THE MASSACRE IN JEKATERINBURG
Discovery in Soviet Archive Casts
New light over the Event of July 1918
For more than seven decades the ultimate fate
of Nicholas II and his family has been the topic for rumors and the
creation of myths. They continue despite the thorough investigation
made by the White Armys examining magistrate Nickolas Sokolov,
with the help of depositions and evidence of the situation itself,
which showed that the entire family including the family doctor and
three servants were killed by shooting. Another unclear question left
open is where are the bodies buried? No one has found the bodies.
The theory is that they were burned and destroyed with concentrated
sulphuric acid, according to experts who later studied the case.
Rumors about the rescue and survival started during
the chaotic state of affairs that ruled the year after the revolution
and, as a result of the bolsheviks efforts to ease the horrible
truth, they let officials and the press announce that only the Czar
was shot and the remaining family had gone away.
During the Soviet Union Glasnost the original
document has now turned up which gives the final answer to most of
what has been unclear. The content of the document has been brought
out in two articles in the Soviet Russian publication Ogonjok by author-historian
Edvard Radzinsky. Since the 1970s he has been writing the history
of Nicholas II. During his search for source material he found in
"October Revolution Central Archives" a thin map with a
notation "Commission with ex-Czar Nicholas II". This included
some official (and intentionally misleading) telegrams from the Ural
Soviet to the Central Committee in Moscow concerning the Czars
execution. Also found were Nicholas and Czarinna Alexandras
diary and the most sensational of all a complete account
of the mass-execution and measures taken to cover the trail, written
by the Commandant for the Czars familys last imprisonment
in Jekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk). It was he who also personally served
as chief of the execution platoon.
Radzinsky received a further sensational contribution
to his historical writing in the form of a letter from the son of
one of the executioners, sent since 1964. He had assisted in an interview
with the surviving witnesses. But first some facts about the Czars
family and what preceded the terrible end.
Tsarskoje Selo Tobolsk Jekaterinburg
Some people dont believe that Nicholas Romanov
was the picture of a blood-thirsty tyrant that the revolutionaries
gave of him. He was a considerate, modest and cultured man devoted
and loyal to his wife Alexandra (born Princess Alix of Hesse) and
a good father to the five children, daughters Olga, Tatjana, Maria,
Anastasia and son Alexej, who suffered from the awful hemophilia.
As a ruler Nicholas was too weak for the demands
placed upon him. He, together with Alexandra who began to mix in with
the authority, bore the debt for the many mistakes in domestic politics
and for the unsuccessful war. After the March revolution in 1917 and
the Czars abdication, the provisional government put the Czars
family under house arrest in the palace in Tsarskoje Selo. It was
in practice a prison and they were guarded closely. After the bolsheviks
first unsuccessful attempted coup in July, prime minister Kerensky
saw that nearness to the restless Petrograd created danger for the
safety of the family, and they were moved in August 1917 to Tobolsk
in Siberia. There they lived as "privileged prisoners" in
the governors house which was placed at their disposal. However,
the October revolution brought new rulers, the bolsheviks, who took
over custody and conditions gradually became more difficult for the
In May 1918 the Czars family was unexpectedly
moved to Jekaterinburg. They were placed in the wealthy Ipatjevs
house which was requisitioned because of its suitability, with the
designation "special house for the purpose." It was a spacious
two-story building and there the family had rooms on the upper floor
(except for what was used as the Commandants office). At this
point in time, the number of prisoners was 12, including Dr. Botkin
and four servants. The house was fenced in with double railings and
with guards who numbered over 50, who were equipped with both machine
guns and small arms.
Concerning the state of affairs in Ipatjevs
house, Sokolov relates details in his book which was published some
years later, and which were also confirmed by Radzinsky in his article
Death in the "special house for the purpose"
In the beginning of July the inner guard was suddenly
replaced with a unit of "Latvian Czechs". Included in the
group were also German and Austrian prisoners of war who went over
to Soviet authority. The Soviet Commandant was also replaced and in
his place came the previously named Commandant Jurovsky, a barber-surgeon
who advanced through the local Czechs. A young Czech, Russian Nikulin
served as his "assistant" and as chief guard, the Russian
Medvedjev. These three later appear to be capable of dreadful actions.
It has been expressed that the bolsheviks had
planned to hold a kind of trial for the ex-Czar. But toward the middle
of July it was clear that the White Army was approaching Jekaterinburg
and this likely sealed the familys fate. The Ural Soviets telegraphically
asked the council in Moscow how they should proceed with the captives.
In the archive file an entry found in the diary
from the very last days does not directly suggest that the captives
had a feeling that the end was so near. Nicholas wrote on 11 July:
"In the morning at 11:30 three workers came to the open window
and lifted up a heavy grill that they screwed firmly from the outside.
Jurovsky has said nothing to us about this beforehand. We did not
think much about it. I began to read the 8th part of Saltykov.
13 July, Saturday, Alexej bathed for the first
time after Tobolsk. His knee is better but he still can not bend it
completely. The weather is warm and beautiful. I have not had any
news from outside."
Alexandra mentioned in her diary the 4th
of July, the day that the guards were changed, that the new commandant
had already come to see the babys leg ("baby" = Alexej
became the object of the barber-surgeons professionnal interest).
She found his young assistant was a sympathetic young man in comparison
with the vulgar and unpleasant guards. (It was this "sympathetic
young man" who would later shoot Alexej!). And at the end of
the notes for
16 July at bedtime, some hours before the last
"3/16 July, Tuesday. A gray morning; later
the beautiful sun came out. Baby is slightly cold. Everyone went out
for a half-hour walk. Olga and I stayed inside. We prepared the medicine.
Tatjana read from Prophet Amos book and Prophet Obediahs
book. Thereafter we sat and talked. The Commissar came frequently
to our room and at the last he had an egg for Baby. Eight oclock
supper. Sednejev was suddenly called to meet his fathers brother
and with that, went away. (Sednjev was the childrens servant
and the same age as Alexej, and by leaving he was saved). I wonder
if this was true and if we would see more of him. -- played bezique
with Nicholas. Went and laid down at 11:30."
Those who went to bed this summer evening in the
upper floor in Ipatjevs house were the following: Nicholas and
Alexandra Romanov, their four daughters, aged 16 to 23, their 14-year-old
son and also Dr. Eugen Botkin, ladys maid Anna Demidova, servant/footman
Alexej Trupp and the cook Ivan Hartonov. They were awakened at 2:30
in the night.. Here we let executioner Jurovsky himself tell us. The
text is direct from the original in the archives. Jurovsky called
himself Commandant: "16 July received a telegram in the agreed
upon code, from Perm with the order for Romanovs annihilation.
(To the left in the margin a note by hand: "It had first been
the intention (in May) to condemn Nicholas the advance of the
White Army prevented that")
Then at 6 p.m. the 16th Filip Golosjekin
(War Commissar in Ural Soviet) determined that the execution should
be carried out. At 12 o"clock a truck would come to take away
At 6 oclock the boy was taken away, which
greatly disturbed the Romanovs and their people. Dr. Botkin came and
asked what was the reason for that? It was explained that the boys
fathers brother, who had been arrested and escaped and was now
back again, wanted to see his brothers son.
The following day the boy was sent to his home
place (probably to the Tulska government). The truck did not come
at 12 oclock and not until 2:30. That delayed carrying out the
execution. During that time all the preparations had been made, 12
men had been chosen among them 7 (corrected in ink to 6) Latvians
with pistols, who would execute the prisoners.
Two of the Letts refused to shoot the women. When
the car came they were asleep. Botkin awoke and wakened the others.
The following explanation was given: "Because it is unsettled
in the city, it is necessary that the Romanov family move from the
upper floor to the lower floor." They dressed themselves in a
half hour. Lower down a room had been chosen with a plastered interior
wall (to avoid ricochetting bullets) and all the furniture had been
removed from it. The Commandant was ready in an adjoining room. The
Commissar went in alone with them and led them along the stairs to
the room downstairs. Nicholas led Alexandra on his arm, the others
carried cushions and other small things. When Alexandra Federovna
came into the empty room, she said, "What is this; here we find
not even a chair. Is it not possible to seat ourselves?" The
Commissar ordered two chairs to be brought in. Nicholas sat Alexandra
in one of them and Alexandra Federovna sat on the other. The rest
were ordered by the Commissar to line up. When they were lined up,
the Commandant was called inside.
When he came, the Commissar said to Romanov that
because their relatives in Europe continued their attack on Soviet
Russia, the Urals executive committee decided they should be shot.
Nicholas turned his back to the Commandant so that he had his face
turned toward the family, but then when he had regained composure,
he faced the Commandant and asked "What, what?" The Commissar
repeated quickly what had been said and gave orders to the Commandant
to get ready. The Commandant had previously been given instructions
on who would shoot.."
Jurovsky continued with a detailed description
of the gruesome sight that followed. By later evidence it appears
that Nikulin and Medvedjev were the ones who shot the "central
figures", the ex-Czar, Alexandra and Alexej. The murdering clearly
was not at all so simple and rapid as they presumably had counted
on, but after about 20 minutes it was all over that included
time for "supervisory control" (to be sure that the pulses
had stopped, etc.; the executioners were skilled in many ways.)
The Alarming Trail
"..thereafter the men began to carry out
the bodies to the truck that was covered with canvas so blood wouldnt
leak out. It was discovered that someone had begun to steal from the
corpses. Three reliable comrades were ordered to superintend the loading
(the corpses were carried out one at a time). With a threat of execution,
they recovered everything that was stolen (gold, cigarette-case with
On the way out from the city in the early morning
to the spot in the woods that was chosen as the place for destruction
of the bodies, they met a group of farmers who were on their way to
the market-place. Their evidence later became important to the investigation.
Several mishaps occurred
"Because the car got caught between two trees,
we left it and went further with a cart with the corpses covered by
cloth. We carried them 17 _ versts (verst = about 3500 feet) from
Jekaterinburg and stopped 1 _ versts from Koptjaki village. It was
6-7 o-clock in the morning. In the woods we found an abandoned test
pit (people had at one time found gold there), that was 3 _ arsjin
(?) deep. In the pit there was an arsjin of water. The Commissar decided
the corpses should be completely burned. Round about the place sat
the horse riders guarding the roadway from anyone who came near.."
At the macabre scene that now followed, the miserable
sacrifice revealed that the women had expensive ornaments inside their
clothing. All were searched thoroughly and the items were placed in
The clothing was burned and the corpses were lowered
into the pit. Some ornaments and Dr. Botkins dental plate dropped
during the handling. (These objects were later found by the White
Army.) The men attempted to get the pit to collapse with the help
of hand grenades, but this was unsuccessful. Jurovsky gave a report
to his chief in the Ural Soviet and was ordered to move the corpses
to another place where there was a deeper pit filled with water. The
men could sink the corpses there with the help of stones. In case
this plan ran into difficulty, it was decided that the corpses should
be burned or buried in clay since the men had first made them unrecognizable
with the help of sulphuric acid. For this purpose the men procured
that same evening (the 17th) what they needed: gasoline
and concentrated sulphuric acid. First after midnight the men went
to the place where the dead were left in the ground pit. The village
residents in Koptjaki were threatened the previous day that they would
be shot if they went into the woods. It was explained to them that
the men were after Czechs from the White Army who had been hiding
"..during the time beginning at dawn (it
was the 3rd day, the 18th) we decided to bury
them here, near the pit. The men set out to dig, but when the pit
was almost ready, a well-known farmer went to Jermakov and wanted
to have the pit marked.
Then we had to give up the undertaking and decided
to move the corpses to the deep pit. The carts were so rickety they
began to fall to pieces; the Commissar went to get an automobile,
a truck and two private autos, the other for the Czechs. We came out
first at 9 oclock in the evening and
moved the corpses
on to the truck. We went along with difficulty, put out a roller bridge
on the bad places and still got caught several times. About 5:30 in
the morning we were stuck fast. Then we came to the pit and could
not decide if we should bury or burn. A comrade whose name I forgot,
promised to take on this responsibility, but went away without doing
what he promised. We decided to burn Alexandra and Alexandra Federovna
but by mistake burned the ladys maid instead of Alexandra Federovna.
Then we buried what remained at the place where
we had the fire and made a new fire that completely covered the traces
of the grave. During that time, we dug a common grave for the others.
At 7 oclock in the morning we had a pit ready that was 2 _ arsjin
deep and 3 _ arsjin square. The corpses were placed in the pit and
faces and entire bodies covered with sulphuric acid, partly because
of the need to make them unrecognizable and partly to prevent the
stench of putrefication (the pit was not very deep). Later we covered
the grave with earth and twigs and then drove over it several times
no marks of any hole could be discovered. The secret was completely
kept the White Army did not discover the place where we buried
Radzinsky related in his article that at the end
of the document is found a hand-written section with an exact description
of the place where what remained of the Romanov family and of those
who followed them in death are buried. According to the news that
went around the world press some years ago, someone has also been
to the place and found the final proof.
After all the rumors and myths that arose about
this ghastly event in our recent history, it can be finished for good.
But there is more to tell
Interview in Moscow
From his collection of material for the last chapter
in the history of Nicholas II, Radzinsky gave several gruesome and
shocking experiences. He found that during the years that followed,
the murderers from Jekaterinburg sometimes gathered to talk and share
thoughts about the horrible deed, and the coming generation who were
with them heard how it went when "the execution was carried out."
The Chief of guards in Ipatjevs house, Medvedjev,
had a son who became historian-archivist and who sat in on such occasions.
It was he who wrote the letter mentioned at the beginning of this
article. He related that in 1927 Jurovsky was requested by the Central
Committee in Moscow to write about the tenth anniversary of the execution
of the Romanovs with documents and recollections of those who were
there! Stalin gave his answer verbally: "Nothing shall be published.
And on the whole everyone shall remain silent about the matter."
Jurovsky passed away in 1928. Also Medvedjev was removed. In 1964
the historian son successfully persuaded two still living witnesses:
Commandant Assistant Nikulin who was in the command, and one of the
members of the Urals Czech to stand up for a radio interview. He had
received permission from the highest place Khruschev. Medvedjev
was also there with one of the interviewers. About the question whether
Anastasia could have survived (he knew of Anna Anderson ) Nikulin
answered quie shortly: "Everyone died." Several questioned
the validity of the "execution" and Nikulin confirmed that
it was he who shot Alexej. It also appeared to be Medvedjev who shot
the Czar and that the murder weapon a heavy Browning
it still kept in the Revolution Museum! The interview was never sent.
But Radzinsky has checked and the tape was found in the archives at
the Institute for Marxism-Leninism.
Still there remains one last question: Who or
whom had the ultimate responsibility for the massacre? Here is what
Trotsky wrote in his "Diary" (cited from Radzinskys
article in Ogonjok): "I came to Moscow from the front after Jekaterinburg
had fallen. In conversation with Sverdlov I asked: "Where is
the Czar now?" "It is over for him" "But
where is the family?" "The family went the same way."
"All of them?" I asked surprised. "All"
answered Sverdlov. "Who made the decision?" "It
was decided by us here." "Lenin asked that we not
leave them any living symbol, particularly not in our serious state
Ironically enough the three foremost executioners
from Ipatjevs house were allowed to live their lives as respected
Soviet citizens, while (according to Radzinsky in Ogonjok) nearly
every one of the leading bolsheviks in Ural Soviet and the Czech who
gave the order for execution were executed or vanished during Stalins
purge during the 1930s. The footprints are frightening.
By Rainer Mattsson in Hufvudstadsbladet, 18 Mar
1990, Helsingfors, Finland
Translated by June Pelo
Czar Nicholas and family
In 1993 there was another article about the latest
Discovery of Czars Bones Confirmed by DNA
London: A snip of hair, a drop of royal blood
from the Duke of Edinburg, and one of the great mysteries of the century
is solved for good. Today, the world knows "virtually beyond
doubt" what happened to the last Russian czar.
British scientists said Friday they had determinded
that bones found in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg two years ago
are those of Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, and three of
their five children.
The discovery was facilitated by a new form of
DNA fingerprinting. "The evidence is that they are the remains
of the Romanovs," said Peter Gill of the Forensic Science Service
of the Home Office, which did the work and set the probability that
they are Romanov bones at "almost 99 percent."
The findings confirm what had long been believed:
that the Russian royals were killed by the bolsheviks on July 16,
1918, during the civil war that raged in the aftermath of the Russian
Revolution of 1917.
Russian anthropologists had reached the same conclusion
shortly after the bones were dug up in 1991. To be certain, the Russian
government asked the British forensic scientists to make the tests
and shipped the remains here in September. Gill led the forensic team
and was assisted by Russian biologist Pavel Ivanov.
Among those who supplied blood samples to the
inquiry was the Duke of Edinburgh, husband of Queen Elizabeth II.
Prince Philips maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria of Hesse,
was the sister of Czarina Alexandra.
Using a technique that traces maternally inherited
DNA, the Home Office scientists said they achieved a "complete
match" between the duke and the czarina and her children. Living
members of the Romanov family had also contributed blood and hair
samples to help in the tests.
In addition to the remains of the five Romanovs,
the bodies of four other people found in the same grave were examined
and thought to be those of servants and possibly the Imperial family
physician. The grave had been discovered in 1979, and kept a secret,
by Soviet writer Geli Ryabov. He located it by interviewing one of
the bolsheviks who claimed to have been present at the killing.
The bodies of Czar Nicholas heir, Alexi,
and that of another child, Anastasia, the youngest of the girls, were
not found. A woman named Anna Anderson, emerged in 1920 in Berlin
and asserted that she was Anastasia, and then spent the rest of her
life trying to prove it to a skeptical world. A film was made of her
life and numerous books and articles have been written. She died in
1984 in Virginia, having never been able to establish her claims legally.
According to Janet Thompson, director of the science service, the
agency has a sample of her hair.
The findings of the British scientists stimulated
speculation here that a formal burial of the Russian royals might
be likely, with the Queen attending. A surviving member of the Romanovs,
who works as a banker in London, said he felt "a great deal of
relief" at the determination by the scientists. He said he would
like to see the remains buried in Ekaterinburg rather than in the
Romanov capital, St. Petersburg, a more likely venue.
Sarasota Herald-Tribune, July 10, 1993
Ipatjev's house at Jekaterinburg