Nicholas II was crowned Tsar of Russia on May 14 , 1896.
Four days later, a banquet was going to be held for the people at Khodynka Field. In the area of one town square, theaters, 150 buffets for distribution of gifts, and 20 pubs were built for the celebrations. Nearby the celebration square was a field that had a ravine and many gullies. On the evening of May 17, people who had heard rumours of coronation gifts from the tsar (the gifts which everybody was to receive were a bread roll, a piece of sausage, pretzels, gingerbread, and a mug) began to gather in anticipation.
At about 5 o'clock in the morning of the coronation day, several thousand people (according to Jay Leyda, estimates reached 500,000) were already gathered on the field. Suddenly a rumour spread among the people that there was not enough beer or pretzels for everybody. A police force of 1800 men failed to maintain civil order, and in a catastrophic crush and resulting panic to flee the scene, 1,389 people were trampled to death, and roughly 1,300 were otherwise injured.
The parties, receptions and balls following the Coronation were darkened by the catastrophe at Khondinka, where 2,000 people were crushed to death. The same day as the catastrophe, I was taking a walk along the Khondinka and I met many groups of people coming back from that site and carrying the Tsar's gifts. The strange thing, though, was that not one person mentioned the catastrophe, and I did not hear about it until the next morning, at the Governor General's palace, where General Prefect of Police Vlasovski brought a special report. Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich was very depressed by what had happened; he gave Vlasovski orders to return to him every hour with detailed reports on the progress of the investigation into the causes of the disaster. ”— Alexei Volkov