‘Point of No Return’ – Ekaterinburg Street Art in Memory of the Russian Imperial Family

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NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 26 July 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

Unique street art in memory of the Russian Imperial Family has been created in an underground passage in the center of Ekaterinburg. The work entitled “Point of no return” depicts two groups of people on opposite walls of the passage.

On one side are depicted: Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their five children, and four faithful retainers – all of whom were murdered on the night of 16/17 July 1918 in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.

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On the other side the murderers: the Ural Chekists and the guard of the “House of Special Purpose”, the participants in the murders of the Romanovs. Between the two images on the floor is a red circle – Точка невозврата (Point of no return), standing on which, one gets a sense of being in the line of fire.

The appearance of the street art is timed to the 100th anniversary of the deaths of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg. The underground passage is located in close proximity to the Church on the Blood, built on the site of the Ipatiev House.

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The executor of the work was the GREAT Advertising Group (St. Petersburg), and the ZNAK Information Agency.

“The idea belongs to the GREAT Advertising Group. We liked it, and immediately accepted it. This work is a desire to recall the tragedy of the shooting in the basement of the Ipatiev House, which included the murder of innocent children and servants. It became a symbol of the tragedy of all Russia, a great tragedy of the twentieth century. This shooting really became a ‘point of no return’ for Russia. We believe it is important that a person can feel this point, literally stand on it, even for a moment,” said Dmitry Kolezev, deputy editor-in-chief of Znak.com.

“We wanted to create something without any gadgets and technologies, something with simple and affordable means, which would allow people to get a sense of what it must have felt to face the murderers. To try to literally immerse yourself in a tragic moment, to become a part of it, to stand between the defenseless Imperial family and their murderers with revolvers,” said the creators from the GREAT Advertising Group.

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Sadly, the work was only temporary for the 100th anniversary marking the regicide – the artwork was not done with paint, but with a film, making it easy to remove, and leaving the transition walls clean.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 December 2019

Film: Assassin of the Tsar

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Watch ‘The Assassin of the Tsar’

Click on the image above to watch the English version of the film in it’s entirety.
Duration: 1 hour, 40 mins.

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 30 August 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

The Assassin of the Tsar is a 1991 Soviet drama film, starring the English actor Malcolm McDowell and the Soviet/Russian actor Oleg Yankovsky (1944-2009). It was entered into the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. There are two versions. One is filmed in English which later was dubbed over the Russian actors, and one in Russian.

Timofyev (Malcolm McDowell) is a patient in an asylum who claims to be the man who assassinated Tsar Alexander II in 1881, and his grandson Tsar Nicholas II in 1918. Doctor Smirnov (Oleg Yankovsky) decides to apply a peculiar therapeutic method on him, but things go in an unexpected way.

A good portion of the film depicts the last days of the Russian Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, largely narrated by Timofyev’s voice-over from the perspective of Yakov Yurovsky, the chief guard and ultimately executioner of the family. In the scenes, Yurovsky is impersonated by Timofyev (McDowell) and Tsar Nicholas II by Dr. Smirnov (Yankovsky). Other members of the family function merely as background, with few or no lines.

PHOTOS: Soviet/Russian actor Oleg Yankovsky as Tsar Nicholas II; the
Imperial family in Crimea; and Malcolm McDowell as Yakov Yurovsky

The cast includes:

Oleg Yankovsky — Dr.Smirnov / Tsar Nicholas II
Malcolm McDowell — Timofyev / Yakov Yurovsky
Armen Dzhigarkhanyan — Alexander Yegorovich, Smirnov’s superior
Olga Antonova — Empress Alexandra
Dariya Majorova — Olga Nikolaevna
Evgeniya Kryukova — Tatiana Nikolaevna
Alyona Teremizova — Maria Nikolaevna
Olga Borisova — Anastasia Nikolaevna
Aleksei Logunov — Alexei Nikolaevich
Yury Belyayev — Alexander II of Russia
Anastasiya Nemolyaeva — nurse
Anzhelika Ptashuk — Marina, Smirnov’s mate

Of particular interest in this film are the recreation of the facade and the interiors of the Ipatiev House, where the Imperial family where all murdered on the night of 16/17 July 1918, by a Bolshevik firing squad.

PHOTOS: The facade and interiors of the Ipatiev House were recreated for this film

© Paul Gilbert. 5 November 2019

Captured on Film by U.S. Cameramen – The Romanov Murder Scene (1918)

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on the First World War in Film web site by Ron van Dooperen. It was reposted on 12 September 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

In December 1918, a photographic team of the U.S. Signal Corps led by Captain Howard Kingsmore arrived in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where they filmed inside the house where Tsar Nicholas II and his family was brutally murdered. Against all odds, we recently found Kingsmore’s personal story on this photographic assignment, as well as part of these historic films.

The execution of the last Russian Tsar and his family hardly needs an introduction. After the Bolsheviks had taken over power the Romanov family was moved to a so-called ‘House of Special Purpose’ in Yekaterinburg. The Imperial family was kept in strict isolation within the walls of a sinister heavily guarded building that was surrounded by a palisade. The Bolsheviks initially wanted to put the Tsar on trial, but in the summer of 1918 anti-Communist forces were at the gates of Yekaterinburg, and the Reds feared their captives would fall into enemy hands. As a result, death to the Romanovs was declared. Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei were shot, bayoneted and clubbed to death on the night of 16-17 July 1918. Their bodies were disposed of in a most gruesome manner.

The Cameramen

Howard P. Kingsmore was the photographic officer of a U.S. Signal Corps camera team that recorded the operations of the American Expeditionary Army in Siberia. Born in 1886, Kingsmore started his photographic work for the Philadelphia Inquirer, covering the burial of President McKinley, the coal strikes of 1901-1902 and the 50th anniversary of the Civil War battle of Gettysburg. Around 1907 Kingsmore became chief photographer for the Philadelphia Evening Ledger. For this newspaper he covered the civil war in Mexico, as well as the Punitive Expedition by General Pershing into that country in 1916. When the United States entered World War I he applied for a commission in the U.S. Signal Corps as a photographic officer. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in September 1917, appears to have made mostly training pictures while he was in America and in Augustus 1918 was promoted to Captain, when a photographic section was set up for the Siberian Expedition. After the First World War Kingsmore became a cameraman for Fox News.

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The Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg. 1918

Interview with Kevin Brownlow

Judging from the production file of the films that were made by Kingsmore and his camera team, they filmed across Siberia between November 1918 and February 1919, covering various operations by the Expeditionary Force that was trying to push the Red Army out of Russia. We have described this Signal Corps footage from Russia in more detail in a previous weblog. Five men were selected for this photographic team, including two movie camera operators. One of Kingsmore’s men, Philip Tannura, was interviewed by Kevin Brownlow for his book The War, the West and the Wilderness. Tannura was among Kingsmore’s cinematographers and in the interview with Brownlow Tannura mentioned how he accompanied Kingsmore while they visited the place where the Tsar and his family were executed. “We couldn’t find out whether they had actually been killed or not”, Tannura said. “We photographed all the rooms.”

Kingsmore said he boarded a Red Cross freight train in Vladivostok in November 1918. The trip across Siberia took about nine weeks. The accommodation on the train was of a most primitive nature. The American cameramen traveled in box cars that were originally built for cattle. Arriving in Yekaterinburg, the cameramen found the city controlled by Czech forces. These had taken Yekaterinburg shortly after the Tsar and his family were murdered. Kingsmore was told the Romanovs were subjected to many indignities by the Communist soldiers who guarded them. It should be noted here that at the moment when Kingsmore and Tannura arrived in Yekaterinburg an official investigation was still being carried out on the mysterious disappearance of the Imperial family. As far as the Kremlin was concerned, they had simply vanished into thin air and the Communists denied any allegation they had killed the Romanovs.

Photographic Evidence of the Romanov Execution

Kingsmore’s and Tannura’s pictures indicate this was a fabricated lie. One of their still photographs shows the cellar where the Romanovs were executed. Bullets were dug out of the wall by the Bolsheviks to destroy evidence of the crime, but the holes still remained and were clearly visible. Their pictures also demonstrate how the Tsar’s children had to sleep on the floor, as well as the search by the investigating committee for further proofs of the execution. Kingsmore also appears to have talked with eye witnesses. One told him the Romanovs were on their knees begging for mercy while they were executed in the basement of the house.

Part of the footage that was shot at Yekaterinburg has been retrieved and identified by the authors in the film collection of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. These scenes were probably taken by Tannura and show an exterior of the Czech military headquarters, the house the Romanovs lived in, as well as shots of the Czarina’s room and the room that was occupied by the Tsar’s daughters. We edited these historic scenes into a short clip that has been posted on our YouTube channel.

Click HERE to read the newspaper article In the House Where Romanoffs Were Out to Death, published in the Grand Forks Herald on 6 June 1919

© Ron van Dopperen. 3 December 2019

“What if” the Ipatiev House was reconstructed?

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A computer generated reconstruction of the Ipatiev House

On 26th November 2019, I published my article ‘Doomed to Resurrection: Is it Possible to Reconstruct the Ipatiev House?

The article pertains to an interview with the head of the Department of Archives of the Sverdlovsk Region Alexander Alexandrovich Kapustin who in July 2018, proposed that the Ipatiev House (demolished in September 1977) should be reconstructed in Ekaterinburg.

Given that the Church on the Blood now stands on the site of the former ‘House of Special Purpose,’ Kapustins’ idea left a lot of people questioning both “Why reconstruct it?” and “Where to reconstruct it?”

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The monument to Komsomol (Young Communists League) of the Urals dominates Komsomolskaya Square, the Church of the Ascension in the background

While I personally am NOT in favour of reconstructing the Ipatiev House, I do believe I can recommend the perfect location!

Situated at the top of Ascension Hill is Komsomolskaya Square. It is located between the Church of the Ascension and the Church on the Blood, which is situated on the opposite side of Karl Liebknecht Street.

During the Imperial Family’s captivity from April to July 1918, the windows on the upper floor of the ‘House of Special Purpose’ (the Ipatiev House) were painted white. Through a crack at the top of one window, it was possible for them to see the gilded spire of the Church of the Ascension.

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The Church on the Blood is situated on the other side of Karl Liebknecht Street,
facing Komsomolskaya Square and the Komsomol monument

Before the Revolution, it was named Voznesenskaya (Ascension) Square after its location on Ascension Hill. In 1919, the old name was replaced by a new, rather sinister name – People’s Revenge Square. The name reflected the squares’ proximity to that of the Ipatiev House, of which its eastern façade faced the square, and the site of the regicide of 17th July 1918. In 1959, the square was renamed again as Komsomolskaya Square.

Dominating the square is the enormous monument to Komsomol (Young Communists League) of the Urals built during the Soviet years. The monument stands defiantly, almost mockingly at the Church on the Blood situated on the opposite side of the street.

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Young Communists gather on Komsomolskaya Square

Each year, beneath the shadows of the Churches of the Ascension and the Spilled Blood, young Communists continue to hold rallies on the square.

It is my understanding that the reconstruction of the Ipatiev House as a multi-functional museum has the support of the Ekaterinburg Eparchy, so “IF” the project ever gets the green light, I cannot think of a better location.

As noted above, I do not support the idea of reconstructing the House of Special Purpose in Ekaterinburg. As one reader aptly noted on my Facebook page, “the Ipatiev House to me was rebuilt. It was rebuilt as a church. A place of reflection to bring light into the darkness that fell there.”

© Paul Gilbert. 29 November 2019

Doomed to Resurrection: Is it Possible to Reconstruct the Ipatiev House?

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The Ipatiev House, also known as the House of Special Purpose was built 130 years ago

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This interview with the head of the Department of Archives of the Sverdlovsk Region Alexander Kapustin, was originally published on 2 July 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

In July 2018, Russia will mark the 100th anniversary of the deaths and martyrdom of the last Russian Imperial family. On the possibility of restoring the Ipatiev House, where the Holy Royal Martyrs ended their earthly journey, AiF-Ural journalist Alexei Smirnov sat down with the head of the Department of Archives of the Sverdlovsk Region Alexander Alexandrovich Kapustin.

Alexei Smirnov: Alexander Alexandrovich, do you remember what the Ipatiev House looked like before it was demolished in 1977?

Alexander Kapustin: Yes, I remember it. From 1972 to 1977 I studied at the Ural State University and visited the Ipatiev House on a number of occasions. The first time I went alone, then I went returned several times with some of my fellow students. I remember walking up the steps to the entrance. We did not get into the “execution room”, it was boarded up. Some organization was working in the mansion at that time, the staff showed little interest in us. I did not feel any “aura” around the house, for me it was an old historic building, typical of Sverdlovsk at the time. Although, like any person interested in history, I knew perfectly well that the tsar and his family had been shot here. Of course, I did not know everything, I was only 17 years old at the time. I can not say that my visits found me shaking inside me. Do not forget that we studied at the Soviet school, so we were taught the official Soviet version of the events. We were taught that Nicholas Romanov was the not the best tsar, however, today the evidence held in our archives, proves that the Soviet version was wrong.

Alexei Smirnov: The decision to demolish the mansion was made in Moscow, was this a mistake?

Alexander Kapustin: It was a political mistake by the authorities. But Yuri Andropov, who headed the KGB at the time, was right in one thing: the Ipatiev House was steadily becoming a place of pilgrimage for those who wished to honour the memory of the imperial family.

Alexei Smirnov: Could Yeltsin disobey Andropov?

Alexander Kapustin: Yeltsin was a member of the party, the first secretary of the regional committee. He carried out the order, one which he simply could not disobey. And it was not just an order, it was the decision of the Central Committee. Another question, did Yeltsin realize the consequences of his actions? It is quite possible that he did not. Therefore we have no right to make any claims against him.

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Boris Yeltsin was ordered to demolish the Ipatiev House in September 1977

Alexei Smirnov: Is it possible to reconstruct the Ipatiev House according to surviving documents? And whether it is necessary to do this?

Alexander Kapustin: I think that there would be no technical problems with a reconstruction. We know what it looked externally, we can determine its dimensions, the height of the ceilings, etc. Preserved drawings, numerous photographs – inside and out, will greatly benefit such a project.

NOTE: In the archives of the Sverdlovsk region, more than two dozen documents concerning the Ipatiev House have survived, as well as an extensive photo-fund. Up until 1977, the building was photographed extensively. A lot of the pre-revolutionary images have also been preserved. The earliest document in the archive is a list of owners dating from 1916, including Nikolai Nikolaevich Ipatiev. In 1929, Uralstroikontrol made a detailed plan of the mansion, which is kept in the archives in a separate file.

As to your other question: if to restore, for what purpose? When the idea of ‌‌”reconstruction” of the house arose, it created a lot of excitement and discussion. The problem is that we look at those events through the eyes of people of the 21st century, and this is not always entirely correct. Try to look at them through the eyes of people of that time. It should not be forgotten that on 2nd March 1917, that the tsar abdicated from the throne. The Bolsheviks shot not the emperor, but “Citizen Romanov”! And how did Russian society react to this? The event passed almost unnoticed. And already on 3rd March 1917, the church swore an oath of allegiance to the provisional government! Yes, he was a royal martyr, he died a martyr. But at that time, atrocities were occurring throughout Russia. It is pointless to demand that everyone worship the tsar, just as it is pointless that everyone worship Lenin. Society is divided.

The point is also that the figure of Nicholas II overshadowed many other worthy people in the public eye, including members of the Romanov dynasty. Why, for example, are we not interested in the life and fate of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, whom I have great respect for? He was a man, independent in his decisions. He fell in love with a married woman and, due to the then conventionalities, was forced to leave Russia. They had a morganatic marriage. He was expelled from the country, but on the eve of World War I he returned, went to the Front, and commanded the Caucasian Division. Under his authority, Muslim volunteers showed great courage in defending Russia against her enemies. He proposed laws which were adopted after the February Revolution, abandoned the throne, was exiled to Perm, where in 1918 he died tragically.

Alexei Smirnov: If you restore the Ipatiev House, where would it be built?

Alexander Kapustin: Well, for example, near the Church on the Blood, where there is a lot of land, and certainly enough space. But what most people to not know, is that the foundation of the Ipatiev House is actually buried under the road. Therefore, we are not talking so much about reconstruction as that of a new construction.

Alexei Smirnov: Who could undertake the reconstruction of the Ipatiev House? Sponsors? The Russian Orthodox Church? The city? What would be exhibited?

Alexander Kapustin: I think that those wishing to reconstruct the building will eventually be found, and it does not matter who it is. Personally, I see it as an object of history, culture and architecture. We already have many places of worship for the Romanov family. For the majority of people, the Ipatiev House is associated only with the murder of the tsar and his family. But the mansion had a long history before this terrible tragedy. A new Ipatiev House would house an exhibition hall, a library with a reading room, a cultural and educational complex. In addition, another beautiful mansion to the landscape of Ekaterinburg would not hurt. The house, really, was very beautiful, I really liked it.

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The Church on the Blood and the Patriarchal Compound in Ekaterinburg

Alexei Smirnov: But you understand that if the house is restored, it will automatically become a place of pilgrimage?”

Alexander Kapustin: Looking at who and for what purpose it will be restored. And there is nothing wrong with the pilgrims. They do not harm the house. And the capital of the Urals will receive an additional tourist facility. As with other historic buildings in the city, each house has its own history, it’s own individuality. The Ipatiev House is no exception, it is unique in terms of architecture and is already an important part of our history.

Alexei Smirnov: Recently an unfinished TV tower was demolished in Yekaterinburg …

Alexander Kapustin: I would not make any parallels here. The tower was a monument of mismanagement and irresponsibility. At one time, the authorities did not have enough funds for its completion and security. Yes, some people were angered by its demolition, but if it had collapsed, the consequences could have been terrible. I think that the dismantling of the tower was justified and logical, this is my point of view. Governor Evgeny Kuyvashev repeatedly tried to offer something, contests were held, but no one was willing to undertake the completion of the structure.

Alexei Smirnov: If a person or company comes forward, is the state archive ready to provide documentation on the Ipatiev House?

Alexander Kapustin: Of course! We are ready to cooperate with any organization, political party, the Russian Orthodox Church. Come, make copies of the documents, work, build!

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Head of the Department of Archives of the Sverdlovsk Region Alexander Kapustin

Alexander Alexandrovich Kapustin. Born 13 May 1955 in Nizhny Tagil. He graduated from the Faculty of History of the Ural State University. Initially, he worked as a school teacher, and then taught at a university. He is a Candidate of Historical Sciences (1986), and Head of the Department of Archives of the Sverdlovsk Region, since 1990.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 November 2019