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The End of Imperial Russia: Devastating Story and Historical Photos of Romanov Family before their Execution

Before the Bolshevik takeover of Russia, the Romanovs were Russia’s last Royal Family. Autocrats ruled Russia for 300 years. Between 1682 and 1917, when Tsar Nicholas II abdicated on behalf of himself and his son, the heir apparent to the throne, the Russian monarchy had become a stable and established system. Tsar Nicholas II was treated as more of a passive individual than previous Russian leaders admired for their power and hardheadedness.

The Russian Revolution and Nicholas II abdication

In 1905, the disastrous result of the Russo-Japanese War prompted the Russian Revolution, which ended only when Nicholas approved an assembly-the Duma-and announced constitutional reforms. When the Duma opposed him, the czar soon withdrew these concessions, contributing to the public’s growing support for the Bolsheviks and other revolutionary groups. Russia was ill-prepared for World War I, which Nicholas II dragged it into in 1914. The lack of food, the fatigue of the soldiers, and the devastating defeats at the hands of Germany led to increasing frustrations in Russia under Nicholas. In March 1917, a revolution broke out in Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). Nicholas was forced to abdicate his throne later that month. Vladimir Lenin and the radical socialist Bolsheviks controlled Russia in November 1917. After seizing power, they sued for peace with the Central Powers and established the first communist state on Earth. In June 1918, the Russian Civil War broke out. In July 1918, during a campaign against the Bolsheviks, the anti-Bolshevik “White” Russian forces advanced on Yekaterinburg, where Nicholas and his family lived.

As he was now known, Nicholas Romanov and his family lived in three different locations between 1917 and 1918: Tsarskoye Selo, Tobolsk, and the Ipatiev House. Several loyal family friends also lived with the Romanov family. The guards watched their every move, ordering them to do chores, interrupting meals and free time, and requiring them to be permitted to take walks. The family’s lifestyle previously lived in royal palaces is opposite from the one they now live in.

The Execution of Romanov Family

On July 16, Nicholas, Alexandra, their five kids, and four servants were ordered to get dressed fast and go down to the home’s cellar where they were held. Family members and servants were arranged in two rows for the photograph, which officials told them was to quell rumours about their escape. Suddenly, a dozen men entered the room armed with rifles and shot the imperial family to death. When the smoke cleared, those who were still breathing were stabbed to death.

The execution was neither swift nor straightforward. There were hundreds of bullets fired through the basement, and many of them missed the family and their entourage. The second member of the family to be killed was his wife, former Tsarina Alexandra, who was shot in the head. Four of his daughters and his son were shot numerous times, but they survived. Before the children suffered any fatal injuries, all of the adults had died. In what could be characterized as a botched execution, it had become so noisy and filled with smoke that the room became filled with loud noises. Aiming accurately toward any target was impossible at this point.

The aftermath of the execution

The remains of Nicholas and Alexandra, along with three of their children, were found in a forest near Yekaterinburg in 1991, and their remains were positively identified a year later using DNA fingerprinting. There were no records of Alexei, the crown prince and one Romanov daughter. These are among the factors perpetuating the persistent myth that Anastasia, the youngest Romanov daughter, survived execution. Anna Anderson, who died in 1984 in the United States, was the most convincing Anastasia to emerge in Europe in the decade following the Russian Revolution. However, in 1994, scientists used DNA testing to prove that Anna Anderson wasn’t the czar’s daughter, but a Polish woman named Franziska Schanzkowska.

Below are some historical photos of the Romanov family before their execution.

#1 Villagers photographed during a trip made by the tsar and his family.

Villagers photographed during a trip made by the tsar and his family.

The picture is one of only a few in the albums which focus on the ordinary people of Russia.

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#2 Tsar Nicholas II with daughters (left to right) Maria, Anastasia, Olga and Tatiana Romanov.

Tsar Nicholas II with daughters (left to right) Maria, Anastasia, Olga and Tatiana Romanov.

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#3 Anna Vyrubova (right) wading at the beach with Grand Duchesses Tatyana and Olga.

Anna Vyrubova (right) wading at the beach with Grand Duchesses Tatyana and Olga.

After the family was murdered, Anna, a close friend of the royal family, was able to flee Soviet Russia with six albums containing these photographs.

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#4 The grand duchesses with their mother and two officers.

The grand duchesses with their mother and two officers.

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#5 Aboard the Standart, sailors take turns bouncing their shipmates down the deck on mats.

Aboard the Standart, sailors take turns bouncing their shipmates down the deck on mats.

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#6 Tatyana Romanov aboard the Standart.

Tatyana Romanov aboard the Standart.

Tatyana was described by an associate as a "poetical creature, always yearning for the ideal, and dreaming of great friendships which might be hers."

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#7 Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatyana, and Maria aboard the Standart in 1914.

Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatyana, and Maria aboard the Standart in 1914.

The sisters were 22, 21, and 19 years old when they were killed.

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#8 Empress Aleksandra having her likeness modeled in clay.

Empress Aleksandra having her likeness modeled in clay.

In the three years before the revolution of 1917, the German-born Empress became a figure of suspicion and contempt as Russia fought against Germany on the ruinous battlefields of WWI.

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#9 Olga Romanov in a wicker chair aboard the Standart.

Olga Romanov in a wicker chair aboard the Standart.

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#10 Nicholas II and three of the grand duchesses floating in one of the canals of Tsarskoe Selo, near St. Petersburg.

Nicholas II and three of the grand duchesses floating in one of the canals of Tsarskoe Selo, near St. Petersburg.

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#11 Anastasia (at left) and Maria visit wounded WWI soldiers in hospital.

Anastasia (at left) and Maria visit wounded WWI soldiers in hospital.

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#12 Anastasia Romanov pulling a face.

Anastasia Romanov pulling a face.

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#13 Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Aleksandra (far right), with their four daughters and son.

Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Aleksandra (far right), with their four daughters and son.

The tsar was forced to abdicate in 1917 and he and his family were shot and stabbed to death by Bolshevik troops, in 1918, before their bodies were doused in acid and dumped into a mine shaft.

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#14 Tsar Nicholas II wading on the rocky shore of Finland.

Tsar Nicholas II wading on the rocky shore of Finland.

After the early death of his father, he confided to a friend, "I am not yet ready to be tsar. I know nothing of the business of ruling."

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#15 Tsar Nicholas II and his son, Aleksei, near St. Petersburg.

Tsar Nicholas II and his son, Aleksei, near St. Petersburg.

The young heir suffered from hemophilia, a genetic disorder that prevents blood from clotting.

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#16 Empress Aleksandra (left) with Anna Vyrubova, and Olga, the eldest of the grand duchesses.

Empress Aleksandra (left) with Anna Vyrubova, and Olga, the eldest of the grand duchesses.

Anna was arrested after the revolution but managed to escape to Finland with the albums, which contain more than 2,600 photographs of the private lives of the Romanovs. She died in Helsinki in 1964.

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#17 Empress Aleksandra being greeted aboard the Standart, the imperial yacht that served the tsar’s family for holidays and official tours.

Empress Aleksandra being greeted aboard the Standart, the imperial yacht that served the tsar's family for holidays and official tours.

In the background, her young daughters, known as Russia's grand duchesses, are saluted by the crew.

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#18 Two of the grand duchesses aboard the Standart.

Two of the grand duchesses aboard the Standart.

When the children were small, each was assigned a sailor to ensure they didn't fall overboard.

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#19 Nicholas II and his daughters hiking in Crimea.

Nicholas II and his daughters hiking in Crimea.

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#20 A footbridge at Spala in Poland.

A footbridge at Spala in Poland.

During the royal family's 1912 trip here, Tsarevich Aleksei fell while jumping into a rowboat and badly bruised his thigh, triggering internal bleeding that brought the heir apparent to the brink of death.

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#21 Tsar Nicholas II posing with a deer felled at Spala shortly before the crisis with his son began.

Tsar Nicholas II posing with a deer felled at Spala shortly before the crisis with his son began.

When the Siberian mystic Rasputin apparently helped the tsarevich make a miraculous recovery from his internal bleeding, Rasputin became a close confidant of the royal family.

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#22 Empress Aleksandra and her daughter, Grand Duchess Tatyana. The two were said to be especially close.

Empress Aleksandra and her daughter, Grand Duchess Tatyana. The two were said to be especially close.

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#23 Tsar Nicholas II (left) greeting an unidentified man aboard the Standart.

Tsar Nicholas II (left) greeting an unidentified man aboard the Standart.

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#24 Tsarevich Aleksei Romanov, the heir to the Russian throne. The boy was 13 years old when he and his family were assassinated.

Tsarevich Aleksei Romanov, the heir to the Russian throne. The boy was 13 years old when he and his family were assassinated.

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#25 Tsarevich Aleksei, third from left, playing soldiers.

Tsarevich Aleksei, third from left, playing soldiers.

Andrey Derevenko (far left) was one of two minders tasked with looking after the vulnerable heir apparent. Derevenko joined the Bolsheviks soon after the revolution and taunted the tsarevich before disappearing into obscurity.

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#26 Klementy Nagorny (right) was also tasked with looking after Tsarevich Aleksei (second from right on trolley).

Klementy Nagorny (right) was also tasked with looking after Tsarevich Aleksei (second from right on trolley).

After the 1917 revolution, Nagorny joined the royal family in captivity despite knowing it was likely he would be killed. While imprisoned with the Romanovs, he intervened to stop a Bolshevik guard from stealing Aleksei's gold chain; he was shot a few days later.

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#27 Pierre Gilliard, the family’s French tutor, with his pupils Olga and Tatyana Romanov. Gilliard was another of the family’s retinue who joined them in captivity.

Pierre Gilliard, the family's French tutor, with his pupils Olga and Tatyana Romanov. Gilliard was another of the family's retinue who joined them in captivity.

After the murders, he assisted the investigation into the killings before fleeing Russia as Vladimir Lenin tightened his grip on power. He died in Switzerland in 1962.

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#28 Anastasia, the youngest of the Grand Duchesses, photographed after a round of tennis with an officer and her father, Nicholas II. On the night of the murders, on July 17, 1918, Anastasia fainted in the initial hail of bullets. She awoke moments later and screamed before the Bolshevik troops piled on

Anastasia, the youngest of the Grand Duchesses, photographed after a round of tennis with an officer and her father, Nicholas II. On the night of the murders, on July 17, 1918, Anastasia fainted in the initial hail of bullets. She awoke moments later and screamed before the Bolshevik troops piled on

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#29 The grand duchesses striding across the deck of the Standart.

The grand duchesses striding across the deck of the Standart.

Life on board the yacht was relaxed and informal, and flirtations sprang up between the sailors and the grand duchesses.

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#30 In the months after the 1917 Revolution, Grand Duchess Tatiana helping to dig a vegetable garden while being held in captivity by revolutionaries.

In the months after the 1917 Revolution, Grand Duchess Tatiana helping to dig a vegetable garden while being held in captivity by revolutionaries.

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#31 Tsar Nicholas II and his son Aleksei sawing wood while in captivity. They were killed a few months later.

Tsar Nicholas II and his son Aleksei sawing wood while in captivity. They were killed a few months later.

The diary of a senior Soviet leader recalls that Vladimir Lenin made the decision to have the Romanovs executed, after concluding "we shouldn't leave the [anti-Bolshevik forces] a living emblem to rally around, especially under the present difficult circumstances."

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#32 Olga, Tatiana, Alexei, an unidentified man and Tsar Nicholas II in Rospha, Russia.

Olga, Tatiana, Alexei, an unidentified man and Tsar Nicholas II in Rospha, Russia.

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#33 An unidentified woman and Olga Romanov (at right)

An unidentified woman and Olga Romanov (at right)

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#34 Anastasia Romanov with fake teeth.

Anastasia Romanov with fake teeth.

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#35 Tsar Nicholas II.

Tsar Nicholas II.

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#36 Anastasia and Maria visit wounded soldiers in hospital during World War I.

Anastasia and Maria visit wounded soldiers in hospital during World War I.

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#37 An unidentified man with Tatiana Romanov.

An unidentified man with Tatiana Romanov.

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#38 The Tsar (at left) and family.

The Tsar (at left) and family.

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#39 Anna Virubova, best friend and confidante of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, and Olga Romanov.

Anna Virubova, best friend and confidante of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, and Olga Romanov.

Virubova was regarded as very much under the influence of Rasputin. Not permitted by the Bolsheviks to follow the tsar's family into exile, she was first jailed in St. Petersburg and eventually escaped to Finland, where she lived in a convent until her death in the 1960s.

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#40 Maria, Olga , Alexei, an unidentified woman and Tatiana Romanov.

Maria, Olga , Alexei, an unidentified woman and Tatiana Romanov.

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#41 The Tsar (second from left) and family.

The Tsar (second from left) and family.

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#42 Maria, Olga and Tatiana Romanov.

Maria, Olga and Tatiana Romanov.

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#43 Olga Romanov in her bedroom.

Olga Romanov in her bedroom.

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#44 Cellar of Ipatiev house in Yekaterinburg, after the Execution of the Imperial Family in the night on 16-17 July 1918, 1919.

Cellar of Ipatiev house in Yekaterinburg, after the Execution of the Imperial Family in the night on 16-17 July 1918, 1919.

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#45 Forensic investigation into the authenticity of the remains of Russia’s Royal family members.

Forensic investigation into the authenticity of the remains of Russia's Royal family members.

The bones were dug up in a forest near Yekaterinburg in 1991.

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#46 The remainings of Romanov Family.

The remainings of Romanov Family.

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#47 Investigation into the execution of the Romanov family.

Investigation into the execution of the Romanov family.

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#48 Investigation into the execution of the Romanov family

Investigation into the execution of the Romanov family

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#49 Forensic investigation into the authenticity of the remains of Russia’s Royal family members, Russian expert Galina Anokhina.

Forensic investigation into the authenticity of the remains of Russia's Royal family members, Russian expert Galina Anokhina.

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#50 Russian expert Sergei Abramo with the remains of Russia’s Royal family members.

Russian expert Sergei Abramo with the remains of Russia's Royal family members.

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#51 Bones samples of Russia’s Royal family.

Bones samples of Russia's Royal family.

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#52 Ipatiev, where the Romanov family was murdered during the night of July 16th to 17th 1918.

Ipatiev, where the Romanov family was murdered during the night of July 16th to 17th 1918.

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#53 Exhumation of the remains of the Imperial Romanov family in a crypt at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 12th July 1994.

Exhumation of the remains of the Imperial Romanov family in a crypt at Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, Saint Petersburg, Russia, on 12th July 1994.

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#54 The bones were dug up in a forest near Yekaterinburg in 1991.

The bones were dug up in a forest near Yekaterinburg in 1991.

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Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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2 Comments

  1. Probably a necessary act, but also a very very sad one as the children didn’t deserve to die or live in the fear even though the parents may had the mind and will to do the things leading up to this. May God have mercy on all their sould.