After three centuries of rule, the Romanov Dynasty finally met its end in revolution in 1917. Since the revolution of 1905, Russian society had been only momentarily appeased with reforms, but with the combination of a regime attempting to rescind the concessions it had given the unhappy populace, poor economic conditions, food shortages, and a drawn out and horrific war, society once again became uncontainable in its demands.
February of 1917, a crowd of women seized the opportunity of National Women’s Day to protest in the streets of Petrograd against the food shortages and high bread prices. This protest quickly developed into a full blown revolution with crowds that paralysed Petrograd. Police were unable to disperse the protesters, so the Volhynian troop regiment was called upon to take back control of the city. After firing a volley into the crowd killing several dozen protesters, even the troops began taking sides with the crowd, and Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, abdicated the throne.
Nicholas II abdicated the throne in favor of his brother, Michael, due to the illness of his eldest son. However, Michael refused the throne, and so a dual Provisional Government was set in place. The Romanov family was removed from the capital city and sent to stay in a governor’s mansion in Tobolsk, a small Siberian town. In early 1918, the Bolshevik government faced rumors of attempts to free the Romanov family, and the opposition of citizens who still felt that Nicholas II was the legitimate ruler of Russia, especially due to the belief that the tsar was given his power by God. This pressure, under the onslaught of a civil war, led to an order for the execution of the Romanovs. The Romanov family was moved to Ekaterinburg, in the Ural Mountains.
From here the history of the Romanovs gets a little blurry. It is clear that on the night of July 17, one day after the order was given in Moscow, the family was massacred in the basement of the house they were staying in. It appears that the family was woken in the night, and advised that there was trouble in Ekaterinburg and the house risked being invaded by oncoming troops, so they would be safer in the basement. When they went in to the basement, either there were a dozen or so Hungarian Red Army soldiers already present, or they were presently surrounded by them. The family was sat down, and the sentence of execution read to them, and then they, along with the four servants who had chosen to accompany them, were shot (Hungarians were used because it was feared that Russian soldiers would directly refuse to shoot the tsar). Some accounts claim Alexandra, Nicholas II’s wife, and the small children were taken to a field outside before they were shot. Some accounts claim the bodies were taken and thrown down a nearby mine shaft, and then grenades were thrown in after them in an attempt to collapse the mine on top of the bodies. It will likely never be known how exactly their deaths came about.
Rumors swirled following the massacre that Alexandra and the four princesses had escaped and were in hiding, or that the youngest daughter, Anastasia, had survived. People claimed to see them in small towns, doctors claimed to have treated the daughters. However, in 2007 all eleven Romanov bodies were found and identified by Russian and American scientists using DNA testing. The last two bodies were found a few years after the first nine, but in the end, all Romanov remains were accounted for.
The end of the Romanovs was the final blow in the bloody fight between the monarchy and the revolutionists, for better or for worse. For me, its a sad end, particularly as the monarchy had been voluntarily abdicated under immense pressure. Nicholas II was always said to be a good man, but not the steadfast ruler the Russian monarchy would have needed to survive.
Background information on the Revolution taken from: chapters 8 & 9 of Gregory L. Freeze’s “Russia a History”
Information about the events of the deaths of the Romanovs taken from: http://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/the-romanov-dynasty/the-romanovs/ and http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/death_of_the_romanovs.htm
Picture at top of Nicholas II and cronies of regime taken from: http://www.soviethistory.org/index.php?page=subject&show=essay&SubjectID=1917february&Year=1917&navi=byYear
Picture in middle, of Romanov remains taken from: http://www.searchfoundationinc.org/Chronology.html
Picture at bottom of Romanov family in color taken from: http://www.palcs.org/lessons/science/Forensic%20Science%20-%20Free%20Response%20-%20Cold%20Case%20The%20Romanovs.html