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HomeNewsKilling the Tsar: Part 2

Killing the Tsar: Part 2


Yesterday’s instalment took us to the abdication of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II in 1917 and the royal family’s imprisonment in a series of locations.

RASPUTIN, for all his infamy, had an uncanny ability to predict future events. In August 1916, a full year before the Russian royals were moved to Tobolsk in Siberia, Rasputin stated that ‘willingly or unwillingly [the Romanovs] will arrive in Tobolsk before their death and will see my home village’.

It was on their way from Tobolsk to their final destination that the second half of Rasputin’s prophecy was fulfilled. Seeking a more secure location for the Romanovs, the local Soviet leadership transferred the family to Yekaterinburg. En route, they stopped in the Siberian village of Pokrovskoye – the village where Rasputin was born. Stopping opposite Rasputin’s home to change horses, the Romanovs caught a glimpse of the mystic’s wife and three children gazing out of the window.

Arrival in Yekaterinburg saw the conditions of the Romanovs’ imprisonment deteriorate. For 78 days they were confined to the top floor of the Ipatiev House, menacingly renamed ‘The House of Special Purpose’ and sealed by a giant palisade. The claustrophobic conditions were exacerbated with the painting over of all the windows, trapping the family in an unventilated cell during the warm Siberian spring and early summer. 

The few privileges they enjoyed were gradually snuffed out. A change of command at the house and the arrival of Yakov Yurovsky led to further restrictions. The discovery of flirting between a guard and the young Maria Romanov resulted in even more. 

Outdoor exercise for an hour a day provided the family’s only glimmer of the outside world. When indoors, the family played endless card games and read ceaselessly from the Bible. As time wore on, the strength of their religious belief became a vital crutch, enabling them to endure their suffering with little complaint. A liturgy was allowed to be conducted for the family on July 14.

The situation in Yekaterinburg had become exceedingly precarious for the Bolsheviks as White forces approached the town, so when the family were called to wake up just after midnight on July 18, 1918 and told to move to the basement, they assumed that they were to be transported somewhere else.

Instead, Yurovsky came into the room and said: ‘Nikolai Alexandrovich, in view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Soviet Russia, the Ural Executive Committee has decided to execute you.’

Unable to comprehend what he had heard, Nicholas could only respond with ‘What? What?’ A repeat of the order given to Yurovsky by the Ural Executive Committee was followed by a hail of bullets. Although the executioners had precisely planned the murder of the family, they botched it. What should have been a 30-second operation became an extended, 20-minute blood bath.

Amid the smoke and stench of gunpowder in the small basement room, it was impossible to tell who was firing at who. Drunk and high on adrenaline, the killers lacked precision, descending into the barbaric use of bayonets to try to finish off the teenage Romanov daughters. However, having sewn jewels and precious items into their clothing, the girls had effectively sewn themselves body armour. When the stabbing failed, the lingering survivors were shot in the head.

The bodies – plus those of the family’s doctor, cook, footman and lady-in-waiting – were hauled out and thrown into the back of a waiting Fiat truck. Plans to dispose of the bodies became a farce as the underpowered vehicle overheated and got stuck in the mud of the forest tracks north-west of Yekaterinburg. An initial attempt to throw the bodies down a mineshaft was abandoned, but not until after the bodies had been doused in acid and torn apart by grenades.

Shallow graves awaited the Romanovs. It would not be until 2007 that all their bodies were accounted for.

Today, on the site of the Ipatiev House stands a magnificent Orthodox church. The site of the basement where they were murdered has become a shrine. The site where their bodies were dumped – Ganina Yama – is now a complex of seven chapels, one for each murdered royal. It is fitting that the site of such tragedies that overtook he and his family are now religious sites. The family were, although not without controversy, canonised after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Nicholas II, by all accounts, was dedicated to his family and, in contrast to the prevailing standards of the time, was an active and loving father. After power had been taken from him, he appeared to have little interest in winning it back, preferring to spend time with his family and going for walks. He had all the makings of a thoroughly decent chap, but a terrible tsar for early 20th century Russia.

One can perhaps understand his murder through the prism of cold, Machiavellian politics. What makes the fate of the family so tragic, however, is the murder of the innocent children. They were killed not of because of what they did, but who they were. They, in the eyes of the communist revolutionaries who had seized power, were guilty of an inherited crime embodied in their very existence. They were the ultimate class enemies.

As the West flirts with the idea that people are born innately good or bad – depending on whether they are white, black, male, female or whatever else – we should heed the warnings of history. We are not the first society to play such reckless games, and nor will we be the last. The unmitigated tragedy of last century’s history, however, stands as the ultimate warning sign.

This is because when identity politics arrives, by its nature it cannot remain peaceful. If one is guilty by virtue of one’s immutable characteristics, innocence is not possible. Time and time again, history shows that those who seize power while scapegoating a group in society will grow to believe that society can be purified only by their liquidation. It never works, but this does not dissuade the revolutionary’s zeal from trying just one more time.

Such people must be challenged and stopped wherever possible. If we don’t, only darkness follows in their wake.

Here is a video I made in Yekaterinburg and Ganina Yama. Warning: Some obscenity.

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Frederick Edward
Frederick Edward
Frederick Edward is from the Midlands. You can see his Substack here.'

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