May 01, 2016

The Murder of the Romanovs

In tumultuous times, great stories are often lost to the larger sweep of history.

The events unleashed by the Russian Revolution are the most tumultuous of the twentieth century. And one story often “lost” within the revolution is the epic misadventure of an ad hoc army of Czechs and Slovaks cast adrift inside revolutionary Russia. Against their will, they found themselves fighting the new Soviet regime and winning – seizing all of Siberia in 1918. Yet they also inadvertently precipitated the murder of the tsar and his family.

Ninety percent of enemy troops captured by tsarist Russia during World War I were subjects of Austria-Hungary, a multinational empire held together by Vienna’s Habsburg dynasty. The Hungarians were the strongest minority, having forced the Habsburgs to grant them equal status with the Austrians in 1867, but the Czechs were the most unruly nationality, often rioting in Prague and in the Viennese parliament for autonomy and equal rights.

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