(information taken from wiki)
Russia had come out of the Time of Troubles (1598 - 1613) - that transition period between dynasties when there was no strong central power and things were near anarchy with factions pulling the fabric of society in all directions. In response, the next Russian dynasty to occupy the throne (Romanov) focused on strengthening the position of the tsar in order to bring back stability and the rule of Russia became ever more autocratic. Since the implementation of the Law Code of 1649 when serfdom was institutionalized,the gulf between the nobility and the peasantry deepen. As a result there was a constant state of low level unrest among the peasantry,which provided a ready audience (and excuse) for every renegade who wanted to instigate rebellion.
From here on out,you find every major Peasant Rebellion (1670/1708/1773) is actually a Don Cossack rebellion. Don Cossacks were a lower-class group living near the Don River in southern Russia near the Volga River that were given a certain level of independence in exchange for their service of defending Russia's borders,particularly the southern region that faced constant attack from Turkic tribes both from the south and the east. They were loyal to the tsar because that is who paid their wages and guaranteed their independent status,but they resented the noble class of boyars with whom they identified as abusing their power and taking all wealth from the lower classes.
And into this Stepan Razin (known as Stenka Razin) was born in 1630. Banditry seems to be Razin's main occupation in life,even when he was leading a revolt. In 1667 we hear that Razin has formed a community of robbers living in the marshland between two rivers near the Volga River where they would demand tribute from any vessel traveling on the Volga past that section.
As peasants were squeezed for taxes to pay for Russia's long war with Poland (1654-1667) and Sweden (1656-1658),many of them escaped down into the wilds of this region and joined Razin's band of Cossack marauders. As the oppression of different ethnic groups and the lower classes continued because of the wars and the tightening of centralized power - Razin's group grew to a size and strength that he was able to destroy a naval convoy of treasury barges along with it's accompanying barges of wealthy merchants and nobles. He then sailed down the Volga with a fleet of 35 vessels and captured a number of forts along the way,defeating the army commander sent to stop him.
At that point(1667),he wisely decided to head down to the Caucasus region of Dagestan and then onto Persia where he thought the pickings would be less risky but the reward greater. He and a small band of Cossacks planned to set up a base in Yaitsk on the Ural River in what is Kazakhastan from which to operate. He sailed down the Volga into the Caspian Sea,defeating several detachments of guardsmen as he went.
When he got to Yaitsk that summer,he and several of his band,made their way inside the gates of the city by disguising themselves as pilgrims come to pray at the city's cathedral and once in they opened the gates for the rest of his brigands. By this time his reputation as a hero robber preceded him and it is said the city guards sent to fight Razin's men didn't put much fight into the effort because they felt affinity for the Cossack cause against the nobility.
In the spring,Razin and the majority of his band headed down the Ural River,leaving only a small contingent of men to guard Yaitsk. While he was gone,the government took back Yaitsk and his base from which he planned to operate out of was no more.
Razin and his men sailed down the Caspian coast until they got to Dagestan where they tried to take a fortress port but were unable. For the most part,they did not have much luck in Persia,spending that winter barely surviving as they sailed around the coastline of the southern Caspian Sea.
But in the spring,their fortunes turned for the better. They built a base on the isle of Suina and raided Turkmen villages in the surrounding area. Once again the strength of his band grew to the point they were able to annihilate a Persian fleet sent to defeat him.
When he headed back to southern Russia late that summer in 1669,the still lawless border region of Russia,the nomadic peoples there ate up the stories of his adventures and he gathered a following.
The next summer he went from bandit to open insurrection leader capturing towns as he sailed up the Volga with an army of almost 7,000 men. In one town the guardsmen rose up against their own officers and joined the Cossack cause. At Astrakhan,the fortified island city at the mouth to the Volga River,the local guardsmen's rebellion allowed Razin to gain access to the city.
In Astrakhan,he massacred any who opposed him and for three weeks,his followers pillaged the rich bazaars and city. He proclaimed the city as a Cossack republic and the newly appointed general assembly officials declared him their sovereign.
He sent men to cities in the Volga region and even as deep into the heartland of Russia as Moscow to gin up the beleaguered population,promising them he would free them from oppression by getting rid of all of the boyars and bureaucrats and create a Cossack republic where everyone was equal.
As part of his plan to establish a Cossack republic all along the length of the Volga River prior to setting upon Moscow,he set sail up the Volga River with two hundred barges full of his troops.Initially he has success in capturing some of the weaker defended towns, but in Oct.,when he faced a stronger army and it looked like defeat was imminent,Razin fled back down the Volga,abandoning the bulk of his army to be destroyed.
From the summer of 1670 into the winter of 1671,Razin's insurrection continued unabated,but it had lost it's momentum at the rout.
His own captured towns would not open their gates to him. The patriarch of Moscow declared Razin excommunicated and the Don Cossacks declared him outlaw.
The tsar then sent in troops to put down the rebellion.
"The brutality of the repressions by far exceeded the atrocities committed by the insurgents." The tsar's troops mutilated the rebels' bodies and displayed them in public to serve as a warning to potential dissenters-wiki
That year,Razin and his brother were captured by Cossack guardsmen who turned them over to the tsar's officials where he was tortured and then quartered alive.
The rebellion Razin started finally ended some six months after his death,brutally put down.
Stenka Razin is the first finished Russian narrative film. The 10-minute silent film is a fictionalized account of episodes from the life of Stenka Razin. It premiered on October 28,1908.