Wednesday, 16 July 2014

The night of July 16-17, 1918 a sad anniversary.

The First World War saw the collapse of four great Empires, one of which was the Russian Empire ruled by the Romanov Family for more than 300 years. Little did Tsar Nicholas II realise what would happen just a few years into the future to his dynasty, his family and his country.

He had been forced to abdicate by his generals in February 1917, the war for Russia was a total disaster. He returned to the Alexander Palace in Tsarkoe Selo just outside St-Petersburg to be with his wife and children. The Provisional Government had them arrested and sent into exile to various cities in Eastern Russia. At first there exile was benign but in April 1917 Lenin with the help of the German Government was able to return to Russia and there he overthrew the Provisional Government by staging a coup which turned into a 10 year Civil War. Lenin ended the war with Germany and Austria by giving away considerable amounts of land to the enemies. The Tsar and his family were then moved to Yekaterinburg to the Ipatiev House. Nicholas had real fears that with Lenin and the Bolsheviks now in power his family chance of survival were slim. His son Alexis was also serious ill and dying from the results of his haemophiliac condition.  His daughters Tatiana, Anastasia, Olga and Maria were harassed by the guards constantly. The family was on army rations and life was bleak in general.

On the night of 16 to 17 July 1918 the White Army faithful to the Tsar was fast approaching Yekaterinburg and the Bolsheviks had received orders from Lenin in Moscow to eliminated the family and its servants to prevent their liberation.

The Tsar and his wife Alexandra where woken up and told to prepare the family to move out quickly given the approach of the White Army. The family was told to move to the cellar for a group photo before departure. Alexis had to be carried down by his father and the Tsarina who was partially paralysed moved with great difficulty. The servants including the family doctor were also ask to go to the cellar.

Suddenly a group of 8 or 11 men entered the room and without further ado the Tsar was told that he and his family had been declared by Lenin and the Bolshevik government to be Enemies of the Proletariat. Without time to reply the Tsar holding his son in his arms was shot. The rest of the party was then also shot panic ensued given that the bullets in the small cellar ricocheted all over the place.
The Tsarina and her daughters had sown into their clothing 17 lbs of jewels and precious stones. The assailants finished them off with their bayonets.

The bodies where then severely mutilated and defaced, taken to a mine pit, doused with acid and set on fire. No one survived, a very detailed and complete report was sent to Lenin on what had happened, this document was kept in the secret archives of the Kremlin by the Soviets and was made public in 1991.

In 1977 the Ipatiev house was demolished on orders of the Central Committee in Moscow, it was attracting too much attention and it was feared that it might become a shrine. After the fall of Communism in 1991 serious investigation work was started and the remains located except for those of young Alexis and his sister Maria whose remains would only be found in 2007 with those of the family dog.  Extensive DNA testing was done and Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II who is a close relative of the Romanov gave a sample of blood to help identification.
It was established with a very high degree of certainty and with further forensic evidence that indeed the remains where those of the Imperial Family and of their servants.

The Orthodox Church declared them to be Holy Martyrs and the Russian Government declared them to be victims of political violence. The Tsar and his family were never charged with any offence by the Bolsheviks nor were they ever tried for any crime of misdeed. They were simply eliminated for political reasons.

The rest of the Romanov family including the Empress Dowager Maria, mother of Tsar Nicholas fled Russia via the Black Sea where the British and Canadian War ships were sent to pick them all up. Many settled in France, Spain, Greece, Italy, Denmark, Canada and the USA.

Today on the site of the Ipatiev house stands a grand Memorial Church and every year at this time upwards of 70,000 people come for the Mass and processions in memory of the Tsar and his family as Holy Martyrs. The mine pit where the bodies were found is also now enclosed in an area of prayer and a chapel has been built on the site.

The Imperial family was re-buried in the Cathedral of St-Peter and St- Paul when President Boris Yelstin was in Office. He invited the Romanov Family and all the Grand Dukes to attend. Full military honours usually reserved for a Tsar where given, the coffins were flown on the Presidential Plane to St-Petersburg and an Honour Guard met and escorted the convoy to the Peter and Paul Fortress where the Imperial Mausoleum of all Romanov Tsars is located. The Funeral was broadcasted on State Television and the old Imperial Anthem was played. Yelstin wanted to break with the past and make amends for this great historical wrong. It is hoped that the Heir Tsarevitch Alexis and his sister the Grand Duchess Maria can join the rest of the family in the mausoleum soon.

Se website


  1. i recently took a course on Russian history - he was a fascinating fellow.

  2. You know you study too much, LOL. A poor ruler and too much family intrigue, a regime coming to a sad end. Lenin helped by the Germans. A lot of poor political decisions all around. Too many innocents paid.