The last divine service for the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg

On this day – 14th July (O.S. 1st July) 1918 – the last divine service was held for the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg

In October 1918 – three months after the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family – Fr. John Storozhev, recalls this service in the Ipatiev House on 14th July (O.S. 1st July) :

“… Taking up our [Fr. John Storozhev and Deacon Vasily Buimirov] places, the deacon and I began the reader’s service [similar to a liturgy, but much shorter since it does not include the Eucharist]. At a certain moment in the service, it is required to read the prayer “With the Saints Give Rest”. For some reason, on this particular occasion, the deacon, instead of reading, sang the prayer, and I, too, began to sing, somewhat disconcerted by this departure from the customary practice. But we had scarcely begun when I heard the members of the Romanov family, standing behind us, fell to their knees, and here I suddenly felt the sublime spiritual comfort that comes from shared prayer.

“This experience was even stronger when, at the end of the service, I read a prayer to the Mother of God, which, in highly poetic and moving words, expressed the plea of the afflicted person to be supported in his sorrows and receive the strength to bear his cross worthily.

“In addition, the deacon recited the Ectenia [often called by the better known English word litany], and I sang. Two of the grand duchesses sang along with me, and sometimes Nicholas Aleksandrovich sang in a low bass (for instance, he sang the “Our Father” and some other things). The service was uplifting and good, and the family prayed fervently.

“The Tsar was clad in a khaki tunic and trousers with tall boots. On his chest he wore a St. George’s Cross. He had no shoulder boards [epaulettes]. He impressed me with his firm gait, his calmness. and especially his manner of looking steadfastly and firmly into one’s eyes. I didn’t notice any fatigue or traces of low spirits in him. It seemed to me that he had barely visible gray hair in his beard. His beard had been longer and wider when I saw him the first time. It seemed to me now to be trimmed.

“After the service, everyone approached the cross and the deacon handed prosphora [a small loaf of leavened bread used in Orthodox liturgies] to Nicholas Alexandrovich and Alexandra Feodorovna. Upon departing, I walked very close to the former grand duchesses, and heard a whispered “Thank you”. I don’t think it was just my imagination

“The deacon and I were silent until we reached the Art School building, and here, suddenly, he said to me: “You know, father, something’s changed there. Something’s happened”. His words struck a chord with me, and I stopped and asked why he he had gotten that impression. “Well, they were all different somehow. And also nobody sang.” And I have to say that, truly, this service of 14/1 July was the only one at which none of the Romanov’s sang with us (and the deacon had been present at all five services at the Ipatiev House).”

Source: The Last Sacred Service Observed by the Imperial Family in Yekaterinburg. The Testimony of Archpriest Ioann Vladimirovich Storozhev. First English translation published in Sovereign No. 6 (2018) , pg. 129-140

© Paul Gilbert. 14 July 2021

Excavations at the site of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg in the early 2000s

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


Dear Reader: It is always a pleasure for me to present new articles based on my own research from Russian archival sources, offering first English translations of new works from Russian media sources on my Nicholas II blog and Facebook pages. Many of these articles and topics seldom (if ever) attract the attention of the Western media. Please note that I personally translate the articles, and complement them further with additional materials, photographs, videos and links.

If you found this article interesting, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

How Yeltsin justified the demolition of the Ipatiev House


The Ipatiev House before 1917

On 22-23 September 1977, the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg where the Russian Imperial Family were held under house arrest for 78 days before being murdered, was razed to the ground. The decision of the Soviet authorities was perceived rather ambiguously, but what was the reason behind the destruction of this historic building, and could it have been saved?


The Ipatiev House in 1918

A house with a tragic fate

The two-storey stone Ipatiev House was built in the 1880s by state adviser I.I. Redikortsev, on the western slope of the Ascension Hill – a notable hill in Ekaterinburg. It was located at No. 49/9 on the corner of Voznesensky Prospekt and Voznesensky Lane (renamed Karl Libnecht and Klara Zetkin respectively, after 1917). The eastern facade (facing Voznesensky Prospekt) was one-story, and the western (facing the garden) had two floors.

Redikortsev did not remain the owner of the house for long, he was accused of corruption, and in order to improve his shaky financial condition in 1898 he sold the house to the gold miner I. G. Sharaviev.

In 1908, the Ipatiev House was purchased by military civil engineer Nikolai Nikolaevich Ipatiev, who paid 6,000 rubles to the former owner. The Ipatiev family lived in the upper floor, while the the lower floor was used as Ipatiev’s office. The house had running water and sewer, electricity and telephone. The interiors were richly decorated with cast iron, stucco mouldings, and artistically painted ceilings.

On 27th April 1918, the Bolsheviks ordered Ipatiev to vacate the mansion within two days, for the maintenance of the Imperial family, who were to be transferred from Tobolsk. Due to the fact that Ipatiev was away, his personal belongings were locked in a basement pantry next to the room in which the Imperial family were later shot. Subsequently, the basement was sealed in the presence of the owner. It is believed that the choice of the house was due to the fact that Ipatiev was well acquainted with the members of the Ural Council and, in particular, Yakov Yurovsky who served as a prominent representative of the cadet party, and who, after the February Revolution, was appointed a member of the local public security committee.

Machine guns were installed in the attics of neighbouring buildings, the house itself was surrounded by a high wooden double fence, the height of which was higher than the windows of the second floor of the Ipatiev House, with a single wicket gate, which was  constantly guarded, two security posts were located inside, eight outside, thus completely prepared for the arrival of “Citizen Romanov” Nicholas II, his wife and their daughter Maria.

Immediately after the murder of the Romanovs, which occurred on the night of 16/17 July 1918, the house was returned to Ipatiev. Five days later, White Army units entered the city. Nikolai decided to emigrate, and sold the mansion to representatives of the White Army, and for a short time the mansion served as the headquarters of the Siberian Army, and representatives of the Russian government.  Their stay in the Ural capital was cut short, after the city was recaptured by the Bolsheviks.

From 1922, the Ipatiev House housed a dormitory for university students and apartments for Soviet employees. For some time there was even a kindergarten, and in the basement, where the Imperial family were murdered, a children’s shower was installed.

In 1927, it was decided to open the Museum of the Revolution in the building. The Museum of the Revolution was open daily except Monday and Thursday from 12 noon to 6 pm, the cost of tickets was 5 kopecks for tourists, 10 kopecks. for union members and 25 kopecks for every one else. The tour of the museum included a visit to the basement and the room where the Imperial Family were shot. To complete the exhibit, a decision was made to restore the bullet riddled wall in the murder room, since the retreating White Guards had  disassembled the genuine one and took it with them. [N.B. if there is any truth to this, the fate of the original wall from the “killing room” remains yet another mystery – PG] 

In 1938, the former mansion housed expositions of the Anti-Religious and Cultural-Educational Museum, as well as offices of various departments. If turning the Ipatiev House into an “Anti-Religious” Museum was not enough, in 1923, the Bolsheviks imposed one further indignity on the murdered tsar and his family, by issuing postcards of the house surrounded by the wooden fence, bearing the insulting and disrespectful caption “the last palace of the last tsar”.

From the beginning of the 1970s, a branch of the Chelyabinsk Institute of Culture was moved here: in the basement, students even staged performances, as evidenced by preserved photographs.


Andropov’s “secret note No. 2004-A” on the Ipatiev House

The KGB and Politburo take action

The day of 26th July 1975 was a turning point in the fate of the Ipatiev House. On this day, a secret note No. 2004-A was issued.

“On the demolition of the Ipatiev mansion in the city of Sverdlovsk” was sent from the KGB to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The text of the document read:

“Anti-Soviet circles in the West periodically inspire various kinds of propaganda campaigns around the Romanov royal family, whereby the former mansion of the merchant Ipatiev in Sverdlovsk is often mentioned. Ipatiev’s house continues to stand in the center of the city. It houses the training center of the regional Department of Culture.

“The mansion is of no architectural or historic importance; only a small number of the townspeople and tourists are interested in it. Recently, foreigners began to visit Sverdlovsk. In the future, the number of foreigners is expected to increase significantly, and Ipatiev’s house will no doubt become an object of their curiosity and interest. In this regard, it seems appropriate to entrust the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU to resolve the issue of demolishing the mansion in the order of the planned reconstruction of the city. The draft resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU is attached. Please consider.”

The document was signed by the chairman of the State Security Committee, *Yuri Andropov (1914-1984). * Andropov later served as third General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, from November 1982 until his death in February 1984.

In the 1990s, Vladimir Solovyov, an investigator from the Prosecutor General’s Office, who investigated the murder of the tsar’s family, stated that the KGB had received information about how, every year, on the anniversary of the death of the Imperial Family, people came to the Ipatiev House, to light candles and offer prayers. The authorities referred to these annual visits “of painful interest” while declaring them as “anti-Soviet activity.” The Party bosses could not allow these pilgrimages to continue.

On 30th July 1975, Andropov’s proposal was unanimously adopted by the Politburo. Upon learning of the impending demolition of the Ipatiev House, the director of the museum, gave the order to save everything that could be carried away.


Boris Yeltsin. First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU 1977

“It was impossible to resist”

The elimination of the Ipatiev House was entrusted to local authorities. The order was executed by Boris Yeltsin, First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU . “It was impossible to resist, not to fulfill the Politburo Resolution,” Yeltsin would later note in his memoirs. “They assembled the equipment and demolished it in one night. If I had refused, I would have been left without work, and the new secretary of the regional committee would have complied with the order anyway,” he concluded.

The unofficial reason behind the demolition of the Ipatiev House was the need for reconstruction of the entire block – therefore, according to the “reconstruction” plans, all houses located in the entire block were to be demolished. The fact that the houses and merchant buildings located in the quarter were of architectural and historical value of late 19th-early 20th century Ekaterinburg, was of no interest to the authorities.

Experts noted that having destroyed the entire block, the authorities made it difficult to find the exact place where the Ipatiev House was located.

After the construction of the Church on the Blood, some people claimed that the Imperial Room – built on the site of the basement room of the Ipatiev House, where the family were all murdered – located in the Lower Church of the Church on the Blood is inaccurate. Each year on the anniversary of the regicide, a small group of people gather and create a square on one of the marble stones on the territory of the Church on the Blood. Here, they lay flowers, light candles and offer up prayers. It is ironic that given that the experts could not determine the exact spot, that a group of amateurs could?! 

Prior to the demolition of the Ipatiev House, local historians removed many valuable interior elements, including a fireplace, door handles, tiles, stucco molding from walls, iron bars from windows, etc. These items can be seen today in local museums in Ekaterinburg and Ganina Yama. It is interesting to note, when opening the floor in the grand duchesses bedroom, a golden bracelet with precious stones and the monogram ‘T’ was found hidden under the baseboard and wrapped in a newspaper. The whereabouts of this bracelet is unknown to the author.


A simple wooden cross marked the spot of the Ipatiev House after its demolition

Could the Ipatiev House have been saved?

As previously noted in his memoirs, Yeltsin claimed that the house was destroyed in one night, but in reality it took two days to raze the building to the ground. Perhaps he just forgot. Here’s what else is remarkable. The destruction of the mansion began on 22nd September 1977, that is, more than two years after the decision of the Politburo. 

The thing is that in 1975 the First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Party Committee was Yakov Petrovich Ryabov – Yeltsin replaced him in this post only on 2nd November  1976. Journalists later asked Ryabov why he was in no hurry to comply with the highest order? “And why should I be in a hurry? The house stood in a lowland, it was not bothering anyone,” the former head of Sverdlovsk replied. According to Ryabov, he told his subordinates that when the reconstruction plan for the entire micro-district was ready, then a demolition decision would be made. Rumor had it that Ryabov wanted to keep the house and that even Brezhnev had taken an interest in it. In any case, it is known that the demolition of the house was opposed by representatives of the All-Union Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture, and Ryabov helped them in every way. Many communists who were not members of the Politburo did not agree with the destruction of the historical building.

Perhaps such a confrontation contributed to the postponement of the demolition? It is also possible that those in Moscow would eventually have forgotten about their decision, however, the new secretary of the Sverdlovsk regional committee, Yeltsin, took the initiative and brought it to an end. Most historians agree that Boris Yeltsin was keen to improving his political position by transferring to Moscow and took advantage of an opportunity given to him.

* * *

In August 2000, Nicholas II and his family were canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate as Royal Martyrs. In 2000-2003, the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land was built on the site of the former Ipatiev House. On the night of 16/17 July 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill delivered a Divine Liturgy here. This was followed by a cross procession by an estimated 100,000 people from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama (21 km).

On 16 June 2003, 85 years after the murders of the former imperial family, the main church was consecrated by Metropolitan bishop Yuvenaly, delegated by Patriarch Alexy II who was too ill at the time to travel to Ekaterinburg, assisted by Russian Orthodox clergy from all over the Russian Federation.

Click HERE to read my article Doomed to Resurrection: Is it Possible to Reconstruct the Ipatiev House?, published on 2nd July 2018 and my article “What if” the Ipatiev House was reconstructed?, published on 29th November 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 25 February 2020


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


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.


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.


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

“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.


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


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.


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 Put 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?


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?”


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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!


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