Today in World History: July 17th

The Romanov family of Russia, who ruled the Empire during its most turbulent times, were shot and murdered on this day in 1918. Much like in Revolutionary France, the Russian serfs grew tired of their increasing poverty and the increasing wealthiness of their employers, who were growing to be more like their owners. Following the weak rule of several Russian Tsars, the Russian military became a sinkhole for the Russian economy, and several failed and expensive wars took their toll on the country. During World War One, revolutions across Russia broke out, resulting in the three year-long Russian Civil War. Many parties, including the Bolsheviks, fought for control of Russia and over the institution of political, military, and economic reforms. In opposition of the new regime was the White Army, who opposed those like the Red Army of the Bolsheviks and the Green Army. Countries like Poland and Estonia declared their independence from Russia during the war, but many of them experienced civil wars and instability themselves, in addition to outside pressure from other European countries.

The war quickly turned in favor of the Red Army, and by 1917, they had captured the Romanovs, banishing them to the vacation palace of Yekaterinburg and stripping them of power. They stayed there for less than a year, when the White Army began to regain control of Russia. The Bolsheviks became worried of other countries’ opinions of the Romanovs’ position as the rightful rulers of the Russian Empire. Although the Bolsheviks had ended their part in World War One, the other countries were still prepared to go to war with Russia should a cause present itself. The White Army, although not specifically allied to the Romanovs, could use Nicholas as the figurehead of their revolution .The Romanovs began to be treated increasingly poorly by the Bolshevik guards, until the Bolsheviks finally decided to kill the family rather than risk them being freed by the White Army. Gathering the family in the basement of the palace along with their servants, soldiers opened fire on the unsuspecting Romanov family, killing Nicholas and his wife Olga.

“Nikolai Alexandrovich, in view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Soviet Russia, the Ural Executive Committee has decided to execute you.”

-Yakov Yurovski, Commandant of The House of Special Purpose, reading aloud the Romanovs’ order of execution

The youngest child and only son of Nicholas, Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia, was murdered soon after his parents. The three daughters, Tatiana, Anastasia, and Maria, were killed last, as upon leaving their home in St. Petersburg they sewed their jewels into their dresses. This protected them to a certain degree, but in the end, they were shot and stabbed with bayonets. The rest of the Romanovs’ closest servants were killed as well, under the illusion that they were being transported to a safe location.

Yekaterinburg was captured soon after the execution, but in the end the White Army lost the war, and the Bolsheviks instituted the Soviet Union, with the defeat of the Ukrainian Green Army by the end of the war, in 1922.

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