July 16-17, 1918
“We must shoot them all tonight”
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|Tsar Nikolai II, imprisoned |
at Tsarkoe Selo
At about midnight of July 16-17, 1918, Nikolai Romanov, the deposed tsar of Russia, and Aleksandra Feodorovna, his wife, were awakened and told to dress quickly. There was unrest in the town, they were told; it was dangerous to remain in the top floors of the house. They had to be moved below floors.
In the spring of 1918, the Bolshevik government had moved Tsar Nikolai and his family to the town Yekaterinburg, east of the Ural Mountains, in Siberia. A house, owned by a successful local merchant named Ipatiev, had been fitted out for them. But Yekaterinburg did not turn out to be a safe place to store a tsar. In mid July, an army of anti-Bolshevik counterrevolutionaries were approaching the town; the sound of their gunfire could be heard from the Ipatiev house. Orders had come from Moscow to Yakov Yurovsky, the commander of the soldiers guarding the royal family, to remove them immediately.
“We must shoot them all tonight,” Yurovsky told a soldier.
|Tsar Nikolai II and his family|
Because the Tsarevich Alexei could not walk, his father carried him down the stairs to the first floor and then into a room in the basement, where other members of the family had gathered –the tsarina and her four daughters were there, as well as a doctor and several servants. Chairs had been set in the room, and Nikolai placed Alexei on one of them. The door that had been closed now opened, and men armed with revolvers entered the room.
Yurovsky told Nikolai that because his relatives were trying to rescue him, the Ural Soviet of Workers’ Deputies had condemned him and his family to death.
“What?” Nikolai said, and he turned to Alexei.
“At that moment,” Yurovsky later wrote, “I shot him and killed him outright.” Disorganized firing broke out. Bullets ricocheted off the brick walls. The tsar’s daughters, still alive after the shooting (precious stones, secretly sewn into their clothes, had protected them), were finally dispatched at close range. “Alexei remained sitting, petrified,” wrote Yurovsky. “I killed him.”