WHILE my previous post contained a pretty graphic account of the murder of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and the rest of his family, and the disposal of their bodies, this post gives an insight into their living conditions in the days leading up to their violent deaths. And it’s safe to say that the family’s days in a palace surrounded by beautiful things and multitudes of servants must have felt like a very, very long way away.
Like my previous post, this one is based on a report in a once top-secret collection of documents in the UK’s National Archives.
This particular report is a minute of a visit by a “Colonel Rodzianko” to “Scotland House” in London in June 1920.
“Scotland House” (now known as the Norman Shaw buildings close to the Houses of Parliament) was at the time the HQ of the British Government’s Directorate of Intelligence, then headed by Sir Basil Thomson. Although there’s no name on the report, given the sensitivity of the subject, it could well have been Thomson whom Rodzianko met and was debriefed by.
“Colonel Rodzianko” was Colonel (Pavel) Paul Rodzianko. Rodzianko had been a Russian military attaché to London, but after the revolution he joined the British Army and ended up being sent to Ekaterinberg, to bolster the British presence there. Rodzianko himself led a rather interesting life – there’s more on him below.*
A lot of Rodzianko’s account duplicates the content of the earlier report – about how the Imperial family ended up in Ekaterinberg, and what happened to them on the night of 16/17 July 1918 – but what is new is the information it gives on how their living conditions declined in the run-up to their deaths.
Rodzianko said he got the information from “a servant of the Emperor” who (obviously) had managed to escape the shooting (unlike, of course, other members of the household who ended up dead in a pit in a forest alongside Nicholas and his wife and children):
Rodzianko also describes how the Bolsheviks eliminated pretty much every other member of the Romanov extended family that they could lay their hands on. “Two days after the murder of the Imperial family,” he said, “they murdered the Grand Dukes, then after that they murdered the Grand Duke Michael [the Tsar’s brother] in [the city of] Perm, and a week after that they murdered the Countess Gendrikoff, also in Perm, and all the other people, and two weeks after that Prince Dolgourouki and Count Taticheff were murdered.”
He also explains how the investigator Sergiev/Sergieff of my previous post had been replaced by the Sokolov I ‘met’ while researching my original post, about my visit to the (supposed) Imperial burial place of Ganina Yama. “Mr Sokoloff [was] a very clever man, who took the matter in hand and found out many things…
“… Mr Sergieff, as I have said, had been investigating the murder but had not been very successful. He started about two or three weeks after the murder had happened. He only went by what he found in the room [where the murders had taken place], although he said he had been all round the country to find out things.” I get the impression Rodzianko wasn’t entirely impressed by Sergieff.
Rodzianko had also deduced that: “from the proofs that have been collected it is clear that the murder was done by order of the central Government in Moscow, not by the local government.”
The Bolsheviks, he said: “tried to pull my leg, in order to prove that the Emperor was not killed by them” (I’m thinking English wasn’t the Colonel’s first language, so he might not have realised that to pull someone’s leg is usually associated with light-hearted teasing rather than premeditated murder).
And he implied that this wasn’t the only way in which the Bolsheviks attempted to cover up the true circumstances of the murders – or to distance themselves from them.“They are telling lies when they say they executed a man for having killed the Czar,” he said.
“Five of the men who did the shooting were caught and shot. They behaved idiotically with them. Directly they caught a Bolshevik that had been connected with the murder they shot him on the spot.” After all, dead men tell no tales.
*Rodzianko is worth (at least) one story of his own.
At the very end of the report, he describes how he has taken in the Tsarevich’s dog, who had fled from the shooting:
What happened after is recounted here:
Paul went on to marry Anglo-Irish former Deb Anita Leslie – another story in itself, outlined here: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/a-war-hero-who-could-not-face-the-truth-1.3332533
Rodzianko’s own account of his own life can be found in his own book, Tattered Banners, reviewed here: http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/index.php/bookreview/tattered-banners-a-life-in-imperial-russia