Curse of the Tsar Killers. What strange fates greeted the murderers of the Romanovs?
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What strange fates greeted the murderers of the Romanovs?
Whilst the fate of Tsar Nicholas II, his family and his aides is reasonably well known but the Devil is in the detail. The unknown story is the karma like fate that befell the Bolsheviks who slaughtered the world’s most revered royals is thought-provoking as it is fascinating.
(1885 — 1919)
Yakov Sverdlov (Yankel Solomon Movshevich Sverdlov) played a major role in the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family on 17 July 1918. In 1918 the investigating magistrate in Yekaterinburg scrutinised Yakov Sverdlov’s signature on telegraphed instructions to murder the Imperial Family, the details of which were first published in 1966. Following the February 1917 seizure of Imperial Russia, Yakov Sverdlov became head of the Bolshevik Secretariat. Already close to Lenin, the revolutionary collaborated with insurgents to subvert Alexander Kerensky’s provisional government.
Before the Bolsheviks seized power, Yakov Sverdlov was instrumental in shutting down the Russian parliament. He also pushed for Russia to negotiate the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which allowed Imperial Russia to sue for peace in World War I. The zealot was directly responsible for for multiple acts of gratuitous violence suffered by supporters of Tsar Nicholas II.
As chairman of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee Sverdlov was the nominal head of state. However, it’s generally acknowledged that this position was ostensibly held by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin.
Circumstances leading to Yakov Sverdlov’s death on March, 16, 1919 are shrouded in mystery. Some researchers claim he died of either typhus or influenza. Others claim he died of tuberculosis. This was Stalin’s preferred version because it gave the Soviet despot opportunity to portray Sverdlov as a martyr who caught the disease whilst engaged in revolutionary activity. The most credible account of his death relates to events that took place during the radical’s journey to Kharkov in Ukraine. Sverdlov’s visit was to bring about a regime change that would favour the Bolsheviks.
On March 6, 1919, the All-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets at which Sverdlov’s plans were to be announced was opened. Congress enacted a decree that ‘all the landlords and kulaks land that has a high level of agricultural production’ would henceforth be transferred to the Soviet State.
As a consequence, there was considerable animosity felt towards mainly Jewish insurgents and Bolsheviks who had seized control. In Ukraine between April and May 1919 were registered 121 anti-Bolshevik revolts, which meant the protocols of Sverdlov were unlikely to be accepted. During the evening of March 6, 1919, the less than successful and much disappointed Sverdlov boarded a train for Moscow.
Coat of arms of the Romanovs
At about 10 am March 7, 1919, Sverdlov’s armoured and specially equipped train was stopped at Oryol Station, situated approximately 360 kilometres south-southwest of Moscow.
The progress of the train carrying Sverdlov was blocked by about 1,000 striking railway workers. The delayed Sverdlov decided to intervene but in doing so was met by a wave of resentment. The revolutionary was also met by a hail of hurled stones, rocks and locomotive firewood. Felled by the onslaught, Sverdlov fell to the ground and was seen to be in a bad way. Because of the ensuing mayhem the felled insurgent was abandoned to his fate.
Mosaic in Grand Imperial Palace in Constantinople. V century
Once the riot had been quelled the mortally injured Sverdlov was placed on the departing train for the on-going journey. The revolutionary’s condition had worsened considerably by the time the train reached Moscow.
The attack on Sverdlov went without official mention. But, without question the revolutionary succumbed to injuries received at the Oryol riots. It was surmised that Lenin had organised the train’s ambush. The fellow revolutionary would certainly benefit as a consequence of his rival’s death.
On March 14, Sverdlov began to lose consciousness and became delirious during which he ranted about the less than successful Kharkov VIII Congress. Sverdlov died alone whilst taking the whereabouts of his accumulated fortune with him. His corpse is interred in the necropolis of the Kremlin Wall.
Historian Arkady Vaksberg says there is credible evidence of the riotous events at Oryol. However, amidst much anger at the Jewish nature of Bolshevism and Sverdlov himself being a Jew, the incident was covered up to prevent an anti-Semitic outburst.
It is speculated that the ambush was orchestrated due to suspicion that Sverdlov was involved in a plot to assassinate Lenin. An interesting characteristic of Sverdlov’s death mask caused psychiatrist Eugene Chernosvitov to describe the ghoulish souvenir as ‘the embodiment of evil, it is unpleasant to watch on his mask.’
Sverdlov death mask
Monument in Yekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk)
Interestingly, according to mystical symbolism the eagle symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Oryol, the town where Sverdlov met his fate is named after the eagle. The mythos is that the eagle pecked (stoned) the emissary of the forces of evil so that it lay in the wind and cold whilst funnelling his spirit soaked in cold March land.
YAKOV YUROVSKY (1878 –1938)
Yiddish speaking Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovsky (Yankel Khaimovich Yurovsky) was chief executioner of Emperor Nicholas II, his family, and their four retainers on the night of their murder. The commandant of The House of Special Purpose, Yurovsky led the killings and the clandestine burial of the victims’ bodies. The killer never expressed regret.
After holding a number of important positions, Yurovsky was pursued by misfortune. In 1935 his daughter Rimma was arrested and sent to the Karaganda Gulag Camp. The wretched and jinxed Yurovsky died in 1938 of a peptic ulcer without leaving descendants.
His granddaughters died in infancy, and his grandsons in accidents. One died during a fire, the other poisoned, the third crashed after falling from a barn whilst another hanged himself. His grandfather’s favourite grandson was found dead in his car.
PYOTR ERMAKOV (1884 –1952)
Pyotr Ermakov was one of several responsible for the slaughter of the Romanovs. On that fateful night, Ermakov was intoxicated. According to the account by Greg King and Penny Wilson he was the most bloodthirsty of the executioners. According to various reports, Ermakov was among the men in the firing squad who shot the already-dead former Tsar.
His next target was Empress Alexandra, who was unable to finish the sign of the Cross before she too was shot dead. After momentarily ending the firing due to the presence of large amounts of cordite smoke, the family’s executioners were ordered to butcher the Grand Duchess Olga, Maria and Anastasia and their remaining servant Anna Demidova. Pyotr Ermakov is reported to have delivered the killing blow to Olga, and severely wounded Maria and Anastasia.
According to an account by Pyotr Voykov, commissar of supplies for the Ural Soviet, Ermakov yelled out that the maid, Demidova, and youngest daughter of the Romanovs, Anastasia, were still alive. One of the Cheka Latvians then drove a bayonet through Anastasia’s face. Yurovsky described how Ermakov tried to kill the Grand Duchesses with his bayonet as his associates plundered the jewels found in the clothing. Prior to the killings, Ermakov had promised his cohorts that they could ravish the women and kill the males. Obviously, their reward remained an empty promise.
Guard A. Strekotin recalled the tragedy. “Comrade Ermakov, seeing that I was holding a rifle with a bayonet, offered me chance to stab the survivors. I refused, and then he took the rifle from my hands and began to pierce them. This was the most terrible moment of their deaths. They didn’t last long they were dying, shouting, moaning, and twitching. Especially the lady, Tsaritsa, died especially hard. Ermakov pierced her whole chest. He hit with a bayonet so hard that every time the bayonet was deeply thrust into the floor.’
Ermakov after the Civil War found work in law enforcement in Omsk, Yekaterinburg, and Chelyabinsk. By 1927, he was working as an inspector for prisons of the Urals region, and retired by 1934.
Ermakov died in Sverdlovsk from cancer and he was buried at Ivanovskoye Cemetery. Communist Party members still pay tribute to his gravestone on each anniversary of the murders. On a few occasions, his grave was vandalised and dowsed in red paint, symbolizing the blood of the royal martyrs.
GRIGORY PETROVICH NIKULIN (1894-1965)
Grigory Petrovich Nikulin was an assistant of Yurovsky, commandant of the Ipatiev House, who, until the last moment claimed he did not know that he was to participate in the slaughter. This is considered implausible as he was a very close friend of Yurovsky who would presumably have taken Nikulin into his confidence. Interestingly, Nikulin, just two days earlier, had carved a wooden flute for the 14-year old Tsarevich Alexei and taught him to play the melody of a Russian folk song.
In 1964 he was interviewed on Soviet radio, during which broadcast he revealed the sordid details of the butchering of the Imperial family during which interview he described the actions of the Chekists as ‘humane’:
“The boy (Tsarevich) was here. True, he tossed and turned for a long time, but in any case, both he and the family were done away quickly. I believe that humanity has been shown on our part.”
Intriguingly, the slaughterer of the boy child, who earlier had taught the Tsar’s son the flute, was in his dotage visited by a similar-aged child, the son of a neighbouring chief engineer. The child later recalled that on going to the Nikulin’s veranda, he ‘saw an old man with hair as white as paper.’
Grigory Nikulin asked the boy what songs he knew. The child replied, ‘Through Valleys and Over Hills’, a popular Red Army song from the Russian Civil War and World War I. The child and old man sang it together and soon afterwards, the old man (Grigory Nikulin) died.
MIKHAIL MEDVEDEV (KUDRIN) (1891 – 1964)
The revolutionary and Chekist was directly involved in the killings. According to own account, it was he who first started shooting and slew the Tsar. Without waiting for his commandant to repeat the death sentence, Medvedev started firing and fired five bullets at the Tsar following which other guards also started firing. Some others involved later confirmed that the Tsar was killed by Mikhail Medvedev’s shots.
In 1938, Mikhail Medvedev was appointed assistant to the head of the 1st branch of the Special Commissioner of the NKVD of the USSR. The killer rose to the rank of colonel. In July 1962, he turned to the party archive of the Sverdlovsk regional committee of the CPSU with a request ‘to confirm his direct participation in the execution of the former Tsar Nicholas II and his family.’
In the will, he asked his son Mikhail to give to Nikita Khrushchev the Browning handgun, from whom the Tsar was killed, and to give Fidel Castro his Colt, M1911 pistol, also known as the Government or Colt Government, which Mikhail Medvedev used in 1919.
The Museum of Modern History hosts an exhibition dedicated to the Civil War. It is here that a very important item is exhibited: the browning handgun of Mikhail Medvedev, from whom he shot the Tsar. The Nikulin and Yurovsky owned revolvers disappeared without a trace.
Browning of Mikhail Medvedev. Photo: RTVI
The death of Pavel Medvedev was the stuff of pathos itself. After fleeing from the place of the Romanovs slaughter he was captured and interrogated by the anti-Bolshevik White Army. Despite denying his involvement in the carnage, the allegation was upheld sent to Yekaterinburg prison to wait for the investigation, typhus took the jinxed Pavel Medvedev and he died alone his miserable cell a month later.
PYOTR LAZAREVICH VOYKOV (1888 –1927)
Pyotr Voykov (Pinhus Wainer) took part in the shooting and assisted in carrying out the coup de grâce by bayoneting the victims. Later, he was delegated to destroy the family’s remains by dismemberment and the use of sulphuric acid. Voykov recalled that dreadful scene with an involuntary shudder.
He said that when this work was completed the dismembered cadavers were thrown down a forest mine. Upon the appalling scene was poured gasoline and sulphuric acid. In a vain attempt to destroy all evidence of the massacre the body parts were afterwards allowed to burn for two days.
The hexed Pyotr Voykov afterwards recounted: ‘It was a terrible picture. We, the participants of the burning corpses were downright depressed about this nightmare. Even Yurovsky, in the end, could not resist and said that even those few days and he would have gone mad.’
Grigory Besedovsky, who worked with Voykov in the Warsaw Permanent Mission, described Voykov as of ‘High-stature, with unpleasant, eternally cloudy eyes (as it turned out later, from drunkenness and drugs), with a cynical tone, and most importantly, threw restless lascivious glances at the women he met.’
Pyotr Voykov was assassinated at Warsaw Central Train Station by 18-year old Boris Kowerda, a student of the Russian Gymnasium 7 June 1927. The son of a White Russian monarchist, Kowerda took out a revolver and shot four times from close range, crying ‘Die for Russia!’
Voykov was shot near the heart, and attempted to pull a gun from his inside pocket, but lost his balance and fell unconscious onto the platform. When asked why he killed Voykov, Kowerda replied: ‘I avenged Russia, for millions of people.’
The killing was later justified as vengeance for Voykov’s role in the killing of the Tsar and his family. Many Poles regarded Kowerda as a hero. A Polish court initially sentenced the avenging youth to life imprisonment due to external pressure. But, the imprisoned student was successful in petitioning the President of the Republic to commute his sentence to 15 years and was amnestied and released on June 15, 1937.
The resentful Soviets responded by arbitrarily arresting and executing twenty former aristocrats, landowners, and monarchists without trial or formal sentencing on June 9. On June 14 in Odessa, 111 people were sentenced to death for supposedly spying for Romania. Four Poles were shot in Minsk and Kharkov, and 480 alleged monarchists were arrested in Ukraine. At the same time, the Soviet authorities organized a demonstration in front of the Polish Embassy in Moscow, and in Kiev incited a riot that demolished almost all Polish-owned stores.
ALEXANDER BELOBORODOV (1891–1938)
Alexander Georgievich Beloborodov (Vaisbart Yankel Isidorovich), was a Bolshevik revolutionary born in Solikamsk. In July 1918, the doomed radical ordered the execution of the Romanov family, signing the decision by the Ural Soviet and subsequently delivered to Yakov Yurovsky the final orders to murder the Imperial Family.
In June 1918, Beloborodov approved an initiative by the regional Cheka led by Gavril Myasnikov to murder Grand Duke Michael, either in advance, or after the fact. Following the slayings, he sent a coded telegram to Lenin’s secretary, Nikolai Gorbunov, which read: ‘Inform Sverdlov the whole family has shared the same fate as the head (Tsar).’
In April 1919 he was sent to suppress an anti-Bolshevik revolt by the Don Cossack in the Rostov region, which he ruled with great severity for two years. Beloborodov was expelled from the Communist Party in December 1927 and exiled to northern Siberia, but recanted in 1929.
Beloborodov was arrested in 1936, but resisted making the confession required of him, although his name was mentioned at the trial of Karl Radek and others in January.
Stalin sent a note to Nikolai Yezhov, head of the NKVD after which the NKVD subjected the ill-fated killer to brutal torture. A fellow prisoner reported hearing the Romanov’s executioner being dragged along a prison corridor shouting, ‘I am Beloborodov! Pass the word on to the Central Committee that I am being tortured.’
Opposition leaders in 1927, shortly before they were expelled from Moscow. Sitting from left to right: L. Serebryakov, K. Radek, L. Trotsky, M. Boguslavsky and E. Preobrazhensky; stand: H. Rakovsky, J. Drobnis, A. Beloborodov and L. Sosnovsky.
On February 10, 1938, he was shot at the Kommunarka training range following a sentence from the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the Soviet Union.
FILIPP ISAYEVICH GOLOSHCHYOKIN (1876 –1941)
Goloshchyokin was a Jewish Bolshevik, politician and party functionary. He is best known for his involvement in the butchery of the Romanov Family, as well as for the genocidal role which he played in the Soviet occupation of Kazakhstan. This appalling holocaust became known as the Goloshchyokin Genocide. Goloshchyokin was arrested towards the end of the Great Purge and was eventually executed by the NKVD during Operation Barbarossa.
While in the spring of 1918 in Moscow, Goloshchyokin first suggested to Yakov Sverdlov that the former Emperor Nicholas II should be moved to Ekaterinburg where there was less chance of the family being rescued by the anti-Bolshevik White Army. Though Yurovsky held direct command over the Red Guards and Red Army Reserve troops stationed on the grounds of the family’s Ipatiev House, the overall command was held by Goloshchyokin as Military Commissar of the Ural Region.
In this capacity, he frequently oversaw the dismissal of guardsmen believed sympathetic to the Romanov family and replaced the sacked guards with more hardened, ruthless Bolshevists. One such, Pyotr Ermakov, was called “the most bloodthirsty man in the Urals”.
In June 1918, amidst the rapid gains made by the White Army in the Ural Region, Goloshchyokin was in Moscow for the Fifth Congress of Soviets, where he spoke to Lenin and Sverdlov, and it was agreed that the Tsar should be killed without delay. Goloshchyokin arrived personally at the Ipatiev House to direct the slaughter, but did not physically participate in the shooting. He instead remained outside with the other guardsmen while Yurovsky led the assembled death squad.
Goloshchyokin is said to have repeatedly paced back and forth along the perimeter palisade erected around the Ipatiev House in an attempt to determine if anyone could hear what was going on from outside as one of the guardsmen revved the engines of the fiat truck waiting outside to mask the sounds of the gunfire, screams, and barking dogs.
When it was clear that the gunfire could be detected from outside the palisade walls, Goloshchyokin ordered one of the guards to tell the killers to cease fire and to instead use their bayonets to kill the family and their dogs. Later, as the corpses were brought out from the house and loaded onto the truck, Goloshchyokin stooped down to examine the corpse of the Tsar, murmuring, ‘So this is the end of the Romanov Dynasty.’
At a telegraph office in Yekaterinburg on 18 July, he caught Sir Thomas Preston, a diplomat at the British Consulate, attempting to cable Sir Arthur Balfour in London with the message, ‘The Tsar Nicholas the Second was shot last night.’
Goloshchyokin snatched it, and struck out the words of Preston’s text with a red pencil, rewriting on the paper, ‘The hangman Tsar Nicholas was shot last night, and a fate he richly deserved.’
Goloshchyokin was rescued from Yekaterinburg along with most of the other members of the Ural Soviet prior to the arrival of the White Army, who captured Yekaterinburg on 25 July.
Unlike most prominent Old Bolsheviks, he survived the Great Purge unscathed. But, when Yezhov was arrested in 1939, he made a detailed confession to his interrogators. Homosexuality was not a criminal offense in the USSR in 1925, though it was criminalized in 1934, but Goloshchyokin, who was almost 20 years older than Yezhov, was arrested nonetheless on 15 October 1939.
He was placed under heavy interrogation in the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow at the time of the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. Goloshchyokin was transferred to Kuybyshev, then headquarters of the NKVD.
Regarded as one of 20 ‘especially dangerous’ prisoners, who included 14 high ranking military officers, he was executed by firing squad on 28 October 1941 on the direct orders of Joseph Stalin, and consigned to an unmarked grave.
GEORGY SAFAROV (1891 –1942)
Following the February Revolution, Georgy Safarov was one of 31 individuals who accompanied Vladimir Lenin in a sealed train under German supervision to Petrograd, along with other notable Communist figures including Grigory Zinoviev, Karl Radek, Inessa Armand, and Lenin’s wife, Nadezhda Krupskaya.
A partaker in the overthrow of Imperial Russia, and the on-going the Civil War, the radical was involved in the slaughter of the Romanovs.
In July 1918, Safarov, being a member of the Presidium of the Ural Regional Soviet under Alexander Beloborodov, was party to the agreed decision to execute the Romanovs then held captive in Yekaterinburg. He was responsible for sending a telegram to Yakov Sverdlov in Moscow seeking final approval for the family’s slaughter and the murder and their attendants.
Later associated with Grigory Zinoviev’s New Opposition and Leon Trotsky’s United Opposition, Georgy Safarov was purged from the Communist Party. He was later caged in Vorkuta in 1937, after which he served as an NKVD informant.
On 18 July, a day after the killings of the Romanovs in Yekaterinburg, Georgy Safarov travelled to nearby Alapayevsk as a representative of the Ural Soviet to direct the killings of a number of Romanov relatives and their companions.
These included Alexandra’s sister, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine. Others on the Safarov death list were Prince Ioann Konstantinovich, Prince Igor Konstantinovich, Prince Konstantine Konstantinovich, Grand Duke Sergey Mikhaylovich, and Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley. Another of the unfortunate doomed was Elisabeth’s trusted friend and companion Nun Sister Varvara Yakovleva. The shocking list also included Fyodor Remez, Grand Duke Sergey’s personal secretary.
Following the assassination of Sergey Kirov on 25 December 1934, Safarov was arrested as part of a series of mass detentions which came to be known as the Kirov stream.
On 16 January 1935, the butcher of the Romanovs, was again sentenced to 2 years exile. Not for the first time, he found himself sharing a fetid straw-strewn cattle car with other unfortunates and deported to Achinsk. Then, on 16 December 1936, the hapless and seemingly jinxed Safarov was once again arrested whilst still in Achinsk. Soon afterwards, on 15 January 1937, he settled down in yet another cattle car on its way to Vorkuta. It was while still serving his sentence in the Soviet Gulag that Georgy Safarov was sentenced to death by a decree of a Special Collegium of the NKVD.
Bizarrely, the date of the sentence was 16 July 1942, following the German Invasion of the Soviet Union. This was the same date that Georgy Safarov had signed the death warrant for the Romanovs 24 years prior. He was executed on 27 July 1942 in Saratov and his corpse was consigned to an unmarked grave.
You can read the details of the reprisals following the murder of the Imperial family and prominent descendants of the Romanovs in the books of Michael Walsh Trotsky’s White Negroes and Slaughter of a Dynasty.
MICHAEL WALSH is a worldwide journalist, broadcaster and author of 63 book titles with 36 years experience. Like other journalists of integrity, he no longer writes for corporate media, opting instead for true journalism.
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MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of RISE OF THE SUN WEEL, EUROPE ARISE, TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROES, MEGACAUST, DEATH OF A CITY, WITNESS TO HISTORY, THE BUSINESS BOOSTER , THE FIFTH COLUMN VOLUME I and II, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, IMMORTAL BELOVED, THE ALL LIES INVASION, INSPIRE A NATION Volume I, INSPIRE A NATION Volume II , SLAUGHTER OF A DYNASTY , REICH AND WRONG, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH , and The Exiled Duke Romanov Who Turned Desert Into Paradise and other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.
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