- Who ordered the murder of the Russian Imperial Family in 1918?
The seven members of the Imperial Family and their four faithful servants were shot and bayoneted to death in the very early morning, probably just before 1 a.m., of 17 July 1918. This took place in the requisitioned house of a military engineer called Nikolai N. Ipatiev in the city of Ekaterinburg in the Urals on the very limits of Europe and Asia. This house had been built on the site of the Church of the Ascension, which had stood there in the eighteenth century.
From studies in post-Soviet Russia, for example those by the senior official investigator, V. N. Soloviov, it seems that the murder of the Imperial Family was carried out only on the initiative of the local Urals Regional Soviet. The Bolsheviks in the industrial city of ‘Red Ekaterinburg’ were particularly militant, hateful and also powerful, showing great independence from Moscow. In any case, no proof has been found of co-ordination between the local Bolsheviks in Ekaterinburg and Lenin in Moscow or anyone else.
However, it is clear that Lenin would have had the Imperial Family murdered in any case and with the backing of his financial and political sponsors abroad, for example in New York. However, Lenin had wanted some sort of show trial first. It is also clear that the Soviet leaders and ordinary Bolsheviks who did not actually order the murder were not upset when it did occur. Thus, although they did not order it, they were quite capable of doing so and would have done it anyway in time. Probably they even felt relief that others had done the dirty work for them so soon.
- Were their murderers Jews?
Although the top Bolshevik elite in 1917 was 90% Jewish by race (but militant atheists by religion and mocking their ancestral religion and mercilessly slaughtering Non-Bolshevik Jews), ordinary Bolsheviks were overwhelmingly Russian. As the Old Bolsheviks, largely Jewish, died (Lenin was only a quarter Jewish) or were murdered (like Trotsky), they were replaced by Russians or those of other nationalities, like the Georgians Stalin and Beria, or later the Ukrainian Khushchov. Of the ten murderers (not ‘executioners’, as the secular West calls them) of the Imperial Family, eight were Russian, one was, probably, Latvian and only one was Jewish, although he was in charge of the other killers. However, this latter, Yankel Yurovsky, was a Jew who had long before been baptised a Protestant and had nothing to do with his Jewish family or religion. Therefore, he was Jewish only by race.
Indeed, several foreign soldiers, perhaps Latvians or Austro-Hungarians, had categorically refused to pull the trigger and murder the Family, especially the children. The fact – however terrible – is that the ten murderers were all baptised Christians, eight of them Russians. Their names were: Yurovsky, Kabanov, M. Medvedev, P. Medvedev, Netrebin, Nikulin, Strekotin, Tselms (probably, and probably Latvian), Vaganov and Yermakov. This fact that they were all officially Christians should be reflected on.
This is also why the Church Outside Russia canonised the Imperial Family and their servants as martyrs, whereas in 2000 the Church inside Russia canonised only the Family as Passion-Bearers. The difference here is only that the term ‘Passion-Bearer’ is used only when the murderers are nominal Christians and not pagans. However, in reality the terms are largely interchangeable.
- Was their murder a ritual murder?
There is no such thing as a ’ritual murder’. This whole Non-Orthodox myth was invented in the Roman Catholic Middle Ages. It began in Norman England, with the notorious case of the murder of ‘William of Norwich’ in 1144, the first such case. The myth, based largely on jealousy of the wealth of certain elite-connected Jews, finally spread from Catholic Poland into the western Ukraine only in the late nineteenth century. Anyone who reads about the chaos of the murders at the Ipatiev House, carried out by militant atheists and Non-Jews, can see that there was no system (rituals are by definition always systematic) and had no connection with any religion whatsoever. The myth of ‘ritual murders’ is pure anti-Semitism, as is the myth of ‘kabbalistic’ signs on an inside wall of the Ipatiev House. They were simple scribbles.
- Why did many not believe that the remains of the nine victims, found in 1979, and those of the two victims, Alexei and Maria, found in 2007, were those of the Imperial Family and their servants?
The second early investigator of the murder, N. A. Sokolov, (well before him the first investigator, I. A. Sergiev, had done nearly all the work) was appointed by the White Army in 1919. He could not find the remains of the Imperial Family and therefore concluded that the victims’ bodies had been consumed by fire, petroleum and sulphuric acid. In reality, only the martyrs’ clothing and shoes had been burned on bonfires. His ‘conclusion’ – although in fairness it was only a preliminary conclusion because he had not had time to finish his investigation – came about simply because he could not find the remains, even though he had passed by their site. Many, if not all, at the time and for long afterwards, believed in his conclusions/suppositions for lack of any other information, and a few still do believe in him today.
Sokolov was not a chemist or a forensic scientist, just a legal man – and also a convinced anti-Semite – and did not realise that you need very high temperatures – about 1,000 C – and huge amounts of sulphuric acid in order to destroy eleven human bodies. These had not been available. Others blindly repeated his suppositions, even adding the speculation that the bodies had been burned to cinders and their heads had been sent to Moscow. This latter wild and proofless speculation was made only because the investigators had found no teeth – by far the most difficult part of a human body to destroy. In reality, there were no teeth, simply because the bodies with their heads and therefore teeth had not been found. However, there are still a few who believe these suppositions, even today, though probably for ideological (anti-Semitic) reasons or out of personal vanity and wish for publicity.
- How can we be sure that ‘the Ekaterinburg Remains’ are indeed the relics of the Imperial Family?
We are 99.999999% sure of this just from the two sets of extremely thorough genetic studies on the unique remains, conducted internationally. If you add to this the locations and the number of bodies (eleven), the post-Revolutionary period when they were killed, their ages, the way they were killed, the type of bullets and other fragments found with them, as well as the dental records showing very clearly that the victims’ teeth had been treated by world-class dentists, I can see no rational way in which there can be any doubt about their identity.
- In that case, why have the Church authorities been so slow in recognising the remains as the Imperial Family’s relics?
The first genetic tests were carried out in the 1990s under the Yeltsin government, which of course no-one trusted, as it was notorious for its lies, just as all the Communist governments before it had been notorious for their lies. After all, Yeltsin himself had ordered the destruction of the Ipatiev House less than twenty years earlier, in September 1977, for the sixtieth anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. Since the remains could eventually be venerated as holy relics, the Church authorities, also distrusting Yeltsin, had to be absolutely certain of their identity. You cannot make a mistake if you are going to present remains as relics. This is why a second batch of genetic tests were made on the basis of even more advanced DNA science, their results being released on the centenary of the martyrdom in 2018. The findings coincided with the first ones.
Secondly, perhaps more importantly still, the Church authorities have had to face the opposition of sectarian elements inside Russia, who are largely anti-Semitic. Only now are the Church authorities dealing with them. The bishops have always feared a schism, however small, on the subject of the identification of the remains.
Thirdly, the Church authorities know that in post-Soviet Russia there are those of the other extreme, opposed to the far right anti-Semites. These are the liberal and atheist elements opposed to the enshrinement of the relics, just as they were – and are – opposed to the very canonisation of the Imperial Martyrs. Indeed, inside Russia itself, the Church authorities have still not canonised three of the four servants of the Seven Imperial Martyrs (see below).
Outside Russia we should not be surprised at this or, even worse, feel smug. Even the Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), supposedly free, only made up its mind about canonising the Imperial Martyrs and four of their servants in 1981, 63 years late! This is scandalous. And even here there were some members of the Church Outside Russia who opposed the canonisation, as I well remember. Anyone who remembers the very hostile reactions to the 1981 canonisation outside ROCOR, on the part of the liberal Paris Russian Jurisdiction (founded by the very Saint Petersburg aristocrats who had overthrown the Tsar) and the Parisian-influenced OCA, let alone the mocking reactions of the secular media, will recall just how virulent the opposition to the canonisation was.
- Why are there no miracles from the relics, which do not give out myrrh or perfume?
I think there are many miracles from them. The fall of the Soviet Union was only the first one.
As regards the actual relics, not all relics give off fragrance or myrrh. In any case, relics need faith to work miracles. This we can see time and again from Christ’s words in the Gospels – ‘according to your faith be it unto you’ (Matt. 9, 29). Christ Himself could not work miracles in Nazareth, where he had spent most of his life, precisely because of the faithlessness of the inhabitants (Matt 13, 58 and Mark 6, 5-6). In the Gospels Christ says time and again: ‘Thy faith has healed thee’. In other words, there is no healing without faith. At this moment, nine sets of relics, which lie in the St Catherine’s chapel in the Church of St Peter and Paul in its Fortress in Saint Petersburg, are closed off and cannot be venerated by the faithful. Disgracefully, the relics of St Alexei and St Maria are not even enshrined in the church. We cannot even venerate these relics physically.
- In Moscow the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate has not canonised three of the servants of the Family, though it did recently canonise one of them, Dr Eugene Botkin. Many say that it cannot canonise all of them in any case, since one was a Roman Catholic and another was a Protestant.
These four servants were all canonised by the Church Outside Russia in 1981 together with the Imperial Family. I questioned the very conservative Archbishop Antony of Los Angeles about this matter, when I accompanied him to visit Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich in Paris in autumn 1991. He explained to me that this issue had been discussed by the ROCOR Synod in New York well before the 1981 canonisation. The Synod had accepted the age-old practice of the Church that anyone who was martyred for the Faith, even though unbaptised, was considered to have been baptised in their blood.
There are many such examples of baptism in blood in Church history. The fact that of two Orthodox martyrs, one was a Roman Catholic and another was a Protestant, should surely be considered as Providential: this is a call to the Non-Orthodox world to follow in the footsteps of the Imperial servants, as indeed is the canonisation of the converted Tsarina Alexandra herself, though she had been chrismated into the Orthodox Faith before her wedding in 1894. We are all called to be Imperial servants, servants of the Christian Empire, the Empire of Christ.
- If the remains are eventually accepted by the whole Church as holy relics, should the relics be enshrined at Porosionkov Log, where they were found?
The area a few miles to the north of Ekaterinburg where the relics were found in 1979 and, 67 metres away, in 2007, was renamed Porosionkov Log (‘Piglet’s Ravine’) only in the nineteenth century, as a result of the amount of mud there which attracted pigs. Originally there had been a large lake here, but when the railway was built across this area, the land around the large pond became very boggy with no drainage. It would not be possible to build a large stone church here, but only a small wooden church on piles. This is the case four and a half miles away at Ganina Yama (‘Gabriel’s Pit’), where the murderers burned the victims’ clothes and belongings and first and unsuccessfully tried to dispose of the relics in the early morning of 17 July 1918. Here there now stand wooden churches dedicated to each of the Imperial Martyrs.
- In your view what should happen to the relics now?
Tsar Nicholas II repeatedly said that he wanted to be buried in Saint Petersburg. He spent most of his life as Tsar at Tsarskoe Selo (‘The Tsar’s Village’), just outside Saint Petersburg. Here the whole family was happy, rather than among the mean-minded gossip, criminal slander and treasonous intrigues of jealous aristocrats in Saint Petersburg. Surely, it is here in the spacious grounds of Tsarskoe Selo, where the Family spent so many happy times together, that a huge Cathedral dedicated to the Imperial Martyrs could be raised up, with the relics of all of them at last reunited and enshrined inside. This would become a pilgrimage centre for Orthodox the world over. The Imperial Family: Together in life, together in heaven. From here tiny splinters of relics could be sent out all over the world, so that their veneration could be confirmed as worldwide, as indeed it already is, and for the repentance of all. Then clearly visible miracles would begin, including the transfiguration of Post-Soviet Russia into Orthodox Russia and the beginning of the realisation in Western countries that they cannot continue as they are now, in their state of apostasy from Christ.
Holy Imperial Martyrs, Pray to God for us!
Archpriest Andrew Phillips
St John of Shanghai Church, Colchester, England
Blessed Xenia of Saint Petersburg
24 January/6 February 2021