From the Presidential Library Collections: To the Centenary of the Tragic Death of Nicholas II and his Family


NOTE: all documents in the links below are in Russian only

July 2018 marks the centenary of the death of the last Russian emperor from the House of Romanov – Nicholas II and his family: the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their children, as well as their entourage. They were shot on the night of July 16 to July 17, 1918 in Yekaterinburg in the basement of the house of mining engineer Nikolai Ipatiev.

The Presidential Library has digitized emigrant publications from 1920s and 1930s, many of which are devoted to the murder of the royal family. The e-format converts memories of the White Guards, emigres – contemporaries of the revolution, as well as portraits of Bolsheviks and statesmen of the early period of Soviet regime. Among the publications, for example, is the work by V. Rudnev “The Truth about the Royal Family and the Dark Forces” and the “Murder of the Royal Family” by investigator N. Sokolov (he was investigating the murder of the Romanovs) – these rare books are available in the Presidential Library electronic reading room.

The Presidential Library portal features publications that reveal the events that preceded the death of the royal family. The electronic copy of the book by S. Shtraikh and S. Yakovlev “The Last Days of Nicholas II: Official Documents. Stories of Eyewitnesses” (1917) gives the text of a telegram sent by the chairman of the State Duma, M. V. Rodzianko, to the tsar on February 26, 1917: “Anarchy is in the capital. The government is paralyzed. There is random shooting on the streets … It is necessary to immediately instruct the person using the country’s confidence to form a new government. Any delay is death. I pray to God that at this hour the responsibility will not fall on tsar”.

March 2, according to the old style, under the pressure of the leadership of the State Duma and the general who betrayed the emperor, Nicholas II signed an abdication of the throne for himself and his son Alexei in favor of his younger brother Mikhail Alexandrovich. The text of the abdication written by the Tsar is available in an electronic copy of the publication “The Chamber-Fourier Journal of March 2, 1917 with a record of the abdication of Emperor Nicholas II from the throne” (1917). The “Deprivation of liberty of the abdicated Nicholas II and other members of the royal family” (1917) from the Presidential Library illustrates one more letter from Nicholas which was hastily written by hand with the request “to take under the protection of the government all the members of the imperial house, since in such difficult times, all sorts of surprises are always possible”.

Immediately after the October Revolution, the royal family was arrested and sent to Tobolsk. The fact of secrecy of the exile is noted in Nicholas II’s diaries, who writes that they will be taken to one of the cities in the interior of the country. In the plans of the Bolshevik leadership was an open trial of the former emperor – for this expressed, in particular, V. I. Lenin, and the main prosecutor was supposed to make Leo Trotsky. However, there was information about the existence of “whiteguard conspiracy” for the purpose of kidnapping the emperor, and the Romanov family was transferred to Yekaterinburg and placed in the house of Ipatiev.

On the portal of the Presidential Library, you can open the digitized book by S. Yakovlev “The Last Days of Emperor Nicholas II: Official Documents. Stories of Eyewitnesses” (1917), the Berlin edition of E. Levin “Nicholas II. Revelation” (1914), and also get familiar with other sources that represent a tragic picture of the murder of the imperial couple and their children: the Grand Duchesses of Olga, Tatyana, Maria, Anastasia, the heir Tsarevich Alexei, and the people accompanying the royal family.

Long decades, it was not accepted to speak out loud about this tragedy. Today there is an opportunity to restore the events of that night thanks to electronic copies of such books as “Murder of the Royal Family and Its Entourage: Official Documents“, published by “Russkaya Mysl” publishing house in Constantinople in 1920. There is the following entry from the words of the inhabitant of Yekaterinburg, Kapitolina Agafonova there, whose brother, the Red Army soldier Anatoly Yakimov, guarded the house of Ipatiev: “One month in July Anatoly came to his sister, having an extremely exhausted look. When asked what had happened, he said in great agitation that last night “Nicholas Romanov, his whole family, the doctor, the maid of honor and the footman were killed”. According to Anatoly, who was present at the shooting, at 1 o’clock in the morning all the prisoners were awakened and asked to come down. Here they were told that an enemy would soon arrive in Yekaterinburg, and therefore they must be killed. Commandant Yurovsky, who had read the paper, fired a shot at Nicholas, then the Latvians shot and some “major” who came from the council. Those who did not immediately die from the shots, had to be “shot”, finish off with rifle butts and pin up bayonets”.

The burial place it was said of the Romanovs was first near Yekaterinburg, and then they were taken away and buried in different places, but where exactly, they did not inform. “Someone from the speakers, – according to the memories of Anatoly Yakimov – listed their names “Nikolasha, Sasha, Tatyana, heir” and some other names that he did not hear, and it was still said: “the thirteenth doctor”. This was Dr. Botkin”.

A very short protocol № 159 of the meeting of the Council of People’s Commissars of July 18, 1918 notes: “We heard the trial of the murder of Nicholas II. Resolved – take notice”. There were no other resolutions regarding this case.

The remains of Nicholas II and his relatives, as well as persons from the entourage of the monarch, shot in the house of Ipatiev, were found in July 1991 near Yekaterinburg. On July 17, 1998, the Romanovs were buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

In 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church abroad listed them as holy “martyrs”. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate of the murdered members of the royal family ranked the “passion-bearers” as holy.

In October 2008, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation decided to rehabilitate the Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family members.

© Presidential Library. 30 July 2018