A century after the brutal murders of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, his wife Alexandra, and their five children (Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei), the execution of the Russian imperial family continues to capture the popular imagination. In
For the Romanov family at the Ipatiev House,
Since being brought here they had come to cherish the smallest and simplest of pleasures: the sun had shone; Alexey was recovering from his recent bout of illness, and the nuns had been allowed to bring him eggs; they had been granted the luxury of an occasional bath. Such are the few passing, mundane details from the Tsaritsa’s diary that have come down to us of the family in their final days and hours. Yet, despite their brevity, they give us a clear and unshakeable image of the family’s state of calm–almost pious acceptance–at this time.
Grand Duchesses Maria, Tatiana, Anastasia and Olga, daughters of Tsar Nicholas II Romanov of Russia, circa 1915.
We have no way of seeing into the true workings of their hearts and minds, of course, but we do know from everything their guards later said that Alexandra
But, as always, none of the four sisters ever complained. They accepted their situation with incredible forbearance. Nicholas, too, struggled on as best he
By the evening of the
"We have absolutely no news from outside."
In Moscow, Lenin’s government had in fact been discussing what to do with Nicholas—and indeed the whole family—on and off since early April. It had become increasingly apparent that the civil war now spreading to Siberia would make it impossible to bring the former Tsar back to Moscow for the
In early July, knowing that sooner or later the city, an important strategic point on the Trans-Siberian Railway, would fall to the Whites and Czechs approaching from the east, a decision was taken that when the time came, the Ural Regional Soviet should 'liquidate' the Imperial Family rather than have them fall into
Tsar Nicholas poses with his children before the revolution.
On July 14th, the Romanovs had unexpectedly been allowed the special privilege of a service, conducted for them at the Ipatiev House by a local priest, Father Ivan Storozhev. He had been deeply moved by their devotion and the enormous comfort they had clearly taken in being allowed to worship
Yurovsky had, meanwhile, been planning the family’s murder, though with a surprising lack of efficiency for such a ruthless, dedicated Bolshevik. He chose the site in the forest outside Ekaterinburg where the bodies were to be disposed
It was decided that the family would be killed there, in the house, in the basement room where any noise of shooting might be muffled. Early on the evening of July 16, Yurovsky distributed the assortment of handguns to be used. There was one gun for each guard; one murderer for each of the eleven intended victims: the Romanovs and their four loyal retainers, Dr Evgeniy Botkin, the chambermaid Anna Demidova, the valet Alexey Trupp, and the cook Ivan Kharitonov.
Unexpectedly, several of the guards refused point-blank to kill the girls.
But then, unexpectedly, several of the guards refused point-blank to kill the girls. Having talked with them on many occasions, they had grown to like them; what harm had they done anyone? The intended murder squad was thus reduced to eight or nine who, when Yurovsky gave the order to open fire, launched into a frenzy of wildly inaccurate shooting, several of them disobeying instructions and shooting Nicholas first. The other victims panicked in terror, necessitating the savage bayoneting of any survivors of the first onslaught. One thing is clear: the Romanov family and their servants met their deaths in the most brutal, bloody and merciless way.
The corpses were then unceremoniously thrown into a Fiat truck and taken out to the Koptyaki Forest. But the supposed mine shaft that Yurovsky had selected for them to be dumped in turned out to be too shallow; local peasants would easily find the bodies and seek to preserve them as holy relics. And so, within hours, the mutilated corpses of the Romanov family, stripped of their clothes and the Tsaritsa’s jewels, which had been secreted in them, were hastily dug up. Yurovsky and his men then made a botched attempt to incinerate the bodies of Maria and Alexey. Sixty yards away, the rest of the family were hastily reburied in a shallow grave along with their servants.
People still insist, even today, on referring to what happened to the Romanov family as
Despite the grotesque inefficiency with which Yurovsky and his men carried out these
Excerpted from THE RACE TO SAVE THE ROMANOVS: The Truth Behind the Secret Plans to Rescue the Russian Imperial Family by Helen Rappaport. © 2018 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.