Magazine article History Today

The Murders at Ekaterinburg: July 17th 1918

Magazine article History Today

The Murders at Ekaterinburg: July 17th 1918

Article excerpt

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated after the February revolution of 1917. He and his immediate family were subsequently sent to Tobolsk in western Siberia, where they were humanely treated, but in the following year, after the Bolshevik takeover, they were moved to a house in Ekaterinburg, further south in the Urals. It had belonged to a merchant named Ipatiev. Five rooms on the upper floor were prepared for the seven members of the imperial family. The rest was used for guardrooms and offices, and the mansion was called 'the House of Special Purpose of the Ural Soviet Committee'.

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Besides the tsar himself there were the tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna (a German grand-daughter of Queen Victoria) and their five children: the thirteen-year-old tsarevitch Alexei, who suffered from haemophilia, could hardly walk and was mostly in a wheelchair; Olga and Tatiana in their early twenties; and the teenaged Marie and Anastasia. There were also a number of trusted servants, who had come with them from Tobolsk. The family were allowed walks in the garden, but were otherwise kept in their rooms. Gradually, the originally hostile guards began to like and grow close to their prisoners, but the civil war between Red and White Russians was raging and White armies were drawing close to Ekaterinburg.

This raised the prospect of the Romanovs being rescued and on July 4th the guards were suddenly replaced by a squad of Cheka secret police under the command of a certain Yaknv Yurovsky. The Ural Soviet had sent to Moscow suggesting that Nicholas be executed. On July 12th they received word that the central regime would leave the fate of the prisoners in their hands. Yurovsky was informed and discovered an abandoned mine shaft some miles away from the town, where he hoped to hide the bodies. The prisoners sensed that something was up, and were uneasy.

At four in the afternoon of July 16th, the tsar and his daughters took a stroll in the garden. At 10.30pm they retired to bed, but three hours later they were woken and told to dress and come downstairs. Yurovsky told them that the Soviet had decided to move them because there was trouble in Ekaterinburg and asked them to wait in a small room until a truck arrived for them. Chairs were provided for some of them and four of their servants were brought in as well. …

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