The Shadow of the Gloomy East/Chapter 17

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Death of the Romabovs and the Mystical Movement


MONARCHIST circles strenuously uphold the rumour that the Tsar and his heir have been saved from a bolshevik prison. But this is a purely political speculation and an apocryphal legend. The evidence collected during Kolchak's rule by Sir George Elliot and a special Commission of Inquiry, my conversations in Omsk with the imprisoned soldiers who were present at the execution of the Imperial family, and my meeting with the brother of the actual executioner, Yurkovski, at Tientsin, have dispelled all doubts I ever had as to the execution of the whole family of the Tsar.

I may venture on a slight digression from my immediate subject in order to quote Yurkovski's story, which completely corroborated all that the soldiers confessed who had guarded the Tsar's prison, and were arrested by Kolchak in Yekaterinburg.

"Moscow sent the order to liquidate the Romanovs," related Yurkovski to me, "but this had to be managed in such a way as to throw the whole responsibility on the local Yekaterinburg Soviet, which was to keep up the appearance of acting independently, and passing the sentence upon the Tsar's family on their own account The arrangement of the whole affair was left to my brother. He visited the volunteer detachment of the Third International and announced that the local Cheka passed sentence of death on the Tsar and his family, and that on this very day the volunteers could take vengeance on the Tsar for the sufferings of the people. But the volunteers remained silent, and not one amongst them was willing to do the deed. In short, the same scene was repeated as that which took place when the Moscow Soviet desired to have the Tsar executed in Tobolsk. Thereupon my brother, taking with him a number of Letts and Hungarians, went to the Ipatiev house, turned into a prison for the Tsar's family, and informed the Tsar that, together with his wife and children, he was to be transferred without delay to the cellars of the building. The Tsar received the news with indifference, but his family were terrified; they burst into tears, cries, and prayers. My brother succeeded in calming them by saying that the garrison of Yekaterinburg had mutinied, and demanded the death of the Romanovs; that the Soviet had refused the demand, and to save the lives of the prisoners, had decided to lodge them in the cellar. The Empress and her daughters quickly composed themselves and thanked my brother, pressing his hand in gratitude. When the Imperial prisoners were in the cellar, they were informed of their doom, and my brother immediately gave the command to fire. But not one of the soldiers dared to obey. Thereupon my brother pulled out his pistol and shot the Tsar. There followed a disordered fusilade, after which only the Empress remained alive. Mortally wounded, she lifted herself from the floor, caught hold of a pillow from the bed, and, hiding behind it, burst into a terrible scream. The only Russian soldier among the Letts and Magyars finished her off by driving his bayonet through the pillow into her bosom. At daybreak the bodies were cut to pieces, transported Into the woods, drenched with petrol and burnt"

This was the story related to me by the brother of Yurkovski, a member of the Yekaterinburg College of the "Cheka," and the murderer of the Imperial family.

It is amazing that in spite of such conclusive evidence of the death of the Romanovs, there still thrives in Monarchist circles the mystical belief that the last of the Tsars has been saved, that he still troubles his heart over the fate of his country, firmly believing in the conversion of his "beloved people," which meantime has concentrated all its energies upon the annihilation of civilisation and all moral values, of Holy Russia itself. The land of the Tsars has since a few years become a geographical expression, a no-man's land, peopled by a mob of anarchists who are destroying even the poor remnants of their intelligence, their culture, their title to the very name of Man.

No wonder that while the Socialist-emigrés, mutually opposing each other, still dream of tfie Socialist paradise … only without the Lenins, the Trotskys, and the Cheka … the Russian intelligentsia are devouring the pages of the Apocalypse, looking there for the future destinies of Russia. It is an appalling symptom of impotence, utter weakness, and dangerous obsession.

This apocalyptic movement originated under the influence of Rasputin. Not that that mysterious adventurer had propagated it. On the contrary! Some eminent dignitaries of the Orthodox Church began to consider Rasputin as the Antichrist. When the first revolution broke out, and the intensified anti-dynastic and anti-social movement pointed to the catastrophe in Russia, the study of the "revelations of Saint John" turned almost into a mania, which later on became a vogue and a proof of "spiritual aristocracy." Four men were the leaders of the anti-State ideology: Prince John, the son of the Grand Duke Constantin; the Archbishop of Omsk, Sylvester; the Bishop of Novgorod, Yewdokim; and the Bishop of Tobolsk, Pimen.

Grand Duke John was a very interesting figure. A Christian mysticist, engrossed in the study of canonical books of the ancient eastern rite, a man with distinct tendencies towards asceticism, he was a severe critic of the depraved life at Tsarskoye Selo. He was a welcome and honoured guest among the circles cultivating Christian mysticism, and he was reverenced by the clergy, dreaming himself of a monk's habit, but the constant object of mockery in Court circles. The Minister of the Interior, Nicholas Maklakov, had chosen him for the special butt of his wit. And Maklakov's anecdotes, jokes, and funny stories were really responsible for their author's career, and for his appointment as Minister of the Interior during the dangerous period of general unrest.

Prince John was inscribed in the "black list" of the Court, kept diligently by the all-powerful Commander of the Tsarskoye Selo, and the alter ego of Count Frederics General Woyeykov. He was always absent from Court receptions, but frequented with pleasure the drawing-rooms of the liberally or mystically minded members of the educated classes. It is an interesting fact that when the Orthodox Church contemplated the establishment of a Patriarchate for the defence and strengthening of the Eastern Greek ritual, and for combating Catholicism, the young Prince John was first mentioned as the candidate for the patriarchal see. The revolution frustrated all these plans, and Prince John was murdered by the Bolsheviks at Alapayevsk.

The Bishop Yevdokim was an equally interesting and a much more prominent personality. Of peasant origin, he was a man of great education and tremendous will-power, an ascetic resembling the sacerdotal giants of the first centuries of Christendom, but with narrow, sectarian ideas. Yevdokim enjoyed an enormous influence in his diocesan district, and his fame travelled far and wide. Being one of the leaders in the struggles against Antichrist, he secured such a great following that he remained at his post even after the advent of the Bolsheviks, who feared him more than the Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Tikhon. In 1921 Yevdokim all of a sudden started a campaign for the purpose of applying treasures belonging to the churches and monasteries to the relief of the hunger-stricken population of Russia. His agitation met with complete success. The Soviet Government at once entered into close relations with the author of a scheme so helpful to the Communist bankrupts. Yevdokim undertook to collaborate with the Soviets. But It was not a change of views or any humanitarian designs which prompted him to assist the Soviets, crumbling tinder the weight of economic confusion. Yevdokim simply took recourse to the approved Russian method of provocation. The Bishop understood that the Bolsheviks feared only one power still remaining in Russia, which was the influence of the Church. After the outbreak of the October revolution, they scrupulously avoided to tread on this dangerous ground. It was necessary to provoke the persecution of the Church.

Assured of the help of Bishop Yevdokim, the Bolsheviks requisitioned the treasures and estates of the Church; gradually they grew bolder and proceeded to simple robberies. The popes and the parishioners resisted. The outcome was a struggle, severe sentences, and bloody battles, which was imitated In numerous other districts. Thus the idea of fighting In defence of the Church against the "servants of Antichrist" spread. The Soviets remained the victors. Bishop Yevdokim first, and then the Patriarch Tikhon himself, submitted to the Soviets and became their faithful partisans, offending the people, the Church, and the Russian emigres. The idea of struggling for the Church was extinguished like all the other lofty watchwords of Russia.