Yekaterinburg and the Romanovs

I read a lot about the tragic end of the Romanov dynasty when I was a teenager–not sure exactly why, perhaps it was because the grand duchesses seemed so real, so accessible in the modern 20th century photos and the idea of Russian princesses always seemed magical.

Anyway, if you’re curious about how the Bolshevik uprising led to the 1917 revolution, then to the execution of the Romanov family, you can read more about it there.

Nicholas II and Alexandra, his German tsarina, had a love that destroyed the nation, as the books call it, and four lovely daughters and one hemophilic son. After Nicholas abdicated the throne in 1917 and the family was imprisoned at one of their palaces, the Bolsheviks didn’t really know what to do with them. The White Army, a faction of the military and government that was pro-monarchy, was fighting hard to free the Romanov family when they were shipped off to Yekaterinburg, a city on the edge of Siberia.

After several months there, the White Army advanced and was near taking back the land and the family. The Communist leaders panicked a bit, and in the middle of the night brought the family, their doctor, and a couple of servants down to the basement. There, a group of soldiers opened fire on them. Because the girls had sewn jewels into their underclothing (they knew a chance of escape was slight, and they wanted to be prepared. The girls also stayed dressed at all times because their mother, the empress, worried about what the soldiers might do to her daughters if caught showering), the princesses had to be bayoneted multiple times before dying. The bodies were dumped in a field near a mine shaft and not discovered until 1979. Two other bodies (probably Alexi and Maria) were discovered in 2007. This, unfortunately, is the sanitized version. It was utterly horrific.

The house where the Romanovs were imprisoned and killed was owned by a local engingeer, Nokolay Ipatyev, and the house became known as Dom Ipatyeva. During the Soviet period the house became a museum for atheism, but it was demolished in 1977 in fear it would attract monarchist sympathizers. For many years, it was just a vacant lot with a small wooden chapel to another Romanov, a nun, Grand Princess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna.


Most of the Romanovs (except Alexi and Maria) were buried in a state funeral in 1998, then  canonized as martyrs and saints in the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.

The Church of All Saints, more commonly known as Church upon the Blood, was built in 2000-2003.


Out front are huge informal photos of the royal family, many shot on private cameras by friends or family members.


In a back room was lots of photos and memorabilia, unfortunately all in Russian. I could recognize people’s faces in the photos (Nicholas II is pretty recognizable in his beard and military uniform), but that was about it.


The church itself is dark, heavily incensed, and quiet–it’s a functioning church, not a museum. The Romanovs aren’t buried here, but in Moscow, where their ancestors were buried.


A photo from one of the sides, to capture the blue sky.

Inside the Church upon the Blood (and in many Orthodox churches around the country) this image of the family is prominently displayed on several walls:


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