Murder of the Imperial Family - Yurovsky Note 1922 Englishрусский | English
This is an English translation of a note written by Yurovksy in 1922, which is now housed in the Private Presidential Archives of the Russian Federation (APRF), specifically for citation located at APRF f.3 op 58 d. 280. First published in 1993 in the original Russian in a small Russian scholarly publication Istochnik. Our thanks to volunteers for giviing us this English translation.
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Confessions of an executioner
These memoirs were kept in a secret archives for seventy years. They were written by Yakov Yurovsky. It was he who was the organizer of Nikolai II’s murder, his family and persons close to them. It was he who supervised the execution, which took place in 1918, on a July night, in a basement of the requisitioned house in the center of Ekaterinburg, which belonged to the Engineer Ipatiev. This is the first time these memoirs are published in their entirety.
This was long ago …
In far off Siberia, in the city of Tomsk in 1886-87, sitting on a log in the yard, thinking about how terrible life was. Thinking how I could get to the tsar and tell him about how hard it was to live. But to say it so that he would think that this voice was coming from somewhere in heaven … I was 7-8 years old. We lived on “The Peski” [The Sands], which was the name of the area that flooded every year. We rented not a large basement level apartment on Millionaya Street, in “Dondo’s” house. The owner - a butcher – lived above, and a store came out onto the street - a tavern which belonged to the owner’s relative.
This spring there was a partial flood which caught us while we slept.
My father was a glazier. Large family. The need we put up with was enormous.
When the basement flooded at night, the owner allowed the children to be brought upstairs into his rooms. [I] vaguely remember that I asked a question, “Why do we have to live in such a basement, which fills with water, while the owner’s children and the children of his relative the tavern owner, live above in better conditions?” Mother replied, “It’s better to live poorly but honestly”. And later, “Why is the rich Jew able to come to the synagogue on his horse on a festival, while Jews are forbidden this?” And to this question I received an answer from my mother, “Since he gives charity, he is forgiven for that”. I then also thought, “Big thing: if I had money, I would not be sorry to give it with pleasure to others.” From that time on, these types of thoughts never left me, [and I wanted very much to find a way out of our difficult materialistic situation].
In 1891 Nikolai carried out his world tour. He traveled across Siberia and came to Tomsk. Everyone waited and prepared to greet the heir to the throne.
I was by this time already learning the trade of a watchmaker. Seeing all these preparations, they grabbed me along, although I didn’t have any particular wish to see the heir. The lads were ready to climb up on roofs in order to see the heir. I thought that if I see him without climbing anywhere, then I will look, and if not, so what?
On the scheduled day, the heir arrived.
The shop where I was learning the trade of a watchmaker was on Pochtamsky Street, the city’s largest street, which led to the Governor’s house. In this way, I had the opportunity to look through the windows and gates of the house how the procession passed by. I remember as if it were now, the heir had small side whiskers, handsome. many peasants were around on horses, with big satchels behind their shoulders. One peasant, on a skinny horse trotting behind the good stallions on which the heir rode, smashed his head into Kornakov’s corner shop and was crushed along with his horse. The Heir was accompanied by his suite, particularly noticeable was one cantering Georgian.
In the last section, the heir was driven by an owner of an inn, a Jew, in a fast troika of black horses into Tomsk. This caused a lot of gossip about the Heir’s decision to ride on Jewish horses, and a Jew himself drove this troika. It was also said that the heir tried a pryanik [a small honey cake] baked by Jews, and other foods.
The festivities were huge. Everyone foretold a huge meaning that at the moment of the heir’s arrival, the weather was splendid, and that when the Heir came out on the balcony of the house, there was some drizzle, which caught the dust, and the day was magnificent. The fortune of such grand people like the heir. Such was my first encounter with the reigning house and Nikolai.
At around fifteen or sixteen years of age, on a festive day, sitting at lunch, a question about the tsars was raised. Father was rather strict and did not tolerate any objections from the children. He praised Nikolai I, that he knew how to control his people by means of a club. I could not hold back and got involved in an argument, that there was nothing good about Nikolai I, and if there was something good [about any tsar] then it was Alexander II: who emancipated the serfs and was not - as they said - crude like Nikolai.
Father could not contain himself. Threw a fork at me. I left and for two whole days was not at home.
So this was how I became acquainted with the reigning house, with those alive and with those deceased.
Father thought that he threw a fork at me, but it was probably the First Nikolai from his grave who wanted to throw it: mischievous, brother: not those times [anymore]...
And later, life knocked out of me even the desire to talk about the tsars: enemies, bloodsuckers, oppressors ….
And with the last progeny I met under a different circumstance: when all the power was in the hands of Worker-Peasant Government and the tsar was with us under lock and key …
Nikolai finds his place
In the first days of July of 1918 I received an order from the Ural deputies of the Executive Committee of Soviet workers, peasants and soldiers, who directed me to take the position of the Commandant in the so-called House of Special Purpose, which held the former tsar Nikolai II, his family and several persons close to them.
On 7-8 July, I set off together with the President of the Regional Executive Committee of the Ural Soviets Com.[rade] Beloborodov, to the House of Special Purpose, where I took over the position of the commandant from the former commandant, Com.[rade] Avdeyev. It needs to be said that Com.[rade] Avdeyev, like his assistant Com.[rade] Ukraintzev, it appears treated their duties carelessly, considered guarding the tsar, who in their opinion should have been liquidated promptly. This attitude could not but reflect on the general morale of the f. [former] workers from the Zlokazovsky Factory who were part of the guard there, as well as the Red Army soldiers from Syseretsky Factory; the workers had been saying for a long time now that Nikolai and his family should have been shot a long time ago, not spending the people’s money on them, by maintaining guards, and so on. However, so far there was no definite decision from the Center about this question, and it was necessary to take measures so that the guard stayed at an appropriately high level. It needs to be said that neither the signaling apparatus which connected us with the Soviet regiment and sections of the outside guard, and likewise the machine guns arranged in various locations were not in order. This situation forced me to enroll some experienced comrades known to me, some [of whom] I took from the regional Extraordinary Commission, where I was a colleague member, and a component from the Special Purpose Detachment from the Ekaterinburg Party Committee. In this manner I organized the internal guard, appointed new machine-gunners, one of whom I remember in particular: Comrade Tzsalms (a Lett), the surnames of the other comrades I do not recall at this time. It needs to be said that in case of a fire no precautions were similarly taken. There was firefighting equipment, there was a well from which water could be obtained, and I got involved in organizing all that was necessary in case [of a fire]. Whilst becoming acquainted with the prisoners, the sight of valuables leapt before my eyes, which were found on Nikolai’s hands as well as his family and servants - the cook Kharitonov, manservant Trupp, and also on Dr Botkin and freilina [lady-in-waiting] Demidova. Among the prisoners there was also the boy Sednev, who served Alexei. Just like inside the house, as well as in the storage area, the tsar’s possessions were kept in numerous places. I carried a proposal to conduct a search, but did not receive permission for this from ISPOLKOM [Executive Committee].
It is necessary to understand that this search was not considered necessary in view of the fact that at this time they found a trail of exchanged letters between Nikolai and the outside world. Considering that leaving the valuables in [their] hands would be not be unsafe given that this may actually tempt one or another of the guards, I decided by my own fear and risk to take away the valuables in their possession. For this I invited the Commandant’s Assistant Com.[rade] Nikulin [to go] with me, and commissioned him to document these valuables; Nikolai and also the children did not express their discontent. He only asked to leave Alexei’s watch, since without it he would be bored. Alexandra Fedorovna, however, expressed her displeasure loudly when I tried to take a gold bracelet off her wrist, which was worn and fastened on her arm, and which without an instrument could not be taken off. She announced that [she] has been wearing this bracelet on her wrist for 20 years and now [they are] encroaching [upon her] to take it off. Taking into account that the daughters had these same bracelets, and that these bracelets did not appear to have significant value, I left them. After documenting all these objects, I asked for the jewelry box, which Nikolai gave me, put all the objects inside it, sealed it with the Commandant seal and handed it to Nikolai himself for safekeeping. When I came in for inspection, which I established, Nikolai handed me the jewelry box and said, “Your jewelry box is intact.”
As regards [sic] rations, the family at the start received a Soviet ration meal. These meals were by far not refined, but [we] decided to stop the meals from the outside. They began to prepare meals in the kitchen. Besides that, I was able to find out that they brought for the imperial family everyday from the monastery, vatrushki [curd tarts] butter, eggs, and so on. I decided to allow this, but was very surprised that such liberties were allowed. Later I learned that this was allowed by Commandant Avdeyev, but Com.[rade] Avdeyev did not pass a lot to the family but kept most of it for himself and his comrades. I decided that all that was brought to the family should be given to them. Only on the second or third day did I find out that the deliveries were allowed by Com.[rade] Avdeyev. I decided to end all deliveries, allowing only milk to be brought, Dr Botkin announced to me that “only after Your appointment during the past two days have we received absolutely everything that was delivered from the monastery and suddenly we are deprived of everything once more, the children need nourishment, but the nourishment is so insufficient, we were very happy that we started to receive all the deliveries from the monastery”. However, I refused to hand over anything except milk, and also decided to transfer them to those rations which was established for all citizens of the city of Ekaterinburg; since there was little produce in the city, I thought that since my prisoners do not do anything and [they] should be content with the same ration which all citizens received. For this reason the cook Kharitonov addressed me with an announcement that he cannot possibly prepare dishes from a quarter of a pound of meat. I responded to him that one needs to get used to living not regally, but needs to live: like being under arrest.
No matter how difficult it was for Kharitonov to deal with this task, he had to start using precise measures and weigh that quantity appropriate for each day. I told him that no extra produce will be released [to them] in case of a shortage.
The room in which Alexandra Feodorovna with the heir were lodged, had windows which came out into the yard, which from the street were barricaded by a wooden fence. She allowed herself to frequently look out the window and come close to the window. Once, however, Alexandra Fedorovna allowed herself to come close to the window. From the sentry she received a threat to be struck by a bayonet. She complained to me. I told her that looking out the windows is not allowed.
Three-four days before the execution an iron screen was installed into Alexandra Fedorovna's window. In this regard Dr Botkin announced that it would be good if such screens were put into the other windows. The indoor schedule was such: in the morning, they got up before 10:00. At 10:00, I appeared in order to check all the prisoners by appearance. For this reason Alexandra Fedorovna expressed her dissatisfaction that she was not used to getting up so early. Then I said that I can check while she is still in bed. To this she declared that she was not used to receiving anyone while in bed. And I declared that it made no difference to me, whatever she prefers, but I had to check every day. Tatiana and Olga, or Maria - most often Tatiana - came to ask can [we] soon go for a walk. Alexandra Fedorovna rarely walked. When she went out for a walk, then without fail with a parasol and in a hat. All the rest usually walked with uncovered heads. Nikolai took turns walking with one or the other of the daughters. Alexei at this time entertained himself with pop-guns, with the boy Sednev.
While I was repairing the well, Nikolai came closer to me and made some sort of a comment, but I did not sustain a conversation. Once, while walking, Olga chattered up one of the Letts and asked him where he had served. He replied that he served in one of the Grenadier regiments, where during a military review he saw the tsar's daughters. Olga turned to Nikolai, with the exclamation: "Papa, this is one of your Grenadiers". He [Nikolai] approached and said, "Greetings", evidently hoping to hear "Wishing you health" [customary military response], but only received a simple hello. Long after that a Lett comrade reported that he did not get the chance to talk, because I came over and the conversation ended.
The daughters, especially Tatiana, often opened doors where a sentry permanently stood. [They] tried to exchange pleasantries with them, evidently hoping to win over the Konvoi [military escort]. It must be said that the lads were rather tough and certainly [the Duchesses] were unable to influence them with such niceties.
As far as I was able to notice, the family led a regular middle-class lifestyle: in the morning they drank tea, after consuming tea each one of them occupies with this or that job - sewing, mending, embroidery. The most intelligent of them were (sic) Tatiana, the second – [one] could consider Olga, who resembled Tatiana very much, including facial expressions. What concerns Maria, she is not similar to and [also] outwardly as the first two sisters: [she is] somewhat reticent and considered like a step-daughter in the family. Anastasia the youngest, flushed, with a rather pretty little face. Alexei was constantly ill with an inherited family disease, mostly found in bed, and was therefore for walks carried outside on arms. I once asked Dr Botkin what sort of illness did Alexei suffer from. He told me that he doesn't feel comfortable talking [about it] because this is a family secret, I didn't insist. Alexandra Fedorovna held herself rather grandly, firmly it seems remembering who she was. Concerning Nikolai, it felt like he was part of an ordinary family, where the wife was stronger than the husband. She demonstrated a lot of pressure [sic] over him. The situation in which I found them, they presented as a serene family ruled by the wife’s iron fist. Nikolai, with drooping face looked highly (sic) ordinary, simple, I would even say, [like] a peasant soldier.
Arrogance in the family, apart from Alexandra Fedorovna was not noticed in others. If this was not the detested imperial family, who drank so much blood from the, one could have considered them as simple and not arrogant persons. The girls, for example, would run into the kitchen, helped cook, made-up the dough or played cards - durachki (fools) or pasyans or engaged in washing kerchiefs. Everyone dressed simply, nothing fancy. Nikolai behaved earnestly, “democratically”, and even though - as we found later - he had not a few pairs of good new boots, he without fail wore boots with patches. Not least of their pleasures was to soak in the bath several times a day. I however prohibited them from bathing often since there was not enough water. If one looked at this family objectively, then it could be said that they were totally inoffensive.
The boy Sednev had become so accustomed, and made himself at home with the family, that it was not like a lackey’s attendance assisting the heir to the Russian throne. Often, annoyed Alexandra Fedorovna with his playing with the little dog, which they had. He however, would not quit this for him a pleasing activity, often [he] poisoned Alexandra Fedorovna’s well being. Trupp and Kharitonov were servants who had the loyalty of dogs to their masters.
Dr Botkin was a loyal friend of the family. In all cases in these or those needs of the family he acted as the petitioner. He was loyal to the family with his body and soul, and worried together with the Romanov family [about] the hardship of their lives. Everyone knows that Nicholai and his family were religious. They asked me if it would be possible to allow them to have obednya [Orthodox liturgy]. I invited a priest and a deacon. When they were in the commandant’s [room] putting on their vestments, I warned them that they can perform the service the way they are supposed to according to their rites, but there were to be no conversations allowed. The deacon stated, “this has happened before and we walked to not such high individuals. One could get confused and a scandal will occur, but in this situation we will swing [the incense burner] with pleasure for their kind souls”. Obednya was served. Nikolai and Alexandra Fedorovna prayed most diligently.
When I took over my duty, the question already stood about liquidating the Romanov family, since the Czechoslovaks and the Cossacks were closing in on the Urals, closer and closer to Ekaterinburg. Nikolai did have some sort of contact with the outside.
In view of the threatening situation, the issue was expedited.
I was entrusted with this issue, but the liquidation was on another comrade.
On 16 July, 1918, about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, comrade Filipp came to the house and presented me with the resolution from the Executive Committee to execute Nikolai, [and] at this time it was pointed out that the boy Sednev must be removed.
That during the night, a comrade will arrive who will say the password “chimneysweep” and to whom the corpses must be given, which he will bury and liquidate the job. I called the boy Sednev and told him that yesterday his arrested uncle Sednev escaped but he was detained once again, and that he wants to see the boy. Therefore I am sending him to his uncle. He rejoiced to be sent back to his hometown. Restlessness began in the Romanov family. As always, Dr Botkin immediately came to me and asked [me] to tell [him] where the boy was sent. I told him also what I told the boy, but he was still somewhat concerned. Later, Tatiana came, but I calmed her, saying that the boy went to see his uncle and will return soon. I summoned the head of the detachment, comrade Pavel Medvedev from the Syseretsky Factory and others, and told them that in case of an alarm they have to wait until they receive an agreed upon special signal. Having called the inner guard who were chosen for the execution of Nikolai and his family, I assigned the roles - and directed who will shoot whom. I provided them with “Nagan” system revolvers. When I allotted their roles, the Letts said that I spare them from the responsibility of shooting the girls, because they would not be able to do that. Then I decided it would be for the best to completely free these comrades from the shooting as people who are not capable of performing their revolutionary duty at the most decisive moment. Having completed all the appropriate assignments, we waited for the “chimneysweep”. However, not at 12, not at 1 o’clock did the “chimneysweep” appear, and the time was passing. The nights were short. I thought that they will not come today. Alas, at 1:30 they knocked. The “chimneysweep” has arrived. I went to the lodgings woke up Dr Botkin, and told him that everyone has to dress quickly because there are disturbances in the city, and that I must transfer them to a safer place. Not wishing to hurry them, I gave them the opportunity to get dressed. At 2 o’clock I transferred the escort [guard] to the lower premises. Told them to arrange themselves in [their] arranged order. I alone led the family downstairs. Nikolai was carrying Alexei in his arms. The rest, some with pillows in their hands, some with other items, we came down to the lower level to a special room previously prepared. Alexandra Fedorovna asked for a chair, Nikolai asked for a chair for Alexei.
I ordered that the chairs be brought. Alexandra Fedorovna sat down. Alexei as well. I suggested that everyone stand up. Everyone stood up, taking up the entire wall and one of the side walls. The room was very small. Nikolai stood with his back to me. I announced: the Executive Committee of Soviet Workers, Peasants and Soldier Deputies of the Urals carried [a decision] to shoot them. Nikolai turned around and asked (sic). I repeated the order and commanded “Shoot”. I shot first and killed Nikolai to drop (sic). The firing went on for a very long time, and despite my hopes that the wooden wall would not cause a ricochet, the bullets bounced off it. I was not able to stop this shooting for a long time, which took on a disorderly character. But when I finally was able to stop it, I realized that many were still alive.
For instance, Dr Botkin lay propped up on the elbow of his right arm, as if in a relaxed pose, a revolver shot finished him off, Alexei, Tatiana, Anastasia and Olga were still alive too. Also alive was Demidova. Com. Ermakov wanted to finish the job with a bayonet. However, this was not possible. The reason for this became clear later (the daughters had diamond armor [sewn] into their under bodices). I was forced to shoot each one in turn. Most unfortunately, the valuables brought down with the executed attracted the attention of some of the red guard who were present, who decided to steal them. I proposed that the transfer of the corpses be stopped and asked Com. Medvedev to watch in the truck that no valuables were touched. On the spot, I [personally] decided to gather everything that was there.
I positioned Nikulin to watch the road when they would load the corpses, and also left another below to watch those who were still there. After the loading the, I called in all the participants and demanded that they immediately return everything they had taken, otherwise threatened punishment. One by one they began to return what they happened to have. Turned out there were two [or] three weak-willed men. Despite the fact that I had the inclination to commission the remaining work to com.[rade] Ermakov, I was worried that he would not be able to perform this job in the proper way, [and] decided to go myself. I left Nikulin [behind]. Ordered not to remove the [guard] watch, so that nothing changed outwardly.
At 3:00 or 3:30 in the morning on 17 July, we headed in the direction of Verkh-Isetsky factory. Passing the yard of the factory, I asked Ermakov if he brought instruments in case we had to dig a pit. Ermakov told me that they had prepared a mineshaft and therefore no instruments will be needed, but most likely one of the lads grabbed something. Departing three versts from the Verkh-Isetsky factory we stumbled upon an entire camp of droshky and mounted riders. I asked Ermakov, “What does this mean?”. He told me, “These are all our lads who came to help us”. Why did you need such a mass of people, why did you need the droshky? He told me. I thought that all these people would be needed. And since I did not know his plan, I continued to follow in the truck. More than once we got stuck in the mud. At one spot we got stuck between two trees and stopped. Further there was the swamp. Could not go further in the truck. The workers, among whom were non-members of ISPOLKOM of the Verkh-Isetsky factory, expressed their displeasure that the corpses were brought, not the living, whom they wanted to torment to satisfy themselves … When [we] started to unload the droshky, it appeared very and (sic) very difficult (did not think to bring wagons). With great difficulty we had to pile the corpses into the droshky in order to go further. The promised mineshaft was not there. Where the mineshaft was, no one knew. When they started to unload the corpses from the truck, the lads again started to ransack [their] pockets. Here it was found that something was sewn in [their] belongings, and here I decided that before I bury them, I will burn these belongings. I threatened the lads so that they do not take part in this matter and continue the unloading. The mounted riders went to look for the mineshaft of which they spoke. Riding for some time, they did not find any mineshaft, returned with nothing. It already started to lighten. Peasants were going out to work. Nothing more was left but to move in an unfamiliar direction. Ermakov was adamant that he knew of another mineshaft, somewhere further, and we headed in that direction. About 16 versts from Verkh-Isetsk and about 1½ or 2 versts from Koptyaki village, we stopped. The lads drove into the forest and returned saying that [they] found the mineshaft. We turned into the forest. The mineshaft turned out to be very shallow. Some kind of abandoned old remains (sic). Unharnessed the horses. Built a fire. Placed a strike-force (sic) from the riders around the forest. Chased away the peasants [who] were nearby. Surrounded the area with mounted riders. I started to undress the corpses. Undressing one of the daughters, I found a corset which had something tightly sewn [in it]. I ripped it and found precious stones. Masses of people, in this situation were completely undesirable. The precious stones caused involuntary shouts, exclamations. Not knowing these lads well, I said, “Lads, these are trifles, some kind of plain rocks”. I stopped the work and decided to let everyone go, except a few more or less known to me and reliable, as well as a few mounted riders. I kept five men for myself and three riders, the remainder I let go. Besides my people, there were also 25 persons who Ermakov had prepared. I set about anew to unseal the precious stones. The precious stones were found to be with Tatiana, Olga and Anastasia. Here the special position Maria held in the family was confirmed, on [Maria] there were no precious stones. On Alexandra Fedorovna there were long strings of pearls and a huge coiled golden ring, or rather a hoop, about a half a pound. How or who wore this thing seemed strange to me. All these valuables I pulled out here from skillfully prepared brassieres and corsets. There was no less than half a pood [18 pounds or 16 kilograms] of precious stones. Among them were diamonds and other precious stones. All items (dresses and so on) were burned right there in the fire. On all their necks small pillows were worn, into which were sewn the prayers and teachings of Grishka Rasputin. On the spot where the clothes were burned, we found precious stones which [were] probably sewn into separate places and in dress folds.
However, after the red army men arrived later, [one] brought me a fairly large diamond weighing about 8 carats, and said, take the rock, I found it where the corpses were burned.
By the order of the Ural Regional ISPOLKOM, I took these jewels to Perm, and handed [them] over to Com. Trifonov. Later, Com. Trifonov along with Com. Filippov (Goloshekin) and Com. Novoselov “committed these items to the soil of the Ural proletariat”, [was] how Com. Smigla expressed it, in one of the small houses, temporarily occupied especially for this [purpose] in Alapaevsk factory. In 1919, after taking-over of the Urals, these items were dug up and brought to Moscow.
The place for Nikolai’s eternal rest was quite unfortunate. But there was nothing left to do, but to temporarily lower them down into this mineshaft so that on the next day, or later the same day, [we could] undertake something else. We lowered the corpses into the mineshaft. In the mineshaft there was no more than one - one and a half arshins [one arshin = 2.3 feet or 0.7 meter] of water. I left the guard. Arranged the mounted guard. I personally went to town in order to report to the Soviet that the matter could be left the way it was. At the Soviet saw comrades Safarov and Beloborodov. Reported [to them] what was done. Pointed out the impossibility of leaving them in that mineshaft. Told them that it was necessary to find another spot, [and] during the night exhume and bury them in another place. Com. Beloborodov and Safarov did not give me an answer at that time. Later, com. Filipp recommended one comrade who was supposed to destroy the corpses by some other method. I went to Chutzkaev, who was at the time the president of the Ekaterinburg City Soviet, in order to find out if he knew of any deep mineshafts nearer to Ekaterinburg. Com. Chutzkaev said that at 9 versts, on the Moskovsky highway, there were deep mineshafts. I decided that these mineshafts would be the better [place]. I took the automobile and set off. From Chutzkaev I set off to the Extraordinary Committee office where I caught up with Filipp again, and other comrades. Here [we] decided nevertheless to burn them. But since no one was familiar with this matter, [we] did not know how or what to do. Nonetheless still decided to burn them. I went to the Head of the Department of Supplies of the Ural National Economy, com. Voikov, and ordered three barrels of kerosene and three containers of sulfuric acid. Then, on horseback, [I] set off with com. Pavlushin to see how the matter stood at the place and where best to organize this. We went there [in] late evening. On the way, my horse fell and badly pressed down on my leg, I could not stand up. [After] lying for a few minutes [I] climbed on another [horse] and shuffled on somehow. We arrived at the place. I proposed that we bury them in different spots: first along the clay road – and hence traces [could be] easily covered, and secondly in the swamp. On that we with com. Pavlushin decided. Some set on fire, some to be buried. We returned to ISKOLPOM. I asked com. Pavlushin to ride off for this and that in connection with this. Pavlushin rode off, during this time I was (sic) with com. Voikov [to find out] about the kerosene and sulfuric acid, which was not easy to get. Shovels were needed, which the head of Supplies did not have, but the yard keeper had a few shovels in the yard, which we took. Pavlushin was not back still. Waited for some time, [then] I went to the Extraordinary Committee. Turned out that Pavlushin was lying in bed. Next to him was a doctor. He fell off his horse and broke his leg, and could barely ride. Meanwhile, all the work related to the burnings was his responsibility, as a person who has, how can one say, some experience in more or less complicated procedures. But it was necessary to ‘perform’ [Translator’s comment: Yurovsky used the word prodelat’ or “trick” instead of prodelivat’] this, that this matter was not easy. I, using the position of comrade commissar of Justice of the Ural District, made out an order for the prison to bring me some horses and wagons without drivers. The wagons arrived at 12:30 at night. Receiving all the necessities, seating com. Pavlushin into the droshky, we set off. Around 4 [in the morning] we reached the place and started to unload the corpses. Koptyaki Village was located only 2 versts from where our mineshaft was. [We] needed to make this place safe. I sent persons into the village to say that they were prohibited from leaving the village, because an intelligence operation was taking place here now, possibly shooting will begin, and possibility of victims. Positioning the mounted riders, we continued our work. Exhuming the corpses was not an easy matter. By morning we were able to extract the corpses. We drove them closer to the road, and I decided to bury Nikolai and Alexei. We dug a rather deep pit. This was near 9 in the morning. Someone noticed that a peasant was riding over. Ermakov was here. This peasant turned out to be Ermakov’s acquaintance, Ermakov assured [us] that the peasant saw nothing, and he let him go. Many orders were given out, that under no circumstances was anyone who broke through forcefully [was] to be released alive. I checked if the peasant saw what happened here and it turned out that he undoubtedly could see and understand, [and] would gossip that something was happening here. I decided to take the corpses deeper into the forest, and once again headed to town, and decided to have a spare place, just in case. Not without difficulty I found an automobile, drove to Moskovsky highway, to those mineshafts which Chutzkaev spoke about the night before.
About 1 ½ - 2 versts from the mineshafts, the automobile broke down. During the course of an hour or half hour (sic) the automobile was not able to be repaired. I decided to set off on foot to look at these mineshafts. At these mineshafts there were a few guards with their families. The mineshafts were rather deep, and I decided that this would be the very best place to bury Nikolai and his family – where no one would find them. Returning to the automobile, I saw that it was in the same position. Going to the city on foot would be impossible. I decided to stop the first horse or car I could get. At this time, a pair of horses [horsemen] drove (sic) by. I stopped them, "Well, friends, where are you going, I need your horses". "But permit us it's comrade Yurovsky". "Yes, comrade Yurovsky, and who are you." "Acquaintances". "Well here's how it is, fellows. It is essential for me to travel into town, but the car has broken down." "Yes we are in a hurry". "Well, a car will take you in, fellows". They agreed. On these horses I arrived into Ekaterinburg. Had to search for an automobile. The matter was not easy. But, my comrades were without rations for two days now. Had to bring them food at least. I went to the motor depot of the District Military Commissariat. There I found almost no one. There was no spare car. However, one young fellow, who evidently sensed or guessed, said, "Do you need a car (sic) truck, and so on. Good, I will give you one. But here is the thing. We only have Stogov's [car], it's very lightweight". "Fine, give [me] Stogov's, be it Stogov’s, what's the difference". General Stogov was the Chief of Military Communications: later he was executed for collaborating with the White guard. A truck with rations was sent out. Then sent a second truck. Commissioned that all corpses be loaded onto the wagons, and where it was possible to pass through freely so that it was possible to re-load [them] into the trucks, so that the people could eat, and so forth. Later I took off in the truck and in the lightweight car on one road, and on the other I sent out comrades in order to track which way would be most convenient to drive back, since I decided to transport the corpses in automobiles. I ordered to prepare rocks, ropes, so that by tying the rocks to the bodies [we could] lower [them] into the mineshafts. Crossing the railroad line, in about 2 versts I met up with the moving caravan with the corpses. At around 9-9 ½ o’clock in the evening, we crossed the railroad line where we decided to re-load onto the trucks. They assured me that the road here was good. However, there was a swamp on the way. For that reason we brought cross ties in order to spread over this place. Spread them down. Drove over successfully. In about ten paces from this place we got stuck again. Wasted no less than an hour. Got the truck out. Moved farther. Got stuck again. Wasted [time] until 4 in the morning. Nothing was accomplished. The time was late. One of the lightweight trucks with the other comrades and Com. Pavlushin also got stuck somewhere in the same. These people wasted a third day. Exhausted. Without sleep. Began to get agitated: Any minute we expected the Czechoslovaks to seize Ekaterinburg. Had to find another way.
I decided to make use of the swamp. And burn some of the corpses. Unharnessed the horses. Unloaded the corpses. Opened the barrels. Placed one corpse to test how it would burn. The corpse charred relatively quickly, then I ordered to start burning Alexei. At this time [they were] digging a pit. The pit was dug in the swamp where the cross ties were layered. Dug a pit about 2 ½ arshins deep, three arshins square. It was just before morning. Burning the rest of the corpses was not possible because again the peasants began to come out for work, and for that reason we had to bury the corpses in the pit. Laying the corpses in the pit, doused them with sulfuric acid, with this ended the funeral for Nikolai and his family and all the rest. Laid the cross ties on top. Leveled it. Drove over it. Firm.
Near the spot where the corpses were burned, we dug a pit right there, laid the bones in there, lit the fire anew. And swept the traces.
After this difficult job by the third night, i.e. on the morning of 19 July ending the job, I addressed the comrades with the instructions about the importance of this job, and the necessity of complete secrecy until it becomes officially known. We headed to town. On the next day, on the orders of the Executive Committee I departed for Moscow with a report to the President of the All-Russian's Central Executive Committee, comrade Y.M. Sverdlov.
The initial burial spot, as pointed out earlier, was 16 versts from Ekaterinburg, and 2 versts from Koptyaki, the latter place is located approximately 8-8 ½ versts from Ekaterinburg, and 1 ½ versts approximately from the railroad line.
How they searched for me
On 26 June (sic), 1918, as soon as the Czechoslovaks seized Ekaterinburg, my apartment was pillaged, and my mother, an elderly 70-year old was arrested and sent into prison, in fact all her things were taken away from her up to the undergarments. She sat in prison for almost a year in one shirt, barefooted, and only by a timely chance [she] was not shot. Prior to the retreat of the whites, someone from medical personnel convinced her to go to the typhus barracks. They constantly demanded her to betray her son, i.e. me. They treated her barbarically: cursed with abusive profanities, or yelled: "Swine, giving birth to such a son". I of course never told my mother anything about my involvement in Nikolai's execution. And I did not tell her because she decidedly refused to leave Ekaterinburg, stating that she was old and that they will most likely not bother an old woman, and in any case, [she would] die soon anyway. And since by nature she was unable not to tell the truth she would not be able to talk her way out of it. But since she frankly knew nothing, only guessed, then to questions "Where is Nikolai's family. Where are they", she replied, "I only know about oven prongs, the poker and the kitchen, and so on, and know nothing more". But when they asked her whose side she was on, the Bolsheviks’ or the Whites’, she would answer, "I am for my son". When one day they pointed out to her that it was useless to resist, that it would pay to tell everything and she will be free, otherwise she will be shot for refusing to speak– and right here added [your] son was already in our hands. She answered, "Well, and I am in your hands too, do with me what you yearn for…" Curses and threats anew.
Of the comrades who sat in prison not many of those [who] remained (since it is known that before the retreat of the Whites, under pressure from the approaching Red Army, there were 600 people brought out from the Ekaterinburg prison, of whom 30 saved themselves through mass escape, the rest were shot [like] beasts), among whom was the now deceased Sima Deryabina, the living: Olga Danilovna Lobkova (now Sosnovskaya), Anya Lirman and many other names which I don't remember. They used to call my mother “grandmother of the workers' revolution” because of her permanently happy and kind personality. Often, during oppressive minutes (sic) she was reproached that she was singing songs, she would reply, "But why be quiet [Translator’s comment: imprecise word here used by Yurovsky]". But nonetheless (sic) the barbaric conditions maintained at the prison tore her strength and 6 months after being released from prison she passed away from heart failure. During that time she was ardently involved in (sic) ‘subbotniks’, and was full of life even though she was 71 years old. My task here is not to write my mother's biography in general, or [specifically] during that period of the revolution, but I could not deny myself from saying a few words about my ardently beloved mother with her constantly lively character, who bore much suffering during her long life, and [especially] in the final years, because of me.
In Tomsk, around November of 1918, my two brothers were arrested, [along with my] brother’s wife and also a few more people who happened to be in my brother Leonti's apartment during the time of the arrest. The second brother, Ilya, came to Tomsk to be treated [for an illness] and instead of professors happened to end up in the hands of the white guard. Leonti told me the following. Once the entire block, where he lived was surrounded by a whole regiment of soldiers. Officers and soldiers entered his apartment (my brother the watchmaker was sitting at his bench, working), an officer asked: "Your surname". He answered, "Yurovsky". Looking at him the officer exclaimed, "He is wanted” Everyone was informed that he was under arrest, and they demanded from my brother to immediately hand over the jewelry box with the valuables taken from the tsar. To his reply that this must be some mistake, curses flowed and threats with shouts of "tsar-killers". Immediately everyone was tied up, (they) began to ransack the apartment, breaking up the floors with bayonets, upturn ovens, walls, but of course found nothing. This shameless officer’s white guard did not pay attention to the almost destitute surroundings, to the ragged children. [They] were convinced that specifically the imperial valuables were here and that specifically here were the tsar-killers, for who they were thoroughly searching in their fury. All were transported to Tomsk, shackled in hand and leg irons. There they were for some time. [Then] sent them to Irkutsk. Then to Chita. Later again to Irkutsk. And so, for a period of 8 months they held them under the threat of being shot. Evidently they detained them, without shooting them in the hope to create a legal action. But the Red Army which liberated Siberia liberated them.
In the interest of clarifying this fact, I considered it necessary now to lay out in detail the story of the execution of the former tsar Nikolai, his family and those close to them who did not wish to leave the tsarist family despite the offer by the ISPOLKOM.
The white guard, the Kolchak and other press, and by that extent the one abroad write up this fact in a completely perverted form (yes they could not have had all the facts).
They tried to present us as robbers and executioners. In the meantime, the magnanimity of the proletariat presents an example which knows no boundaries. Examples of brutality by the white guard are endless: 26 commissars executed barbarically in Georgia, com. Radek by the “scheidemanovtsi” [Translator’s comment: Old bolshevik term used after the German right wing leader F. Scheidemann whom was claimed to have interfered with the revolutionary movement during 1919], on an iron chain in some thieves’ den, and etc and so on.
One must consider Nikolai's crimes: how much of workers' and peasants' blood, not only his subjects', but also of foreign workers', was drunk by this universal gendarme-bloodsucker. And now what: he still lives in Tobolsk in the regal lifestyle, and only in Ekaterinburg he converted into the position of an average bourgeoisie. He has four servants, occupies 6 rooms. The tsarist daughters were never insulted. Compare the behavior of the tsarist executioners, of the educated white guards who pretend to be civilized, in relation to us – to the workers and peasants, and the Red Army soldiers.
The insurrection of the proletariat, beaten down by need, illiterate, having the full opportunity and full right to vent their centuries-long anger against those villains [who were now] in their hands.
And yet what beauty: those who revolted to liberate humanity, even in dealings with their irate enemies showed incomparable magnanimity not insulting [them], not diminishing [their] human dignity, not forcing the people to suffer unnecessarily - [people] who had to die because historical circumstances demanded it.
These People strictly performed [their] difficult revolutionary duty - those to be executed learned their fate just two minutes before [their] death.
The talk that the tsar and his family had to be shot by foreigners – the Letts, that somehow Russian workers and peasants could not have done the, this is all nonsense, which only foolish and desperate monarchists would believe.
The fact of expediting the execution of the family was provoked not by us, but because of the approaching contra-revolutionaries, and particularly because of the extraordinary "care" about the destiny of Nikolai on the part of his close haughty relatives and attendees. That it was timely is proven by the fact that neither in Ekaterinburg, nor in other areas within the limits of the R. S. F. S. R. [Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic] within its preceding borders, and in other territories of Russia, did this execution generate objections or protests from the poor.
This means that the elimination of the autocracy - and in particular of Nikolai and his family, in the conscience of the people was so ripe, that it was probably done later than it should have been in the path of the revolution.
Here it must be remembered about the letter I received in 1919 (after the recapture of Ekaterinburg by us) from a group of peasants from the village of Koptyaki, undersigned "well wishers", warning me of the threatening dangers from the side of some incorrigible blind followers of the bloody tsar.
Just how much our decision was the right one at the moment was testified by the fact that we had to hold back the pressure from the Ural workers who felt that it was necessary to get rid as soon as possible of the rubbish which no one needed, the rubbish which could play an angry role in the adverse conditions during the battle to strengthen the power of the workers.
The justice of the Revolution was the verdict of the people.
The events and the circumstances of the battle threw overboard the need for the organization of a trial for Nikolai and for the publicity of his execution.
To the People, it was all too clear…
* The phrase in parentheses is stricken
** Pavel Medvedev who was ordered to blow the bridge in Perm ran away after unsuccessful action and was captured by White after being betrayed by some traitor. According to not very accurate information he died after being tortured as he was very steadfast comrade and refused to give testimony. (from author)