Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
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     The Romanov dynasty began in 1613 when Mikhail Feodorovich was elected sovereign of all of Russia. It came to a brutal end 300 years later with the murder of Nicholas II by the Bolsheviks.
Many of the Romanov rulers, like Peter and Catherine the Great, were known for the reforms they introduced in Russia. Centuries before Boris Yeltsin introduced a moratorium on executions, a Romanov ruler banned the death penalty outright. Other Romanovs introduced changes, which in some ways improved the lives of the common Russian. Yet, when Nicholas II came to the thrown in 1894, he did so with the strong conviction that his right to rule was God-given. Moreover, he ruled a country in which the disparity between the lifestyles of the highly wealthy imperial family and that of Russia's miserably poor peasantry couldn't have been more stronger.
 

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia - Pierre Gilliard
Pierre Gilliard
(16/05/1879 - 30/05/1962)

      At the beginning of the 20th century, Swiss tutors are fashionable in Russia! That's why a 25 years old Swiss young people, Pierre Gilliard, is hired as French professor for Duke Serge de Leuchtenberg, the son of a Czar's cousin. The next year, Gilliard met the imperial Romanov family during an invitation and the Czar and his wife seek him later to teach their two elder daughters, Olga and Tatiana.
     After some years, Pierre Gilliard also takes care of younger daughters, Maria and Anastasia and at the end, the Tsarevich Alexei since 1912.
     Due to his responsibility, Pierre Gilliard follows regularly the Russian Imperial family during his journeys in Livadia, Peterhof, Spala or aboard the Yacht "Standart". If he lived first in St Petersburg and went to Tsarskoïe-Selo only for his lessons, Pierre Gilliard, named official tutor of the Tsarevich Alexei, settles down in the Alexander Palace.
     It's during this time he learns about the hemophilia of the Tsarevich which will remain secret until 1914.
     During the Russian revolution, Pierre Gilliard voluntarily shares, as well as other close relations remained faithful to Romanov, their captivity, first in Tsarskoïé Selo, then in Tobolsk where they are moved later. Arrived at Yekaterinburg with Romanov family, Gilliard will not be admitted by Bolsheviks to follow them in Ipatiev House. This, will save his life !
     After the murder of the Romanov, Pierre Gilliard assists Sokolov judge during his inquiry and, loaded with files of the inquiry and several suitcases of human remains and elements found in the four brother's pits mines, he succeded, after a very long and hard journey, to leave Russia and come back to Switzerland.
     Here, Pierre Gilliard marries in 1922 Alexandra Alexandrovna Tagleva, the former lady-in-waiting of the Grand Duchesses who had also shared Romanov captivity, and come back to university in order to finish his studies stopped in 1904 by its departure for Russia.
     Having noticed in the newspapers all rumors surrounding the death of the Imperial family, Pierre Gilliard, in order to restore the truth, begin to write some newspaper articles for L'Illustration. This articles will be the starting point of his book "Le destin tragique de Nicolas II et de sa famille" published by Payot in 1921. In this book, he describes in details his 13 years spent with the Imperial family in a sober and neutral way. Sharing with Romanov its passion for photography, the book is illustrated with numerous photos which give us a great and touching testimony of the daily life of the Romanov family from his peak to his exile. Sharing Sokolov judge conviction, Gilliard concludes, at the end of his book, that all the Romanov family has been killed and the bodies completely destroyed.
     Heard as a witness during the lawsuit of the Anna Anderson pretender, Pierre Gillard becomes a virulent detractor of the woman and will also publish with Constantin Savitch in 1929 another book "La fausse Anastasia". These two books will quickly become best-sellers.
     After, Pierre Gilliard did some jobs in Italia and in a business school. In 1926, he teachs the modern French at the University in Lausanne and became his director and chairman until 1949. Gilliard dead on May, 30th 1962 at Lausanne, without heir (His wife died in 1952) and after having bequeathed his personal archives to the university library.

 

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Romanov family : From left to right and from top to bottom : Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Aleksandra, Nicholas, Anastasia and Alexei.

     Nicholas II had a weak personality and was not at all prepared for his future post as Czar. This man, who only aspired for a restful family life, became the head of a huge state in full mutation after his father's death. He had not anticipated such a change in Russia and he always reacted under the pressure of events, either too late, or too clumsily. Moreover, he was conscious of the holy character of his mission and he would always defend the monarchy's prerogatives when important concessions were inevitable.
    

  Nicholas's wife was the German-born granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England - Alix, Princess von Hesse, who became Aleksandra when she joined the Russian Orthodox Church in preparation for her wedding.

     They had five children: (at the times of their deaths), Grand Duchesses Olga (22), Tatiana (21), Maria (19), Anastasia (17), and the Tsarevich Alexei (13). Nicholas's rule began on several ominous notes:
As the future Czarina Aleksandra first appeared officially in Russia during Alexander III's funeral, people said, "She arrives behind a coffin, she will bring bad luck." To mark the coronation of a new Czar, it was Russian tradition to offer food and drink to the people. When Nicholas came to the throne, about 700,000 people were assembled in Khodynskoe field to celebrate it, but a stampede occured and 2000 people were crushed to death.

     Nicholas and Aleksandra made the situation even worse by attending a ball the night after the tragedy, giving the impression that they had a distinct lack of concern for their subjects.
The Czar's soldiers drove this impression home nine years later when they opened fire on a group of about 120,000 workers who had marched to the Winter Palace to protest working conditions. They killed or injured hundreds of people in a group that included women and children.
Nicholas, as a result, introduced a Constitution and created a Parliament, the Duma, to give the people a voice, but the measures were too shy and too late.

     Unrest continued in Russia; an echo of turmoil on the world scene which was about to erupt into World War I. At first, Russians saw their participation in the battle against Germany as heroic, but as the death tolls rose, popular opinion turned against continued involvement in the conflict and against Nicholas's German-born wife Aleksandra.

     Aleksandra had long since come under the influence of one of the century's most-colorful characters, Grigory Yekfimovich Novykh, better known as Rasputin.

     The so-called "holy man" was born in Siberia in 1872 and arrived in St. Petersburg in 1911. He gained his hold over the Czarina by his apparently miraculous ability to heal the tsarevich, who suffered from what was believed to have been hemophilia. (No doctor at the time ever confirmed the diagnosis and the illness was kept secret).

     She kept him in her private circle despite well-documented stories of his drinking and womanizing.

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Grigory Yekfimovich Novykh,
better known as Rasputin.

     Aleksandra began to trust his opinion on an ever-widening range of issues, and he even advised on the hiring and firing of government ministers while Nicholas was at war. Nicholas, in one letter from the battlefield, gave information about troop movements to his wife, and then begged her to keep them secret.

     The Czar's relatives, fearing the ever-growing influence wielded by Rasputin, hatched a plot to kill him. The mad monk's death became the source of his enduring fame-the murderers poisoned and shot him to no avail. It was only by tying him up and throwing him into a frozen river that they succeeded in ending his life. Legend has it that when his body was recovered, his bonds were broken and his lungs were full of water, indicating that he had been alive when he had been thrown into the river. His death, at the end of 1916, came as the country was about to plunge into revolution..

      Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Lenin and Trotsky.
Two main actors of Red October

 

     Involved in the first World War because of alliances, Russia had serious military reverses while the people suffered from the economic aftermath of the conflict. In February 1917, a spontaneous strike movement requiring an end to the fighting ruined Petrograd.

     First, toughly repressed by police who did not hesitate to shoot on people, the movement spread to the army, which progressively passed with demonstrators.

      The Duma (the Russian Parliament) set up a temporary government to maintain order.

     In spite of this, insurrection spread so much that the situation ended up uncontrolled by army officers who implored Nicholas II to abdicate. He finally made his decision on March 1, 1917, first in favor of Alexei, then in favor of his brother, the Great Duke Michel, who in his turn abdicated in favor of the temporary government. So, this last abdication marked the end of monarchy in Russia.

     The temporary government initially held the royal family under house arrest in their palace. Their first intention was to send them into exile in England, but the government could not stand up to the growing power of the Bolsheviks. By the fall of 1917, the Bolsheviks had prevailed over the other major revolutionary groups and they had control of Moscow and St. Petersburg soviets. Soon after that, they established a government.


Charles Sydney Gibbes
(19/01/1876 - 24/03/1963)

     Charles Sydney Gibbes is born on 19 January 1876 at Rotherham where his father, John Gibbes, manages a local bank. His mother, Mary Ann Elizabeth, from Surrey, is the daughter of a watchmaker named Fisher. If Gibbes family had 11 children, only 5 survived. Charles, the youngest surviving son, starts studies at Broadstairs, in the south, then at Hornsea, on the East Riding coast. His father wishing him entering the Church, Charles Sydney goes on St John's College, Cambridge where he acquires his diploma 4 years later, in 1899.
     Starting after theological courses at Cambridge and Salisbury, Charles realizes here he has no real religious vocation and against his father advice, he searches his real way.        
     Gibbes's languages being good, he decides to teach English in foreign countries. Then, it's in St Petersburg, he starts teaching for various aristocratic households and become teacher at the Imperial School of Law.
     In 1908, he is asked by Imperial Family to teach English to the Grand Duchesses . In 1913, he also starts teaching English to the nine-year-old tsarevich.
      In 1917, when February Revolution burst and Romanov family is kept under arrest, Gibbs, unlikely, is in Petrograd and returning to Tsarskoe Selo, he is not allowed to enter  to give his lessons to Romanov children. During all months Romanov will be kept prisoners of their Palace, Gibbes couldn't find a way to see them. It's only after Romanov departure to Siberia that Gibbes is allowed to enter the Palace and collect the few belongings he had left here.
     Decided to join Romanov family in Tobolsk, he finished his business in Petrograd and took a train for the city where the Romanov are kept and arrive here in October 1917 to share their captivity.
     In May 1918, when Romanov family is moved from Tobolsk to Yekaterinburg, Gibbes, like French teacher Pierre Gilliard an other servants is not allowed to follow them in Ipatiev house and is let free. The group stayed in Yekaterinburg and after Romanov death, he helped, like Pierre Gilliard, Sokolov judge during his inquiry.
     Since this time, Gibbes works successively as secretary in the High commissioner at Omsk and as assistant in the Chinese Maritime Customs in Manchuria. Then, Gibbes establish himself in Harbin where he meets, in 1922, a 22 years old orphan, Georges Paveliev, he adopted later.
     Back to England some years later, he adopts, on 25 April 1934, at the age of fifty-eight, the Orthodox faith, becomes a monk and is ordained to the Orthodox priesthood under name of Father Nicholas, in honor of the former Czar.
     Then, he become gradually a leading orthodox figure in England and established himself at Oxford in Marston Street and settled here a little Chapel gathering some relics of Imperial Family like icons, clothes, or even the
chandelier which hung in the bedroom shared by Grand Duchesses in Ipatiev house.
     Charles Sydney Gibbes dies in London on 24 march 1963, aged 87. He is buried in the Headington Cemetery.
    
The recollections (letters, photos) of his life have been published in a book "The house of special purpose", by J.C. Trewin.

 

     On August 1, 1917, the imperial family and many of their friends left Petrograd for Tobolsk by train and arrived there on August 6. Nicholas stood in the former residence of the Governor of the province. The family was first taken care of with many considerations and solicitude.

     The commander of the garrison did his best to make their captivity not too difficult. Life in Tobolsk was quiet and monotonous. The population of the region appeared nice and sympathetic towards the former Czar.

     At that time in Petrograd, where the political situation was still instable, Bolsheviks carried on their work of destabilization with a divided government. Still in exile, Lenin headed the movement and so did a man named Trotsky.

 

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
One of the last photo of Romanov
family (without Aleksandra) at Tobolsk

 

     On the night of October 24-25, 1917, thousands of red guards infested Petrograd and overthrew the temporary government. Bolsheviks had won the part.
     In Tobolsk, the Romanovs' situation had become worse since September with the arrival of a new red commissioner. This commissioner quickly converted guards to the Bolsheviks' ideas. From that moment, the royal family had to face rude attitudes and they were offended.

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
"The Delivery of the Romanovs to the Ural Soviet"
Picture from the artist V. Pchelin

     A new commissioner named Vassili Yakovlev, sent by the new Bolshevik governmet, arrived in Tobolsk on April 22 to remove the Romanovs away from the region.
     But Alexei, only 13 years old, had just fallen, which caused internal bleeding. He could not be moved at that time. Four days later, Nicholas, Aleksandra, and their daughter Maria finally left Tobolsk with Yakovlev.
     We can think that Germany's government pressured the Bolshevik government to move the Romanovs away from Tobolsk. Indeed, they could not leave such a symbol of anti-revolutionary movement in this part of Russia, which had remained faithful to the former Czar.
     The train that was supposed to carry the Romanovs to Moscow was stopped by Bolsheviks in Ekaterinburg on April 30. Peter the Great had founded Ekaterinberg in 1723 as the gateway to the colonization of Siberia. He named the city after his wife, Ekaterina. In 1924, Ekaterinberg was renamed Sverdlovsk, the name of one of the Bolshevik leaders in charge of the Romanovs' execution. The city's historical name was changed back in 1991.

     In Ekaterinburg, the Bolsheviks had improvised a place of detention for the Romanovs; a house of special purpose. Nicholas Ipatiev, a wealthy burgess of the city, was moved from his house just before the Romanovs' arrival and the Bolsheviks fenced it in with wood boards that rose up to the top windows. Former Czar Nicholas saw in the name of this house (called in Ekaterinburg 'Ipatievski dom') a fatal destiny sign. Indeed, in 1613, the founder of the Romanovs dynasty, Mikhail Fedorovich, was in the monastery of Ipatievski near Kostroma when he accepted the autocratic Czar crown from the Muscovite embassy.

Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, Alexei, and other close friends who had been a part of the Romanovs' captivity from the beginning joined them in Ekaterinburg on May 23.

     Most of these friends were not admitted in Ipatiev house and put into jail. Others like Pierre Gilliard and Sidney Gibbes, Alexei's teachers were let free. Bolshevicks asked them to leave the city.
     The Ipatiev house was kept by a squadron of bolsheviks soldiers directed by commander Avdief.
     The conditions of captivity were harder than at Tobolsks and the Romanovs had to endure the guards ragging and humiliations.
     In July, Avdief was replaced by a new man : Yakov Yurovsky who brought with him ten other men, the future execution squadron...


Ipatiev house with the
wood fence in Ekaterinburg

  • May 17, 1896 : During the night of Nicholas and Aleksandra's coronation, about 1400 people died and 1300 were injured after the Khodynsk tragedy.
  • October 17, 1905 : The manifest ending absolute power of Nicholas II was signed.
  • December 17, 1916 : Rasputin was assassinated. He had predicted that the Romanovs' fall would be linked with his own death.
  • 1917 : The Bolsheviks took power in Russia.
  • July 17, 1918 : The Romanov family was murdered by Bolsheviks.
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