“The last tsar of Russia and his family are a reminder of the light of faith that the darkness of communism could not put out.

Alfred Siewers


July 17 marks the centennial of the killing of the Russian royal family. On that day a hundred years ago, the last tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, his wife the Tsarina Alexandra, their five children, and four retainers were ushered into a basement in the city of Yekaterinburg in the early hours of the morning. Their execution would mark a turning point in history.

The family, by all accounts pious and loving and known for personal works of charity, had suffered months of humiliation at the hands of communists who had taken over the Russian government in the wake of the Tsar’s forced abdication in March 1917. Walls of their prison house, which they would have passed on the way to the room of their execution, were bedecked with obscenities, and guards had enjoyed drunken sex antics in the basement where they were killed. Outside that night, trucks ran their engines to muffle the sound of gunshots.

It took 20 minutes for the inept, alcohol-impaired shooters to kill the family, as the room filled with smoke from the guns and their cries of pain. The two youngest girls and the Tsarevich survived the fusillade — only to be brutally bayoneted. Meanwhile their maid, who was not initially hit, vainly tried to fight back.

When the children’s English tutor Charles Sydney Gibbes, who later became an Orthodox priest taking the name Nicholas after the Tzar, arrived soon after with White Army forces, he was told that the blood had to be swept away with brooms.

A gruesomely torturous burial followed across two days, in which corpses were placed temporarily in a water-filled mineshaft, abused and disfigured, and doused with acid and grenades. The bodies were scattered to hide the number in the group and prevent them from being recovered. Even a family dog was slain to stop its mournful barking. The killer displayed it on a bayonet outside after the murders.

Historians recently concluded the killings of the family and their retainers occurred on direct orders from Lenin — the evil mastermind of modern totalitarianism, as has been documented by historian Stéphane Courtois following the opening of the Soviet archives. The carnage marked the end of centuries of Christian monarchy that traced its roots back to the Byzantine Empire, across some 1,500 years, and was the end of the last such major Christian empire in the world.”