So, back in Catherine the Great’s time, there was a huge bubonic plague (1770-1772) that took out, according to some reports, 1/6 to 1/3 of the residents of Moscow (close to 100,000 people) and countless others in the more rural areas. They didn’t really know how the plague or germs, for that matter, spread.
Lots of people would gather around religious icons and pray. All this meant that the plague jumped from one person to another even more quickly. The icon was removed overnight, one day, by archbishop Amvrosy. Riots happened because the Russians believed it was a conspiracy to spread the plague further and he was torn apart by the angry mob. Fun stuff.
In September 1771, the plague peaked and killed an estimated thousand Moscow residents a day. That September, 20,401 were confirmed dead. In case you were wondering, Catherine sent her lover, Gregory Orlov, to deal with the situation. He did it by using quarantines and, with the onset of winter weather, the number of confirmed dead in Moscow during January of 1772 was 330.
On a somewhat related note, Crystal Castles just put out “Plague”, available for a free download, and it’s pretty great.
As a bonus, listen to “Untrust Us”.