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?"
Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax
- 1 Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
- 2 Shia LaBeouf claims he was raped during #IAMSORRY art installation performance
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Sean Abbott: Messages of support flood in for bowler after death of Phil Hughes
Dr Lam Hoe Yeoh: Voyeur doctor jailed for eight years after using network of hidden cameras to film patients, colleagues and friends on the toilet
Kim Jong-un 'in dire need of allies' within his own government as younger sister appointed to senior role
Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell’s reputation in tatters as judge rules he used the word ‘pleb’
£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...
£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...
£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...
£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...