Royal nostalgia blossoms for the murdered tsar
Steve Crawshaw in Ekaterinburg finds a city remembering a lost empire
Tuesday 05 September 1995
Ekaterinburg - until a few years ago the closed Soviet city of Sverdlovsk - is famous for its connections with two sets of Russian rulers. In recent decades it was Boris Yeltsin's power-base. Most famously of all, however, it was in a house on this spot that Tsar Nicholas II and his family were shot in July 1918.
The Communists later used the building - known as Ipatiev House, after the merchant who had built it - as an educational centre. But this political fumigation was not enough. Visitors continued to come to pay homage, even in the Brezhnev years. Eventually the authorities decided enough was enough. Yuri Andropov, then head of the KGB, asked the Politburo to authorise the destruction of the building. In 1977 Mr Yeltsin, the Communist Party boss in the region, duly arranged for it to disappear.
In the late 1980s, as taboos began to be chipped away, Ipatiev House began to be discussed once more. But it was not until after the collapse of the Soviet Union that public nostalgia was seriously revived.
Suddenly the fate of Nicholas II, the Empress Alexandra and their five children was treated with enormous reverence. The plaque at the site of Ipatiev House describes how the family was "villainously killed".
Now a tiny wooden chapel stands beside the church building-site. It is crammed with newly-executed paintings of the family. The chapel's warden talks of their saintliness in hushed tones. The wooden church being erected is itself only to be temporary: it is to be replaced by a brick Church of the Blood of All the Saints.
There is no sign that interest in the royal family is dying. Russian newspapers last week described as "sensational" the news from the United States that the bodies - buried near Ekaterinburg and exhumed a few years ago - had finally been established beyond all possible doubt as those of members of the family.
Meanwhile, the nostalgia for tsarist times is often combined with an insistence that others were to blame for everything that went wrong in Russia after 1917. A magazine on sale in the chapel emphasises that "persons of Jewish nationality" were "to one degree or another" responsible for the murders. In other words, Russians were not perpetrators of Communist brutality but innocent victims. It is a popular view. In Russia these days you can buy a newspaper called Black Hundreds, named after an organisation that organised pogroms in tsarist times. Unsurprisingly, Black Hundreds also argues that all Russia's woes should be blamed on the Jews.
For some, all the fuss about the tsars seems irrelevant today. But the nostalgia can sometimes be found in surprising quarters. Mikhail Legeyev, a geology student, is visiting Ekaterinburg from St Petersburg. "Of course it's good that they are building this church in memory.'' And as for the tsars? "I think it was a good system. Why not?"
- 1 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 4 A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Costa Concordia: Shipment of Mob drugs was hidden aboard cruise liner when it hit rocks off Italian coast, investigators say
Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Germanwings crash: 'Andreas Lubitz planned to marry pregnant girlfriend', claims German report
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...
£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...
£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...