How the first communist state eliminated its biggest threat.
Historically, the communist party has always relied on violence and terror to gain and maintain power. One example happened on July 16, 1918, with the merciless execution of Nicholas II, Russia’s last emperor, together with his entire family. Its brutality was a warning of what was to unfold in Russia. This was a key event of the 20th century, ending a 300-year imperial dynasty, and it led to the formation of the first communist state – the Soviet Union.
The Wide Angle on EpochTV starts its newest series, “This Day in History,” by going back 104 years to the final days of the Romanov imperial family. Host Brendan Fallon says the Communist Party’s cover-up of this execution is one of the “most destructive and ever resounding moments in history.”
The story starts with the forced takeover of the Ipatiev home in Ekaterinburg by the Bolsheviks. There the Imperial family will be held under house arrest for 70 days in harsh conditions. When the anti-Bolshevik “White” Russian forces advance on Ekaterinburg with a threat of imperial restoration, a brutal order was hastily given. Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra, and their 5 children were led into the basement, where they were unexpectedly surrounded by a dozen armed men, gunned down in cold blood, and finished off with bayonets.
The burial of the Romanov family was as ghastly as their execution. What followed was one of the biggest cover-ups in the Soviet Union, until its fall in 1991. Then, due to a significant change in the Russian political landscape, the remains of the Imperial family were discovered and exhumed, putting an end to decades of mystery.
The episode doesn’t give much detail about the brutal execution and the cover-up that followed. Nevertheless, it emphasizes the reconciliation efforts made after 1991, and sheds light on why the day of July 16, 1918, has great significance – it marks the death of Russia’s last emperor.