Thirteen Years at the Russian Court Thirteen Years at the Russian Court Thirteen Years at the Russian Court

The Inquiry into the Crime - Pierre Gilliard - Thirteen Years at the Russian Court

THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CRIME ESTABLISHED BY THE ENQUIRY
 
In the following pages I shall describe the circumstances of the murder of the Imperial family as they appear from the depositions of the witnesses and evidence examined by the enquiry. From the six thick manuscript volumes in which it is contained I have extracted the essential facts of this drama about which, alas I there can be no longer any doubt. The impression left by reading these documents is that of a ghastly nightmare, but I do not feel justified in dwelling on the horror.

About the middle of May, 1918, Yankel Sverdlov, President of the Central Executive Committee at Moscow, yielding to the pressure of Germany,' sent Commissary Yakovlev to Tobolsk to arrange for the transfer of the Imperial family. He had received orders to take them to Moscow or Petrograd. In carrying out his mission he met with resistance which he did his best to overcome, as the enquiry has established. This resistance had been organized by the divisional government of the Ural, whose headquarters were at Ekaterinburg. It was they who, unknown to Yakovlev, prepared the trap which enabled them,to seize the Emperor en route. But it appears to have been established that this plan had been secretly approved by Moscow. It is more than probable, indeed, that Sverdlov was playing a double game, and that, while pretending to accede. to the pressure of General Baron von Mirbach in Moscow, he had arranged with the Ekaterinburg commissaries not to let the Tsar escape. However this may be, the installation of the Tsar at Ekaterinburg was carried out on the spur of the moment. In two days the merchant Ipatiev was evicted from his house and the construction of a strong wooden fencing rising to the level of the second-floor windows begun.

GILLIARD NOTE: Germany's aim was the restoration of the monarchy in favour of the Tsar or Tsarevich, on condition that the treaty of Brest-Litovsk was recognized and Russia should become Germany's ally. This plan failed, thanks to the resistance of the Tsar Nicholas II, who was probably the victim of his fidelity to his allies.

To this place the Tsar, Tsarina, Grand-Duchess Marie Nicolaievna, Dr. Botkin, and three servants accompanying them were brought on April 30th. Also Anna Demidova, the Tsarina's maid, Chemadurov, the Tsar's valet, and Sedniev, the Grand-Duchesses' footman.

At first the guard was formed by soldiers picked at random and frequently changed. Later it consisted exclusively of workmen from the Sissert workshops and the factory of Zlokazov Brothers. They were under the command of' Commissary Avdiev, commandant of the "house destined for a special purpose," as Ipatiev's house was named.

The conditions of the imprisonment were much more severe than at Tobolsk. Avdiev was an inveterate drunkard, who gave rein to his coarse instincts, and, with the assistance of his subordinates, showed great ingenuity in daily inflicting fresh humiliations upon those in his charge. There was no alternative but to accept the privations, submit to the vexations, yield to the exactions and caprices of these low, vulgar scoundrels.

On their arrival in Ekaterinburg on May 23rd, the Tsarevich and his three sisters were at once taken to Ipatiev's house, where their parents were awaiting them. After the agony of separation this reunion was a tremendous joy, in spite of the sadness of the present and the uncertainty of the future.

A few hours later Kharitonov (the chef), old Trupp (footman), and little Leonid Sedniev (scullery-boy) were also brought. General Tatichtchev, Countess Hendrikova, Mlle. Schneider, and Volkov, the Tsarina's valet-de-chambre, had been taken direct to the prison.

On the twenty-fourth, Chemadurov, who had been taken III, was transferred to the prison hospital; there he was forgotten, and so, miraculously, escaped death. A few days later Nagorny and Sedniev were also removed. The number of those who had been left with the prisoners decreased rapidly. Fortunately Dr. Botkin, whose devotion was splendid, was left, and also a few servants whose faithfulness was proof against anything: Anna Demidova, Kharitonov, Trupp, and little Leonid Sedniev. During these days of suffering the presence of Dr. Botkin was a great comfort to the prisoners; he did all he could for them, acted as intermediary between them and the commissaries, and did his best to protect them against the coarse insults of their guards.

The Tsar, Tsarina, and Tsarevich occupied the room in the angle formed by the square and Vosnessensky Lane; the four Grand-Duchesses the adjoining room, the door of which had been removed; at first, as there was no bed, they slept on the floor. Dr. Botkin slept in the drawing-room and the Tsarina's maid in the room in the angle of Vosnessensky Lane and the garden, The other prisoners were installed in the kitchen and adjacent hall.

Aleksey Nicolaievich's ill-health had been aggravated by the fatigue of the journey; he spent the greater part of the day lying down, and when they went out to take the air it was the Tsar who carried him as far as the garden.

The family and servants took their meals with the commissaries, who occupied the same floor as themselves, and so lived in constant proximity with these coarse men, who more often than not were drunk.

The house had been surrounded by a second fence of boards; it had been turned into a veritable prison fortress. There were sentries stationed outside and within, machine guns in the building and garden. The room of the Commissary Commandant-the first on entering the house-was occupied by Commissary Avdiev, his adjutant Mochidne, and some workmen. The rest of the guard lived in the basement, but the men often came upstairs and strolled into the rooms of the Imperial family as they liked. The courage of the prisoners was, however, sustained in a remarkable way by religion. They had kept that wonderful faith which at Tobolsk had been the admiration of their entourage and which had given them such strength, such serenity in suffering. They were already almost entirely detached from this world. The Tsarina and Grand-Duchesses could often be heard singing religious airs, which affected their guards in spite of themselves.

Gradually these guards were humanised by contact with their prisoners. They were astonished at their simplicity, attracted by their gentleness, subdued by their serene dignity, and soon found themselves dominated by those whom they thought they held in their power. The drunken Avdiev found himself disarmed by such greatness of soul; he grew conscious of his own infamy. The early ferocity of these men was succeeded by profound pity.

The Soviet authorities in Ekaterinburg comprised:

(a) The Divisional Council of the Urals, consisting of about thirty members under the presidency of Commissary Bieloborodov.

(b) The Presidium, a sort of executive committee of several members Bieloborodov, Golochtchokin, Syromolotov, Safarov, Voyekov, etc.

(c) The Tckrezvytchaika. The popular title of the "Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution and Speculation," with its centre at Moscow and branches throughout Russia. This is a formidable organisation which is the very foundation of the Soviet regime. Each section receives its orders direct from Moscow and carries them out through its own resources. Every tchrezvytchaika of any importance commands the services of a band of nondescript agents, generally Austro-German prisoners of war, Letts, Chinese, etc., who are in reality nothing more than highly-paid executioners.

In Ekaterinburg the Tchrezvytckaika was all-powerful. Its most influential members were Commissaries Yurovsky, Golochtchokin, etc.

Avdiev was under the immediate control of the other commissaries, members of the Presidium and Tckrezvytckaika. They were not long in realising the change which had come about in the feelings of the guards towards their prisoners, and resolved to adopt drastic measures. At Moscow, too, there was uneasiness, as was proved by the following telegram sent from Ekaterinburg by Bieloborodov to Sverdlov and Golochtchokin (who was then at Moscow): "Syromolotov just left for Moscow to organise according to instructions from centre. Anxiety unnecessary. Useless to worry. Avdiev revoked. Mochkin arrested. Avdiev replaced by Yurovsky. Inside guard changed, replaced by others."

This telegram is dated July 4th.

On this day Avdiev and his adjutant Mochkin were arrested and replaced by Commissary Yurovsky, a Jew, and his subordinate Nikulin. The guard formed - as has already been mentioned exclusively of Russian workmen, was transferred to a neighboring house, that of Popov.

Yurovsky brought with him ten men - nearly all Austro-German prisoners of war - "selected" from among the executioners of the Tchrezvylchaika. Henceforward these formed the inside guard, the outside sentries being still furnished by the Russian guard.

The "house destined for a special purpose" had become a branch of the Tchrezvylchaika, and the lives of the prisoners became one long martyrdom.

At this time the death of the Imperial family had already been decided upon in Moscow. The telegram quoted above proves this. Syromolotov left for Moscow "to organise according to instructions from centre"; he was to return with Golochtcholkin, bringing instructions and directions from Sverdlov. Meanwhile Yurovsky made his arrangements. On several days in succession he went but on horseback. He was seen wandering about the neighborhood looking for a place suitable for his plans, in which he could dispose of the bodies of his victims. And this same man, with inconceivable cynicism, on his return visited the bedside of the Tsarevich!

Several days pass; Golochtchokin and Syromolotov have come back. All is ready.

On Sunday, July 14th, Yurovsky summons a priest, Father Storoyev, and authorizes a religious service. The prisoners are already condemned to death and must not be refused the succour of religion.

The next day he gives orders for the removal of little Leonid Sedniev to Popov's house, where the Russian guard are quartered.

On the sixteenth, about 7 p.m., he orders Paul Medvedev, in whom he has every confidence. Medvedev was in control of the Russian workmen - to bring him the twelve Nagan revolvers with which the Russian guard are armed. When this order has been carried out he tells him that all the Imperial family will be put to death that same night, directing him to inform the Russian guard later. Medvedev informs them about 10 p.m.

Shortly after midnight, Yurovsky enters the rooms occupied by the members of the Imperial family, wakes them up, together with their entourage, and tells them to get ready to follow him. The pretext he alleges is that they are to be taken away, that there are disturbances in the town, and meanwhile they will be safer on the floor below.

Everyone is soon ready. They take a few small belongings and some cushions and then go down by the inner staircase leading to the court from which they enter the ground-floor rooms. Yurovsky goes in front with Nikulin, followed by the Tsar, carrying Aleksey Nicolaievich, the Tsarina, the Grand-Duchesses, Dr. Botkin, Anna Demidova, Kharitonov, and Trupp.

The prisoners remain in the room indicated by Yurovsky. They are persuaded that the carriages or cars which are to take them away are being fetched, and as the wait may be long they ask for chairs. Three are brought. The Tsarevich, who cannot stand because of his leg, sits down in the middle of the room. The Tsar takes his place on his left, Dr. Botkin standing on his right a little to the rear. The Tsarina sits down near the wall (to the right of the door by which they entered) , not far from the window. A cushion has been placed on her chair and that of Aleksey Nicolaievich. Behind her she has one of her daughters, probably Tatiana. In the corner on the same side Anna Demidova - still holding two cushions in her arms. The three other Grand-Duchesses are standing with their backs to the wall furthest from the door, and in the comer to their right are Kharitonov and old Trupp.

The wait is prolonged. Suddenly Yurovsky re-enters the room with seven Austro-Germans and two of his friends, Commissaries Yermakov and Vaganov, accredited executioners of the Tchrezvylchaika. Medvedev is also present. Yurovsky comes forward and says to the Tsar: "Your men have tried to save you but haven't succeeded, and we are forced to put you to death." He immediately raises his revolver and fires point-blank at the Tsar, who falls dead. This is the signal for a general discharge of revolvers. Each of the murderers has chosen his victim. Yurovsky has reserved for himself the Tsar and Tsarevich. For most of the prisoners death is instantaneous. But Aleksey Nicolaievich is moaning feebly. Yurovsky finishes him off with a shot from his revolver. Anastasia Nicolaievna is only wounded, and begins to scream as the murderers approach; she is killed by their bayonets. Anna Demidova, too, has been spared, thanks to the cushions which she holds in front of her. She rushes about, and finally falls under the bayonets of the assassins.

The depositions of the witnesses have made it possible for the enquiry to reconstruct the ghastly scene of the massacre in all its details. These witnesses are Paul Medvedev, one of the murderers; Anatole Yakimov, who was certainly present at the drama, although he denies it, and Philip Proskuriakov, who describes the crime from the story of other spectators. All three were members of the guard at Ipatiev's house.

When all is over, the commissaries remove from the victims their jewels, and the bodies are carried, with the help of sheets and the shafts of a sledge, to a motor-wagon which is waiting at the courtyard door, between the two wooden fences.

They have to hurry for fear of the dawn. The funeral procession crosses the still-sleeping town and makes for the forest. Commissary Vaganov rides ahead, as a chance encounter must be avoided. just as they are approaching the clearing for which they are making, he sees a wagon driven by peasants coming towards him. It is a woman of the village of Koptiaki, who set out in the night with her son and daughter-in-law to sell fish in the town. He orders them to turn round and go home. To make doubly sure he goes with them, galloping alongside the cart, and forbids them under pain of death to turn round or look behind them. But the peasant woman has had time to catch a glimpse of the great dark object coming up behind the horseman. When she gets back to the village she tells what she has seen. The puzzled peasants start out to reconnoiter, and run into a cordon of gentries stationed in the forest.

However, after great difficulties, for the roads are very bad, the motor-wagon reaches the clearing. The bodies are placed on the ground and partly undressed. It is then that the commissaries discover a quantity of jewelery that the Grand-Duchesses carry concealed under their clothes. They at once seize them, but, in their haste, let a few fall on the ground, where they are trodden into the soil. The bodies are then cut in pieces and placed on great bonfires, which are made to burn more fiercely by the application of benzine. The parts which resist the flames are destroyed with sulphuric acid. For three days and three nights the murderers toil at their labour of destruction under the direction of Yurovsky and his two friends Yermakov and Vaganov. One hundred and seventy-five kilogrammes of sulphuric acid and more than 300 litres of benzine are brought to the clearing.

At last, on July 20th, all is finished. The murderers efface all traces of the fires, and the ashes are thrown into a mine-shaft or scattered about the neighborhood of the clearing, so that nothing may reveal what has taken place.

Why did these men take so much trouble to efface all traces of their deed? Why, since they professed to be acting as the servants of justice, did they hide like criminals? And from whom were they hiding?

It is Paul Medvedev who explains this in his evidence. After the crime Yurovsky came up to him and said, "Keep the outside sentries at their posts in case there is trouble with the people!" And during the following days the sentries continued to mount guard round the empty house as if nothing had happened, as if the fences still shut in the prisoners.

Those who must be deceived, must not know, are the Russian People.

Another fact proves this: the precaution taken on July 4th of sending away Avdiev and the Russian guard. The commissaries no longer had confidence In these workmen from the Sissert workshops and the factory of Zlokazov, who had, however, rallied to their cause and enlisted voluntarily to guard "bloody Nicholas." They knew that none but paid assassins, convicts, or foreigners would consent to carry through the infamous task they were proposing. These assassins were Yurovsky (a Jew), Medvedev, Nikulin, Yermakov, Vaganov, Russian convicts, and seven Austro-Germans.

Yes, it was from the Russian people that they were hiding, the men whose agents they professed to be. It was of them they were afraid; of their vengeance.

At last, on July 20th, they decided to speak and announce the death of the Emperor to the people in a proclamation published in the following form:

DECISION OF THE PRESIDIUM OF THE DIVISIONAL COUNCIL OF DEPUTIES OF WORKMEN, PEASANTS, AND RED GUARDS OF THE URALS:

In view of the fact that Czecho-Slovakian bands are threatening the Red capital of the Urals, Ekaterinburg; that the crowned executioner may escape from the tribunal of the people (a White Guard plot to carry off the whole Imperial family has just been discovered), the Presidium of the Divisional Committee, in pursuance of the will of the people, has decided that the ex-Tsar Nicholas Romanov, guilty before the people of innumerable bloody crimes, shall be shot.

The decision of the Presidium of the Divisional Council was carried into execution on the night of July 16th-17th.

Romanov's family has been transferred from Ekaterinburg to a place of greater safety.

THE PRESIDIUM OF THE DIVISIONAL COUNCIL OF DEPUTIES OF WORKMEN, PEASANTS, AND RED GUARDS OF THE URALS, DECISION OF THE PRESIDIUM OF THE CENTRAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF ALL THE RUSSIAS OF JULY I8TH, a.c.

The Central Executive Committee of the Councils of Deputies of Workmen, Peasants, Red Guards, and Cossacks, in the person of their president, approve the action of the Presidium of the Council of the Urals.

The President of the Central Executive Committee, Y. SVERDLOF.

In this document mention is made of the sentence of death passed, it is alleged, by the Presidium of Ekaterinburg, on the Tsar Nicholas II. A lie! The crime, we know, was decided on in Moscow by Sverdlov, his instructions being brought to Yurovsky by Golochtchokin and Syromolotov.

Sverdlov was the head and Yurovsky the arm; both were Jews.

BOB ATCHISON NOTE: Gilliard's comment indicates an assumption that the Jews bore a unique responsiblity in some way for either the Revolution or the murder of the Imperial family. This was not true and betrays Mr. Gilliard's anti-semitism, which was wide-spread at the time in Europe and America.

The Tsar was neither condemned nor even judged - and by whom could he have been? - he was assassinated. And what of the Tsarina, the children, Dr. Botkin, and the three servants who died with them? But what does it matter to the murderers? They are sure of impunity; the bullet killed, the flame destroyed, and the earth covered what the fire could not devour. Oh, they are very easy in their minds; no one will talk, for they are united by infamy. And it seems to be with reason that commissary Volkov can exclaim, "The world will never know what we have done with them!"

These men were mistaken.

After months of groping, the enquiry commission undertook methodical investigation in the forest. Every inch of ground was searched, scrutinised, examined, and soon the mineshaft, the soil of the clearing, and the grass of the vicinity revealed their secret. Hundreds of articles and fragments, for the most part trodden into the ground, were discovered, identified, and classified by the court of enquiry. Amongst other things, they found in this way:

The buckle of the Tsar's belt, a fragment of his cap, the little portable frame containing the portrait of the Tsarina the photograph had disappeared - which the Tsar always carried about him, etc.

The Tsarina's favorite ear-rings (one broken), pieces of her dress, the glass of her spectacles, recognizable by its special shape, etc.

The buckle of the Tsarevich's belt, some buttons, and pieces of his cloak, etc.

A number of small articles belonging to the Grand-Duchesses: fragments of necklaces, shoes, buttons, hooks, press-buttons, etc.

Six metal corset busks. "Six" - a number which speaks for itself when the number of the female victims is remembered: the Tsarina, the four Grand-duchesses, and A. Demidova, the Tsarina's maid.

Dr. Botkin's false teeth, fragments of his eyeglasses, buttons from his clothes, etc.

Finally charred bones and fragments of bones, partly destroyed by acid and occasionally bearing the mark of a sharp instrument or saw; revolver bullets - doubtless those which had remained embedded in the bodies - and a fairly large quantity of melted lead.

A pathetic list of relics, leaving, alas! no hope, and showing up the truth in all its brutality and horror. Commissary Volkov was mistaken: the world now knows what they did with them.

Meanwhile the murderers were growing uneasy. The agents they had left at Ekaterinburg to set the enquiry on false trails kept them in touch with its progress. This they followed step by step. And when they understood finally that the truth was about to be revealed, that the whole world would soon know what had happened, they became afraid, and tried to throw on to others the responsibility for their crime. It was then that they accused the socialist-revolutionaries of being the authors of the crime and of having tried this means of compromising the Bolshevik party. In September, 1919, twenty-eight persons were arrested by them at Perm, falsely accused of having participated in the murder of the Imperial family, and tried. Five of them were condemned to death and executed.

This odious farce forms one more illustration of the cynicism of these men who did not hesitate to send innocent people to their death rather than incur the responsibility for one of the greatest crimes of history.

It remains to mention the tragedy of Alapaevsk, which is closely connected with that of Ekaterinburg, and caused the death of several other members of the Imperial family.

The Grand-Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, sister of the Tsarina, the Grand-Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, cousin of the Tsar, Princes Ivan, Konstantin, and Igor, sons of the Grand Duke Konstantin, and Prince Paley, son of the Grand-Duke Paul, had been arrested in the spring of 1918 and taken to the little town of Alapaevsk, situated 150 versts north of Ekaterinburg. A nun, Barbara Yakovlev, the Grand-Duchess's companion, and S. Remes, secretary of the Grand-Duke Sergei, shared their captivity. Their prison was the school-house.

In the night Of July 17th-18th, twenty-four hours after the Ekaterinburg crime, they were fetched and, under pretext of being removed to another town, were driven about twelve versts from Alapaevsk. There, in a forest, they were put to death. Their bodies were thrown into the shaft of an abandoned mine, where they were found, in October, 1918, covered with the earth thrown up by the explosion of hand-grenades by which the sufferings of the victims had been terminated.

The autopsy revealed traces of death by shooting only of he body of the Grand-Duke Sergei, and the enquiry has failed to establish exactly how his companions were killed. It is probable that they were beaten down with rifle butts.

This crime of unexampled brutality was the work of Commissary Safarov, member of the Ekaterinburg Presidium, who, however, was acting entirely on the orders of Moscow.

Some days after the capture of Ekaterinburg, when order was being restored in the town and the dead buried, two bodies were found not far from the prison. On one of them was found a receipt for 80,000 roubles made out to Citizen Dolgorouky, and, according to the descriptions of witnesses, it seems certain that this was the body of Prince Dolgorouky. There is every reason to believe that the other was the body of General Tatichtchev.

Both died, as they had expected, for their Tsar. General Tatichtchev said to me one day at Tobolsk: "I know I shan't come out alive. I only ask one thing, not to be separated from the Tsar and to be allowed to die with him." Even this supreme consolation was denied him.

Countess Hendrikova and Mlle. Schneider were removed from Ekaterinburg a few days after the murder of the Imperial family and taken to Perm. There they were shot in the night of September 3rd-4th, 1918. Their bodies were found and identified in May, 1919.

As for Nagorny, Aleksey Nicolaievich's sailor, and the footman, Ivan Sedniev, they were put to death in the neighborhood of Ekaterinburg in the beginning of June, 1918. Their bodies were found two months later at the place of execution.

All, from General to seaman, did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives and go bravely to meet death. This seaman, however, a humble peasant from the Ukraine, had only to say one word to be saved. He had only to deny his Tsar. This word remained unspoken...

For a long time, with simple and sincere faith, they had devoted their lives to those they loved, who had been able to inspire those who surrounded them with so much affection, courage, and self-sacrifice.

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