On the eve of the 90th anniversary of the shooting of Nikolai II, his family, and his retainers, an exhibition recounting the last months of the life of the imperial family and its tragic fate opened at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Material evidence of one of the most horrific crimes in Russian history is on display.
One sees the last portraits of the Grand Princesses, the Tsarevich, and the imperial couple. It was what they left in Yekaterinburg. There are mementoes of their last days such as the food ration card of Nikolai Romanov, no. 54, stating that the family was to receive 5 poods (81.9 kilos/180.55 pounds) of fine flour and 7.5 poods (122.85 kilos/270.825 pounds) of sugar per month. (The figure for sugar is probably a typo, a figure 1/10 of that given would be closer to the truth: editor’s note)
There are 28 bullets taken from the bodies, and there are no doubts on this score, for all of the bullets were fired from the same type of weapon, a Browning. “The bullets fired and discovered at the burial site, and the bullets found at Ganina Yama, several rounds at each site, were fired from the same type of weapon. Forensic examination categorically confirms this fact. The events at these two sites had to be connected”, said Vladimir Solovyov, inspector of the independent major case investigating service of the RF Procurator’s Office.
The investigation that Mr Solovyov has carried out into the shooting of the imperial family has already taken ten years. It was his decision to subject the bullets to ballistic examination. He was personally present at the last identification of the remains. Forensic specialists have finished investigating the so-called nuclear DNA, where relationship is established in the male line. The results of the study shall be announced shortly. “An official statement regarding the remains thought to be those of Aleksei and Maria shall be made in the middle of the month”, Mr Solovyov promised.
On exhibit is the bayonet-knife used by Pyotr Yermakov, the commander of the execution squad, to finish off the Tsarevich, Grand Princess Anastasia, and Maid Anna Demidova. Next to it is the note by Urals Military Commissar Voikov demanding 170 litres (37 Imperial gallons/45 US gallons) of sulphuric acid for the destruction of the bodies.
We know who carried out the shooting, for they left tracks that could be followed, but, as for who gave the order to murder the imperial family… history is silent. “There is no documentary evidence to prove that it was Lenin or Sverdlov, unfortunately, there is nothing to go on. There is documentary evidence of the decision of the Urals Soviet, but, we know that all too frequently the decisions of underlings were shaped by hints dropped by higher levels of authority”, noted Vladimir Mironenko, the director of the RF Public Archive.
This exhibition also presents items from the entire life of the imperial family. Here is Nikolai II’s temperance edict. This decree commanded an end to the brewing of beer. Another photograph shows the tsar personally checking the comfort of a new pattern of military uniform, he marched for 10 kilometres (@6.2 miles) wearing it. There is a general plan of the city of Moscow made in 1900 that confirms that plans were drawn up for a Metro system, admittedly, not underground, but, on elevated tracks. However, the money available was insufficient for the completion of the project. “According to the plans, a metro station was going to be built on Red Square (and, by the way, a Metro station today is under Red Square), we know this because the archives preserves the plans of the metro and of the projected stations, which were to be at St Basil Cathedral and the Historical Museum”, said Sergei Balan, director of the showroom of the Federal Archives section of the RF Public Archive.
Ball dresses, hymns, the figures of the Grand Princesses… Tomorrow, Patriarch Aleksei of Moscow and all the Russias shall solemnly open the exhibition on the eve of the 90th anniversary of the shooting of the imperial family.
1 July 2008
Quoted in Interfax-Religion
Photographs from the website of the Novo-Tikhvin Convent of Yekaterinburg