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1 September 2014


  The world’s biggest country, in a magazine. Since 1956.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Death of a Dynasty

by Linda DeLaine

The family of Tsar Nicholas II was under house arrest in Alexander Palace for five months following Nicholas' abdication of the crown in March of 1917. Their Bolshevik captures allowed them full run of the palace grounds, but, only under heavy guard. On August 1, 1917, the family was moved, by train, to Tobolsk, the capital city of Siberia. They were given less comfortable accommodations in the Governor's Mansion and were not allowed outside.

In May of 1918, the family of Tsar Nicholas II was moved, again. This time to a mining town in the Ural Mountains. The home of an engineer named Ipatiev, in the town of Yekaterinburg {Ekaterinburg} was confiscated. The Bolsheviks held the Tsar and his family here until July, 1918.

Shortly before midnight on July 16/17, 1918, the Tsar, his family and several household employees imprisoned in Ipatiev House were awakened. They were ordered to dress and go to the basement. Yurovsky told them that they were going to pose for a family photo. Their head captor and executioner had other plans.

The eleven captives were lined up, in two rows, against the basement's stone wall. They were Nicholas, Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, Aleksey, Trupp {valet}, Demidova {maid}, Kharitonov {cook} and the family physician, Dr. Bothem.

Yurovsky informed the Tsar that he was to be executed for his family's crimes against the people. He shot Nicholas point blank. The other ten executioners opened fire on the remaining captives. Their instructions were to aim for the heart to facilitate a certain and, relatively, bloodless death. This did not happen. The maid, Demidova, had to be beaten to death. The Grand Duchesses were shot several times and Aleksey had to be shot in the ear. The scene was one of panic as bullets seemed to bounce off the Duchesses and the stone walls.

When the smoke cleared, the bodies of the eleven victims were hauled to an empty mine shaft in Ekaterinburg. The girls' corpses were stripped. The reason for their ability to withstand the bullets was discovered. Eighteen pounds of the Romanov diamonds had been sewn into their undergarments. The gems were confiscated and the clothing burned. To this day, it is uncertain what became of the Romanov treasure the girls had guarded. Yurovsky and his accomplices felt compelled to beat the bodies further with the butts of their rifles. This may have been out of zealous hatred or to make the remains unrecognizable. Finally, the corpses were dumped into the empty mine shaft and acid poured in on top of them.

The remains of the Romanov family and household were discovered in 1979 by Dr. Alexander Avdonin. For political reasons, researchers were not allowed to exhume them until July 11, 1991. Since then, controversy has raged over the results of DNA testing and the positive identification of the remains. The burial of the royal family has been scheduled and cancelled several times. Additionally, the Russian Orthodox Church is still debated whether to canonize {make saints} the Romanovs as martyrs.

It is uncertain who ordered the execution of the Romanovs. Typically, history gives Lenin the credit. But, did Yurovsky act independently with no time to consult his superiors? Initially, Nicholas and his family was held in Alexander Palace by the Provisional Government. The intention was to have them shipped to England. Due to stronger oposition from the Petrograd Soviet {the Revolutionary Worker's and Soldiers' Council}, the Romanovs were moved to Tobolsk and later to Yekaterinburg {modern Sverdlovsk}. The anit-Bolshevik forces, known as the White Russians, neared Yekaterinburg, presumably, to rescue the Romanovs. The Bolsheviks could not allow this and the only sure solution was to kill the captives. The White forces took the town, but were unable to safe the royal family.

Incredibly, there were Romanov survivors. After the execution of the royal family, the Bolsheviks set out to capture and kill any and all other members of the family. At the time, there were 53 Romanovs living. Seventeen were killed by the Bolsheviks, one died of natural causes in 1918 and the remaining managed to escape Russia by February, 1920. Outside of the seven members of the Imperial Family, the other murdered Romanovs were: Grand Duke Michael {Nicholas' brother; July 1918}, Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Princess of Hess {sister off Alexandra}, Grand Duke Sergei {Nicholas' cousin}, Prince Ioann, Prince Igor, Grand Duke Paul {Nicholas' uncle}, Grand Duke Dmitri {Nicholas' cousin}and Grand Dukes Nicholas and George {brothers and cousins of Nicholas}. The surviving 35 Romanovs escaped to various countries, such as England, Greece and the United States.

In 1918, there were eight Romanovs already living abroad. One of them was the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich who had been exiled for his role in the murder of Rasputin.

Most of the surviving Romanovs lived, or are living, out their lives in relative peace. There are some interesting twists. The Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna {Princess of Denmark; Mother of Nicholas II} went to live with her sister, the Queen Mother, Alexandra of Britian. The Grand Duchess Olga {Dowager Queen of Greece} ultimately became the grandmother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh {Queen Elizabeth II's husband}.

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