"I am aware that the precise circumstances of the annihilation of the imperial family are still, nearly sixty years later, in dispute. What is not in dispute, I believe, is that a crime of remarkable (above, L to R: Marie, Alexandra, Alexis, Olga Tatiana, Nicholas, Anastasia) vileness, involving the murder of children in cold blood, was committed by the Bolsheviks..."
- Edward Crankshaw, 1976.
"Six men who had been in the room described what happened that night. And something incredible happened. What was supposed to remain secret forever was laid out in all its details. That entire impossible, inhuman night. Now we shall let them speak."
- Edward Radzinsky, 1992.
In the very early morning hours of today's date, July 17 in 1918, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, his wife Alexandra, and their whole family: four beautiful young girls, Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia, and their son the Tsarevitch Alexis were all murdered by their Bolshevik jailers, who were acting on the orders of their government. Along with them were also murdered Dr. Sergei Botkin, the family physician, chambermaid Anna Demidova, and the cook, Ivan Kharitanov. This was indeed "a crime of remarkable vileness", as Mr. Crankshaw said above writing in 1976. But since that time, documents have become available which shed a bleak light on this act of bloody savagery. As Mr. Radzinsky, writing in 1992 said, "now we shall let them speak."
What To Do With Nicholas?
The comatose regime of the Czar had been overthrown by the Revo- lution of March, 1917. The leader of the new Provisional Govern-
"We must shoot them all tonight..."
According to Pavel Medvedev (below), one of the soldiers guarding the family:
"Commandant Yurovsky, [the head of the execution squad] ordered me to take all the Nagan revolvers from the guards and to bring them to him. Yurovsky said to me, 'We must shoot them all tonight; so notify the guards not to be alarmed if they hear shots.' I understood, therefore, that Yurovsky had it in his mind to shoot the whole of the Tsar's family, as well as the doctor and the servants who lived with them....
"About midnight (July 17) Yurovsky (below) woke up the Tsar's family. I do not know if he told them the reason they had been awakened and where they were to be taken,
Yakov Yurovsky told the family that they needed a group photograph, and arranged them as if for such a photo. He and Alexander Strekotin then take up the macabre narrative:
Yurovsky: “When they were all standing, the detachment was called in. When the detachment com[ mandant] walked in, he told the R[ omanov] s: ‘In view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Sov[ iet] Russia, the Ural Executive Committee has decided to execute you.’ Nicholas turned his back to the detachment, his face to the family, then sort of came to and turned around to face the com[ mandant] and asked: ‘What? What?’”
Strekotin: “Yurovsky was standing in front of the tsar, his right hand
Yurovsky: “The detachment had been told beforehand who was to shoot whom, and they had been ordered to aim straight for the heart, to avoid excessive quantities of blood and get it over with quicker.” The com[ mandant] quickly repeated it and ordered the detachment to get ready.… Nicholas did not say anything more, having turned back toward the family; the others uttered a few incoherent exclamations. It all lasted just a few seconds.”
Strekotin: “At his last word he instantly pulled a revolver out of his pocket and shot the tsar. The tsaritsa and her daughter Olga tried to make the sign of the cross, but did not have enough time. Yurovsky: “ Nich[ olas] was killed by the commandant, point blank. Then A[ lexandra] F[ eodorovna] died immediately.”
The squad of murderers then apparently went wild, firing hysterically. Some of the bullets bounced off of their hapless victims, which caused considerable fear to these thugs until it was later discovered that this had been caused by the bullets hitting diamonds and other precious gems which had secretly been sewn into the corsets worn by the girls.
Pavel Medvedev : “The blood was gushing out … the heir was still alive— and moaning. Yurovsky walked over to him and shot him two or three times at point-blank range. The heir fell still. The scene made me want to vomit.”
Strekotin: “The smoke was blocking out the electric lamp. The shooting was halted. The doors of the room were opened for the smoke to disperse. They started picking up the bodies.”
The bodies were loaded on trucks and taken to a lonely spot off the roads to an abandoned mine shaft where they were stripped of clothing, all of which was burned. The bodies were thrown down into the mine shaft to be followed by several hand grenades, the explosion of which was meant to cause the mine shaft to collapse, which it did. Then they all returned to Ekaterinburg by 10:00 in the morning. Yurovsky noted with a blood-thirsty satisfaction that only a true Bolshevik could manage that his part of the "process" (the actual murders themselves, and the loading of the trucks) had only taken twenty minutes. Pictured above is that burial site, found in 1979, as it looks today. The remains of the Czar and his family were re-buried in St. Petersburg in 1998.
For further commentary on Nicholas II, his reign and the meaning of it and his death go to my posting for May 26 about his coronation, and read the remarks by myself, and Mr. Massie and Crankshaw...
"The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II" by Edward Radzinsky, 1992, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
"The Romanovs - the Final Chapter" by Robert K. Massie, Randon House, New York, 1995.
"In the Shadow of the Winter Palace" by Edward Crankshaw, Viking Press, New York, 1976.