Author Topic: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited  (Read 20842 times)

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Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #30 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.

Offline Lemur

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #31 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.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2009, 06:36:57 PM by Lemur »

Offline AGRBear

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #32 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



« Last Edit: May 13, 2009, 02:06:09 PM by AGRBear »
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Offline imperial angel

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #33 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.

Offline JStorey

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #34 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.

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #35 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.
« Last Edit: May 22, 2009, 12:14:43 PM by Elisabeth »
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Offline RichC

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #36 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.


Offline AGRBear

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #37 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.

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Offline Lemur

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #38 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.


Offline JStorey

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #39 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.

Offline imperial angel

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #40 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.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2009, 10:32:06 PM by imperial angel »

Offline JStorey

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #41 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.   

« Last Edit: May 24, 2009, 11:37:29 AM by JStorey »

Offline AGRBear

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #42 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
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Offline JStorey

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #43 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.

Offline JStorey

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Re: Orders from Moscow or Ekaterinburg Revisited
« Reply #44 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.