Author Topic: Execution details: who died how, in what order, etc. GRAPHIC  (Read 203018 times)

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Offline Olga Maria

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #210 on: March 04, 2009, 08:06:49 AM »
Oh,I see. Thanks for telling me so.

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #211 on: March 05, 2009, 07:12:00 PM »
Let us return to the original question and examine from a somewhat different point of view.  I do apologize in advance for the graphic nature of the content; if it makes you uneasy, please don't read further.  However the topic is of interest to some, and I think - in the right context - worthy of discussion.

To determine some semblance of truth (the precise nature of which can never be known) we must examine both the original source material and the motivations of the various characters providing testimony.  We must also examine the irrefutable facts, few that there are, and determine if we can glean anything meaningful from them.

Let's start with the irrefutable facts.

One thing we know for certain is that virtually any Bolshevik soldier in Russia, at that time, would have eagerly accepted the task of killing the Tsar. 

Even the most ardent Bolshevik, however, would have been unwilling to shoot innocent women and children.

We therefore can establish premeditation in the intent to murder the entire family from the moment the 10 "Letts" entered the house.  Why?  Because the arrival of the "Letts" signified a job had to be done for which no Russian - Bolshevik or otherwise - was willing.  Remove the intent to murder the entire family, including women and children, and logically you must remove the "Letts" as well.  (This is one of the reasons I find the "Ekaterinburg Soviet acted alone" theory to be rubbish:  premeditation of several weeks infers communication with Moscow).

The botched "execution" (i.e.; murder) is much better understood in this context.  For the Letts, even under orders, were also not inclined to shoot women and children.  When the moment arrived, they all fired at the Emperor.  Following this logic their secondary targets (regardless of what they had been instructed) were the remaining men:  Botkin, the cook Khartinov, Trupp.  After that they probably shot indiscriminately.

This is precisely how Yurovsky recounts the execution in his various testimony.

Within seconds of these initial volleys, we know that due to the nature of the confined space (~20 souls crammed into a small room, firing pistols) the murder scene became smoke-filled, chaotic, and mortally dangerous to the executioners themselves due to ricochet.  It seems logical then that they quickly ceased fire.

At this point, in his memoirs, note, etc., Yurovsky implicates one man:  Ermakov.  It is Ermakov who reenters with a bayonet and savagely finishes off the injured.  Not coincidentally, when we learn later about the burial, the lorry, it is the same Ermakov that has screwed it all up.  And of course, when we read about Ermakov we discover he a hideous alcoholic with a history of violence, a common criminal, etc.  In short, a very unlikeable fellow.  A beast.

The problem with this is that by creating a demonic caricature of Ermakov - by turning him into an animal and sending him in alone to do the dirty work, so to speak - Yurovsky and the remaining executioners are thereby exonerated from the most unsavory, immoral and inhumane elements of the crime.  We, as readers, are in a sense exonerated ourselves, for only a hideous creature could do such a thing, not a person. 

If you have read the recreation of the murder in FOTR, this "Id=Ermakov" phenomenon is something Mr. King exploits to the hilt (irresponsibly, in my opinion). 

In fact, by implicating Ermakov, Yurovsky himself conveniently emerges a far less guilty man.  Motive!  We therefore must be suspicious of his testimony, and any testimony in which the subject has murdered the Tsar firsthand, while his nefarious accomplices are responsible for the remaining innocents.  I'm afraid that covers virtually every shooter's testimony.  Ermakov himself "proudly handed over his Mauser revolver, no. 16174, to the Museum of the Revolution in Sverdlovsk, along with a short note claiming that with it he had personally killed Nicholas II." (FOTR p.512).

I suspect that Yurovsky, Ermakov, and very likely several other of those ultimately responsible for the "successful" outcome of the operation, returned to the room and finished off the remaining survivors.  It surely had to have been a terrible, gruesome scene.  Ermakov certainly doesn't distinguish himself, but neither does anyone else.

Given all this - the nature of the wounds, the protection of the corsets, the reluctance to shoot women in particular - it seems plausible that while still dying some of the victims moaned or moved while being transported out to the lorry.  It seems implausible they could have lived beyond that.

I bring this up because Mr. King seems rather fond of Yurovsky, when it was Yurovsky who planned the execution in such a way that - even given the horrible injustice of the act itself - was absolutely inhumane in every sense of the word.

Perhaps most sad of is that all of the actors in this tragedy were human beings.  I am reminded of this quote:

"Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, not between classes, nor between political parties, but through every human heart." - A. Solzhenitsyn

Mexjames

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #212 on: March 05, 2009, 07:55:22 PM »
I disagree with you when you say that "Even the most ardent Bolshevik, however, would have been unwilling to shoot innocent women and children".

Communists don't have any values whatsoever.  If in their opinion, a person went against the "revolution", whatever that means, they had no second thoughts and in the best scenario, the "dissident" was shipped to a gulag.

Communists have been known for not placing any value to human life, as they proved time and again not only in Russia, but in all of Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, etc.






Offline Sarushka

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #213 on: March 05, 2009, 08:34:08 PM »
I disagree with both of your generalities -- 
Mexjames: "Communists don't have any values whatsoever"
JStorey: "Even the most ardent Bolshevik, however, would have been unwilling to shoot innocent women and children."

IMO, both of those statements are far too broad to take at face value.

However, I find JStorey's analysis of the executionists' testimony intriguing:
Quote
In fact, by implicating Ermakov, Yurovsky himself conveniently emerges a far less guilty man.  Motive!  We therefore must be suspicious of his testimony, and any testimony in which the subject has murdered the Tsar firsthand, while his nefarious accomplices are responsible for the remaining innocents.  I'm afraid that covers virtually every shooter's testimony.  Ermakov himself "proudly handed over his Mauser revolver, no. 16174, to the Museum of the Revolution in Sverdlovsk, along with a short note claiming that with it he had personally killed Nicholas II." (FOTR p.512).

I think you may have a very good point there.
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JStorey

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #214 on: March 05, 2009, 11:59:29 PM »
You're right.  "Unwilling" is too strong a word to use.

The point I'm trying to make is that at the time any Bolsheviks (especially in Ekaterinburg) would have considered it an honor to shoot the Tsar.  To shoot women and children, however, was another matter altogether.  It was a dirty job, and they knew it would be far earlier than has been suggested by some.  Thus if the intent was to shoot the Tsar only, then it would not have been necessary to bring "Letts"; they could have picked from a long line of eager volunteers.   

So the timing of the arrival of the Letts allows us to place a minimum date of premeditation: the intent to murder the entire family was established at least two weeks prior.  This connects the murders more directly to Lenin and Moscow, rather than to the Ekaterinburg Soviet acting alone (a central "thesis" of FOTR).  This also eliminates arguments regarding poor telegraph connections, etc. because there was ample time to exchange orders.

I believe Yurovsky's arrival was not due to Avdayev's mismanagement.  His presence signaled their already decided fate; from there it was just a matter of when. 

The connection to Moscow just makes too much sense.  Lenin was a chess player; he was making a shrewd and ruthless move.  Eliminating the Romanov name eliminated the possibility of restoration of the monarchy.  And while it seems simplistic, Lenin's own brother's hanging at the hand of Alexander III is an undeniable element that helps explain what ultimately happened.  This was on some level an act of revenge. 

Offline Sarushka

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #215 on: March 06, 2009, 07:55:23 AM »
I believe Yurovsky's arrival was not due to Avdayev's mismanagement.  His presence signaled their already decided fate; from there it was just a matter of when. 

In your opinion, was Yurovsky's arrival also connected to excessive fraternization between the Romanovs and the Special Detachment, as King & Wilson suggest?
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JStorey

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #216 on: March 06, 2009, 09:24:57 AM »
No.  I think that the "relationship" between Maria and the fellow over the birthday cake is wildly overstated, as well as the "flirtatious" nature of the girls in general, and the sympathy of the original guards.  It makes a good story, not much more.

When a Grand Duchess spoke cordially to a soldier, to him - growing up in a village or industrial town at the turn of the century - that alone constituted flirtation.  To her it was just good manners.  "She smiled at me!  She likes me!"  That sort of thing. 

It is another case of thinking carefully about the motivations of those providing testimony.  As a soldier, it would be nice to believe that sparks were flying, and that these very famous and striking women found them attractive. 

It would also be a very good idea to portray yourself as sympathetically as possible to a White Army-backed investigation!

In truth, the family of course was suffering deeply.  Olga had grown distant and detached, Tatiana had stepped up into a role of ambassador and spokesperson (essentially being helpful for her family), the others were younger and just trying to make the best of it.  So I think they were adept at interacting in a friendly way with their captors in order to make their lives more livable and humane, to temper the hostility and rigidity of the rules.  It was the only way to survive.

The original guards, in contrast to the "Letts" and Yurovsky, appear far more humane because Yurovsky didn't really look at the IF as people at all.  The IF were objects to Yurovsky - they had to be because in short while he was going to "liquidate" them all.  The new guards were killers, and most didn't even speak Russian.

So in this light, even a coarse remark or a lewd comment is a relief; it means the person thinks of you as human!  Avdeyev's style - while crude - is also consistent with viewing the IF as people and treating them roughly accordingly.  His job was to imprison, not to murder; that's the difference.

Certainly over time the original guards probably began to see the IF as a real family (because they were) rather than an abstract symbol of hatred/opulence/etc., but from there it is quite a jump to fraternization and true sympathy.

It is yet another example in King and Wilson of romantic storytelling, abandoning and stretching facts along the way.  The original soldiers come out looking like near-monarchists, ready to participate in a rescue mission!  I don't think so.

Offline Sarushka

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #217 on: March 06, 2009, 11:04:35 AM »
No.  I think that the "relationship" between Maria and the fellow over the birthday cake is wildly overstated, as well as the "flirtatious" nature of the girls in general, and the sympathy of the original guards.  It makes a good story, not much more.

IMO, the romantic connotations of the birthday cake incident have definitely been exaggerated. However, it still seems to me that a guard and a prisoner sharing a snack and birthday greetings - no matter how innocently - is still significant in terms of indicating the security of the Ipatiev house.

Overall, I'm inclined to think of the Skorokhodov incident as more of the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of security -- especially if it was indeed witnessed by Beloborodov and Goloshchokin -- than a shocking revelation of romantic involvement between Bolsheviks and Romanovs. (And frankly, I think the romance occurrs in readers' minds more than in K&W's prose.)


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When a Grand Duchess spoke cordially to a soldier, to him - growing up in a village or industrial town at the turn of the century - that alone constituted flirtation.  To her it was just good manners.  "She smiled at me!  She likes me!"  That sort of thing. 

It is another case of thinking carefully about the motivations of those providing testimony.  As a soldier, it would be nice to believe that sparks were flying, and that these very famous and striking women found them attractive. 


The testimony I've been looking at in Ispoved' Tsareubiyts leaves me with a different interpretation. In their statements collected in the 1930's and later, the guards' recollections I've read give the impression that they perceived the girls as naive and overcome with bordeom rather than deliberately flirtatious. One in particular characterizes the GDss habit of chatting with the guards at the doorway as "distracting" and "difficult." To my mind, that's rather vague -- "distracting" could indicate a range of reactions spanning:

A) Oh my gosh, I can't even think straight with such pretty girls talking to me
B) I wish these silly kids would quit babbling and leave me alone

Likely, we'll never know which extreme is closer to the truth -- just as we'll likely never know the GDss intentions.

And yet one incident I found particularly striking describes how during their walks in the garden the GDss would sometimes flop into a hammock and say "Push me." If one of the guards approached, the man said, the grand duchess would invariably greet him with "I'm bored." Again, it's all quite innocent, but to me that type of interaction still indicates an unmistakable level of familiarity between prisoner and guard.


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It would also be a very good idea to portray yourself as sympathetically as possible to a White Army-backed investigation!

That's a valid point, but the majority of the testimony I've been browsing through is held in Bolshevik archives, and was recorded during the Soviet era. In these statements, the guards don't give the impression of being star-struck, so to speak, by the imperial family. Although I do find it interesting how candid some of the statements are about how the men's preconceptions of the imperial family contrasted with the reality.


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In truth, the family of course was suffering deeply.  Olga had grown distant and detached, Tatiana had stepped up into a role of ambassador and spokesperson (essentially being helpful for her family), the others were younger and just trying to make the best of it.  So I think they were adept at interacting in a friendly way with their captors in order to make their lives more livable and humane, to temper the hostility and rigidity of the rules.  It was the only way to survive.

I agree to an extent, but I'm not sure how conscious an effort this would have been on the part of the younger children. They'd grown up with little pretention regarding their rank, and were accustomed to being surrounded by attentive soldiers. I believe it would have felt natural for them to speak to men in uniform -- particularly men so close to their own age. Oddly enough, one of the guards singles out Tatiana as the daughter who spent a lot of time chatting in the doorway. Either he was mistaken, or we don't know Tatiana as well as we think we do.


Quote
The original guards, in contrast to the "Letts" and Yurovsky, appear far more humane because Yurovsky didn't really look at the IF as people at all.  The IF were objects to Yurovsky - they had to be because in short while he was going to "liquidate" them all.  The new guards were killers, and most didn't even speak Russian.

I can definitely agree with that. Interesting that even being deliberately distanced from the IF, some of the Letts refused to execute the women and children on priciple.
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Mexjames

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #218 on: March 06, 2009, 02:49:16 PM »
I disagree with both of your generalities -- 
Mexjames: "Communists don't have any values whatsoever"
JStorey: "Even the most ardent Bolshevik, however, would have been unwilling to shoot innocent women and children."

IMO, both of those statements are far too broad to take at face value.



Sarushka, Communism doesn't have any values whatsoever.  The moment a human being depends on the State, is subordinated to the State, and must act in the best interests of the State, the moment that values stop to exist.  Human life wasn't respected at all, as Communist countries don't value the lives of their citizens.  Achievement isn't rewarded unless it benefits the State.  Freedom doesn't exist.  Equality which is very much promoted, is a myth.  People don't have rights to defend themselves against the State.  Love as an emotion is suppressed, until not long ago, public displays of affection in Commie China were a no-no. I could go on and on an on, but I don't want to hijack this thread.

I think that JStorey made a remarkable analysis on the facts that we have.


Offline Sarushka

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #219 on: March 06, 2009, 03:39:09 PM »
Communism doesn't have any values whatsoever. 

I'm a notorious hair-splitter, but I draw a distinction between Communism (the government) and communists (followers and/or citizens of that government). That's where I take issue with your statement about communists having no values.
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JStorey

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #220 on: March 07, 2009, 10:28:46 AM »
Sarushka - You make very good points.  Here are my thoughts:

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In their statements collected in the 1930's and later, the guards' recollections I've read give the impression that they perceived the girls as naive and overcome with bordeom rather than deliberately flirtatious. One in particular characterizes the GDss habit of chatting with the guards at the doorway as "distracting" and "difficult."

The doorway you're referring to was adjacent to the commandant's room, and to me was was very, very important in understanding the spatial divisions of the Ipatiev House:  it defined the barrier between the "Romanov space" and the outside world of their captors.

Quote
Oddly enough, one of the guards singles out Tatiana as the daughter who spent a lot of time chatting in the doorway. Either he was mistaken, or we don't know Tatiana as well as we think we do.

I don't find it odd at all.  Because - as the "spokesperson" for her family - chatting had a valuable function:  to establish rapport, gather information, and ultimately negotiate for concessions, however minor.  She was in effect humanizing her family for her captors.  "It was so hot and stuffy last night.  I could barely sleep.  I do wish they could open a window for us."  That sort of thing, which would have made it "difficult" for the guard on duty, because she was tacitly asking for something only the commandant could provide.  Tatiana at the doorway was Tatiana in the role of family ambassador.

It was Tatiana who became the person the Tsar and Tsarina asked to negotiate and gather info on their behalf.  She was taking on a responsibility that Olga - because of her nature - could not.  In this way Tatiana was performing an invaluable role, and seemed to be growing into someone that would have ultimately made a good leader.  Her behavior under extreme duress shows, to me, her emerging character.  She has my admiration for it. 

But don't let me get too carried away.  Because surely the children were bored.  There was nothing to do; they were prisoners.  And there is no question that from a security point of view, things seemed fairly casual.  Thus there was interaction and a generally lax environment.

So, with the approaching danger, the need to tighten and professionalize security was absolutely a factor in Yurovsky's arrival.  But that need was eclipsed by the true shadow of his presence:  to plan and execute the murder of an entire family (enter "Letts").  In terms of the larger Bolshevik objectives, one has far greater weight than the other.

« Last Edit: March 07, 2009, 10:30:36 AM by JStorey »

Offline Sarushka

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #221 on: March 08, 2009, 11:54:13 AM »
I don't find it odd at all.  Because - as the "spokesperson" for her family - chatting had a valuable function:  to establish rapport, gather information, and ultimately negotiate for concessions, however minor.  She was in effect humanizing her family for her captors.  "It was so hot and stuffy last night.  I could barely sleep.  I do wish they could open a window for us."  That sort of thing, which would have made it "difficult" for the guard on duty, because she was tacitly asking for something only the commandant could provide.  Tatiana at the doorway was Tatiana in the role of family ambassador.

I find these accounts of Tatiana's behavior at the doorway interesting because other guards characterize her as haughty, reserved, and very much like her mother. According to these men's recollections, while the Little Pair were more indiscriminate about interacting with the sentries, Tatiana most often chose to speak to Avdeyev and the guards to make a request on the family's behalf, chatting only if they were behaving in a way she deemed appropriate. So to my mind, there's some contradiction among the guards' testimony regarding her behavior toward them.

Because of those contradictions, I've been toying with the possibility lately that perhaps a few of the guards mixed up Olga and Tatiana in terms of birth order. More than one of the courtiers' memoirs mention that Tatiana, rather than Olga, displayed the typical demeanor and attitude of an eldest child, and would easily be mistaken as the eldest by an outside observer. So it seems possible to me that some of the Special Detachment, given their limited contact with the IF, could have mistakenly assumed Tatiana was the eldest. In fact, some of the statements do not refer to all the children by name, instead saying things like "the eldest," "the heir," and "the younger ones."


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It was Tatiana who became the person the Tsar and Tsarina asked to negotiate and gather info on their behalf.  She was taking on a responsibility that Olga - because of her nature - could not.  In this way Tatiana was performing an invaluable role, and seemed to be growing into someone that would have ultimately made a good leader.  Her behavior under extreme duress shows, to me, her emerging character.  She has my admiration for it.


I wish we could determine how much of Tatiana's negotiating with their captors was of her own initiative -- whether N&A asked Tatiana specifically to undertake these errands, or if Tatiana regularly volunteered in response to a general complaint/request. She certainly had acquired a reputation for being the natural leader amongst her siblings, yet at the same time N&A had a habit of sending their daughters to ask for information from the authorities. For example, on the train from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg, Maria was sent to ask Yakovlev where they were headed. King & Wilson believe this was a calculated move -- choosing the most sympathetic and attractive member of the party to intercede. I'm not sure if I agree with them; given Nicholas's passivity and the empress's haughtiness, sending Maria may have simply been the route of least resistance.


Quote
But don't let me get too carried away.  Because surely the children were bored.  There was nothing to do; they were prisoners.  And there is no question that from a security point of view, things seemed fairly casual.  Thus there was interaction and a generally lax environment.

That strikes me as a fair assessment.
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Offline nena

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #222 on: March 08, 2009, 12:00:14 PM »
You are right.. for someones Tatiana was the o(e)dest one. Beacuse of her height and behavior, I think. And, I don't believe they didn't know names of members of IF. Just didn't want to say....But it is quite possible. Tatiana asked to see Lewka Sednev, according to Yurovsky's 1922 memories, so possibly she was the one 'in guards' eyes' mostly.
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Offline Sarushka

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #223 on: March 08, 2009, 01:58:22 PM »
And, I don't believe they didn't know names of members of IF. Just didn't want to say....But it is quite possible.

No, I think you're right. I don't mean to suggest that the guards didn't know the girls' names. Only that they may not have realized Olga was older than Tatiana. When they don't use the girls' names in their statements, it's hard to be absolutely sure who they presumed was "the eldest." Also, some of this testimony was given years or decades later, so it's possible they made mistakes.
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JStorey

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Re: The Last To Die on July 17, 1918
« Reply #224 on: March 09, 2009, 02:28:07 PM »
Because of those contradictions, I've been toying with the possibility lately that perhaps a few of the guards mixed up Olga and Tatiana in terms of birth order. More than one of the courtiers' memoirs mention that Tatiana, rather than Olga, displayed the typical demeanor and attitude of an eldest child, and would easily be mistaken as the eldest by an outside observer. So it seems possible to me that some of the Special Detachment, given their limited contact with the IF, could have mistakenly assumed Tatiana was the eldest. In fact, some of the statements do not refer to all the children by name, instead saying things like "the eldest," "the heir," and "the younger ones."


That sounds very plausible to me - perhaps a key in deciphering inconsistencies in testimony (and translation). 

Quote
I wish we could determine how much of Tatiana's negotiating with their captors was of her own initiative -- whether N&A asked Tatiana specifically to undertake these errands, or if Tatiana regularly volunteered in response to a general complaint/request. She certainly had acquired a reputation for being the natural leader amongst her siblings, yet at the same time N&A had a habit of sending their daughters to ask for information from the authorities. For example, on the train from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg, Maria was sent to ask Yakovlev where they were headed. King & Wilson believe this was a calculated move -- choosing the most sympathetic and attractive member of the party to intercede. I'm not sure if I agree with them; given Nicholas's passivity and the empress's haughtiness, sending Maria may have simply been the route of least resistance.

Probably a combination of both (her own initiative and at the request of her parents).  Her role as family negotiator and ambassador I think emerged in captivity and then expanded as conditions worsened.  Thus by the Ipatiev House, Tatiana became the name we hear most often in interacting with their captors.