Romanov Family, Murder of

   On the evening of 16–17 July 1918, at the express command of Vladimir Lenin, a squad of Chekists murdered the deposed Romanov tsar along with his wife and five children in the basement of the Ipatyev House in Yekaterinburg (renamed Sverdlovsk from 1920 to 1991). Lenin ordered their execution to preclude their liberation by an advancing White Army. The firing squad included seven Russian and six Latvian Chekists. It was commanded by Yakov Yurovsky, who believed that he was avenging the victims of anti-Semitic pogroms. Contrary to legend, there were no survivors.
   Yurovsky later gave a revolver used in the murder of the royal family to the Museum of the Revolution in Moscow’s Red Square, and he died in his bed without remorse. The Ipatyev House became a shrine for many Russian Orthodox Christians, and at the order of KGB Chair Yuri Andropov it was torn down in the 1970s. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Romanovs’ remains were interred in St. Petersburg, and they are now considered martyrs by the Russian Church.
   Explaining the murder in his memoirs, Leon Trotsky wrote: “The execution of the tsar’s family was needed not only to frighten, horrify, and dishearten the enemy, but also in order to shake up our own ranks, to show them there was no turning back, that ahead lay either complete victory or complete ruin.” Trotsky’s comments explain the Red Terror as well: the regime acted not only to terrorize its enemies, but to somehow strengthen the resolve of a small militant party.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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