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Unknown facts of the execution of the Romanov family

16 July 2019

101 years ago, from July 16 to July 17, the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their children — Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, Tsarevich Alexei, and the accompanying people were shot in Yekaterinburg in the basement of the mining engineer Nikolai Ipatiev.  

For many decades the circumstances of this tragedy kept secret. Today it is possible to restore the events of that night thanks to electronic copies of such publications as, for example, the book Murder of the Tsar's Family and Its Entourage: Official Documents, published by Russian Thought (Russkaya Mysl’)  in Constantinople in 1920 and digitized by the Presidential Library. It contains an entry from the words of Yekaterinburg resident Kapitolina Agafonova, whose brother, the Red Army soldier Anatoly Yakimov, guarded the Ipatiev house in 1918: “Once in July Anatoly came to sister, having a very exhausted look. When asked what happened, he was very agitated that last night "Nicholas Romanov, his whole family, the doctor, the maid of honor and the footman were killed". According to Anatoly, who was present during the shooting, in the first hour of the night all the prisoners were woken up and asked to go down. Here they were announced that an enemy would soon come to Yekaterinburg, and therefore they should be killed... Commandant Yurovsky, having read the paper, shot Nicholas, then the Latvians and some "main" people who had come from the council also fired. Those who did not immediately die from gunfire had to “shoot”, finish off with rifle butts, pin bayonets”.

The Presidential Library has digitized other emigre publications dedicated to the murder of the royal family and the events preceding this tragedy. Among them, for example, are the works of V. Rudnev “The Truth about the Tsarist Family and the Dark Forces” and “The Killing of the Tsar's Family” by Investigator N. Sokolov (he was investigating the murder of the Romanovs) are rare books available in the electronic reading room of the Presidential Library. The portal provides S. Yakovlev's digitized book “The Last Days of Nicholas II. Official documents. Eyewitness accounts” (1917), E. Levin’s Berlin edition “Nicholas II. Exposures” (1914).

In the prefaces to the majority of publications it is said that the reign of Emperor Nicholas II is one of the darkest pages of Russian history. “Started on the day of the coronation of the sovereign by the Khodynka tragedy, it ends with an “unprecedented cataclysm” that returned Russia two hundred years ago. The catastrophe crept after the calm, seemingly brilliant reign of Alexander III, when Russia seemed at the apogee of its strength, and this circumstance prompts to transfer the burden of responsibility to the identity of the successor, ”the explanatory notes to the Diary of Emperor Nicholas II, published in 1923 in Berlin, indicate .  

S. Urusov in the book "Emperor Nicholas II: Life and Deeds of the Crowned Tsar", published in London in 1909, writes: "Nicholas II will be marked in history as a logical necessity... to speed up the fall of the age-old chains of autocratic bacchanalia". “The task that fell to his lot was too hard, it exceeded his strength”, - mentor Tsarevich Alexei Pierre Gillard trying to find an excuse for the sovereign.

Russia at the turn of the XIX and XX centuries needed a strong leader. Much was expected from the first public imperial speech on January 17, 1895. However, Nicholas said: "Let everyone know that I, devoting all my strength to the good of the people, will protect the beginning of the autocracy as firmly and unswervingly as my unforgettable late parent protected it". The historian S. Oldenburg in the book “The Reign of Emperor Nicholas II” said about this speech: “The speech of January 17 dispelled the hopes of the intelligentsia to the possibility of constitutional transformations from above. In this regard, it served as the starting point for a new growth of revolutionary agitation, for which funds were again found”.

The Russian-Japanese war, the economic crisis and discontent that gripped the majority of the working population led to a social explosion — on January 9, 1905, the troops and police of St. Petersburg used weapons to disperse the peaceful march of workers who were sent with a petition to the tsar. “If he came out to the people who rushed to him, if he had said a few words and promised to alleviate people's sufferings even a little, the multimillion masses would have reacted to him with new confidence and would kindle his instinctive love based on prejudice - makes the assumption D. Orlov in the publication “Tsar Nicholas II, his environment and advisers”. “But instead, the tsar destroyed the autocracy, eradicated the popular faith in himself and caused a revolution”.

In 1914, Russia entered the First World War. Failures on the fronts, devastation, the growth of antiwar sentiment and general discontent with the autocracy led to mass demonstrations against the government and the dynasty.

In February 1917, Petrograd was swept by unrest. The electronic copy of S. Yakovlev’s book “The Last Days of Nicholas II. Official documents. Eyewitness accounts” (1917) contains the text of a telegram, which the Chairman of the State Duma, M. V. Rodzianko, sent to the Tsar on February 26, 1917: “Anarchy is in the capital. The government is paralyzed. Indiscriminate shooting takes place in the streets... It is necessary to immediately entrust the person enjoying the confidence of the country to create a new government. Every delay is like death. I pray to God that at this hour the responsibility does not fall on tsar”.   

The question about the expediency of the abdication of Nicholas II arose, which was answered positively by all the front commanders, with the exception of the Black Sea Fleet commander Admiral A. Kolchak. On March 2 (15), 1917, Nicholas II decided to abdicate the throne; this is stated in the work “The Abdication of Nicholas II: Eyewitness Memories, Documents” (1927), presented on the Presidential Library’s portal.

Nicholas II abdicated the throne for himself and his son Alexei in favor of his younger brother Mikhail Alexandrovich. The text of the document written by the sovereign can be read in an electronic copy of the publication “Chamber-Fourier magazine of March 2, 1917 with a record of the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II from the throne” (1917). In the “Case of the deprivation of liberty of Nicholas II and other members of the royal family (1917) from the Presidential Library, another letter from Nicholas is written, hastily written by hand, asking“ to take under the protection of the government all members of the imperial house, since in such difficult times, all kinds of surprises are always possible”.

Immediately after the October Revolution, the royal family was arrested and sent to Tobolsk. The fact of the secrecy of the exile is noted in diaries by Nicholas II, who writes that they will be taken to one of the cities in the interior of the country. The plans of the Bolshevik leadership was an open trial of the former emperor - for this, in particular, V. I. Lenin spoke, and the main accuser was supposed to be Leo Trotsky. However, there was information about the existence of "White Guard conspiracies" to abduct the emperor, and the Romanov family was transported to Yekaterinburg, to the Ipatiev house...

In a very short protocol № 159 of the meeting of the Council of People’s Commissars of July 18, 1918, it is said: “The question of the murder of Nicholas II was heard. Resolved - to take note. There were no other resolutions regarding this case.

The remains of Nicholas II and his relatives, as well as those from the environment of the sovereign, who were shot in the Ipatiev house, were found in July 1991 near Yekaterinburg.

In 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church abroad listed them as “martyrs”. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate murdered members of the royal family canonized the “passion-bearers”.

In October 2008, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation decided on the rehabilitation of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family members.

Detailed information about the fate of Nicholas II is available in “The Romanov Dynasty. Zemsky Sobor of 1613” collection, which included about a thousand digitized documents.