Today, marks the 40th anniversary of the demolition of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg. An unremarkable house (typical of pre-revolutionary Ekaterinburg), in 1918 became a tragic symbol of 20th century Russian history.
The event was marked on 19th September, with the opening of the exhibition Ipatiev House: From Destruction to Repentance, which opened at the Tsar Spiritual and Enlightenment Center in Ekaterinburg.
Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Kirill led the opening ceremony, noting that the “destruction of the Ipatiev House became a symbol of the destruction of all Russian history.”
The exhibition presents more than 120 exhibits - including items retrieved from the Ipatiev House before its destruction, archival materials, and photographs dating from the early 20th century to 1977. The exhibition is a joint project of the Tsar Spiritual and Enlightenment Center, the State Archives of the Sverdlovsk Region, the Documentation Center for Social Organizations of the Sverdlovsk Region, the MomArt Foundation, and the private collection of Vitaly Shitov.
In 1974 the Ipatiev House was formally listed as a Historical-Revolutionary Monument. But, to the embarrassment of the government, it was steadily becoming a place of pilgrimage for those who wished to honour the memory of the imperial family. Orthodox Christians and monarchists would come - in growing numbers each year - on the night of 16/17 July to light candles and say prayers. Agents of the State Security Commission reported to authorites their sympathies as "painful interest" and qualified as "anti-Soviet demonstrations".
The proposal to demolish the house was made in 1975 by KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov. A secret resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU of 4 August, ordered the demolition of the Ipatiev House, due to the fact that it was "attracting the attention of the foreign press". Andropov's proposal was adopted unanimously. The decision of the Politburo "On the demolition of the Ipatiev House in Sverdlovsk" was signed by Second Secretary Mikhail Suslov , since Brezhnev was on vacation in the Crimea.
It was not until two years later, however, that the Politburo in Moscow ordered its destruction. The task was passed to Boris Yeltsin, the first secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU. Demolition of building began on 22 September, 1977, and took two days to complete. Yeltsin later wrote in his memoirs, published in 1990, that "sooner or later we will be ashamed of this piece of barbarism."
The exhibition Ipatiev House: From Destruction to Repentance, runs until 19th November, 2017 in the Tsar Spiritual and Enlightenment Center, situated in the Patriarchal Compound of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg.
The photos below show some of the 120 items on display at the exhibit, many of them retrieved
One of the honoured guests at the opening ceremony was Vitaly Vasilievich Shitov, author of the pictorial history The Ipatiev House: Chronicle in Documents and Photographs 1877-1977. This Russian language title is the most comprehensive study on the history of the Ipatiev House, featuring 720 pages, with 1032 photographs and documents. Published in 2013, only 500 copies were published.
Shitov is a well-known Urals historian, photojournalist, and graduate of the Faculty of Journalism of the Ulyanovsk State University.
Vitaly Shitov was the only journalist and photographer who managed to capture the historic demolition of the Ipatiev House, using a hidden camera. His exclusive photo report about the demolition of the Ipatiev House was published only in 1990 during perestroika. It was a sensation! After the "discovery" of the archives, Shitov began a study in detail about the tragedy, one that would span many years.
The Head of the Department of Archives of the Sverdlovsk Region Alexander Kapustin, has proposed a reconstruction of the Ipatiev House as a monument to the fate of Russia's last emperor Nicholas II and his family.
Kaputsin made the announcement on September 19th, during the opening of the exhibition Ipatiev House: From Destruction to Repentance, in the Tsar Spiritual and Enlightenment Center in Ekaterinburg.
Kaputsin noted that all the original drawings and photographs of the destroyed facade and interiors of the house have been preserved in the archives.
He also noted that during the demolition of the building in September 1977, measurements of the building and its rooms were taken, and preserved in the archives. A reconstruction would be an exact copy of the original. The new Ipatiev House would house a museum dedicated to the final days of the Imperial family during their house arrest, and the events leading up to their murders on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The museum would also offer temporary exhibits dedicated to the events of Russia’s national history.
Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Kirill noted that the “destruction of the Ipatiev House became a symbol of the destruction of all Russian history.”
From a historical perspective, it is an interesting proposal. Where exactly would the new Ipatiev House be located is still unknown. The Diocese promised to clarify this at a later date.
The Ekaterinburg news agency 66.RU polled its readers with the following question:
"Is it necessary to reconstruct the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg again?"
88% - NO / 12% -YES
September 22nd marks the 40th anniversary of the demolition of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg.
The proposal to demolish the house was made by KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov in August 1975, however it was not until two years later that the Politburo in Moscow ordered its destruction. They passed the dirty deed to Boris Yeltsin, who served as chairman of the local party. The destruction of the building took two days.
On Tuesday, August 29th, Orthodox Christians gathered in Ekaterinburg for the consecration of the Church of the Port Arthur Icon of the Mother of God. The consecration ceremony was performed by Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye.
The church, which is situated at the crossroads of Shevchenko and Vostochnaya streets, is built on the site where Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna were transferred from Tobolsk, and handed over to the Ural Soviet on 30th April 1918. They were accompanied by the Tsar’s aide Prince Vasily Dolgorukov, the family’s physician Dr. Eugene Botkin, and three servants. The rest of the family: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and Tsesarevich Alexei were brought to Ekaterinburg in May 1918.
The foundation stone of the church was laid in 2010 during a visit to Ekaterinburg by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. The draft of the building was not approved until two years later, and it would be another two years before construction would begin. The work was hampered by the lack of funding: the church was built on donations. Construction was further hampered by protests from the residents of the neighbouring five-story. They were opposed to the trees being cut down to make way for the new church, and also by the fact that the building would block sunlight of the residents in neighbouring houses.
On 29th August 2015, the first Divine Liturgy was held, despite the fact that there was still no altar, no icons on the walls, or even electricity. Divine Liturgies continued to be performed every Saturday, Sunday and on public holidays.
The façade of the church has been completed, a new iconostasis has been erected, and the landscaping around the building has also been completed.
Click here to watch a video of the consecration of the Church of the Port Arthur Icon of the Mother of God.
In April 1918, an angry mob forced the Imperial train to a side track in Ekaterinburg.
It was here that they were transported to the Ipatiev House.
* * *
On a personal note, the church was still under construction during my visit to Ekaterinburg in June 2016, being that the interiors had not been finished.
While the city is proud of its Soviet history, Ekaterinburg is still coming to terms with the regicide which took place here on the night of 16/17 July 1918. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the last Russian Imperial family have been memorialized in the construction of the Church on the Blood, they have been the topic of exhibitions and conferences in the city, and remembered each year during Tsar’s Days, whereby tens of thousands of Orthodox Christians, monarchists and other visitors take part in a pilgrimage from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama.
It is a city in the process of transformation. Once a bastion of Bolshevism, it is saying goodbye to its status of the “capital of atheism" into the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals - PG
Transfer of Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna, and their daughter Maria to the Ural Soviet, April 1918.
A new 3-dimensional computer mock-up on a 50-inch screen of the Ipatiev House has been developed by the staff of the Sverdlovsk regional local history museum in Ekaterinburg. Emperor Nicholas II and his family lived out their final 78 days in the Ipatiev House, as captives of the Bolsheviks after the revolutions of 1917.
The house has been carefully brought back to life in minute detail based on historic photographs, taken before the building was destroyed. The new technology allows users to see where the Imperial family lived as well as the room in which they were murdered.
It was in the cellar of the Ipatiev House where Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, their five children, and four faithful retainers were murdered on the night of 16/17 July 1918.
The video is the only way people can get a glimpse of one of the darkest pages in 20th century Russian history due to the house being razed in 1977. It was bulldozed on the orders of Boris Yeltsin - the then local Communist Party head who would later become the first president of the Russian Federation after the fall of the Soviet Union. There were growing concerns by Communist officials in Moscow that the house was steadily becoming a place of pilgrimage for those who wished to honour the memory of the Imperial family.
The Ipatiev House stood on the corner of the former Voznesensky Prospect and Voznesensky Pereulok, Today the Chuch-on-the-Blood stands on the spot.
Nikolai Neuymin, head of the Romanov history department of the Sverdlovsk regional local history museum, told the Siberian Times: “A particular feature of the project is that we've used real photos from the investigation of [Nikolai] Sokolov that are kept at Russia's State Archive".
"The employees of our museum developed the 3D reconstruction of the house of engineer Ipatiev," said Neuymin.
"We recreated the interiors of the rooms, and you can walk through all of them including the gloomy room where the tsar and his family were shot dead."
Specialists painstakingly recreated both the exterior and interior of the Ipatiev House as it looked in 1918. With advanced 3D and interactive technologies, users today can not only see the decoration of historically significant objects, but can immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the time.
In addition, the technology allows users to implement a host of other functions as desired. For example, when you press a button, you can show the area before and after construction; change the materials and shape of the facades, view hidden interiors of the building, and more.
On the night of 16/17 July, 1918 the Tsar and his family were awoken by their family physican Dr Botkin on the orders of Soviet guards.
They were lied to and told that they had to be evacuated from the city because the White forces – which at the time were fighting with the Bolsheviks – who were advancing on the city.
The Romanovs, their doctor and three other servants were led down a flight of stairs, into the courtyard of the Ipatiev House and through a ground-floor entrance to the small semi-basement room at the rear of the building.
Tsar Nicholas II and his wife were provided with chairs while the rest of the family stood behind and to one side of them, with the exception of tsesarevich and heir Alexei - who suffered from haemophilia – who sat on his father’s lap.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims walked more than 20 kilometres in an overnight procession in the Urals to honour the memory of the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family who were murdered on the night of 16/17 July, 1918.
The church-led procession (which takes 4-5 hours), began at the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land in Ekaterinburg and ended at the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama in the Sverdlovsk Region, the location where the bodies of the seven Romanovs and their four servants were originally deposited. The procession was part of an international festival of the Orthodox culture "Tsar Days," Bishop Yevgeny of the Yekaterinburg eparchy told reporters.
Some of the participants wore old-style clothing that resembled the uniforms Nicholas II wore during his time in exile. Delegations from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, New Zealand took part in the procession, as well as MP of the lower house, the State Duma, and former prosecutor of Crimea Natalya Poklonskaya, great-grandson of the Imperial cook Ivan Kharitonov Pyotr Multatuli, and Mrs Olga Kulikovskaya (widow of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna's son Tikhon Kulikovsky).
A large and growing group of Orthodox believers whose ranks reportedly include Poklonskaya, Nicholas II sacrificed himself to redeem Russians' sins, in an analogy of the self-sacrifice made by Jesus Christ. "This is a duty and great honour for me to be here tonight. Each year the number of people (participants of the procession) grows by some tens of thousands. This is a river of people, this is love that cannot be portrayed by actors, and impossible to falsify…this is love that lives in the souls and hearts for our saint monarch, for our motherland," Poklonskaya explained.
Officials estimate that more than 100,000 people from across Russia, and other countries are expected to attend the events marking the 100th anniversary of the tragic deaths of Nicholas II and his family in July 2018.
Click here to view more photographs, and watch a video of the ceremonies and procession held on 16/17 July 2017, in Ekaterinburg.
Click here to read more articles about the Holy Royal Martyrs.
On June 6th, a special joint working group met in Ekaterinburg to discuss initiatives for the upcoming Royal (Tsar's) Days, marking the 100th anniversary of the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II, his family and their retainers, to be held in Ekaterinburg next year.
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia at Ganina Yama in 2013
Russian Primate to Attend
Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill will visit the Sverdlovsk Region from 14-18 July 2018, to take part in the events. In honour of His Holiness’s historic visit, the Archdiocese of Ekaterinburg has made a proposal to change the name of Karl Liebknecht Street back to it’s pre-revolutionary name Ascension Street. It was on this street where the Ipatiev House once stood, and now the Church on the Blood.
"We are honoured that His Holiness Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill favourably responded to our invitation and expressed his desire to visit Ekaterinburg in July 2018. The Sverlovsk Oblast authorities in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Ekaterinburg are actively preparing for this historic date." - said Sverdlovsk governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev.
More than 100,000 visitors and pilgrims are expected to attend the events marking the centenary in Ekaterinburg next year
Organizers are anticipating that more than 100 thousand visitors and pilgrims will take part in the "Royal Days" events in July 2018, travelling from across Russia, and foreign nations.
According to Kuyvashev, the joint working group, have developed a series of special events, including cultural, educational and museum programs, new pilgrimage routes, traditional bell ringing ceremonies, and two special exhibitions at Ganina Yama are planned. Also, to mark the centenary will be held a scientific conference attended by scientists, historians and theologians, as well as the XIII International Exhibition-Forum From Repentance to the Resurrection of Russia.
The working group have also announced that additional initiatives marking the 100th anniversary of the memory of the royal family are planned, including the installation of a memorial sign, the minting of a commemorative medal or coin, postcards and other souvenirs.
In addition, the repair and landscaping of roads on the pilgrimage route, leading from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama (13 miles from Ekaterinburg), as well as improvement on the highway from Ekaterinburg to Alapaevsk, at a total cost of 36 million rubles.
Members of the Russian Imperial family murdered at Alapaevsk on 18 July 1918
Transfer of Romanov Remains
"The head of the regional government together with the ROC are currently studying the issue of the recovery, return to Russia and reburial in Ekaterinburg, of the remains of the members of the Russian Imperial family murdered on 18 July, 1918 in Alapaevsk. These include the remains of sainted Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, as well as other family members, whom are believed to be buried in the former Russian cemetery in Beijing, but yet, unaccounted for" - noted Kuyvashev.
Minister of Culture of the Sverdlovsk region Pavel Vladimirovich Krekov has been entrusted with the task of working with Chinese government officials in locating the remains of Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, three sons of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (Princes of the Imperial Blood Ioann, Konstantin and Igor), and the son of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich, Prince Vladimir Paley, for transfer and burial in Ekaterinburg.
The Holy Royal Martyr Family
The investigation into the death of Nicholas II and his family has now been complete, the Moscow Patriarchate is expected to make an announcement in the coming weeks, an announcement which many hope will bring closure to the ROC’s official position on the remains.
Patriarch Kirill held a closed meeting on 14th June, with officials of the Church Commission "to study the results of the study remains found near Ekaterinburg". The meeting, which lasted about five hours, was also attended by representatives of the Investigative Committee and a number of experts who participated in the research in the framework of the criminal case on the Imperial family's death.
Secretary of the Russian Investigative Committee Bishop Tikhon Egoryevsky, held a press conference the same day. He revealed few details on the results of the investigation, but did note that the examination “revealed many new details” about the Ekaterinburg remains.
The general consensus is that the Moscow Patriarchate will in fact recognize the Ekaterinburg remains - including those of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria - as authentic. A couple of recent moves by the Moscow Patriarchate lead to the speculation that the ROC are making major preparations following the verification and glorification of the Ekaterinburg remains:
- Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill will not only attend, but deliver the Divine Liturgy on the night of 16/17 July at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, and later lead the pilgrimage to Ganina Yama
- The Russian Orthodox Church has laid claim to some 3.7 hectares of land at Porosyonkov Log, where the remains of Nicholas II and his family were transferred from the Five Brothers Mine, and discovered in 1979 by Alexander Avdonin. It is believed that the ROC have plans to build a cathedral or another monastery in honour of the Holy Royal Martyrs, similar to that at Ganina Yama
Click here to read my article The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains
Plans for the construction of St. Catherine's Cathedral - also known as the Church on the Water - in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg, have been met with both praise and opposition. The cathedral, large enough to accomodate 2,000 people, would be constructed on an artificial island in the waters of the city pond (formed by the Iset River), and connected to the embankment by two bridges.
Some opponents believe that the proposed cathedral would ruin the natural ambiance of the area, while proponents believe it would be a symbol of repentance and a tourist attraction.
St Catherine's Cathedral will be constructed in the Russian Revival style, reflecting the style that arose in second quarter of the 19th century and was an eclectic melding of pre-Peterine Russian architecture and elements of Byzantine architecture. Some of the finest examples of the Russian Revival style include the Church of the Saviour on Blood (St Petersburg), SS Peter and Paul Cathedral (Peterhof), the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour (Borki - blown up by the Soviets in the late 1940s), among many others.
According to the project's architect Mikhail Goloborodskogo, if the project is approved, construction would commence in 1.5-2 years, to be completed by 2023, the year marking the 300th anniversary of Ekaterinburg.
The proposed St. Catherine's Cathedral (left) would mirror the Church on the Blood (right)
On a personal note, I think that the concept is both beautiful and fitting for Ekaterinburg, the setting on the waterfront ideal. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ekaterinburg has made tremendous efforts in coming to terms with the regicide which took place here on the night of 16/17 July 1918, and the persecution of the ROC by the Bolsheviks and later the Soviets. During the 20th century, the city was a bastion of Bolshevism, and the "capital of atheism". The construction of this cathedral could indeed by a symbol of repentance in a city, which many now consider the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals. The final decision, however, rests with the citizens of Ekaterinburg, whom I respect and admire immensely.
Ekaterinburg Preparing for Centenary Marking Imperial Family Deaths Topic: Ekaterinburg
The Church on the Blood (left) and the Patriarchal Compound (right) which houses the Museum of the Holy Royal Family
Ekaterinburg remains my favourite Russian city. I have visited Ekaterinburg on two occasions - in June of 2012, and most recently in June of 2016. I am already making plans to return next year for the events marking the 100th anniversary of the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
*Please note that I will not be offering a tour to Ekaterinburg in 2018. My last organized group tour to Russia was in 2006, and I have no plans to resume these tours in the future. For the past decade, my annual visits to Russia are independent work visits, in which I conduct research for my web site and publications.
The centenary marking the deaths of Nicholas II and his family will take place on the evening of 16/17th July, 2018. Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill will participate in the commemorative events marking the anniversary. The divine liturgy will be culminated by a pilgrimage from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. A special committee has been established to organize the centenary Royal Days events, which is expected to attract more than 100,000 people from across Russia and abroad - myself included!
Ekaterinburg is still trying to come to terms with the regicide which took place here on the night of 16/17 July 1918. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Nicholas II and his family have been memorialized in the construction of the Church on the Blood, and the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama.
Once a bastion of Bolshevism, Ekaterinburg is saying good-bye to its status as the "capital of atheism," and transforming into the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals.
Upon returning from Ekaterinburg, I wrote a summary of each visit in the No. 2 and No. 10 issues of Royal Russia. These articles offer my impressions of the many sites associated with the last days of Nicholas II and his family, including many little known museums and exhibits. Each article is richly illustrated with my own photographs. Some of the photographs from my June 2016 visit can be seen here.
One of the new publishing projects which I am currently working on is My Russia. Ekaterinburg. This title will provide information on the sites associated with the months that Nicholas II and his family were held under house arrest in the Ipatiev House, including churches and museums, accomodations, dining, maps and much more. This title will be based on my visits to the city, and supplemented with my own photographs. This title will be available in early 2018.
Police have charged a male video blogger who filmed himself playing 'Pokemon Go' inside the Church of All Saints in Ekaterinburg. More commonly known as the Church on the Blood, it was built on the site of the Ipatiev House, where the Russian Imperial family were murdered in 1918. This blatant act of disrespect is a very sad reflection on our society today.
Police have charged Ruslan Sokolovsky, the video blogger who filmed himself playing Pokemon Go inside a Ekaterinburg church, with committing extremism and offending religious sensitivities. Sokolovsky has been detained and awaits trial on September 3 to determine if he will be arrested, his lawyer says. If convicted, Sokolovsky could face several years in prison.
On August 11, Sokolovsky published a video on his YouTube channel showing him entering the Church of All Saints in Ekaterinburg and playing Pokemon Go on his iPhone throughout the cathedral. In a short speech at the beginning of the video, Sokolovsky says he rejects warnings reported in the media that playing Pokemon Go in churches could result in a prison sentence.
“This is complete nonsense,” Sokolovsky said, standing outside the Church of All Saints. “Who could get offended if you’re just walking around with your smart phone in a church?”
In mid-August, Valery Gorelykh, the regional police spokesperson, told local reporters that he personally wanted to see Sokolovsky sent to prison for “at least five years,” arguing that an example should be made, to discourage more Pokemon Go players from committing such blasphemy.
In early 2016, Sokolovsky launched a self-titled atheist magazine, writing, “We have been inspired by Charlie Hebdo and have decided that there are also too few such publications in Russia that take an absolutely amoral approach to ridiculing the contemporary national reality. Using the written word to take on the censorship piling on from all sides and what’s practically a police state now isn’t a new idea, but it’s just as relevant today as ever.”
Click on the link below to watch Sokolovsky’s video (in Russian):
On 30 May, 2016 the head of the Ekaterinburg city administration Alexander Yakov signed a decree to rename a portion of Ulitsa Tolmacheva (Tolmacheva Street) to Ulitsa Tsarskaya (Tsar’s Street). From 1830, it was known as Ulitsa Kolobovsky, until 1919, when it was named after the Bolshevik Nikolay Gurevich Tolmachev (1895-1919).
The section of Ulitsa Tsarskaya extends from Ulitsa Pervomayskaya to Ultisa Nikolaya Nikonova, and includes six non-residential buildings which include the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land and Patriarch’s Compound.
The proposal to rename the street was first made public in the autumn of 2015 at a meeting of the city’s special commission. A number of names were proposed, including: Romanov, Ipatievskaya, Tsarskaya and Nikolaevskaya.
The meeting was also attended by Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye who voiced the opinions and wishes of the diocese regarding the issue. In the end, the commission voted unanimously on Ulitsa Tsarskaya as the new name.
The renaming of this section of the street will be a tribute to the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were all murdered in the early morning hours of 17th July 1918, in the Ipatiev House. The Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land now stands on the site of the former engineers’ house which was demolished in 1977.