On May 25, 2012, the Exhibition Hall of the Federal Archives was the venue of the opening of the exhibit Death of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II: A Century-Long Investigation. Most of the artifacts in this exhibition are on public display for the first time.
“This exhibit has special meaning for us, and it is no coincidence that we are its co-organizers,” said His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Eastern America and New York, First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, at the opening event. “Today not only are we showing physical relics of the Royal Family, but we are also demonstrating a certain attitude towards these sad pages in Russian history. The brutal murder of the family of Emperor Nicholas II was always condemned by the clergy and flock of ROCOR, which is attested to by the glorification of the Royal Passion-bearers to the host of Holy New Martyrs long before this became possible in the Homeland.
“It is therefore unsurprising that the relics tied to the last days of the earthly life of the Royal Family were discovered by Sokolov, our investigator who studied the killings. They were given to the Church by Grand Duchess Ksenia Alexandrovna. These relics were distributed throughout the Russian diaspora. In 1982, most of them were gathered in a permanent exhibit at the Museum of Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY. But only now do we have the opportunity to present these carefully-preserved holy items and documents from collections in Russia. Over recent years, interest in the family of the last Russian Emperor has been increasing, so I am happy to have the opportunity to offer the most important items from our museum’s collection to be shown in the Russian capital.
“Recent decades have shown a growing interest in the final days of the Royal Family—excavations in their places of burial, expert studies and research. The investigation has continued for almost a whole century, for this wicked act demanded an exhaustive investigation. This exhibition presents not only the conclusions of Sokolov, but also the results of research done in recent decades. We are grateful to the Federal Archival Agency and the State Archives of the Russian Federation.
“The idea of holding such an exhibition in Moscow is a great joy, because the museum artifacts preserved by the Church Abroad can now be accessed by a large audience. This became possible thanks to Holy Trinity Seminary’s close ties with the SARF. This show is the first joint event between the two, and we hope it will not be the last. I want to thank you for all your work!”
Vladimir Petrovich Tarasov, Deputy Head of Rosarkhiv, remarked: “This exhibit is unusual, because it concentrates on a single investigation. Until recently we did not have a comprehensive understanding of what happened at that tragic moment in our nation’s history. This show fills in that blank to some degree. The documentation which is partly represented here took a long time to assemble. Some documents we had in Russian archives, some we were able to obtain with ROCOR’s help, some we obtained while attempting to procure the Lichtenstein documents (which the Lichtenstein government had once purchased at auction), which we did successfully thanks to Attorney General Sokolov.
“This show demonstrates, step-by-step, the final years of the Emperor and his family, it shows how the murder took place and how the investigation was handled. I am certain it will be very popular.”
Andrei Aleksandrovich Klishas, President of the Council of the Fund of Contemporary History, also spoke at the event. He thanked all the organizers and once again stressed that “this exhibit is unique, for it highlights not some specific historical figure, but a historic period, a single event. It is very important to fill in the gaps in our history.”
Lieutenant General of Justice Yuri Ivanovich Lekanov said: “Today we see how the leader of ROCOR traveled here to help the leaders of our government ponder the following: How is it that for several years now we cannot send for final internment Alexei and Maria Romanov next to their parents in Peter and Paul Fortress? Why such bureaucratic delay? If anyone doubts the benefit of such an action, why can’t we meet, talk and come to a decision? Fortunately, there are always stubborn people in society who see to it that things keep moving forward. I am very grateful to the Russian Archives for organizing this exhibit. There is hope that after this, something will finally start to move in this matter.”
Attorney General of the RF, Vladimir Nikolaevich Soloviev, who is studying the murder of the Royal Family, then said: “I did not think this would be accomplished. This show is the result of a great deal of work. The prayers of the Church helped us, and that is why we succeeded.”
Protopriest Vladimir Tsurikov, Dean of Holy Trinity Seminary, who also helped organize the exhibition, brought the opening ceremony to an end: “Most of the expositions we see here are usually held in storage, in the archives. But the ones brought here from ROCOR traveled a unique path. At first they were taken from the site of the martyrdom of the Royal Family to Europe through the Far East, from there they were given to representatives of ROCOR by Grand Duchess Ksenia Aleksandrovna. At first they were in distant California, and since the 1960’s, in Jordanville. When we opened our museum in 1982, these artifacts, found at the execution site, became part of the permanent exhibit, because they were considered holy relics. The opinion holds that these items, preserved abroad, were unavailable to researchers in the Fatherland, they were hidden away. But we coordinated with the archives and museums of Russia, and this exhibition, dedicated to the study of the death of the Royal Family, points to the service performed by the Russian emigration and ROCOR, who all saw the need to preserve these documents and items.”
It took a long time to prepare this exhibition, because many people participated. The Ministry of Culture of the RF played a role, as did the Federal Archival Agency, the State Archives of the Russian Federation, the Fund of Contemporary History and other organizations. The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia also took part, some of the exhibits having come from Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, NY.
The show is divided into several sections, each devoted to a specific historic event (including “The Abdication,” “The Arrest of the Royal Family,” “In Tsarskoye Selo Under House Arrest,” etc). Each has a historical outline. Some sections are devoted to contemporary investigation: the final one covers 2007-2011. A family chronicle of the Romanovs concludes the exhibition.
One can read the instructions on expected behavior in the presence of the Romanovs, which were given to those escorting the Royal Family to Tobolsk (for instance, they was strictly ordered to treat the Emperor and those with him as arrested persons, they were forbidden to have any contact with anyone not escorting them, etc). Kerensky himself drew up the instructions.
The exhibition also includes a list of items the Royal Passion-bearers brought with them to Tobollsk (their luggage even included two balalaikas). Visitors can learn what the arrested family ate (on November 14, 1917, for instance, they ate solyanka [thick, spicy and sour soup], rasstegai [small pies], syrniki [cheese blintzes], bitki [beef stew in sauce], etc).
Bullets found after the execution at the Ipatiev House are on display; the house has also been referred to as “DON,” or Dom osobogo naznacheniia—House of Special Purpose.
There is a scrap of wallpaper with a quote from Heine’s poem Belshazzar: “Belshazzar was, in this night, killed by his slaves.”
A cap and a shirt with spots of Nicholas II’s blood when an attempt was made on his life in Japan, the dentures of the court Doctor Botkin, a bayonet knife used to finish off the Empress one of the famous letters from “an officer of the Russian army,” who corresponded with the Tsar and reported on plans for the monarch to save himself, are all found at the exhibition.
An exhibition catalog in Russian has been published by Indrik.