Obit of the Day (Historical): The Romanovs (1918)
Tsar Nicholas II was awoken abrutly at midnight on July 17, 1918. He and his family, wife Alexandra and children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei, were told to get dressed and move to the basement of the Ipatiev House (aka, “The House of Special Purpose”) where they were being held prisoner by members of the Bolshevik Party.
The seven family members, as well as the family doctor, housekeeper, chef, and a footman, were told that advancing opposition armies had made the upper floors dangerous. The Romanovs and their servants followed the instructions without argument.
They were placd in a smal basement room and Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra, and Tsarevich Alexei were given chairs to sit on while they, presumably, waited out the fighting.
Instead, nine armed men walked into the room. The commander of the troops in House Ipatiev, Yakov Yurovsky, then read a statement: “Nikolai Alexandrovich, in view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Soviet Russia, the Ural Executive Committee has decided to execute you…”
Tsar Nicholas, stunned by the words spoken by Yurovsky, only responded, “What? What?” before Yurovsky shot and killed him. Then the other soldiers opened fire. After a few minutes, the door to the room was opened and the smoke cleared. It was then discovered that several members of the former royal family were still alive. Yurovsky and his men finished the job by bayoneting the surviving Romanov daughters - who were not killed instantly by gunfire because of more than 2 pounds of jewels sewn into their dresses - and then shooting them in the back of the head. (Sources differ on whether Alexei was killed in the first barrage or survived briefly before being murdered.)
The Romanovs were wrapped up, removed from the house and buried behind the house in a forest. The location of their bodies would remain a mystery for decades.
The decision to murder the Romanovs, according to an entry in Leon Trotsky’s journals, came from Lenin himself. A “White” (as opposed to “Red”/Communist) Czech army was approaching Yekaterinburg, where the Romanovs were living, and Lenin feared that if the royal family fell into opposition hands they would become a rallying point for Whites all through Russia. The killing of the children insured that nall immediate heirs were eliminated as well.
The day after the execution a statement was released, not by Lenin or the Bolshevik Party, but by the Ural Regional Soviet who announced the death of the Tsar and his family because of the approaching White army and Nicholas’ “countless, bloody, violent acts against the Russian people.”
Interestingly, the Czech army had no idea that the Romanovs were in Yekaterinburg and were advacing only in order to protect the Trans-Siberian railrod. They took the city only days after the execution.
Sixty-one years after the Romanovs were killed their grave site was stumbled upon. In the grave were only nine bodies, leaving two missing, including the body of Alexei and one of his sisters. DNA and forensic testing confirmed, in 1998, that the bodies in the grave were the Tsar, his wife, the servants, and three of the Romanov daughters. They were given a state funeral attended by Russian president Boris Yeltsin.
Nine years later, another grave was discovered with two additional bodies. Scientists determined that it was Alexei, which they had presumed, and his sister, Maria, solving the final Romanov mystery.
The ages of the Romanovs at the time of the execution were as follows: Tsar Nicholas II, 50 years old; Tsarina Alexandra, 46; Olga. 22; Tatiana, 21; Maria, 19; Anastasia, 17; and Alexei, 13.
Sources: eyewitnesstohistory.com, alexanderpalace.org, and Wikipedia
(Image of Nicholas II of Russia with the family, left to right,: Olga, Maria, Nicholas II, Alexandra Fyodorovna, Anastasia, Alexei, and Tatiana. Livadiya, 1913. Portrait by the Levitsky Studio, Livadiya. Today the original photograph is held at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Courtesy of wikimedia.org)