The Romanov Family
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
Study Sources A and B.
Sources A and B give similar accounts. Does this mean they are reliable?
The fact that sources A and B both show similar accounts of what happened to the Romanov family does not necessarily account to the sources being reliable. On the other hand, the similarities of the reports show that there is likely to be some truth in the sources.
Source is from an American newspaper written in December 1918. It is based on evidence collected by Judge Sergeyev, who was asked to investigate the scene. He believes that only the Tsar, the family doctor, two servants and the maid were shot in the Ipatiev House.
Source B is from Sir Charles Eliot’s report to the British Government in October 1918. In his report he says how Judge Sergeyev showed him round the house where the Tsar was supposed to have been shot. His report agrees with Source A in that the same five people were shot, yet there were no corpses remaining in the house at the time Sir Charles Eliot was shown around.
The reliability of the sources can immediately be questioned due to the authors of the sources. Source A is from a report in an American newspaper. At the time America was a strong opponent of the Bolsheviks as they feared the spread of communism, and so may be biased against the Bolsheviks. By causing the communists to look like murderers, America could boost the support of the Whites. The newspaper report is meant for the general public, so may be one-sided to influence the general public. The information is based on findings by Judge Sergeyev. The information in the report is secondary as it is based on people who talked to or read Sergeyev’s report. None of the information is given by Sergeyev himself, or confirmed.
In Source B, Sir Charles Eliot’s information is based on what Judge Sergeyev showed him, and so is not a first hand account. However, he is shown round the house personally, and so his information is primary. Both sources are also written in 1918, the same year as the murders, so the evidence can be said not to be incorrect due to memory. Source B is dependent on A as the author of B, Sir Charles Eliot, is shown round the house by Sergeyev, who is the author of A. The fact that the information in both sources is the same could mean the sources are reliable. However, even though the information in the sources is the same, this is due to the fact that only the same evidence is supplied in both sources. Sir Charles Eliot was not given a chance to investigate himself; he is only shown evidence by Judge Sergeyev. As both sources rely upon Sergeyev, if he was incorrect or concealing the truth, the evidence in both sources would be corrupt.
Both sources are based on intelligence gathered by Judge Sergeyev. Sergeyev could only study evidence left in the Ipatiev House, so his information was limited. Also he had no eyewitness accounts of the murders. He was appointed to the case by the Whites, and so may have been influenced by them. The Whites could have asked him to withhold certain information, or give out incorrect evidence.
Both sources agree that only five people were killed in the Ipatiev House, the Tsar, the family doctor, two servants and the Empress’s maid. Sources C, D, E, G, and J all agree with the Tsar being killed in Ekaterinburg. With all the sources agreeing, the reliability of sources A and B is improved. The sources also say how the victims were shot, and this evidence is backed up by sources C, D, E, F and G.
Judge Sergeyev seems to contradict himself. In Source A he says, ‘It is my belief that the Empress, the Tsar’s son and the four other children were not shot in that house.’ However, Source C intimates other suggestions as Judge Sokolov says that, ‘My predecessor, Sergeyev, on handling the case to me, had no doubt about the fact that the entire Romanov family had been massacred in the Ipatiev House.’ Sergeyev can be seen to have given out two accounts of what happened, so cannot be perceived as entirely reliable because both pieces of evidence cannot be correct. This questions the reliability of the entire source.
To conclude, even though the sources share the same information, they are contradicted in many ways by other sources. Judge Sergeyev cannot be seen as reliable as he gave out different accounts of the events. Also, the two sources are dependent as they are based upon evidence gathered by Sergeyev, and so the reliability of these sources is questioned.
Study Sources A, B and C.
How far does the account in Source C differ from those in Sources A and B?
Source C is an excerpt from a book published by Judge Sokolov in 1924. Sokolov took over from Judge Sergeyev to investigate the murders of the Romanov family after Sergeyev was sacked from the case in January 1919. Sergeyev had told Sokolov he was certain the whole family died in the Ipatiev House. Sokolov believed the murder was carried out with revolvers and bayonets in one of the basement rooms, and that at least several people were shot in the basement.
Source C says that the ‘bloody carnage took place in one of the rooms in the basement.’ This is similar to source A which says that the murders took place in the lower story of the house. Sources A, B and C all agree that guns were used to shoot the victims. However, sources A and B only say that the Romanov family were ‘shot’. Source C illustrates more than sources A and B, saying that, ‘The murder was carried out using bayonets and revolvers.’ Source also goes into more depth by saying, ‘More than thirty shots were fired because some of the bullets must have remained in the bodies’, and some of the bullets went into the floor and the wall.
Source B states that ‘on 17 July, a train left Ekaterinburg and it is believed the surviving members of the royal family were in it.’ This contradicts Source C, which says that a lorry carried the corpses for disposal. It also opposes because Source C states that, ‘It is demonstrated that between 17 and 22 July a murder occurred in the house.’ If the train with the surviving members left on the 17th, the murders would have occurred before this date, contradicting Source C. However, both Sources are adamant the murders took place towards the end of July.
Source C has concrete evidence as to the fact that several people must have been killed inn the Ipatiev House, ‘because one person could not change his position so much and submit to so many blows.’ However, Sources A and B have no evidence to support this theory. Source B makes assumptions that several people were killed; Sir Charles Eliot had no evidence to establish this.
Source C is similar to B that the report was not made known to the public, however it differs to A in that Source A was part of a newspaper report to the general public. Because of this, Source A might be incorrect as the media would want to send out a certain message to public, whereas Source C would be classified and so no bias would be needed. As source C is written as a report, it should be more factual and accurate.
Furthermore, Source C is a lot more descriptive than Sources A and B. Source C has a lot of information on what happened, saying that the bodies were taken to the ‘Four Brothers mine’, and ‘burned with the aid of petrol and sulphuric acid’. On the other hand, Sources A and B have little evidence and are vague. Source B says, ‘No corpses were discovered, nor any trace of them having been burned.’ This also opposes Source C as it says that no burning occurred.
While Sources A, B and C agree on the place and date of death, that is approximately where the similarities end. The differences in Sources A and B and Source C far outweigh the similarities. The Sources disagree on the deaths that occurred in the Ipatiev House and the disposal of the bodies. In addition, whereas Sources A and B were vague on some of the details of the evidence, Source C goes into more detail for the evidence supplied, with Judge Sokolov providing evidence with his theory.
Study Sources D and E.
Source D must be reliable as it is an eyewitness’ account. Do you agree?
Just because Source D is an eyewitness account does not necessarily mean that it is reliable. The reliability of the account depends upon the witness, and Pavel Medvedev is quoted by his wife in Source E as saying a different version of what he tells the Whites. On the other hand, the fact that it is a first hand account of the scene shows that is more likely to be reliable, as it is a primary source.
Source D are notes from the interview of Pavel Medvedev by the Whites. He talks about how the whole family were taken into the corner room, next to the storeroom. The Empress sat by the wall with three of her daughters. The Emperor was in the middle, next to his son, with the family doctor, Dr. Botkin stood behind him. He says the maid was stood by the storeroom door with the other daughter. Then, eleven men walked into the room. Supposedly Medvedev was told to ‘“Go out to the street and see whether anyone’s there and if the shots will be heard”’. Medvedev then supposedly walked out and heard the shots. He says as he walked into the room he saw the family dead on the floor. The corpses were then taken out to the lorry.
The reliability of this source is disputable by the fact that it is an eyewitness’ account. Pavel Medvedev was at the scene, and so will have the best account of what happened. However, he could have been lying about what happened, so the source could be corrupt. As this Source was taken from an interview by the Whites, and Medvedev was at the scene, he could be lying to appease the Whites as he was part of the Bolsheviks. As he was probably tortured, he could have also lied to pacify the Whites to stop them from torturing him.
The story Pavel Medvedev told the Whites in the interview directly contravenes what he told his own wife, as shown in Source E. Medvedev’s wife said that ‘My husband fired too’. Also, Medvedev told his wife that ‘a paper was read to them that said, “The revolution is dying, and so shall you”’. In the interview with the Whites, Pavel Medvedev failed to mention this, showing that he could be withholding information in Source D. Also in Source E it says that Medvedev told another guard that he had ‘“emptied two or three bullets into the Tsar”’. This backs up his wife’s version of events. However, neither the wife nor the guard were at the scene and so were secondary sources. Their information is questionable against a primary source.
To conclude, even though Pavel Medvedev was there at the scene when the incident happened, his reliability is more than likely doubtful. As he was probably tortured by the White Russians, what he said in the interview cannot be seen as reliable. On the other hand, his wife had no reason to be bias against her husband, and so her reliability is more concrete. However, even if the information she gave is truthful, as it is not a first hand account the evidence might be incorrect as well.
Study Sources F, G and H.
Which of these sources is most useful to a historian studying the deaths of the Tsar and his family?
Sources F, G and H are all visual sources on the murder of the Romanov family. Two factors limit whether the information is useful; the information supplied and the reliability of this information.
Source F is a photograph of the basement room where the murders are claimed to have taken place. Because it is a photograph, it instinctively stands out as reliable. In the photograph there are bullet holes and marks where possibly bayonets will have been used. This is supported by source C, which states, ‘The murder was carried out using revolvers and bayonets.’ Furthermore, source I, a message to the Bolsheviks, says, ‘decided to execute, by shooting, Nikolai Romanov.’ This backs up the use of guns in the murder. Also, guns and bayonets can be seen in source G, a painting of the death of the Tsar.
Additionally, on the right of the photograph a door can be seen. This is most possibly the room to the storeroom door, as shown in the layout in source H, where it says in the top right ‘Door to the storeroom’. This is also backed up by source D where it says, ‘The maid stood by the storeroom door with the other daughter.’ What is shown in the photograph is backed up by other sources, showing that is very probable to be reliable. However, there is still the probability that the photograph is fake, or was recreated.
On the other hand, whilst the photograph is reliable, the information supplied is very vague. It shows that guns and bayonets were used in the murder, but that is essentially the only useful information it supplies.
Source G is a painting of the death of the Tsar, based on information gathered by the investigation carried out by the Whites. The painting shows the Tsar being shot by the guards. This is presumably true, as numerous other sources relate to the guards shooting the victims. To the left a bayonet can be seen, and this is reinforced by source C, ‘using revolvers and bayonets’. It is further backed by source J, ‘had to be finished off by bayonets’.
From the painting a layout can be deduced of where the members of the Romanov family were at the shooting, which supports source H, also showing approximately the same layout. All the members of the family can be seen, as supported by source D, ‘The Empress sat down by the wall, behind her stood three of her daughters. The Emperor was in the middle, next to the heir, and behind him stood Dr Botkin. The maid stood by the storeroom door with the other daughter.’ On the other hand, sources A and B disagree with this, saying that only the ‘Tsar, Dr Botkin, the Empress’ maid and two servants’, were present in the shooting in the Ipatiev House. However, this may be because the painting was based upon information collected in the investigation carried out by the Whites, and Pavel Medvedev, author of Source D, was interviewed in the investigation. But because the information was based on the investigation of the Whites, who opposed the murdering of the royal family, it may be biased. While Source G is a painting, and so therefore has margin for incorrect information to be put into the painting, it is shown to be based on reliable information gathered. Furthermore, lots of information can be deduced from source G.
Source H is a diagram from Judge Sokolov’s book showing the position of the people in the basement at the shooting. It shows that the whole family and the doctor and maid must have been there, for enough people to be in the diagram. This reinforces what Pavel Medvedev describes in Source D, that the whole family was present. However, as Judge Sokolov was a White supporter, and the diagram is based on witnesses he interviewed, it may be likely that he interviewed Pavel Medvedev. This concurs with Source G, which shows all the members of the royal family to be present. It also shows the number of guards presents, corresponding with source H. In source D, Medvedev said there were ‘Eleven men’. Adding Medvedev to this, there are twelve guards, which matches the number of guards in Source H. On the other hand, this opposes sources A and B, which state that only the ‘Tsar, the family doctor, two servants and the maid were shot in the Ipatiev House.’ Source H also shows a storeroom door at the top right. This agrees with source F, which shows a door to the right.
Overall, source G would be the most useful for a historian. Whilst it is a painting, so is not definitive information, it is seemingly based on reliable information gathered by the White Russian’s investigation. Source F is a photograph, so is reliable, yet does not give much useful information, only proving that guns were used in the shooting. Source H gives more information than F, yet does not give as much information as G. Source H shows how many victims and guards were present, yet does not show the process in which the victims were murdered, clearly shown in Source G.
Study Source I. Are you surprised by this source?
Source I is a message from the District Soviet of the Ural to the Bolsheviks in Petrograd. It states that because ‘Ekaterinburg was seriously threatened by the danger of counter-revolutionaries’, the Presidium of the District Soviet of the Ural decided to execute the Tsar, Nikolai Romanov by shooting. It says that his wife and son have been sent off to a safe place.
There is evidence for panic in this message, saying that ‘Ekaterinburg was seriously threatened by the danger of counter-revolutionaries.’ As the Whites took over Ekaterinburg in May, the Bolsheviks would have had to take action. For this, they decided to execute the Tsar. This is unsurprising, as numerous other sources relate to the Tsar being killed. However, what is surprising is that such a short time was taken for the Bolsheviks to decide to execute the Tsar. The message was sent on July 20 1918; only a short period after Ekaterinburg was captured. Furthermore, if the Bolsheviks were shown to be the killers of the Tsar, it would lose their standing in the civil war. Many people still supported the Tsar, and if he was killed, there would be public outrage. The Bolsheviks could not afford to do this. The fact that the message was sent on July 20 agrees with Source C, in which Judge Sokolov comes to the conclusion that ‘between 17 and 22 July a murder occurred’.
It is surprising that it says the ‘wife and son have been sent off to a secure place.’ In Source J, the Tsar’s wife was positively indentified in DNA tests, proven to be almost definitely correct. What is surprising is that this proves the message to be lying. The message was sent within the Bolsheviks, to a senior authority. It is surprising that the District Soviet would lie to the major Bolsheviks centre in Petrograd.
What else is surprising is that there is no mention of Dr Botkin or the maid in the message. All sources agree that the maid and doctor were present at the murders, even sources A and B and D, which contain a different number of victims. Source D says that, ‘The Emperor was in the middle, next to the heir, and behind him stood Dr Botkin. The maid stood by the storeroom door with the other daughter’. This also contradicts Source I, which says that the son was sent to a safe location.
The fact that the message was sent is quite surprising. The Bolsheviks would try to keep quiet about the death of Tsar. If it got out their standing would be lost, and the Whites, strongly opposed to the death of the Tsar, would have their standing boosted. If the message was found out it could prove disastrous for the Bolsheviks. Also, other sources show the Bolsheviks to be discreet about the murders. Source C states that, ‘under the cover of darkness, a lorry carried the corpses to the Four Brothers Mine.’ Source J backs this up with ‘The bodies were driven to a mine and the mine blown up by grenades.’ The fact that the Bolsheviks went to quite some lengths to cover up the death of the Tsar, yet then sent a message between themselves detailing of his death is surprising. Also, as they tried to cover up the evidence, it is quite surprising that in Source F, it can be seen that the shooting of the victims leaves a lot of evidence of the murder taking place.
Overall, the fact that a message was sent detailing of the death of the Tsar is very surprising. This is because of the fact that they decided to execute him rather quickly and decisively, only a small time after Ekaterinburg had been taken over by the Whites. Also, it is surprising that they decided to execute the Tsar at all. This was at a critical time in the Bolsheviks campaign, and they could not risk exposure or the civil war would be virtually lost for them. Furthermore, sending the letter itself is startling, because if it was disclosed to the public the revelation would be startling. There would have been a much better way to get the information to the head of the Bolsheviks that did not put them at risk of discovery.
F) Study all the sources.
How far does Source J confirm what the other sources said about what happened to the Tsar and his family?
Source J is from a British newspaper published in 1994. It shows recent developments into the deaths of the Romanovs after a group of archaeologists opened a shallow burial pit near Ekaterinburg in 1991. DNA tests were used on the remains of the burial pit to positively identify Nicholas II, his wife and three of their daughters. Marks on the skeletons of the girls show that bayonets were used to finish them off. It details how the bodies were driven to a mine and the mine then blown up. When the mine did not collapse, the bodies were put back on the lorry. The lorry then became bogged down in a swamp and the remains were buried there.
As modern genetic technology was used to confirm these as the bodies of the Tsar and family, Source J can be seen as the most reliable. Precise ‘DNA tests along with the dental records’, were used to identify. As well as this, as the tests were carried out over seventy years after the murders of the Romanov family, the British would have no reason to be bias. Consequently, the reliability of other sources can be analysed according to the extent that they agree with Source J.
Firstly, sources A and B agree with source J that five people were killed. However, the sources name different fatalities. Sources A and B state that, ‘the Tsar, the family doctor, two servants and the maid were shot in the Ipatiev House.’ Yet Source J says ‘Nicholas II, his wife and three daughters.’ On the other hand, Source A partially agrees with source J when it says, ‘four other children were not shot’. Source J stated two of the five children missing. Also, Source J does not specify where the victims were killed, and Source A says that, ‘the Empress, the Tsar’s son and the four other children were not shot in that house’, giving the possibility that some of the victims were not shot inside the house.
At the beginning of Source C Judge Sokolov states, ‘the entire Romanov family had been massacred.’ The ‘corpses’ that are transported to the Four Brothers mine are most probably that of the ‘entire Romanov family’. However, Source J says that ‘two of the imperial family’s five children were missing’ and so Source C contradicts Source J in this way. Source D has a similar disagreement, with Medvedev saying he saw ‘all the members of the Tsar’s family lying on the floor’ and then the ‘corpses were taken out to the lorry.’ Source E backs up Sources C and D by saying ‘they killed them all.’
Source J proves that bayonets were a tool in the massacr
Source J proves that bayonets were a tool in the massacre. This proves the statement in source C to be true where it says, ‘The murder was carried out using bayonets and revolvers.’ This is reiterated in source F where the wall and floor has been ripped apart, seemingly by the use of bayonets. Source C, in concord with Source D, also backs up source J by stating that ‘a lorry carried the corpses to the Four Brothers mine.’ This matches Source J’s comment, ‘The bodies were driven to a mine’. However, even though the sources agree on the method of transport, the method of disposal is contradicted. In source J it states that ‘the mine blown up by grenades’, whereas in Source C it says ‘The bodies were chopped into pieces and burned with the aid of petrol and sulphuric acid.’ This shows that Source J partially disagrees with source C. The phrases ‘chopped into pieces and burned’, ‘The fatty matter in the corpses ran out and mixed in with the soil’, exaggerate the tone of the murders. This may have been because the author of C, Judge Sokolov, was a White and may have been told to make the Bolsheviks look as bad as possible.
All sources are in agreement that the Tsar was killed in the Ipatiev House, with Medvedev saying in Source E he ‘“emptied two or three bullets into the Tsar”’, and Source I stating that, ‘decided to execute, by shooting, Nikolai Romanov’. Source J is in compliance with this, as it says that ‘dental records positively identify Nicholas II’.
Source J gives a reason for why such brutality was used on the victims. Source C says ‘more than thirty shots were fired’, and source F shows that a lot of brutal force was used in the murders. Source D reinforces this, as ‘eleven men’ were used to kill the family. Source H further reiterates this, as there are a lot of white dots representing guards in the room. Source J explains this by saying, ‘Marks on the skeleton show that the girls, protected by jewels sown into their underclothes, had to be finished off by bayonets.’ This illustrates that excessive force was needed to bring down the family.
Source G shows the guards to be shooting downwards, towards the bodies of the victims. Source F reiterates this as most of the damage to the room is on the floor and lower wall. Source J proves this by saying ‘jewels sown into their underclothes, had to be finished off by bayonets.’ This shows that as the jewels were in the underclothes of the girls, and the underclothes would not have protected them from shots to the head, the guards must have been shooting downwards towards the body.
Source G shows the Tsar’s son with his father being shot, however this contradicts source J as the source says ‘two of the imperial family’s five children were missing’, and ‘three of the daughters’ were found in the burial pit. This shows that’s the son was not murdered with the rest of the family, and so source G disagrees with source J.
Sources J and I do not agree, as in source I it clearly states that, ‘His wife and son have been sent off to a secure place.’ On the other hand, the Tsar’s wife was clearly found in the burial pit with the Tsar. This shows that source I was most probably false. The District Soviet may have lied in the message, to cover up for the mistake of killing the whole family, instead of just the Tsar, or the message may have been fake. However, this shows how sources J and I do not match.
Overall, I believe that Source J is not confirmed by the other sources of what happened to the Tsar and his family. However, there are a few similarities to the other sources, even though source J mostly contrasts the other sources. Nevertheless, source J is considered to be the most reliable as it is reinforced by precise scientific evidence such as DNA tests and dental records. In general, the amount that a source confirms what is shown in source J is down to the reliability and trustworthiness of the other sources and the information present in that source.
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