PHOTO: A simple wooden cross was installed on the site of the Ipatiev House in the 1990s
Prior to the construction of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, local archaeologists took a particular interest in the site where the 18th century mansion once stood.
An excavation of the site was organized by archaeologist Sergey Nikolaevich Pogorelov in 2000. At that time, he headed the Department for the Study of Historical Monuments in the Regional Research and Production Center.
The area where the Ipatiev House was located stood on land once owned by the Ural-Siberian Factory. In 1766-1808 the wooden Old Ascension Church stood on the site of the house, which included a small cemetery. Later, residential quarters were constructed, including the Ipatiev House in the 1880s.
According to Pogorelov, in 2000, when the question arose about the construction of the Church on the Blood, city and regional authorities were notified that a decree issued in 1990 stipulated that no construction could take place on historic sites without historical and archaeological research being carried out first.
Excavations began in early June through September of 2000, and then continued in the summer of 2001. During that time, nearly 600 people took part in them. They made some interesting discoveries. For instance, during the excavations it turned out that the Soviet authorities had removed the remains of the basement walls of the Ipatiev House many years prior.
When archaeologists found the place where the basement execution room was located, they discovered that in its place, a concrete bunker had been built. They then referred to the city plans which were given them by the administration. As it turned out a government communication line had been laid along Klara Zetkin Street (former Voznesensky Prospekt and Voznesensky Lane, respectively), . When the cables were laid near where the Ipatiev House stood, they turned sharply 90 degrees, passing through where the execution room was located, and into the bunker, and then back to Klara Zetkin towards Voznesenskaya Gorka. Archaeologists learned that in the early 1970s, the local Soviet had set up the bunker with the intent of destroying the place where the Imperial family had been murdered.
However, an even greater discovery for archaeologists was what they found under the bunker when they began to dig deeper. Under the concrete structure was a grave, partially carved into the rock. Inside, in a coffin with forged nails, lay the remains of a woman and a baby.
Archaeologists had discovered the 18th century Orthodox cemetery, proving that the Ipatiev House was partly built on the site of the Church of the Ascension, and partly on the churchyard. The police were called in and the remains of the woman and her child were taken away.
Pogorelov noted that many graves must have been lost in the 1980s when part of the slope of the Voznesenskaya Gorka, was cut back during the reconstruction of Karl Liebknecht Street.
During their excavations, archaeologists uncovered an area of more than 500 square meters at a depth of about 2 meters.
PHOTO: Archaeologist Sergey Nikolaevich Pogorelov shows fragments
of ceramic vessels found at Porosenkov Log in 2010
They found an underground stone structure with an area of 5 by 5 meters with granite walls in the foundation and stone granite slabs of the floor. Inside were the remains of the shelves of the party archives. It was here that the trunks belonging to the Imperial family were stored after their transfer from Tobolsk in April 1918.
On the western side of the estate grounds stood several poplars. There was some speculation that the trees had been planted during the Soviet years. Experts from the Institute of Plant and Animal Ecology conducted a dendrochronological analysis and found that they are more than 100 years old. Thus, it was determined that the trees were there when the Imperial family were living there under house arrest.
Among the trees a hole was discovered. They thought it was a cellar, but it turned out to be a well. It had been pierced into the monolithic rock of the Voznesenskaya hill using mining tools.
Archaeologists found a mention of this well in the notes of Yakov Yurovsky, who led the execution of the Imperial family. He wrote that he was repairing it at the moment when Nicholas II approached him. The well itself was filled with many artefacts, among them items belonging to the Imperial family.
The following year, when construction on the Church on the Blood was already underway, and two underground floors were planned on the site, the well suddenly filled with water. The builders wanted to fill it with concrete, however, a decision was made to preserve it. Today, the former well named “Tsarskoe” of the Ipatiev House is now located in the lower underground floors of the Church on the Blood.
As a result of the excavation of the estate, archaeologists managed to collect about 64 thousand artefacts. There were no precious items among them – only those that are of interest from a historical point of view. Fragments of dishes, buttons, metal objects … Everything that fell to the ground or tossed into the well since the 18th century.
Pogorelov found pieces of china with the emblems of the Imperial Porcelain Factory bearing the initials of Nicholas II, from the coronation porcelain service of 1896. He later discovered that part of the service had been stolen by the Bolsheviks after the murder of the Imperial family. Their whereabouts remain unknown to this day.
It took 300 crates to pack the 64,000 artefacts, and stored in different places until 2013. According to Pogorelov “nobody provided help, nor were the legislation requirements fulfilled”. The crates were subsequently transferred to the Museum of the History of Ekaterinburg. Today, the famous Russian archaeologies does not know what happened to the collection.
The Museum of the History of Ekaterinburg would not comment on what happened to the collection further nor whether the artefacts from the excavations at the site of the Ipatiev House are still in their funds.
© Paul Gilbert. 23 October 2020
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