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In 1913, Russia celebrated the 300th anniversary of the royal Romanov dynasty. And it so happened that this year was the year of the highest flowering of the Russian Empire. The economy progressed rapidly, the welfare of the people grew. It seems that during the celebrations and celebrations on the occasion of the anniversary, the Romanovs, who ruled the country, spread over 1/6 of the land of the Earth, felt like celestials. And the gods were angry and severely punished their family, and along with it the whole of Russia, plunging it into the abyss of a fratricidal civil war.

Nicholas II declares war on Germany. 1914

Of course, the role of the Romanovs in the collapse of the great Russian Empire is very great. By and large, they simply failed to cope with its management, which is why they lost the crown and a certain popular admiration for their persons. But they clearly did not deserve the brutal punishment that befell them.

At the beginning of 1917, the Romanov dynasty had 65 members (including 32 male representatives). 18 of them (including 13 men) were killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918-1919, and the 47 people who escaped were in exile abroad.


We can say that not 18, but 20 Romanovs died in the fire of the Russian revolution. And the first of them was the tsar-liberator Alexander II, who was killed by the People’s Will in the XIX century. And the first victim among the royal family in the twentieth century was Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, who, as Moscow Governor-General, gained a reputation as a strangler of freedom.

V.Svarog. «Kalyaev throws a bomb…»

When on February 17, 1905, the princely carriage left the Nikolaevsky Palace in the Kremlin, the 27-year-old socialist revolutionary and poet Ivan Kalyaev ran up to it and threw a bomb from a distance of several steps. The crew was blown to pieces. From under the pile of debris mixed with bloody rags, they managed to extract only an arm and part of a leg — the body of the Grand Duke turned out to be torn to pieces. The coachman Andrey Rudinkin was seriously injured and died three days later. The murderer Ivan Kalyaev himself was injured in the explosion, he was wounded by bomb fragments and did not try to resist. According to the report of a police officer, dislike for the Governor-General among Muscovites was so strong that no one even took off their hats. On the contrary, exclamations were heard in the crowd: «Well done, guys, they didn’t even scratch anyone else, why ruin people in vain!»

Ivan Kalyaev

The terrorist Kalyaev was sentenced to death by the special presence of the Senate. Driven by humility and forgiveness, who became the widow of Sergei Alexandrovich’s wife, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna met with her husband’s murderer to persuade him to appeal to the tsar with a petition for clemency. However, Kalyaev remained adamant. In a letter addressed to the Minister of Justice, he wrote that he considers it «the duty of his political conscience to refuse a pardon.» Kalyaev was hanged in Shlisselburg on the night of May 10, 1905.

The abdication of Nicholas II.

After the abdication of Nicholas II from power, the Romanov family, which ruled Russia for more than 300 years, formally ceased to be imperial, but in fact, by blood, remained so. And although its representatives quite peacefully perceived both the February Revolution and the October Coup, but by their very existence they were perceived by the new Soviet government as a hidden threat. Dangerous, if only because the open threat in the face of the German Empire and the Entente clearly had designs on the Romanovs. In this regard, the Bolsheviks decided in March 1918 to send members of the former Romanov dynasty from Petrograd to the depths of Russia. They were kept in groups in Perm, Yekaterinburg and Alapaevsk, where they were soon secretly and brutally dealt with.

The big drama of Russian history is that the Romanov family for ordinary people personified the cursed autocracy, the culprit of its poverty and troubles, but the specific representatives of this family for the most part were highly decent people: men bravely fought on the fronts of the First World War, and women cared for the wounded.

None of the Romanovs who were in exile tried to intrigue and plot. None of them even tried to escape, because they believed that they were bound by mutual responsibility and the offense of one of them would negatively affect the position of the others.

The massacre of them looks blasphemous from the fact that for the most part innocent people who did not take part in the governance of the state and did nothing wrong to the people suffered. The Grand Duke, Nikolai Nikolaevich, who, as it is believed, dragged his nephew Nicholas II into the Second World War, and then, being the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of all the land and naval forces of the Russian Empire, made a number of major military mistakes that entailed heavy losses, sat out the revolutionary cataclysms in the Crimea. And with the retreat of the White Army, he sailed on an English dreadnought to France. Another uncle of Nicholas II, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, who ordered the use of military force to prevent workers from entering the Winter Palace, which led to «Bloody Sunday» in 1905, died peacefully in 1909.

So, in fact, children, representatives of the royal family who did not hold important posts, and even «sympathized» got «under the distribution» of people’s anger. For example, Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich, who enthusiastically supported the February Revolution. For the liberal-oppositional views of Nikolai Mikhailovich Romanov, they were nicknamed the Russian Egalite. During the Great French Revolution, Prince of the blood, Duke of Orleans Louis Philippe joined the revolutionaries, renounced the title, became a «citizen» and adopted the surname Egalite («Equality»). Philip Egalite and Nikolai Mikhailovich Romanov had a lot in common. Both of them were very rich people and both lost their lives for adherence to revolutionary ideals. Only Philip was beheaded by the revolutionaries on the guillotine, and Nicholas was shot.

Only, alas, with this similarity, the Russian revolution went further than the French and became even more ruthless. This was reflected in the murder of Nicholas II’s children and in the extermination of his relatives without trial.


Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich Romanov, the younger brother of Emperor Nicholas II, actually withdrew from the royal dynasty by an unauthorized offense – by marrying a twice divorced and completely unknown person Natalia Wulfert. The punishment for self-indulgence followed immediately. The Grand Duke was expelled from the service, deprived of the adjutant rank and the right to conditional regency, received after the birth of Tsarevich Alexei. In general, he turned into a private person. However, this did not prevent Mikhail Alexandrovich from spending a pleasant lifestyle with his wife, sometimes in Paris, then in Cannes, then in London. However, when the First World War began, he patriotically hurried to his homeland, where he was promoted to major General and appointed commander of the Caucasian Cavalry Division with enrollment in the retinue.

He had a chance to change the history of Russia when Nicholas II abdicated in his favor. But, apparently, Mikhail Alexandrovich simply did not want to shoulder the burden of responsibility for the country. He renounced the throne, went to Gatchina, where he plunged into the usual rhythm of provincial life, withdrawing from political passions. It seems that his only desire was to go to a prosperous England, away from the Russian political cataclysms. But the British were not eager to see him at home, and the Bolsheviks did not want to let him go. They exiled the Grand Duke to Perm, where he lived modestly and boringly.

On the night of June 12-13, 1918, a group of armed Bolshevik workers consisting of A. Markin, N. Zhuzhgov, V. Ivanchenko and I. Kolpashchikov, led by the security officer Myasnikov, broke into the room of the Korolevskaya Hotel, where Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich Romanov lived. The prince was woken up and presented with Gubchek’s forged documents about an urgent departure from Perm. Mikhail Romanov treated the visitors with distrust, refused to follow them and demanded to call a doctor and the chairman of the local Cheka Malkov. However, the times have already passed when members of the royal family were considered sacred persons. The workers explained to the Grand Duke that if he did not go with them voluntarily, he would have to go by force. Andrey Markov later described this situation as follows:

«Mikhail Romanov and his secretary Johnson were put into phaetons and driven along the highway towards Motovilikha. We reached the warehouses, which is 5 versts from the village. After another mile they turned right into the forest… We didn’t meet anyone on the way, it was night. After driving 100-120 fathoms, we stopped. I quickly jumped out and demanded that my rider Johnson also get out. And as soon as he started to get out of the phaeton, I shot him in the temple; he fell swaying. Comrades at this time did the same thing, but only wounded Romanov. He ran towards me with his arms outstretched, asking me to say goodbye to the secretary. I had to take a second shot at Romanov’s head at a fairly close distance (about a fathom), which caused him to fall immediately. It was all over…»

Убийцы Романова

A keepsake photo after committing the atrocity. From left to right: A.V. Markov, I. F. Kolpashchikov, G. I. Myasnikov, V. A. Ivanchenko, N. V. Zhuzhgov

The massacre of Grand Duke Mikhail Romanov was undertaken out of fear that White Guard units could unite around him, which would seize power not only in Perm, but also in Russia. In general, according to the principle «there is no person – there is no problem», he was eliminated. It is curious that during the murder, a cartridge got stuck in the revolver drum of the Kolpashchiks, and Zhuzhgov’s pistol misfired. But, nevertheless, the atrocity still happened.

The Perm GubChK, which organized the massacre, sent telegrams to Moscow, Petrograd and Yekaterinburg to whitewash itself that unknown men in soldier’s uniforms had kidnapped Mikhail Romanov and Brian Johnson. After that, Ural newspapers also published information about the abduction, They say that other members of the Romanov royal family who were in Alapaevsk and Yekaterinburg were told at all that Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich had escaped. And under this pretext, the conditions of their detention were tightened. Later, by the decree of the Perm GubChK of October 9, 1918, 7 innocent people were shot, allegedly for organizing the escape of the Grand Duke.

And the burial place of Mikhail Romanov and Brian Johnson has not been established. According to one legend, their bodies were burned in the furnace of the Motovilikha plant.


Царская семья

The main tragedy of the Romanov dynasty, of course, was the massacre of the former Emperor Nicholas II and his relatives.

On July 17, 1918, in the basement of the house of engineer Ipatiev in Yekaterinburg, the last Russian emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, four grand duchesses: Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, Tsarevich Alexei and several people close to the royal family were shot: life doctor Evgeny Botkin, cook Ivan Kharitonov, valet Alexei Troup, maid Anna Demidova.

P.A. Murakhin. «Romanovs before execution».

On that day, the abdicated Emperor Nikolai Romanov and his family were woken up at night and informed that the city was restless, and therefore, for safety reasons, they had to go down to the basement. The emperor and the children obediently got up and went down to the basement. Alexei, who could not walk, was carried there by Nicholas II in his arms. Two chairs were brought. Alexandra Fyodorovna and Alexey sat on them. The rest were placed along the wall. Opposite, a firing squad was lined up, led by the commandant of the «House of Special Purpose» (Ipatiev’s House), Yakov Yurovsky, who read the verdict to the royal family, and at the last word pulled a revolver out of his pocket and shot Nicholas II. And then the Latvians and the breeding Pavel Medvedev started shooting. Volleys of twelve revolvers followed one after another. When the tsar and 9 people who were with him fell to the floor, the shooting was stopped. A stretcher was brought, and the corpses were taken out of the house onto a truck in the yard. When they began to put one of the daughters on a stretcher, she screamed and covered her face with her hand. Others were also alive. The head of the Red Guard detachment of the Upper Iset plant, Pyotr Ermakov, took a rifle with a bayonet and stabbed everyone who turned out to be alive. During the execution, Princess Anastasia’s lap dog also died.

S.Sarmat. «The murder of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family by the Bolsheviks, Yekaterinburg»

In order to muffle the shots, a truck was started up near Ipatiev’s House, but shots were still heard in the city. In order not to attract even more attention, the firing squad hastened to get rid of the corpses. That night they were moved in blankets to a truck. About eight versts from Yekaterinburg, the car turned left onto a forest path and reached abandoned mines in an area called Ganina Pit. The corpses were dumped into one of the mines, and the next day they were removed and destroyed. At first they tried to burn it, and when it failed, they poured acid, covered it with sleepers and buried it.

Officially, it is believed that the decision to shoot the royal family was made on July 14 at a meeting of the Presidium of the Ural Regional Council of Workers, Peasants and Soldiers’ Deputies by the following comrades: Chairman of the Council of Deputies Alexander Beloborodov, member of the Presidium of the Ural Regional Committee of the RCP(b) Georgy Safarov, Military Commissar of Yekaterinburg Philip Goloshchekin, Commissar of Supply of the Ural Regional Council Peter Voikov, Chairman of the regional Cheka Fedor Lukoyanov, member of the Council, commandant of the «House of Special purpose» (Ipatiev house) Yakov Yurovsky and a number of others.

It seems that they all suffered some kind of retribution from above. Beloborodov, Safarov and Goloshchekin will be shot by the Soviet authorities, Voykov in Poland will be killed by an ideological fighter against Bolshevism.


On May 20, 2018, some members of the royal family were brought to Alapaevsk, a small town in the Middle Urals with unpaved streets. To understand the tragedy that happened there, there is a reason to present them personally:

— 48-year-old Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich (grandson of Tsar Nicholas I), field Inspector General of Artillery under the Supreme Commander (1916-1917).

— 53-year-old Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, sister of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, widow of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, who was killed by terrorists. She is known for her charity work. In 1892, she founded the Elizabethan Charitable Society, established in order to «care for the legitimate babies of the poorest mothers.» After the death of her husband, she sold her jewelry and with the proceeds founded the Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy, where the nuns were engaged in charitable and medical work.

— second cousins of Nicholas II — princes of the imperial blood — John, Konstantin and Igor Konstantinovich — brilliant young officers, front-line soldiers. Prince John was awarded the St. George’s Weapon for bravery; Prince Konstantin was awarded the St. George’s Cross.

— 21-year-old Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley (son of Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich from a morganatic marriage). He fought bravely on the fields of the First World War, for which he was awarded the Military Order of Anna of the 4th degree.

Some of them could have avoided exile in Alapaevsk. So, Abbot Seraphim offered Elizabeth Feodorovna to hide her in a shelter near the Belogorsky monastery. But she refused. When Prince Igor Konstantinovich was in exile in Yekaterinburg, a well-wisher offered him his passport and help in escaping. But the prince said that he had done nothing wrong in front of the Motherland and refused to run. The most curious thing was the situation with Paley. Uritsky invited him to the building of the Petrograd Cheka and made him an offer: «You will sign a document stating that you no longer consider Pavel Alexandrovich your father, and you will immediately receive freedom; otherwise you will have to sign another paper, and this will mean that you will go into exile.» Vladimir considered the abdication of his father insulting to himself and as a result ended up in Alapaevsk.

The Romanovs were accompanied into exile by people deeply devoted to them. For example, Prince John is his wife, Serbian Princess Elena Petrovna. Elizabeth Feodorovna – her cellmate Varvara Yakovleva. Sergei Mikhailovich — his managers are Fedor Remez. Yakovleva and Remez died together with the Romanovs.


It is curious that in the 1830s, by the will of Emperor Nicholas I of the Romanov dynasty, Decembrists who had served their sentences in the Siberian mines were sent to the Urals to settle. Former state criminals lived in large houses in Turinsk and were respected by the local authorities. The descendants of Nicholas I were greeted in Alapaevsk without any honor.

They were placed in six rooms of the Outdoor School, located on the edge of the city, in Spartan conditions. The furniture consists of iron beds, wooden tables and chairs. They were kept under strict guard. However, at first they were allowed to attend church services. But a month later, on June 21, 1918, a «special detention regime» was introduced for the exiled Romanovs on the instructions of the Ural Regional Council, which very much resembled a prison one. The Alapaevsky commissar of Justice Yefim Solovyov confiscated from the relatives of the former tsar not only money and jewelry, but also things, leaving them with only the clothes they were wearing and one change of bed linen. The prisoners were forbidden to go outside the school fence and send letters. Vladimir Paley responded curiously about the innovations in his last telegram to relatives: «Transferred to prison regime and soldier’s ration.»


Painting by Vera Glazunova. «Before the execution. Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Nun Varvara, members of the imperial family. Alapaevsk, 1918.

» The scenario of the liquidation of representatives of the Romanov family in Alapaevsk was very similar to the murder of Nicholas II and his family in Yekaterinburg, which occurred a day earlier.

At first, in the Outdoor School, as well as in the Ipatiev House, the guard was replaced with trusted comrades. On July 17, 1918, they were also told that due to the offensive of the white army from Siberia to the West, they were being evacuated, and they needed to get ready for the road immediately. As in the Yekaterinburg tragedy, the perpetrators of the massacre remained unknown. Only its organizers are known on the spot — Grigory Abramov, chairman of the Alapaevsky State Department, Alexey Smolnikov, chairman of the Business Council, Nikolai Govyrin, chairman of the Cheka, Vladimir Spiridonov, commissioner of the administrative department of the State Department. They were assisted by several members of city councils, security officers and those who arrived from Verkhnyaya Sinyachikha: the chairman of the local Council of Deputies, Yevgeny Seredkin, the chairman of the Workers’ Union, Ivan Cherepanov, and military commissar Pyotr Kaigorodov. In general, the team has picked up an ideological one – most of the party members with experience. Such a hand will not tremble…

On the night of July 18, members of the royal family were blindfolded on carts and taken 12 versts from Alapaevsk, to the fork of the Verkhotursky tract and the road leading to the Verkhne-Sinyachikhinsky plant. There was the Nizhne-Selim mine, closed since 1904, which the revolutionaries had long chosen for their black deeds. Back in 1907, when the Social Revolutionaries planned to deal with the Volost Foreman Guryev and the sergeant Bizikov, they wanted to hide their corpses in it. It didn’t work out then. And now the Bolsheviks decided to arrange a mass grave for the Romanovs in it.

Policeman T.P. Malshchikov with assistants from the local militia formed after the liberation of Alapaevsk from the Bolsheviks at the edge of the Mezhnaya mine. October 1918

The mine was a well about 20 meters deep, According to one version, the revolutionary executioners came up with a sophisticated type of execution for their victims. They threw a log over the mine, on which they forced the Romanovs to walk, and then jump into a deep well. But the version that the Bolsheviks acted without any special frills looks more real. They simply brought people to the edge of the mine, hit them on the head from behind with the butt of an axe and pushed them into the sinkhole. One of the security officers involved in the massacre later said that the only one who resisted them was Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich. When they started pushing him into the well, he grabbed Plishkin by the jacket of the Verkhnesinyachinsky Bolshevik and almost dragged him along with him. Plishkin was saved by the cheap material of his jacket, which simply fell apart at the seams. Sergei Mikhailovich was shot, and he went into the abyss alone, with a piece of cloth in his hand.


The outer courtyard of the prison of the Trubetskoy bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress in the 1920s.

It seems that the Bolsheviks decided to lime the royal family at the root. After the massacres in Perm, Yekaterinburg and Alapaevsk, they gathered all the survivors and the grand dukes in their hands in the Peter and Paul Fortress. At first, after the assassination attempt on Lenin and the murder of Uritsky, they were made hostages. And they promised to shoot if any of the Soviet workers were killed. Execution list, beginning with the names of former Grand Dukes: Dmitry Konstantinovich, Nikolai Mikhailovich, Georgy Mikhailovich and Pavel Alexandrovich, was published in the Petrograd newspaper Severnaya Kommuna on September 6, 1918. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t the monarchists who shot Lenin and Uritsky, it doesn’t matter that no one else attempted to kill the Soviet leaders, the Bolsheviks just itched to get rid of the Romanovs.

On January 9, 1919, the Presidium of the Cheka, in whose meeting I participated.Peters, M.Latsis and I.Ksenofontov issued a resolution: «The sentence of the Cheka to the persons of the former imperial pack — to approve.»

And the execution of the sentence was not long in coming. At three o’clock in the morning on January 30, 1919, two soldiers — Blagovidov and Solovyov, under the command of a former prison guard Gordienko, led four grand dukes, who were naked to the waist, out of the Peter and Paul Fortress to the Mint. There, at the fortress wall opposite the cathedral, a common grave gaped in the ground, where thirteen corpses were already lying, bound by frost. Dmitry Konstantinovich, Nikolai Mikhailovich, Georgy Mikhailovich and Pavel Alexandrovich were pushed to the edge of the pit with their butts and lined up in a row. The grand dukes were shot without any solemnity, but somehow casually and hastily, which gives this tragedy an even more terrible shade.

It so happened that the tragedy of the Romanovs became inseparable from the tragedy of the country they had recently ruled. The great Empire was gone, human life was devalued so much that people were casually put against the wall and shot without any trial or investigation. And no one wondered if these people were good or bad. The «wasted» grand dukes did not plot against the new government. Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich was in disgrace for a long time in the Romanov family because of a morganatic marriage in 1902. Because of the marriage for love, he and his wife were even banned from entering Russia. Grand Duke Dmitry Konstantinovich had already almost gone blind by that time, but thanks to him, Russian horse breeding reached great heights at the beginning of the XX century. Grand Duke George Mikhailovich was engaged in numismatics and wrote scientific works on the coin business of the Russian Empire. Russian Russian Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich was known as the builder of the Borjomi Palace and the head of scientific societies: the Russian Historical Society, the Russian Geographical Society, as well as the Society for the Protection and Preservation of Monuments of Art and Antiquity. He enthusiastically supported the February Revolution, but neither liberal views nor the petitions of the Academy of Sciences and Maxim Gorky saved him. Lenin confirmed his death sentence with the wording: «the revolution does not need historians.»

In fact, the only one of the Romanov men who was spared by the Bolsheviks was Prince of the imperial blood Gabriel Konstantinovich. He was ill with tuberculosis and, probably, that’s why Maxim Gorky managed to persuade Lenin to release Gavriil Konstantinovich from prison and allow him to go abroad. Thanks to this, he escaped the fate of three brothers who were shot near Alapaevsk.

Oleg Loginov

*Translated using an electronic dictionary. The original text in Russian and much more on the criminal topic can be selected on the main page of the site —

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