Ninety Years Ago: Murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his Family
On July 25, 1918 The White forces entered Yekaterinburg and immediately headed to free the Emperor but found the Ipatyev house (where the Imperial Family was kept) empty. Gripped with grim predictions, they started searching for clues to what could have happened: the house looked as though it was left in a hurry and although they didn’t find any clothing or jewellery, a lot of personal belongings of the family were still there. They found an empty chocolate box, several books, Alexei’s medicine and some of the most important items for the family – the holy icons. When Chmudarov, the old servant of the Imperial Family, saw the icon of the Holy Mother, he started crying: the faithful man knew that the Empress would have never parted with it alive.
Admiral Kolchak ordered Sokolov to start an investigation and find out what had happened to the Imperial Family. Sokolov was a faithful Monarchist, who started his pursuit of truth with passion and dedication. Even after Kolchak’s death, after the Whites were defeated and the Soviet power looked absolute, he wouldn’t give up and continued the investigation, with great personal risk. It is due to him, as well as a report by Yurovski (made public recently) that we know the events of the terrible day in details.
On July 17, 1918 the Imperial family went to their bedrooms at exactly 22:30, as was their custom. At midnight, Yurovski woke them up with the news that the White forces are approaching Yekaterinburg and because of likelihood of shootings, the family should be hidden in one of the rooms in the lower part of the house, or transferred to a safer place.
Suspecting nothing, the family went downstairs. They were accompanied by four faithful companions: Dr. Botkin – the family doctor and friend, Kharitonov – the cook, Demidova – Empress’s maid, and Trupp – the footman. Nicholas carried sleepy Alexei. The group was led to a basement room, where they were asked to wait. The room was completely empty and the Emperor asked for chairs for his wife and son. Yurovski ordered to bring in three chairs – for the Emperor, the Empress and the Tsarevich. When all the remaining members of his ‘firing squad’ arrived, Yurovski re-entered the room and addressed the Emperor: “Because your relatives continue aggression against the Soviet Russia, a decision was made to gun down all of you”. The Emperor only managed to say “What?” before he was shot to death. Immediately, the rest of Yurovski’s group started gunfire. Empress Alexandra and Olga tried to cross themselves but never managed to finish. Botkin, Kharitonov and Trupp were also killed straight away. Demidova was finished off with bayonets, hit over 30 times. Tatiana, Olga and Anastasia were all wearing several kilograms of jewels within their clothing, so the bullets failed to kill them at first. Tatiana was shot to the head, while Maria and Anastasia were finished off with bayonets. Alexei was one of the last to die: the boy was crouched on the floor, wounded but still alive, clutching his dead father’s hand. Yurovski personally shot him twice behind his ear.
The bodies were then burned and buried in a secret place, where there remained for almost a century, until very recently, when they were finally found and laid to rest.
Although the assassination was presented as solely the decision of the Ural Executive Committee, it was well-known that the orders were received directly from Moscow and that Lenin was personally aware of it. Trotsky supported this version in his diaries.
Apart from Yurovski, all seven soldiers who participated in the assassination were Hungarian prisoners of war. Three Latvian soldiers refused to participate in the execution (two were later executed themselves). They were chosen because Lenin feared that even the most ‘patriotic comrades’ among Russian soldiers would not shoot at the Emperor, and especially at his family members.
On the site of the Ipatyev House in Yekaterinburg, a Cathedral was built, which now poignantly bears the name Cathedral-on-the-Blood.
Tagged Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, Assassination, Grand Duchess Anastasia, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, Grand Duchess Tatiana, Nicholas II, Tsarevich Alexei.