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100 Years Ago: The Romanov Assassination

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, five children, family doctor, and three servants during the Russian revolution. The tsar was deposed in March of 1918, and the family was held in St. Petersburg until being moved to Yekaterinburg in April. They were held in secrecy there while different factions of the revolution competed for control of  Russia.  

The fate of the Romanovs was seemingly undecided until July, when the White Guard – still loyal to the tsar – began to move in on Yekaterinburg and looked certain to capture it.

The Bolsheviks could not afford to have the Romanovs fall into the hands of the Whites, lest they became symbols around which anti-communists could rally or provide foreign governments with an alternative head of state to recognise.

Goloshchekin travelled to Moscow to obtain the order for the assassination and is thought to have secured it from Vladimir Lenin himself, although no paper trail exists to confirm the fact, no doubt deliberate on the part of the Bolshevik leader.

“Revolutions are meaningless without firing squads,” he famously said.

The killings were a messy affair, as the soldiers were inept and somewhat drunk. The Independent has a blow-by-blow description of the night of July 16-17 that you'll find quite gruesome. For a lighter take, the Russian state archives has released some new photographs of the Romanov family, which you can see at Quartz.


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