civil War, and the Kronstadt rebellion have all taken place due to great Russian discord. All of these incidents (and more) have led to the recent Wagner Group rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin against the Russian government.

When it comes to Russian tradition, we have to remember there’s often no place to express political descent, and people can not convey their displeasure with events, actions, and lack of support. Eventually, this leads to rebellion. Right now is a time of great challenge for Vladmir Putin and the Russian War effort in Ukraine. Even more importantly, more countries in the MIddle East, Africa, and even the Americas may have the opportunity to take advantage of weaknesses that are being evidenced by this rupture in the Russian structure. 

Interesting Fact: 

One of the most famous rebellions in Russian history was Pugachev’s Rebellion, which lasted from 1773-1775. Emelian Pugachev was a former lieutenant of the Imperial Russian Army. He actually impersonated Peter III, Catherine the Great’s husband, and successfully took over a large part of Russia during his ‘reign’. He is still well known today for his rebellious, charismatic personality, and what he was able to accomplish. 

Episode Timestamps:
  • Pugachev’s Rebellion in Russia {1:27}
  • The Decembrist Revolt and how it impacted the Russian monarchy {4:55}
  • Key events that led to the first Russian Revolution of 1905 {7:12}
  • Poor circumstances that ultimately led to 2 Russian revolutions in 1917 {12:58}
  • Fighting between red Russians and white Russians in the Russian Civil War {16:02}
  • The Kronstadt rebellion in 1921 {17:02}
  • The coup d’etat against Gorbachev in 1991 {20:28}
  • General Sergey Surovikin’s noticeable role in the coup d’etat in 1991, as well as his connection to present day Russian events  {24:48}
  • Important aspects involved in the Wagner Group rebellion against the Russian government in June 2023 {26:50}


“There are a lot of different aspects to what happened this past June, but the key thing to remember here is that in the Russian tradition, there’s often no place to express political descent. There’s often no mechanism by which people and military units can convey their displeasure with events, with actions, and with lack of support, other than to actually mount a full scale rebellion.”


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