Author Topic: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited  (Read 20845 times)

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Offline JStorey

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Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« 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?   

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #1 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.


Offline JStorey

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #2 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? 

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #3 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.
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #4 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.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2009, 05:06:34 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #5 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...
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Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #6 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.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2009, 05:46:53 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline JStorey

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #7 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.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2009, 07:18:42 PM by JStorey »

Offline imperial angel

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #8 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.

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #9 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.
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Offline CorisCapnSkip

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #10 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

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #11 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.
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.

Offline Forum Admin

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #12 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.

Offline JStorey

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #13 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. 
« Last Edit: May 08, 2009, 11:11:22 AM by JStorey »

Offline CorisCapnSkip

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #14 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?