Alexander Palace Forum

Discussions about the Imperial Family and European Royalty => The Final Chapter => Topic started by: JStorey on May 07, 2009, 02:58:18 PM

Title: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 07, 2009, 02:58:18 PM
A central tenet of King and Wilson's "Fate of the Romanovs" concerns a theory that the Ural Regional Soviet acted alone (chapter "Murderous Intentions" pp. 282-295) .  At the time of the book's publication, this idea contradicted the well-established notion among historians that the execution of the family "was all decided in Moscow" - a notion King and Wilson argued to be a "simplistic reading of history".

Rappaport's recent book, "Last Days of the Romanovs", makes a very compelling case connecting the murders directly to Lenin, thus returning us full circle. 
Her analysis of the Goloshchekin-Sverdlov-Lenin connection adds a great deal of clarity to the relationship between Moscow and Ekaterinburg.  Suffice it to say she convinced me - her arguments punctuated, in my mind, by the fact that Goloshchekin was "...rewarded for his loyalty to the centre in the liquidation of the Romanovs with a seat on the Central Committee of the Communist Party in 1924" (p.215.)  Hardly something you would do to someone who had willfully disobeyed directions from Moscow in the heat of revolution.

Before discussing, I should like to say that much of how we now understand the relationship between Ekaterinburg and Moscow can and should be credited to King and Wilson: I think they were the first to examine the matter in any depth:  the first to demonstrate the presence of tension, to identify difficulties in telegraph communication, etc., and therefore the first to pose a legitimate question:  did the Ural Regional Soviet act alone and contrary to orders form Moscow? 

Having said this, I believe the answer to be no. 

Has anyone else read both books?  Where do you stand on the question, and why?   
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Forum Admin on May 07, 2009, 03:05:52 PM
I think the reality is somewhere in between.  I think Moscow told Ekaterinburg "no", we have the testimony.  There is the evidence that the "new" German allies were pushing Lenin for the "safety of the Princesses of the Blood" and Lenin liked the idea of a grand show trial of Nicholas to legitimize his regime and the execution of the Emperor.  However, I also think once the Ural Regional Soviet carried out the deed, Moscow had no choice but to deal with it.  In the end, they saved everyone in Moscow all the trouble and expense and "took the fall" for murdering the Imperial Family so Lenin's hands were "clean" in the matter. 

It was the most expedient thing to do.

Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 07, 2009, 04:22:04 PM
What testimony are you referring to?  And out of curiosity, have you had a chance to read Rappaport's book? 
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Robert_Hall on May 07, 2009, 04:42:04 PM
I have read both books and  must agree with FA. Lenin was busy with  constructing a whole new state,  delegating authority, dealing with a civil war, creating a [new] socialist  order. I feel he left the Romanovs to others, at the more local level.  Revenge and retribution were trivial matters to him.  The abolishment of the old order was a tenet of the Revolution, but a minor detail. His endorsement of the execution may have been implied,  but I do not think it was ordered.  It was simply accepted as a fait accompli, leaving him  with one less  detail to deal with.  It was obvious the war was coming to an end so the game of bargaining for the  children  was irrelevant.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Elisabeth on May 07, 2009, 05:04:08 PM
I have read both books and  must agree with FA. Lenin was busy with  constructing a whole new state,  delegating authority, dealing with a civil war, creating a [new] socialist  order. I feel he left the Romanovs to others, at the more local level.  Revenge and retribution were trivial matters to him.  The abolishment of the old order was a tenet of the Revolution, but a minor detail. His endorsement of the execution may have been implied,  but I do not think it was ordered.  It was simply accepted as a fait accompli, leaving him  with one less  detail to deal with.  It was obvious the war was coming to an end so the game of bargaining for the  children  was irrelevant.

I agree with JStorey but also to a certain extent with Robert. Which is to say, like Robert, I don't believe the Romanovs were high on Lenin's list of priorities, but I also think JStorey is correct in his assertion that ultimately Lenin could not politically afford to ignore making a decision regarding their fate.

Furthermore, the Bolshevik party was very hierarchical and you can bet that loyal members like Sverdlov and Goloshchekin were not about to buck the orders of Moscow simply in order to fulfill some personal vendetta they and/or the Ural Bolsheviks had against the imperial family. These men, and the men immediately below them like Yurovsky, had no desire to take the slightest risk of offending Lenin by killing the Romanovs out of hand. What would have been the result? Quite possibly political disgrace, and the rest of their careers spent in the boondocks, i.e., the Urals. Goloshchekin and Yurovsky and Co. were like Chekhov's three sisters: "To Moscow, to Moscow," was no doubt their constant refrain. All of these were ambitious men, men who wanted to rise higher in the Bolshevik party and help form part of its inner ruling circle.

I haven't read Rappaport's recent book, but I feel I don't really need to, because so much has already been written about Lenin and his Bolsheviks and the way they operated. It's interesting that Lenin's biographers by and large take it for granted that he ordered the execution of the Romanovs. King & Wilson got their theory of the Ural Bolsheviks acting on their own from Mark Steinberg and Vladimir Khrustalev (to give K&W credit, they acknowledge as much in their book). But I don't think Steinberg and Khrustalev are the biggest experts on Lenin, unlike biographers of Lenin such as Volkogonov, who actually had access to secret archives that most historians have not been privy to.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Robert_Hall on May 07, 2009, 05:16:04 PM
Above all, Lenin was a ruthless pragmatist, IMO.   His goal was a socialist state on the road to the ideal of communism.  End justifies the means sort of thought, totally unemotional.  This was also "take no prisoners" chain of thought, so, if the Romanov's were caught in the  matrix, so be it...
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Elisabeth on May 07, 2009, 05:26:31 PM
I am also reminded of Aleksandr Yakovlev's book about state terrorism under the Bolsheviks, which I believe is entitled in English A Century of Violence in Soviet Russia. In this book he recounts his investigation of the Ekaterinburg murders, which he conducted on the orders of Nikita Khrushchev during the early 1960s. Yakovlev concluded that Lenin ordered the execution of Nicholas II and his family. In his investigation, Yakovlev was granted special access to secret government archives. And no doubt many of the documents related to his research almost half a century ago have long since "vanished" into thin air.

Because of course his report was suppressed.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 07, 2009, 07:15:30 PM
Furthermore, the Bolshevik party was very hierarchical and you can bet that loyal members like Sverdlov and Goloshchekin were not about to buck the orders of Moscow simply in order to fulfill some personal vendetta they and/or the Ural Bolsheviks had against the imperial family. These men, and the men immediately below them like Yurovsky, had no desire to take the slightest risk of offending Lenin by killing the Romanovs out of hand. What would have been the result? Quite possibly political disgrace, and the rest of their careers spent in the boondocks, i.e., the Urals. Goloshchekin and Yurovsky and Co. were like Chekhov's three sisters: "To Moscow, to Moscow," was no doubt their constant refrain. All of these were ambitious men, men who wanted to rise higher in the Bolshevik party and help form part of its inner ruling circle.

This is the sense I also have and precisely why the idea the Ural Soviet would act on their own never made sense to me.  Goloshchekin and co. would have wanted very badly to prove they were up for the task assigned; it defies reason that they would have spontaneously taken matters into their own hands against the orders of Moscow.  Surely - Goloshchekin having just returned from Moscow - Sverdlov would have given him instructions to carry out the execution in the event communication lines were down or military circumstances prevented a final exchange of orders. 

That both Goloshchekin and Beleborodov were later rewarded with various political posts (until the Stalinist purges, when both were shot themselves) shows also that they remained faithful and carried out their orders.  Sverdlov and Goloshchekin had spent years together in exile; precisely the loyal sort of relationship one would expect for a task that was deemed quite important by Moscow, anything but trivial.  And ultimately, inasmuch as the timing was concerned, they did their job:  despite overwhelming local sentiment calling for the Tsar's head, the Ural Bolsheviks held steady until the moment the orders came through, facing throughout very real danger via numerous radical factions in the city.

Regarding Lenin: as many have said he was a chess player; I do not believe his own hatred of the Romanovs played much of a role in their demise.  He used them as bargaining chips with Germany as long he could, and would have kept them alive for whatever function they may have provided his broader goals and objectives.  But when Ekaterinburg became vulnerable, their utility as pawns was trumped by the risk of capture and potential restoration of the Romanov line.  The time had arrived for the ultimate aim of "liquidation", all neatly arranged and justified via the ruse of white loyalist rescue plots, etc. and ready to be covered up by the chaos and confusion of war. 

Ironically, Yurovsky's absolute bungling of the murder allowed what was intended to become a state secret to leak out in a matter of days/weeks.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: imperial angel on May 07, 2009, 09:34:24 PM
But it was hard to execute so many people, so it's perhaps understandable the news of the Romanovs' death leaked out. Also, even before they died there was news that said they were dead, although they were not. So I think since there was speculation before their death, after there was evidence of their death ( and even had there been less evidence) the news was bound to get out fast, not much evidence needed. Their bodies were not found however, despite investigation. Whereas, the bodies of the Romanovs who died at Alpaevesk, in the mine shaft were quickly found.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Robert_Hall on May 07, 2009, 09:50:32 PM
IA, this thread is not about the execution itself, which is why we get distracted, but about WHO ordered it.
 As I see it, many people seem to  see a blanket blame on Lenin.  But that may not actually be the case. I may be wrong in my interpretation of events, but I really do not feel he made any decision  about the event.  His attitude was basically was- "so what, it is over with" back to the table on more important matters.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: CorisCapnSkip on May 08, 2009, 03:05:53 AM
This historian says a copy of the telegram still exists indicating it traced directly to Lenin.  http://www.library.flawlesslogic.com/tsar_1.htm
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Robert_Hall on May 08, 2009, 04:45:02 AM
Is this the same Mark Weber from the Institute For Historical Review? The holocaust deniers? Hardly objective.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Forum Admin on May 08, 2009, 09:38:28 AM
What testimony are you referring to?  And out of curiosity, have you had a chance to read Rappaport's book? 

Last Act of A Tragedy:
 The military commander of Ekaterinburg, Goloshchyokin went to Sverdlov in Moscow, and was specifically denied permission to execute the IF. Lenin told Sverdlov that he specifically wanted the IF brought to Moscow for a public "show trial"
Sverdlov's exact words;"Filip, (Goloshchyokin) tell the comrades that the ARCEC does not give official sanction to an execution."  This telegram is reproduced in the book as one of the plates.

G.'s testimony, also in Last Act:
Goloshchyokin went to see Sverdlov in Moscow about allowing the Ural Soviet to execute the IF in early July 1918. Sverdlov consulted Lenin about what to do with the IF. Lenin spoke of bringing the tsar's family to Moscow for an open trial of Nicholas and Alexandra. "It must be an All-Russian trial only! With publications in the press.  It is necessary to count what human and material losses to the country were caused by the autocrat during his reign.  How many revolutionaries were hung? How many people died in penal servitude and in a war nobody needed? He must answer for that, facing all the people!...It is the incomprehensible Russian credulity [of the Russian peasants] that must be discredited at the open trial of Nicholas the Bloody..." as reported being said by Lenin by Goloshchyokin.


Further, the exact resolutions, also from Last Act:

Extract from Protocol No. 1 of the ARCEC Presdium meeting about the shooting of Nicholas II

July 18, 1918:
HEARD: The report about the shooting of Nicholas Romanov (telegram from Ekaterinburg)

RESOLVED:After discussion, the following resolution was accepted: The ARCEC in the name of the Presidium, recognizes the Urals Regional Soviet's decision to be correct.  To instruct Comrades Sverdlov, Sosnovsky and Avanesov to compose the appropriate announcement for the press...

From Protocol no. 159 of the Council of People's Commissars meeting about the shooting of the royal family:

July 18, 1918
Chairman V.I. Lenin. (Trotsky is present among others.) 
HEARD: 3. Special announcement by the ARCEC Chairman Comrade Sverdlov about the shooting of the former Tsar Nicholas II according to the sentence of Yekaterinburg soviet and about the ratification of this sentence by the ARCEC Presidium...
RESOLVED: Accept for general information.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 08, 2009, 11:01:52 AM
Thanks for providing the testimony, FA. 

So, we know there was the idea of a trial in Moscow for the Tsar, discussed periodically throughout the spring and a pet project of Trotsky.  But by July, I think the idea had been abandoned as unrealistic.

Here's an excerpt of what Rappaport has to say about the idea of a trial:  "...The time had long since passed for a proper trial to be held and [Lenin] knew it.  But he wanted to be sure that his name would not be in any way tainted with the killing of the Romanovs - judicial or otherwise.  What is certainly clear is that it was the enigmatic Sverdlov - the man who really ran the party machinery - who pulled the strings over the final fate of the Imperial Family, in continuous direct discussion with the Urals Bolsheviks.  They were Sverdlov's men, guided by discipline, fanaticism and a close observance of party diktat and dogma.  And the man for the job had already been appointed - Yaklov Yurovsky, commandant of the Ipatiev House.  ...In the end it was the pressing argument of the Czech advance that won the day and the sanctioning of this ultimate act of political expediency." (p. 140)

What stands out to me is simply the timing:  Goloshchekin returns from Moscow July 8.  Sverdlov was acutely aware of Ekaterinburg's tenuous military position as well as the dangers inherent in transporting the family elsewhere.  Yurovsky had already been appointed commandant of the house, confirmed via telegram while Goloshchekin was in Moscow.  Planning (in the loose sense of the word) went into effect immediately after Golosheckin's arrival.  Within 10 days of Goloshekin's return the IF is "liquidated". 

Secondly, the loyalty of Goloshchekin to Sverdlov convinces me he would have never acted contrary to the directions from Moscow.  It strikes me that proving their reliability to the central leadership would have been the primary aim of the Ural Bolsheviks.  The fact is they did communicate with Moscow, as frequently as possible, and kept them constantly updated on what was going on.  Hardly the action of renegades.

Thirdly, I don't believe a paper trail would have been left connecting the execution to Lenin.  He would have taken pains to distance himself; the spreading of disinformation seems quite plausible towards that end and entirely consistent with their general approach towards any publicly sensitive topic.

Lastly, had Goloshchekin and Co. truly acted against the wishes of the party, I believe they would have been punished later, not rewarded with prominent posts, etc.

As far as the July 18 resolution is concerned, it only further illustrates the difference between the "official party record" and what was really happening behind the scenes:  the leadership knew this wasn't about the "shooting of Nicholas Romanov", but the calculated execution of an entire family. 
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: CorisCapnSkip on May 09, 2009, 03:28:38 AM
Someone must have written and signed the order the executioners read.  Does no one have a copy?  Did their accounts not indicate on whose orders they acted?
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Forum Admin on May 09, 2009, 10:26:02 AM
Yes, the orders of execution were voted on, written up by and delivered up after a vote of the Ural Regional Soviet, and it makes no mention of Moscow involvment.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Silja on May 09, 2009, 05:00:15 PM
Thanks for providing the testimony, FA. 

So, we know there was the idea of a trial in Moscow for the Tsar, discussed periodically throughout the spring and a pet project of Trotsky.  But by July, I think the idea had been abandoned as unrealistic.

Here's an excerpt of what Rappaport has to say about the idea of a trial:  "...The time had long since passed for a proper trial to be held and [Lenin] knew it.  But he wanted to be sure that his name would not be in any way tainted with the killing of the Romanovs - judicial or otherwise. 

Yes, I agree. And anyway, how does Trotsky's diary entry about Sverdlov and Lenin having "decided it here" fit in with the interpretation that it was Ekaterinburg which was responsible? I think the most probable answer is that Lenin considered the trial but ultimately discarded the plan.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Elisabeth on May 09, 2009, 05:17:18 PM
Yes, the orders of execution were voted on, written up by and delivered up after a vote of the Ural Regional Soviet, and it makes no mention of Moscow involvment.


Er, excuse me, but why would the "orders of execution" (what a euphemism) mention Moscow or Moscow's orders? Remember Hitler? He left absolutely no documentary evidence behind that he ever officially or even unofficially ordered the Final Solution (another interesting euphemism!). And yet most historians - the respectable and respected lot at least, as opposed to the revisionists like David Irving - believe that Hitler did indeed at some time following the invasion of Russia in the summer of 1941 personally order the mass extermination of the Jewish popuation in Europe. Probably not on paper, but only verbally, and only to a selected, very tiny group of his followers.

But I am curious, why all this sudden trust in existing documentation, which in the Soviet, as in the Nazi case, was highly subject to tampering, suppression, even outright destruction by the government in power (Soviet archives are still subject to interference by the current Russian government, in reality many important archives have in recent years again been closed to researchers, both domestic and foreign). Lenin's government never wanted the truth about the Ekaterinburg murders to come to light (least of all the fact that they were murders, since the daughters and servants at least were not political figures of any significance and hence their deaths should never be referred to so euphemistically as "assassinations" or "executions").

I for one am not going to take on faith a few historians' opinions about Lenin's non-involvement in the murders of the IF, since I think these scholars regard the Bolsheviks much more sympathetically than they do the Nazis (whereas in my mind there's no room for sympathy for either group). As I posted before, the majority of Lenin's biographers believe that if he did not order the murders he approved them in advance, given a certain set of circumstances (the imminent fall of Ekaterinburg to the Whites). And here please note that I am even leaving out the testimony of the very important Soviet politician Aleksandr Yakovlev, who conducted an actual official (if top secret) investigation into the murders back in the early 1960s on the orders of Khrushchev and came to the same conclusion, i.e., that these were murders of expediency, carried out with Moscow's full knowledge and approval.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Lemur on May 09, 2009, 05:31:18 PM
http://www.alexanderpalace.org/gilliard/XXII.html

Avdiev was under the immediate control of the other commissaries, members of the Presidium and Tckrezvytckaika. They were not long in realising the change which had come about in the feelings of the guards towards their prisoners, and resolved to adopt drastic measures.At Moscow, too, there was uneasiness, as was proved by the following telegram sent from Ekaterinburg by Bieloborodov to Sverdlov and Golochtchokin (who was then at Moscow): "Syromolotov just left for Moscow to organise according to instructions from centre. Anxiety unnecessary. Useless to worry. Avdiev revoked. Mochkin arrested. Avdiev replaced by Yurovsky. Inside guard changed, replaced by others."

This telegram is dated July 4th.

At this time the death of the Imperial family had already been decided upon in Moscow. The telegram quoted above proves this. Syromolotov left for Moscow "to organise according to instructions from centre"; he was to return with Golochtcholkin, bringing instructions and directions from Sverdlov.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Lemur on May 10, 2009, 08:31:31 AM
The reason I believe it was ordered from Moscow is that I don't think any local Soviet would make such a big decision on their own. In a time when people were getting shot right and left, for anything, even Bolsheviks against each other, it does not seem plausible that they would take a chance on being shot or replaced if they displeased Lenin. The loose connection to Moscow alleged by Gilliard, who was present at the time of the Whites' investigation, makes sense considering how hardly anyone wanted to accept responsibility for anything. It was common for those in charge to lie out of it and made cover stories for excuses- such as when the family and other Romanovs were killed. It would be very handy for Moscow to order them killed and then find someone else willing to accept the blame. I do accept that Lenin did want Nicholas brought to Moscow for public trial, but must have changed his mind when the Whites were approaching Ekaterinburg. He must have had his doubts he'd be able to keep custody of him, and be able to transport him that far back without him being taken away by the Whites along the way, where they held so much territory at that time.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Robert_Hall on May 10, 2009, 09:04:56 AM
I think some posters here are gving Moscow much more power and influence than it really had.  Lenin was facing anarchy, chaos and civil war. Power had not been consolidated.
 Also, the Romanovs were not that important any longer.  They had become expendable. I believe he just left the decision on what to do with them to whomever had their hands on them. He had far more important issues to deal with.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Forum Admin on May 10, 2009, 10:41:01 AM
Elisabeth,

Nobody is "suddenly trusting" the written evidence, the question asked was "what evidence IS there". Now, the evidence we have may very well be unreliable, BUT the rest is mere speculation and nothing more. We can no more lay direct blame for the murder of the  IF on Lenin without direct evidence than we can say the Grand Duchesses were sexually abused on the Rus or Buxhoeveden was stealing the money meant to support the Romanovs in exile.  These claims were also made based on SPECULATION.

Again, I think Robert makes a valid point.  Lenin's power was not so absolutely consolidated at this time.  Remember too the local Soviets felt they were EQUAL to Moscow not subordinate, and Lenin was too busy fighting a war and stopping another war and trying like hell to consolidate his position to really pay that much attention to what they did in Ekaterinburg.  He was an opportunist above all else. He changed direction all the time, seizing opportunity as it arose to best suit his advantage.

Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 10, 2009, 12:26:06 PM
...the rest is mere speculation and nothing more. We can no more lay direct blame for the murder of the  IF on Lenin without direct evidence than we can say the Grand Duchesses were sexually abused on the Rus or Buxhoeveden was stealing the money meant to support the Romanovs in exile.  These claims were also made based on SPECULATION.

Again, I think Robert makes a valid point.  Lenin's power was not so absolutely consolidated at this time.  Remember too the local Soviets felt they were EQUAL to Moscow not subordinate, and Lenin was too busy fighting a war and stopping another war and trying like hell to consolidate his position to really pay that much attention to what they did in Ekaterinburg.  He was an opportunist above all else. He changed direction all the time, seizing opportunity as it arose to best suit his advantage.


That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!  Aren't you "speculating" he was not involved?

The question of whether Ekaterinburg acted alone or Moscow ordered the execution does not have a default answer; either conclusion necessarily involves interpreting circumstantial evidence and ultimately a bit of what historians adore most:  smelling roses.

The fact is there is indeed a great deal of circumstantial evidence here, certainly enough to merit healthy discussion and analysis.

Regarding the above points, I would suggest - as have many others - that in Lenin's "trying like hell to consolidate his position", the elimination of dynastic inheritance more than served that end.  This was not a remotely trivial question.  I also don't buy for a moment this idea of indifference to Moscow; the Ural Bolsheviks were acutely aware that the success or failure of the central structure would determine their own fate, and that in the event of success they would have to answer for their actions.  Not just following, but strictly adhering to Moscow's direction was in their own best interest.  It would and did determine their future.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Robert_Hall on May 10, 2009, 12:53:42 PM
I doubt very much the succession issue played much of a role. After the immediate IF, there were plenty to to fly the flag, not many did, their time had passed. This goes into another thread, but Lenin simply was not interested in them.  There were plenty of folks that hated the Romanovs for various reasons.  Let them handle it, so to speak. Above all, Lenin was making sure the revolution was secure and they  just did not matter in his pragmatic agenda. Once the benefit of even a show trial was passed,  they barely  made a footnote in the history he was writing.  He had a lot to accomplish, and remember his time was running out as well, he died in 1924.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Forum Admin on May 10, 2009, 01:05:23 PM
I never said Lenin was NOT involved.  All I have been saying is that there is no direct evidence that he WAS involved.  The direct evidence does not support his being involved per se, that is all.  I can just as easily see Lenin saying he didn't want them executed for a lot of reasons, and the Ural Soviet going ahead anyway, and Lenin approving ex post facto once they were dead....as I can also see Lenin ordering the executions secretly and letting the Ural Soviets carry out the dirty work so he can appear with "clean hands" so to speak.  Both are reasonable conclusions given the evidence, that's all I mean.

The rest is speculation, that is all I'm saying.
 
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Silja on May 10, 2009, 01:19:27 PM
Once the benefit of even a show trial was passed,  they barely  made a footnote in the history he was writing. 

A show trial wouldn't have been a benefit, and Lenin must have known it. If put on trial, even on show trial, the aim would have been to find Nicholas II guilty or not guilty. Trying a person means that person might be considered innnocent, if only in theory. The Bolsheviks didn't really care about putting Nicholas II on trial in this sense. They meant to annihilate the Tsarist system and all its representatives.  A trial could thus only have been counter productive. Lenin must have realised this very soon. So in my opinion this is the main reason for Moscow's change of mind.  
The imperial family may not have been so important in the "history Lenin was writing", but if the Bolshevik regime continued to be unstable and  failed to win general popular support, then any opposition group, be they whites or white monarchists or monarchists etc. might still help to threaten the Bolshevik regime, not by itself but by uniting opposition forces in the long run. To me it makes absolute sense not to let the imperial family fall into the hands of the Whites.

By the way, although the Bolsheviks for a long time couldn't be sure to sustain their power, Lenin's leadership was beyond dispute. Ekaterinburg would hardly have acted against Lenin's wishes.

Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Silja on May 10, 2009, 01:26:50 PM
I never said Lenin was NOT involved.  All I have been saying is that there is no direct evidence that he WAS involved.  The direct evidence does not support his being involved per se, that is all.  I can just as easily see Lenin saying he didn't want them executed for a lot of reasons, and the Ural Soviet going ahead anyway, and Lenin approving ex post facto once they were dead....as I can also see Lenin ordering the executions secretly and letting the Ural Soviets carry out the dirty work so he can appear with "clean hands" so to speak.  Both are reasonable conclusions given the evidence, that's all I mean.

The rest is speculation, that is all I'm saying.
 

Which is actually a good summary of the facts. We now have the two positions with the one finding the circumstantial evidence pointing to Lenin having ordered the "executions" more convincing than the evidence that he didn't, and the others finding it the other way round.

Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Robert_Hall on May 10, 2009, 01:55:30 PM
I think we all know that trial was just a propaganda operation to  justify an execution.
 I disagree that Lenin was  "beyond dispute" He was constantly  fighting opposition in  the Party.  Near and far.  His genius was in gathering  both his supporters and enemies in the same place  as well and organising  a hierarchy of control. This took time.  He was ruthless and rarely tolerated dissent, but understood it.  Often used the opposition to his greater effect.  To him, as I see it, the Romanovs were a trivial matter, where he was concentrating on the larger, more important issues.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 10, 2009, 07:37:26 PM
Which is actually a good summary of the facts. We now have the two positions with the one finding the circumstantial evidence pointing to Lenin having ordered the "executions" more convincing than the evidence that he didn't, and the others finding it the other way round.

I agree wholeheartedly, and having identified these two positions alone is a worthy accomplishment.  I might substitute "Moscow" for Lenin.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: AGRBear on May 11, 2009, 07:37:58 PM
A PEOPLE'S TRAGEDY  by Orlando Figes voices pps 641-2:


>>On July 4 the local Cheka had taken over the responsibility of guarding the Romanovs at the Ipatev House.  Yakob Yurovsky, the local Cheka boss who led the execution squad, was one of Lenin's most trusted lieutenants--ruthless,  honest, intelligent and cruel.  His brother said he 'enjoyed oppressing people'.<<

Yurovsky was "one of Lenin's most trusted lieutenants" who was placed in the Urals as the head of the Cheka.

Yurovsky was in Moscow several times from June to early July of 1918.

Who else had Lenin personally known in the leadership of the Soviet Urals?

Filipp Goloshchekin.

Goloschekin was in Moscow in July of 1918.

I really don't think it was necessary for Lenin, if  he had given verbal order to both of these men,  to send either of these men after they returned to Ekaterinubrg a telegram telling them, again,  to carry out the execution of Nicholas II and his family before the Whites entered Ekaterinburg.

AGRBear






Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: LisaDavidson on May 12, 2009, 04:30:06 PM
But, again, having some trusted associates in a situation does not necessarily mean that Lenin personally ordered the murder of the Imperial Family. I have many trusted associates, and one reason that I do is that I don't necessarily need to tell them what to do - they are trusted because they can figure these things out in the moment if needed. Who's to say it was any different for Lenin?

In my opinion, it is likely that the execution of the Emperor was ordered by Moscow, and if not ordered, tacitly endorsed. There were only 2 former heads of state in Russia at the time. Both were imprisioned in Ekaterinburg, and it stands to reason the central government, no matter how weak or challenged, would have had some interest in the fates of the Emperor and Prince Lvov.

There also remains the telegram sent to Moscow afterwards indicating that "the family suffered the same fate as its head". If Moscow order the whole enchilada, as King and Wilson pointed out, what would the need have been to send a telegram worded this way? On the other had if Ekaterinburg was the sole "decider", wouldn't more of an explanation have been in order?

Again, just my opinion although others have written about this topic in much more detail.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Lemur on May 12, 2009, 06:33:09 PM
to carry out the execution of Nicholas II and his family before the Whites entered Ekaterinburg.

AGRBear


I agree this had to be the main goal. I disagree Lenin had 'forgotten about' the Romanovs or 'had more to worry about.' His biggest problem was the Whites, and they were quickly advancing on Ekaterinburg. If they got there while the Tsar was still alive, they could have freed him, rallied round him, and had a good chance at thwarting the revolution.

Both were imprisioned in Ekaterinburg, and it stands to reason the central government, no matter how weak or challenged, would have had some interest in the fates of the Emperor and Prince Lvov.

I agree, this was an important issue to their entire cause.

Quote
"the family suffered the same fate as its head"....what would the need have been to send a telegram worded this way?

According to Gilliard, there had been some issues about the Russian guard becoming friendly with the family, and as Rappaport points out, some had reservations about shooting the children. Moscow may have been concerned that those involved were not able to complete the task of wiping out the whole family, or that there had been some problems. The rest of that telegram reads 'officially they will all perish during the evacuation', meaning they had planned to be dishonest about it because, apparently, no one in Moscow or Ekaterinburg was willing to accept the blame for the murders officially.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: AGRBear on May 13, 2009, 01:56:43 PM
But, again, having some trusted associates in a situation does not necessarily mean that Lenin personally ordered the murder of the Imperial Family. I have many trusted associates, and one reason that I do is that I don't necessarily need to tell them what to do - they are trusted because they can figure these things out in the moment if needed. Who's to say it was any different for Lenin?
... [in part]...

Business associates are a little different then Bolshevik associates in May to July of 1918.

The execution of an ex-Tsar and his family had always been in Lenin's plans. [There are many quotes of him telling others that he would eliminate  Nicholas II.] It was just a matter of when.  Apparently the "when" was July of 1918 because no orders were given to move Nicholas II to Perm or Moscow when it was obvious that the Whites were gaining ground and the Reds wouldn't be able to hold ground near Ekaterinburg.  There was a officer known as General Berzin, who had direct contact with Lenin, who  sent Berzin to Ekaterinburg and then into the Red Army  headquarters in late June.  A few days later  Beloborodov sent Severdlow and Goloshchokin the following message:

>>Syromolotov has just gone to organize the matter in accordance with instructions of centre.  No cuase for apprehension.  Avdeyev removed.  His assistant Moshkin arrested.  In place of Avdeyev, Yurovsky.  Internal guard entirely replaced by others<<

pps. 292-293
THE FILE ON THE TSAR
First Edition

It would be General Berzin who would send word to the Ural Soviets  that the Reds would be retreating and Ekaterinburg would be the Whites in several days.

All this just happen to fall within the time slot, about 16 July 1918,  which Mirbach, who had just been assassinated in Moscow, told others that the Germans were going into Ekaterinburg to rescue Nicholas II and his family. 

We all know that Lenin didn't want the Whites or the Germans to have Nicholas II.

A few months earlier Lenin had declared p. 294:

>>We can achieve nothing unless we use terror, " and he consistently endoresed mass terror execution of the former middle and upper classes.  Lenin had even praised the doctrine of the extremist Nechayev, who advocated the destruction of the entire Romanov dynasty.<<

Nicholas II and his family weren't the only Romanovs executed.  The uncrown ex-Tsar Michael had been murdered 3 days earlier.  Less than 24 hours later six more, including, Grand Duchess Elisabeth, were thrown into a pit near Alapayevsk....  Jan. 28, 1919 four  Grand Dukes were marched into the prision yard and shot..... The Romanovs in the Crimea were saved by the Germans and the British took them aboard their ships and sailed away from Russia....

AGRBear



Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: imperial angel on May 17, 2009, 03:32:25 PM
I think the truth about who ordered the executions was somewhere inbetween- Lenin knew the Romanovs were better off dead, yet he may not have cared enough to have directly ordered it, and he was of course busy with other things. I think the local Bolsheviks in Ekatrinburg were certainly capable of acting on their own, especially if they knew Lenin etc would approve. They knew he would. I think Lenin was concerned with the fate of Romanovs, so many of the former IF were killed all over Russia, and the reason so many Romanovs were killed was because it was feared they'd go abroad and claim the throne from there.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 20, 2009, 02:37:05 PM
To me, there are two components to this question:

1.  Did the orders come from Moscow?
Based on my understanding of the evidence - albeit circumstantial - I am convinced this is the case.  In fact, I find no evidence indicating the Ekaterinburg Soviet would have or ever did act on their own accord.  The relationship between Sverdlov and Goloshchekin was cemented during their four years together in exile, Goloshchekin returns from meeting with Sverdlov in Moscow and within days the terrible deed is done, etc.  Well covered territory at this point.

2.  What role did Lenin himself play in ordering the execution?
This, it seems to me, is the component that complicates the issue.  Even the circumstantial evidence is very limited here, thus as FA noted we must resort to speculation.  For this reason, while I am personally satisfied the orders originated from Moscow, I am less certain that Lenin himself made the specific order.  Those are two quite different questions that tend to be clumped together. 

So on the subject of Lenin himself, I will offer my thoughts. 

While I am less certain of the specific role he played in the details of the execution, one thing I can establish with certainty is motive - personal motive extending beyond the greater pragmatic need to eliminate dynastic inheritance.

The death by hanging of Lenin's older brother Alexander for his involvement in an assassination attempt on Alexander III was the defining moment in Lenin's life.  The copy Lenin read of Chernyshevsky's "What is to be Done?" belonged to his brother.  His entire world view was motivated, ultimately, by a family death at the hand of a Romanov.  His sister was exiled for her participation; his father had abruptly passed away.   

Lenin's descriptions of the Tsar and his family were vitriolic, to put it mildly.  His opinions of them were by no means neutral. 

Lenin was, however, an astute chess player (he had to abandon the game because his obsession with it interfered with politics) who set emotion utterly aside in his decision making.  He would have therefore kept the Romanovs alive for as long as they served a viable purpose (as pawns in negotiations with Germany).  For this reason, it seems to me, the fate of the Imperial Family was delayed until the last possible moment, when the elimination of dynastic inheritance and the threat of White rescue allowed him to indulge his greater psychological need for retribution - and to approve a ruthless punishment devoid of human compassion.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Elisabeth on May 22, 2009, 12:11:29 PM
To me, there are two components to this question:

1.  Did the orders come from Moscow?
Based on my understanding of the evidence - albeit circumstantial - I am convinced this is the case.  In fact, I find no evidence indicating the Ekaterinburg Soviet would have or ever did act on their own accord.  The relationship between Sverdlov and Goloshchekin was cemented during their four years together in exile, Goloshchekin returns from meeting with Sverdlov in Moscow and within days the terrible deed is done, etc.  Well covered territory at this point.

2.  What role did Lenin himself play in ordering the execution?
This, it seems to me, is the component that complicates the issue.  Even the circumstantial evidence is very limited here, thus as FA noted we must resort to speculation.  For this reason, while I am personally satisfied the orders originated from Moscow, I am less certain that Lenin himself made the specific order.  Those are two quite different questions that tend to be clumped together. 

So on the subject of Lenin himself, I will offer my thoughts. 

While I am less certain of the specific role he played in the details of the execution, one thing I can establish with certainty is motive - personal motive extending beyond the greater pragmatic need to eliminate dynastic inheritance.

The death by hanging of Lenin's older brother Alexander for his involvement in an assassination attempt on Alexander III was the defining moment in Lenin's life.  The copy Lenin read of Chernyshevsky's "What is to be Done?" belonged to his brother.  His entire world view was motivated, ultimately, by a family death at the hand of a Romanov.  His sister was exiled for her participation; his father had abruptly passed away.   

Lenin's descriptions of the Tsar and his family were vitriolic, to put it mildly.  His opinions of them were by no means neutral. 

Lenin was, however, an astute chess player (he had to abandon the game because his obsession with it interfered with politics) who set emotion utterly aside in his decision making.  He would have therefore kept the Romanovs alive for as long as they served a viable purpose (as pawns in negotiations with Germany).  For this reason, it seems to me, the fate of the Imperial Family was delayed until the last possible moment, when the elimination of dynastic inheritance and the threat of White rescue allowed him to indulge his greater psychological need for retribution - and to approve a ruthless punishment devoid of human compassion.

You have put this very well, JStorey. Your summation is better than anything else I have read so far on the subject.

I would only add, that I think Lenin really did regard the Romanovs as "insects" and "vermin" (epithets he was fond of using in referring to former aristocrats and the bourgeoisie) and therefore they were political pawns only for as long as it was politically expedient for him. After that, most likely, he had them killed. What is most telling for me in this regard is that despite weeks of negotiation between Moscow and Ekaterinburg over the fate of the imperial family, no plans seem to have been made for their evacuation in the event of the Whites conquering Ekaterinburg. Let's face it, we have plenty of factual evidence that there were plans in place to evacuate the imperial family's valuables and private papers and other effects, not to mention their chief executioners, men like Yurovsky and Nikulin (these men got out by train, with the valuables, just before the Whites seized the city). But there doesn't appear to be any documentary evidence extant anywhere that would establish that Moscow was preparing new living quarters for Nicholas II and/or his family in any other city, much less Moscow.

And I have to ask, what possible advantage could have accrued to Lenin if he had brought the women of the imperial family to Moscow? It would only have given heart to so-called counter-revolutionaries everywhere, because it would have established once and for all, beyond a reasonable doubt, that both Nicholas and Aleksei had been done away with - thus confirming what monarchists and other oppositionists already suspected, that the Bolsheviks were evil and would stop at nothing, even the murder of a mere boy, in order to maintain their power. Then the Whites really would have had an ideological leg to stand on in presenting their cause to the Russian people. On the lines of, "yes, we may very well be mediocre and disorganized for the most part, but look at the Bolsheviks, they murder children." And if, as King and Wilson and others have argued, Lenin was serious about handing over Alexandra and her daughters to Germany - well, these women would only have lent confirmation to the worst rumors, that not only Nicholas but also Aleksei had been murdered by the new Soviet state. I don't think this would have helped Lenin's cause in Germany or elsewhere in the West. Again, the verdict would have been "the Bolsheviks murder children."

No, only a mysterious disappearance of the IF would suffice. Then the case could always be argued both ways until the political climate improved for the new Bolshevik regime. Lenin and his cohorts could pretend to foreign emissaries, at least for a time, that the former empress and her children were still alive. The Germans were free not to inquire too closely into the truth of such statements. As far as I can see, the Ekaterinburg murders and their subsequent cover-up served the political ends of almost everyone involved. Leaving out of the equation the Romanovs themselves and their few remaining followers, of course.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: RichC on May 23, 2009, 12:04:03 AM
Yes, the orders of execution were voted on, written up by and delivered up after a vote of the Ural Regional Soviet, and it makes no mention of Moscow involvment.


Er, excuse me, but why would the "orders of execution" (what a euphemism) mention Moscow or Moscow's orders? Remember Hitler? He left absolutely no documentary evidence behind that he ever officially or even unofficially ordered the Final Solution (another interesting euphemism!). And yet most historians - the respectable and respected lot at least, as opposed to the revisionists like David Irving - believe that Hitler did indeed at some time following the invasion of Russia in the summer of 1941 personally order the mass extermination of the Jewish popuation in Europe. Probably not on paper, but only verbally, and only to a selected, very tiny group of his followers.

But I am curious, why all this sudden trust in existing documentation, which in the Soviet, as in the Nazi case, was highly subject to tampering, suppression, even outright destruction by the government in power (Soviet archives are still subject to interference by the current Russian government, in reality many important archives have in recent years again been closed to researchers, both domestic and foreign). Lenin's government never wanted the truth about the Ekaterinburg murders to come to light (least of all the fact that they were murders, since the daughters and servants at least were not political figures of any significance and hence their deaths should never be referred to so euphemistically as "assassinations" or "executions").

I for one am not going to take on faith a few historians' opinions about Lenin's non-involvement in the murders of the IF, since I think these scholars regard the Bolsheviks much more sympathetically than they do the Nazis (whereas in my mind there's no room for sympathy for either group). As I posted before, the majority of Lenin's biographers believe that if he did not order the murders he approved them in advance, given a certain set of circumstances (the imminent fall of Ekaterinburg to the Whites). And here please note that I am even leaving out the testimony of the very important Soviet politician Aleksandr Yakovlev, who conducted an actual official (if top secret) investigation into the murders back in the early 1960s on the orders of Khrushchev and came to the same conclusion, i.e., that these were murders of expediency, carried out with Moscow's full knowledge and approval.

I think the point about judging Lenin more sympathetically than Hitler is important.  I suspect it's where much of the speculation about his role in the Ekaterinburg murders comes from.  Lenin seems to get a pass by some important scholars despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary that he was every bit as evil as Stalin.  He just didn't live long enough to rack up such a high body count.  Marx said, "Violence is the midwife of history."  Lenin took those words to heart.

Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: AGRBear on May 23, 2009, 10:41:46 AM
Your mention of Stalin reminded me of a thought I had when reading Helen Rappaport's book THE LAST DAYS OF THE ROMANOVS and noticed the photo p. 159 of 1915 which shows Stalin with Goloshchekin and Sverdlov.  All "comrads" of Lenin.  Makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up  just thinking about what kind of conversations went on when they were together.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Lemur on May 23, 2009, 02:22:57 PM
Here's another clue

"On July 13 plainly in anticipation of their final massacre, the Bolshevik governmentt passed a decree in Moscow nationalizing all property and money of the Romanov family"-- Lost Fortune of the Tsars, page 100

The evidence may be 'circumstantial' but it's far from just 'speculation' or wild guesses. If you're looking for a telegram from Lenin saying "do it now" you're not going to find it, but that does not mean Lenin or at least, as JStorey says, "Moscow" didn't order the execution. None of them wanted to take the blame for anything, which is why the murders of the IF, Mischa, and Ella and the others were all lied about by those who committed them. Do you really think Lenin himself would be so stupid as to leave a path right to his door? This leaves us without absolute proof, and that's what they all wanted.

Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 23, 2009, 06:03:11 PM
Your mention of Stalin reminded me of a thought I had when reading Helen Rappaport's book THE LAST DAYS OF THE ROMANOVS and noticed the photo p. 159 of 1915 which shows Stalin with Goloshchekin and Sverdlov.  All "comrads" of Lenin.  Makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up  just thinking about what kind of conversations went on when they were together.

AGRBear

Is there any way someone could post that photo?  It was one I hadn't seen before reading her book and it makes an impression:  Sverdlov, Goloshchekin, Stalin and a number of others together in exile.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: imperial angel on May 23, 2009, 10:29:15 PM
Jstorey, have you ever read Wendy Slater's book the Many Deaths of Nicholas II? I bumped up that thread in the book section, and am just interested what your thoughts might be. In this book, Slater argues on the last few pages that Lenin did not order the execution of the Romanovs, and in fact did not approve of it because he wanted a public trial and then execution for Nicholas since that would legitimize the Bolshevik regime in a way that the secret death of the Tsar, subsequently made public could never do. So she argues since the manner of the tsar's death could never legitimize Lenin's regime, Lenin did not approve, but of course accepted in the end that the local authorities at Ekatrinburg had made the choice, already. It's an interesting way of looking at it. Personally, I'm more of the view that Lenin knew Ekatrinburg would and could take care of the Romanovs' death if they saw fit, and so he didn't worry about it, but let them do as they wanted, and approved it in the end.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 24, 2009, 11:27:15 AM
imperial angel - thanks for asking my opinion and I'm happy to provide it.  I have not read her entire book but I have read the pages you are referring to.

Her argument is essentially this:

1.  Lenin did not approve of the murder because he would have preferred a public trial in Moscow. 
- Something covered earlier in this thread...  All I can add is:  Note that this line of reasoning negates the argument that "Lenin didn't care enough about the Tsar to bother".  This is completely the opposite.  He cares so much he is willing to devote time and resources to a public trial at a time when his own power is in total jeopardy?  "Winning over the people" would have done nothing, at that point, to solidify his tenuous control; lines of red and white were already indelibly drawn. 

2.  A public trial would have legitimized the Bolshevik regime.
My view is that the manner in which the Tsar and family were killed is entirely consistent with the future actions of the party.  The message was, in fact, very effective.  Recall that scene in Zhivago:  "They've shot the Tsar.  What does it mean?"  "It means there is no going back"... 

The legitimacy of the Bolshevik regime would not be measured by reasoning away the old regime, but by destroying it.  This was not democracy of the proletariat, this was dictatorship of the proletariat.  As someone mentioned, there is less of a gap between the methods Lenin utilized and those of Stalin: a ruthless liquidation was a harbinger of things to come and - in some sense - precisely the message they wanted to send. 

3.  The secrecy and criminal nature of the Tsar's execution gave rise to Romanov pretenders, martyrdom, romanticism, myth, etc., and Lenin would have foreseen this.
This is really the crux of her argument - a fundamentally anachronistic premise ripped out of the context of the time.  She takes what we think about what happened and projects it on to Lenin.  Even if Lenin had the gift of nearly a century of hindsight, none of her reasoning would have been applicable; I don't think he would have cared about pretenders to the throne, romanticism, etc.  (And who is to say that a public trial wouldn't have had its own laundry list of long-term, almost trivial, consequences?) So while she makes an excellent summary of how the nature of the crime effected popular perception of the Tsar and his family throughout the 20th century, her mistake is to therefore conclude Lenin had a crystal ball in his possession.   

Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: AGRBear on May 24, 2009, 01:29:36 PM
Your mention of Stalin reminded me of a thought I had when reading Helen Rappaport's book THE LAST DAYS OF THE ROMANOVS and noticed the photo p. 159 of 1915 which shows Stalin with Goloshchekin and Sverdlov.  All "comrads" of Lenin.  Makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up  just thinking about what kind of conversations went on when they were together.

AGRBear

Is there any way someone could post that photo?  It was one I hadn't seen before reading her book and it makes an impression:  Sverdlov, Goloshchekin, Stalin and a number of others together in exile.

I could post it but I'm not sure if the photo is in the public domain, if it isn't, then I would be breaking a copyright law if I do copy it from Helen's book.

If I remember correctly,  when I was looking at this subject a long time ago,  I wondered if Stalin had taken an active part in the execution since he was part of the "gang" so to speak.  If I remember correctly, I didn't find any evidence he had, but,  like Lenin,  he certainly would not have left any evidence of it if he had.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 26, 2009, 12:12:29 PM
imperial angel - On the subject of "Many Deaths of Nicholas II", I do want to add something else.  If her book is about an analysis of the narratives that followed the execution of the Tsar, we can apply the same here, because as I mentioned earlier the question that is the topic of this thread has a peculiar and revealing quality. 

When we ask the question:  "orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg?" notice we personify Moscow, but not Ekaterinburg.  "Moscow" means "Lenin" (not "Sverdlov"), while "Ekaterinburg" does not mean "Goloshchekin" or "Beleborodov".  Why?  Odd really, because in terms of this particular question, we know more about the involvement of the three latter actors than the single former.  Ekaterinburg is sort of an ambiguous "other" alternative (it shouldn't be), while Moscow seems to come back to Lenin's direct hand (it shouldn't either).  We never say, for instance, that the orders came from Moscow but that Sverdlov made all the decisions on his own, and we never say Goloshchekin went on a drinking bout and took matters into his own hands, no! - it is either Ekaterinburg, Lenin, or bust. 

Again, why? Well, the personified nature of the question should tip our hand as far as the tacit psychological elements at work:  this is ultimately a loaded question - it serves some narrative function for us - and that is precisely why we come back to it time and time again.  We are really asking, "Did Lenin make the order?" and in seeking an answer Ekaterinburg is the most distancing answer we can come up with, while Lenin is the most direct.  This is the inherent bias of the question itself, and one, as scholars in search of truth, we must be wary of.  In examining the evidence as objectively as possible, we must therefore frame the question as "Ekaterinburg or Moscow" and ideally avoid personification (something I have utterly neglected, and therefore as a guilty party feel comfortable bringing up).

Really, based on the available evidence, if you were forced to personify the two locations, one would be named "Goloshchekin" and the other "Sverdlov".  The answer, when framed as such, may provide less gratification but more truth.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 26, 2009, 02:26:19 PM
To continue the above, this is what King and Wilson mean by calling the "Lenin did it" conclusion a "simplistic reading of history".  They are quite right.  The need to blame Lenin for the death of the Romanovs (very transparent in some of the earlier accounts) should not cloud an examination of the actual facts, is what they mean to say.  But unfortunately, in drawing their own (purely speculative) conclusions, King and Wilson ultimately err on the side of the opposite extreme of the question:  Ekaterinburg, the greatest possible distance - metaphorical and literal - from the initial culprit.  Thus the cloud persists, and the question as such becomes a polarized one, eternally measured by the "Lenin" factor.

My view is that when these "clouding" factors are removed, you have a compelling case tying Moscow very directly to Ekaterinburg.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Janet Ashton on May 27, 2009, 03:35:36 PM
To continue the above, this is what King and Wilson mean by calling the "Lenin did it" conclusion a "simplistic reading of history".  They are quite right.  The need to blame Lenin for the death of the Romanovs (very transparent in some of the earlier accounts) should not cloud an examination of the actual facts, is what they mean to say.  But unfortunately, in drawing their own (purely speculative) conclusions, King and Wilson ultimately err on the side of the opposite extreme of the question: 

While I thank you for the overall balance of your comments, I dispute the use of the term "purely speculative". In the absence of a smoking gun, the theory is no more speculative than anyone else's, and that section of the book was based on tightly-worked timeline of events which assessed what was possible and what was not in terms of telegrams sent or received: it is that timeline rather than speculation which underpinned the thesis, whether one agrees or not.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: LisaDavidson on May 27, 2009, 07:03:18 PM
To continue the above, this is what King and Wilson mean by calling the "Lenin did it" conclusion a "simplistic reading of history".  They are quite right.  The need to blame Lenin for the death of the Romanovs (very transparent in some of the earlier accounts) should not cloud an examination of the actual facts, is what they mean to say.  But unfortunately, in drawing their own (purely speculative) conclusions, King and Wilson ultimately err on the side of the opposite extreme of the question: 

While I thank you for the overall balance of your comments, I dispute the use of the term "purely speculative". In the absence of a smoking gun, the theory is no more speculative than anyone else's, and that section of the book was based on tightly-worked timeline of events which assessed what was possible and what was not in terms of telegrams sent or received: it is that timeline rather than speculation which underpinned the thesis, whether one agrees or not.

Indeed. And, as I recall, you reviewed the timeline carefully for King and Wilson to assess what was and was not possible given the conditions in the Summer of 1918, correct?
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 28, 2009, 01:41:51 AM
King and Wilson have absolutely no qualms about describing various historian's conclusions as "far from convincing"; I am sure they do not expect an exemption from same.  I intentionally use the word "speculative" in reference to an earlier portion of this thread, which essentially made your very point.

The telegram sent to Moscow:  "Inform Moscow that due to military conditions which cannot be delayed, the trial agreed upon with Philip cannot now wait.  If your opinion differs, inform immediately."

Notice that no reply in this case is confirmation; he's not asking for permission because he's already received it in Moscow.  And of course "trial" is a codeword for execution.  Therefore breaking down Hughes telegraph unreliability into a timeline is an irrelevant exercise. 

Back to the chapter:  "...It has been suggested that "trial" was simply a codeword for the murder of the Romanovs, previously agreed on by Moscow while Goloshchokin was staying with Sverdlov... this interpretation, however, rests on the assumption that Moscow had authorized the slaughter of all of the prisoners, something unsupported by the evidence." (p.291)

Unsupported by the evidence... Really? I would argue precisely the opposite. 

The above "evidence", if you examine their sources (which I have) is almost exclusively provided by Kudrin and Voikov, two members of the Ural Soviet who weren't even in Moscow.  I am sure, like everyone else, they were eager to take credit for Ekaterinburg's role in the murder.  In other words, their "evidence" regarding just what Sverdlov told Goloshchokin in Moscow is selective hearsay, and hence the entire line of reasoning relies on speculation.

As the chapter goes on, King and Wilson are somehow able to explain away a statement from Yurovsky himself confirming the Moscow origins of the order, and to discount a similar statement from Trotsky!  And of course they spend a few pages trying to argue how Lenin really wanted a public trial, how he wasn't really interested, etc.  Sorry, I don't buy it.  But I have absolutely no problem if you do; obviously there is a healthy range of opinion on this particular subject. 

- JT Storey

Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Janet Ashton on May 29, 2009, 07:06:34 AM
King and Wilson have absolutely no qualms about describing various historian's conclusions as "far from convincing"; I am sure they do not expect an exemption from same.  I intentionally use the word "speculative" in reference to an earlier portion of this thread

No, course not - but the quibbles are mine and mine alone! :-) (Greg King does not and probably for technical reasons *can*not read this foourm, and I am not in touch with Penny). And indeed my points relate to that word "speculative", which may be a matter of semantics but is a little different to being unconvinced by the evidence someone presents. 
I also have no problem if you don't agree with what I say, but to me it is fair and reasonable for a historian to doubt the veracity of witness statements (such as Trotsky's) if they deem these undermined by the chronology of events. One may not find the evidence in FOTR convincing, but it's more solid than mere "speculation", so, anyway, I stand by what I said.

Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: AGRBear on May 29, 2009, 11:40:42 AM
Can we agree on this:  >>It is not speculation that Yurovsky, Goloschehekins, Berzin, Sverdlov and Lenin had personally spoken to each other from June to July of 1918. << ?

AGRBear
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on May 29, 2009, 02:29:05 PM
Janet Ashton - I bristled a bit myself earlier at the use of the same word, therefore I vote we strike "speculation" from the record! 

I think this thread has served its purpose well in outlining the range of viewpoint, establishing the evidence, and then offering interpretation and analysis of that evidence.      There is of course no default answer. 

Having made my own position known I'm going to now take a back seat but I read others' ideas with interest.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Silja on May 30, 2009, 04:51:17 PM
I would still like to know how Trotzky's diary entry about Lenin and Sverdlovsk having decided the assassination of the Romanovs is being assessed! So do those who believe that the decision originated in Ekaterinburg assume Trotzky's statement is unreliable? And if so, why?
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: LisaDavidson on May 30, 2009, 07:50:07 PM
I would still like to know how Trotzky's diary entry about Lenin and Sverdlovsk having decided the assassination of the Romanovs is being assessed! So do those who believe that the decision originated in Ekaterinburg assume Trotzky's statement is unreliable? And if so, why?

I would not say my view is that Trotsky is unreliable, it's just third hand at best when it comes to Lenin. Ever hear about how information gets distorted in retelling? Trotsky wrote in his diary (which he knew would be of some historic interest) that Sverdlov had told him that Lenin and he had decided to not leave any live banners for the Whites to rally around.

We have as yet discovered nothing but this as a paper trail for Lenin's direct involvement. Sverdlov was not in a position to contradict Comrade Trotsky - he was attacked by a worker in March 1919 and died- and we don't know why. By the time the diary was published, Lenin and Sverdlov were both in the ground.

Do Bolsheviks lie? Is the Pope Catholic?

There is a possibility that Trotsky reported what he knew entirely accurately. But, there is and was no way as yet to corroborate the information. In evaluating Bolshevik sources, one finds many lies and many truths. How can we tell which is which? Corroboration.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Janet Ashton on May 31, 2009, 04:43:41 AM
Janet Ashton - I bristled a bit myself earlier at the use of the same word, therefore I vote we strike "speculation" from the record! 





That's cool - thank you for your balance and integrity in this discussion! :-)
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: RichC on May 31, 2009, 02:34:20 PM
I would still like to know how Trotzky's diary entry about Lenin and Sverdlovsk having decided the assassination of the Romanovs is being assessed! So do those who believe that the decision originated in Ekaterinburg assume Trotzky's statement is unreliable? And if so, why?

Silja, the problem with Trotsky's diary entry was 1) it was made in April, 1935 rather than 1918, so 17 years had passed and he was remembering a conversation with the long dead Sverdlov.

2) Trotsky explains that the reason for the conversation with Sverdlov is he was "catching up" on events in Moscow as he (Trotsky) had been away from Moscow for most of the month of July and had not returned to Moscow until after the fall of Ekaterinburg on July 25th.  The problem is that the Soviet archives show Trotsky as being "present" at a meeting of the Sovnarkom (Council of the People's Commisars) in Moscow on July 18th.  This was the meeting where the Tsar's execution was reported by Sverdlov.  So, the minutes of the meeting do not corroborate Trotsky's claim that he was out of town.  And if he wasn't out of town, ergo, no need for "catching up" with Sverdlov.

All the same, I'm one of those in the camp of believers that the execution order came from Moscow. 
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: AGRBear on June 04, 2009, 12:53:29 PM
Unlike today,  we can pull our of our computer a list of dates for any events which have occurred and are scheduled.  Trotsky didn't.  So he probably was in error, or, was he?  Several questions pop into my head, having attended many meetings of different organizations.  Did the sec./ or whomever it was, who wrote that Trotsky was present at the meeting on July 18th, do so because Trotsky was there or did he do so because there was need of a majority vote and so he was signed in without being present.  Today,  we sign proxy notes an give our vote to a fellow board member.  Then.... Well,  things were not always done in the true sense of  what's honest or dishonest in the Bolshevik Party.

Trotsky had been away.  Are there any other records which might show he hadn't returned to Moscow by the 18th but was on his way home or doing something else somewhere else?  I have only one book on Trostsky and it doesn't give me any information about his timeline.

Or, Trotsky just didn't remember he was present and was recalling a later "catching up" conversation with Sverdlov.

AGRBear
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: JStorey on June 04, 2009, 02:29:22 PM
For reference:  Trotsky, Diary in Exile, p. 80-81:

"The White press at one time hotly debated the question of who it was that ordered the execution of the Tsar's family.  The liberals, it seemed, inclined to the opinion that the Ural Regional Committee, being cut off from Moscow, had acted independently.  That is not correct.  The resolution was adopted in Moscow.  The affair took place during a very critical period of the Civil War, when I was spending almost all my time at the Front, and my recollections about the case of the Tsar's family are rather fragmentary...  My next visit to Moscow took place after the fall of Ekaterinburg.  Talking to Sverdlov, I asked in passing, "Oh yes, and where is the Tsar?"  "It's all over," he answered, "he has been shot."  "And where is the family?"  "And the family along with them."  "All of them?" I asked, apparently with a touch of surprise.  "All of them," replied Sverdlov, "what about it?"  He was waiting to see my reaction.  I made no reply.  "And who made the decision?" I asked.  "We decided it here.  Ilyich [Lenin] believed that we shouldn't leave the Whites a live banner to rally round, especially under the present difficult circumstances."  I did not ask any further questions, and considered the matter closed."

1920 Yurovsky note:  "On July 16, a cable in previously agreed-upon language arrived from Perm, containing the order to execute the Romanovs."

King and Wilson analysis of both of above is in FOTR pp. 292-295.  I have my own thoughts, naturally, and would be happy to provide them... But for now, back to my self-imposed exile!  (Siberia is lovely in the summertime...)
 
 
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: AGRBear on June 05, 2009, 09:53:38 AM
[...in part..]

1920 Yurovsky note:  "On July 16, a cable in previously agreed-upon language arrived from Perm, containing the order to execute the Romanovs."

 

"...previously agreed-upon language..." means the order  didn't issue the words "kill them, now", however,  the  words meant, if we can believe Yurovsky, "kill them, now". 

AGRBear
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: Elisabeth on June 17, 2009, 08:30:13 PM
For reference:  Trotsky, Diary in Exile, p. 80-81:

".... Talking to Sverdlov, I asked in passing, "Oh yes, and where is the Tsar?"  "It's all over," he answered, "he has been shot."  "And where is the family?"  "And the family along with them."  "All of them?" I asked, apparently with a touch of surprise.  "All of them," replied Sverdlov, "what about it?"  He was waiting to see my reaction.  I made no reply.  "And who made the decision?" I asked.  "We decided it here.  Ilyich [Lenin] believed that we shouldn't leave the Whites a live banner to rally round, especially under the present difficult circumstances."  I did not ask any further questions, and considered the matter closed."

It's interesting from a psychological standpoint that Sverdlov "was waiting to see" Trotsky's "reaction" to the news of Moscow's murder of Nicholas II and his immediate family. If nothing else, it shows a certain degree of paranoia, either on Sverdlov's part or Trotsky's or (most likely) on both parts. Again, I don't think we should underestimate the amount of political intrigue and back-stabbing that went on in the upper echelons of Soviet power. It seems to me quite likely that Yurovsky was telling the truth in his 1920 Note when he stated that "on July 16, a cable in previously agreed-upon language arrived from Perm, containing the order to execute the Romanovs."  The fact of the matter is, if he'd been more clever, he would have lied about it and never mentioned any such cable. Maybe that's why he spent the rest of his life in relatively speaking low-ranking jobs and his daughter ended up in the Gulag. We'll never know it for a fact, of course, but I suspect that it was because Yurovsky was a little too proud of his accomplishments and boasted of them one too many times, both in public and private. Perhaps, as far as Stalin was concerned, Yurovsky was a bit of a loose cannon.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: LisaDavidson on June 18, 2009, 06:56:26 PM
But please notice that the source of the order to kill the family came from Perm, not from Moscow.

King and Wilson present their case for the Ural Regional Soviet being ultimately responsbile for the decision to kill the family, if not Nicholas.
Title: Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
Post by: RichC on June 19, 2009, 09:21:21 AM
For reference:  Trotsky, Diary in Exile, p. 80-81:

".... Talking to Sverdlov, I asked in passing, "Oh yes, and where is the Tsar?"  "It's all over," he answered, "he has been shot."  "And where is the family?"  "And the family along with them."  "All of them?" I asked, apparently with a touch of surprise.  "All of them," replied Sverdlov, "what about it?"  He was waiting to see my reaction.  I made no reply.  "And who made the decision?" I asked.  "We decided it here.  Ilyich [Lenin] believed that we shouldn't leave the Whites a live banner to rally round, especially under the present difficult circumstances."  I did not ask any further questions, and considered the matter closed."

It's interesting from a psychological standpoint that Sverdlov "was waiting to see" Trotsky's "reaction" to the news of Moscow's murder of Nicholas II and his immediate family. If nothing else, it shows a certain degree of paranoia, either on Sverdlov's part or Trotsky's or (most likely) on both parts. Again, I don't think we should underestimate the amount of political intrigue and back-stabbing that went on in the upper echelons of Soviet power. It seems to me quite likely that Yurovsky was telling the truth in his 1920 Note when he stated that "on July 16, a cable in previously agreed-upon language arrived from Perm, containing the order to execute the Romanovs."  The fact of the matter is, if he'd been more clever, he would have lied about it and never mentioned any such cable. Maybe that's why he spent the rest of his life in relatively speaking low-ranking jobs and his daughter ended up in the Gulag. We'll never know it for a fact, of course, but I suspect that it was because Yurovsky was a little too proud of his accomplishments and boasted of them one too many times, both in public and private. Perhaps, as far as Stalin was concerned, Yurovsky was a bit of a loose cannon.

Elisabeth, I've wondered about this too.  What kind of "reaction" could Sverdlov possibly have been waiting for?  I hope he wasn't expecting a protest based on the sanctity of human life.  What was there to argue about?  Trotsky's only option would have been to endorse the decision.  Of course on the other hand, it's clear that by the time Trotsky wrote the above passage, he had been stabbed in the back and betrayed, repeatedly.  So, I suppose one could defend this recollection as having a ring of truth to it, given what went down afterwards.   Or, he added the dramatic flourish to illustrate just what you said, the atmosphere of paranoia that seemed to be a mainstay of Soviet (or Russian?) life until 1991 (or today?).

Also, if we are going to consider the amount of intrigue and back-stabbing that was going on in upper echelons of the Soviet government in 1918, doesn't that argue even more against Ekaterinburg acting alone?  I have studied Russian history for many years and how many instances are there where officials in outlying areas ever took any initiative about anything at all?  Even under the Tsars?

As for Yurovsky, he can hardly be said to have "executed" his task cleanly.  The whole operation was a muddle from start to finish.  Why trust him with anything so important a second time when he did such a messy job the first time?