'The Russians are coming!'

17 February 1873

During the 19th century the Russian and British empires were involved in a number of conflicts, prompting many New Zealanders to view the Russians as potential aggressors. In the aftermath of the Crimean War of the 1850s, unannounced visits to the South Pacific by Russian warships created alarm in New Zealand.

This fear was exploited in 1873 when the editor of the Daily Southern Cross, David Luckie, published a hoax report of a Russian invasion of Auckland by the cruiser Kaskowiski (‘cask of whisky’). Gullible Aucklanders were alarmed to read that the crew of the Kaskowiski had seized gold and taken the mayor hostage.

A full-blown Russian scare in 1885 grew out of Anglo–Russian rivalry in Afghanistan and led to the building of major fortifications to protect New Zealand’s coastal cities.

Image: David Luckie (Te Ara Biographies