Execution of Romanov family: did anyone survive? Essay
President Boris Yeltsin “We must tell the truth–the massacre has become one of the most shameful pages of our history.” The execution of the Romanovs is the most tarnished assassination in the modern days of history. The execution of this ruling family of Russia had stimulated myths and legends that still remained unanswered to the last few years. The last of the Romanov emperor, Tsar Nicholas II was one of the most wealthiest and powerful rulers of the world. He controlled Russia with an iron fist. Greg King, author of The Fate of The Romanovs explains: “Until the revolution, the Tsar was considered the anointed of God. He controlled the government, was the supreme head of the Orthodox Church, he was worshipped as a demigod by most of his subjects and his word was considered law in every aspect of life”. The Romanovs controlled the Russia from 1613 to 1917. They had helped Russia grow into a might superpower and to expand its boundaries.
The research paper is to analyze the execution of the royal family of the Romanovs and to examine the facts about any survivors of the family that night. The paper will critically study the different views of the people, the leading facts and the different reports and finally conclude whether there were any survivors or not.
Execution of the Romanovs:
The power of one of the strongest Tsar in Russia, Nicholas II, ended abruptly in March 1917 due to the escalating pressure of the World War I and the rising injustice in the last few years. Tsar Nicholas II had developed a bad reputation over the last few years. In 1905, his soldiers on his command killed many of the factory workers who were on a strike and were marching towards the capital. This enraged the people of Russia and they were ready to overthrow his monarchy. Soon, his rule was replaced by the Provincial Government which supported the continuation of the war. But persistent losses at the hands of the German forces increase the fears of the Russian people and hence destabilized the rule of the Provincial Government. At that very moment, the German sent Vladimir Lenin secretly into Russia to further destabilize it. This was realized on the night of the November 6-7 when Lenin along with some other forces took over the capital. This led to the brutal civil war because these Bolshevik forces had taken up the arms to overthrow the communist regime. Soon, the treaty followed between the communist regime and the Germans which marked the end of war for the Russians (The Execution of Tsar Nicholas II, 1918, 2005). This treaty was known as the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk signed on 3rd March 1918 (The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk: March 3rd, 1918, 2008).
During this time of the political turmoil, the royal family of the Romanovs had been kept under house arrest near the capital initially. They were then moved behind the Ural Mountains and finally settled in a small town in Yekaterinburg in the spring of 1918. There were seven members of the royal family along with some of their attendants and were made to stay in a successful merchant’s house. In mid-July, when the white army, considered to be the liberators of the Nicholas and his family, had almost reached the town was the moment when the Bolshevik captors decided to execute all the Romanovs and seal their fate (The Execution of Tsar Nicholas II, 1918, 2005)
During the evening hours of July 16, Commandant Yurovsky, the head of the execution squad, had ordered the lead guardian of the Royal family to collect all the weapons from the guards and were told not to respond to any gun fires. Hence, during the early hours of July 17, the Tsar along with his family and the servants were gathered in the cellar of the house. They were Tsar Nicholas, Queen Alexandra, Princess Olga, Princess Tatiana, Princess Maria, Princess Anastasia, Tsarevich Aleksey, and the attendants. In total there were eleven members assembled for which eleven gunmen came in. Each gunman was to shoot one member of the family. But when it was the time to shoot, all the gun men shot the Tsar and then the other members (Anastasia mystery, 2007).
Vladimir Lenin took the responsibility of the executions because he believed that this would eliminate any resistance that remained of the pro-monarchy government. But at the same time, he denied the murder of the German-born Tsarina and her children in order to maintain the good relations with the Germans. He claimed that they were being kept alive and their location cannot be disclosed (Anastasia mystery, 2007).
Over the years people believed that Romanovs were alive and refused to believe the execution held in Serbia. People even said that the Bolsheviks, guarding the last house of the royal family had let them escape in order to keep the better ties the German forces. Others believed that the Romanovs had been exiled to Poland but to keep this hidden and a secret, they had killed the attendants and spread this story. But with time, people realized that the Romanovs had actually been executed with only one or two survivors. Looking at these rumors and the large amount of the wealth left an inheritance; many impostors materialized pretending to be various family members in order to claim the huge wealth.
The case of the execution of the Romanovs was turned into an international affair by the extended family of the Romanov and monarchists and they filed for an independent enquiry. Investigator Nicholas Sokolov was made the in charge of this enquiry. After a full research, he concluded that all the members of the royal family had been executed. He said that some of the members had been stabbed as well. He even proposed that Commandant Yurovsky had planned to hide the bodies of all the members in the mineshaft in the woods. The bodies were slashed into pieces, and then burnt until nothing remained of them. Now, these findings of the judicial investigator Nicholas Sokolov led to the establishment of some myths and legends of the fact that some of the members did survive the incident but was not included in the report due to the lack of evidence. At the same time, it raised questions as how so much flesh could have just completely burned up in a few hours? (Massie, 1996)
Post execution Rumors:
One of the rumors that gained the importance was that some of the guards who were of the same age as the Tsar’s daughters might have developed some relationships with them. Hence, these guards could have helped these girls to escape. Princess Anastasia, the seventeen year old daughter of the Tsar, received the most attention from the world. The people believed that she was the only one who had the energy and the will to escape from the Ipatiev’s house (Anastasia mystery, 2007). Hence, even after decades of her alleged death, books and movies still tell the stories of her wonderful escape.
A young woman, Anna Anderson, had attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge in Berlin in 1920 was rescued and admitted to the hospital. She could not remember her identity or anything about her until her room mate identified her as one of the Romanovs and identified her as Princess Tatiana. News spread fast around the world to all the friends of the family who rushed to see her. Some believed that she was Princess Anastasia as she was not tall enough to be Tatiana. Others believed that she was an imposter who was trying to inherit the property worth billions of dollars. Some evidence did suggest that she really was the missing princess. This is because she had a royal touch to her and that she has lots of information about the Romanov family as well as the Russian courts. There was also some strong physical evidence to assume that she really was the princess. But at the same time, some evidence did also point against her. On of the Anastasia’s teacher, Sidney Gibbs, rejected the fact that she bore any resemblance to the real princess and that she was an imposter. The opponents of the Romanov family also presented a report proving that this woman was a charlatan who worked in a Polish factory. Her real name was actually Franziska Schanzowska (Anastasia mystery, 2007). She was basically a Kahubian factory worker in Poland and now moved to Russia (Godl, 1998). The court reckoned the whole case as unsolvable. The court rejected to accept her as princess Anastasia but it also declared that the opponents had not provided the court with fool proof evidence that she was not the princess (Anastasia mystery, 2007).
Another worthy claim to be the descendant of the royal family came in 1961. It was the time when a Polish Colonel Michael Goleniewski claimed that he was the only son of the royal family. His claim was never supported strongly due to the fact that the Tsarevich had an incurable disease. This disease was so serious that it would have not let the prince live more that his adult life. The name of this disease was haemophilia (Pobedinskaja, 2007). Other stories also sprang up during the course of life but they were not taken seriously as well.
Decades passed to the moment of execution of the Romanov family, but still people were dazzled and needed answers. In 1978, two historians, Avdonin and Ryabov, succeeded in finding the son of Commandant Yurovsky. He gave them a top secret document that gave detailed account of the execution from Yurovsky eyes. The document said that the commandant had not burnt the bodies as claimed by the judicial investigator Sokolov but had only been disposed off in the woods. It also said that due to the trouble with the car, they had not reached the exact location as planned but had disposed off the bodies in a shallow grave in the woods only. After analyzing the contents of the secret document, Avdonin and Ryabov went to the Siberian woods in 1979 in search of the concluding graves of the royal family. After immense search for several weeks, they were able to find the graves. But since it was a period of cold war and high tension, they were afraid to reveal their findings. Therefore, they decided to take the skulls with them and analyze them somewhere else with the help of some forensic expert. This attempt was not successful and one year later, they returned the relics to their graves (Anastasia mystery, 2007).
After the breakup of Russia in 1991, when the tensions lessened around the globe, the historians decided to make their findings public. President Boris Yeltsin of Russia sent a team of experts to analyze these findings. All the bones were gathered and examined in nearby laboratory. The analysis revealed one of the most interesting pieces of information: skeletons of only nine people had been discovered. The skeleton of the Tsarevich and one of the princesses was missing. The experts further studied the skeletons and realized that it was the skeleton of Princess Maria that was missing and not Princess Anastasia as believed by majority of the people (Anastasia mystery, 2007).
The discovery was a mammoth blow to the hopes of the people who believed that Anastasia had survived the execution. Soon, the validity of the analysis was questioned by some of the American scientists who used the method of calculating the age of the bones to infer who was missing. After much research, they concluded that it was the skeleton of Anastasia that was missing. This result again raised the hopes of the people that Anastasia was the one who had survived the execution. But soon, the emerging technology of DNA would clear all way all the existing doubts. The DNA analysis with samples from all the remaining extended family of the Romanovs including the Prince Philip revealed that the skeletons were surely of the royal family. And the other conclusion was that the imposter Anna Anderson was not the missing princess as the people believed (Anastasia mystery, 2007).
The secret report of the Commandant Yurovsky which gave a detailed account of the execution of the royal family said that that two of the bodies of the family were buried separately. After years of search, in the summer of 2007, the experts were successful in finding two more skeletons just near the graves of the rest of the Romanovs. After the in-depth DNA analysis, it was concluded that the skeletons did belong to the Tsarevich and the Princess Maria. Hence, it was clear that the ill-fated family of the Tsar Nicholas II had not survived the night of the execution in Siberia (Chris Knight, 2008).
A nook was written which stated with some proofs that the Romanovs were not executed and that they were exiled to some other country. The book ‘The Secret Plot to Save the Tsar’ by Shay McNeal says that the story of the execution was just a cover up to maintain the secrecy of the royal family. They were furtively taken to a different location from their lat hiding place. The author basically gave very strong arguments and sources that it is hard to disbelieve. He even suggested that there was a secret agreement between Lenin and the pro-monarchists with proof that ensured the safe escape of the Romanov royal family. But the author has dismissed the fact that the Bolsheviks were mercilessly killing all the monarchists’ supporters and therefore, they could not have risked the escape of one of the strong rulers. This is because he could have returned later and have given the rise of the communist block a heavy blow. The book had heavy blow to it when it stated that the future of the Romanovs was not known and that there whereabouts after the exile of the royal family from the Siberia were not known. To the DNA analysis, the author has refused to accept them because he believes that these bones could have belonged to the extended Romanov family rather than the royal family. The author has suggested that the experts have worked hard to find the facts that only to prove the execution rather than find the facts to learn about the Romanov family (William, 2002).
When the Tsar was abdicated from his throne in 1917, there were overall 53 Romanovs living in Russia. 18 were murdered including the royal family and 35 escaped to different parts of the world. The execution of the Romanovs was a devastating blow to the pages of history of the world. When the news of the execution spread around the globe, people at first refused to accept the fact that the royal family was massacred. They thought that they had been exiled to some other country in secrecy. With time, the people realized that they indeed were murdered but still hoped for any survivors. The execution was done in such silence that it had helped in creating myths and legends about the deaths of the royal family. For decades many questions remained unanswered. It is just recently, with the development of the DNA technology that the experts have been successful in answering these questions. The findings of the research are really controversial but do help to answer the question that the Romanov royal family was entirely executed in 1918. There were no survivors.