PHOTO: view of the murder room in the basement of the Ipatiev House, following the massacre of Emperor Nicholas II, his family, and four faithful retainers. The bullet holes can clearly be seen on the walls
On 17th July 1918, Emperor Nicholas II and his family were brutally murdered by a Bolshevik firing squad in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg. In the spring of 1924, Professor Valentin Nikolaevich Speransky (1877-1957) visited the Ipatiev House, and later published his book La maison à destination speciale la tragedie d’ekaterinenbourg in French (1929) followed by Spanish and Italian editions.
Prof. Speransky was not permitted to enter the living quarters of the Ipatiev House, but thanks to one of the council employees he saw the scene of the terrible massacre – a room of the basement floor, where the regicide was carried out.
“It resembles a cellar, not more than 50 cubic meters in volume,” he wrote. “In the damp semi-darkness the room seemed very narrow… Even after six years there were still bloodstains on the floor. There were traces of bullets on the walls … On the wallpaper one could see traces of bloody hands.”
These protruding traces of the blood of the Holy Royal Martyrs on the walls were later confirmed by numerous testimonials:
“We had a girl from Sverdlovsk [Ekaterinburg]. Her mother told us that the wall of the house where the execution of the Imperial Family had been carried out had been stained with blood for many years. The authorities believed it was the antics of hooligans, put sentries to guard the room around the clock, painted over the wall with paint, and illuminated it with floodlights. But every day, fresh drops of blood would appear on the wall before the eyes of astonished eye-witnesses.
“In the 1950s,” recalls L.N. Kasyanova from Feodosia, “I studied in Sverdlovsk in the Urals, at the Pedagogical Institute. In Sverdlovsk, we went on excursions to the Ipatiev House, leading us into the basement where the Holy Royal Martyrs were shot. They say from time to time that blood appeared on the walls, and no matter how much it was washed off, it reappeared.”
“From my childhood”, Z.S. Grebenshchikova recalls, “my mother used to show us this house. When I met the watchman Bukharkin Fyodor Ivanovich, a great admirer of the Imperial Family, in St. John’s Church in Ekaterinburg, I began to learn more about it. To the watchman one boy – Tikhomirov Alexander Dmitrievich, born in 1956 was very attached. His father was a general and his mother worked as a general practitioner. His grandmother Olga took him to church when he was three years old and he already knew the prayers.
PHOTO: Valentin Nikolaevich Speransky (1877-1957), author of the book ‘La maison à destination speciale la tragedie d’ekaterinenbourg’, published in 1929
“All three of us – Fyodor Ivanovich, Sasha and I – started going to the house to pray: we also came at night before the holidays – in winter, in spring, at Easter, and on the night of 16th July [the night of the anniversary marking the death and martyrdom of the Imperial Family] and others. We took faithful old ladies with us. We took candles, placed them on the side porch, and sang ‘God rest the saints,’ ‘Eternal Memory,’ and say the names of the Holy Royal Martyrs.
“Sasha said that the wall against which the Imperial Family were shot had been whitewashed – but the blood still runs through the whitewash. They decided to paint it blue, a soft blue colour, like the sky, and again it comes out, the blood, through the holes that the bullets penetrated. . .”
Sasha’s grandmother Olga had a friend who worked as a janitor in the Ipatiev house, and she said that on the eve of holidays – before Easter and Pentecost, when she was on night duty – the sound of some angelic, very gentle singing could be heard from the basement.
One day Sasha brought a piece of plaster from that wall in his grandmother’s locket with a lid, filled with hot wax. Such a small piece in the shape of a trapezoid, and there, like a bouquet of flowers, was sprinkled – large, medium, smaller, maroon, orange, light orange droplets. Just like a bunch of flowers. I prayed and touched the shrine. I had the honour…”.
Over the years, local authorities were getting concerned that the Ipatiev House was becoming a shrine for Orthodox Christians and monarchists, who came in growing numbers, to light candles, pray and sing hymns. As a result, a decision was made to demolish the Ipatiev House, and in so doing, wipe any memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs from the Russian landscape.
The destruction of the Ipatiev House began on 22nd September 1977, that is, more than two years after a joint decision of the chairman of the State Security Committee, Yuri Andropov (1914-1984) and the Politburo.
Today on this spot stands the Church on the Blood of the Holy Royal Martyrs. Construction began in 2000, and on 16th June 2003, 85 years after the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, the five-domed main church with a height of 60 meters, a building area of 966 m² and a total area of 3152 m², with an estimated capacity of 1910 people was consecrated.
© Paul Gilbert. 4 November 2021