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The Romanovs visiting a regiment during World War I. From left to right: Anastasia, Olga, Nicholas II, Alexei, Tatiana and Maria. Behind them are Kuban Cossacks.Romanov Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University / Wikimedia Commons
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Maria, Olga and Tatiana, just one or two years before they were exiled and later executed.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Olga Romanov poses on the beach, one or two years before her killing.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Anastasia and Maria Romanov visit wounded soldiers during World War One.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Anastasia makes a face with false teeth. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Tsar Nicholas II with his daughters during WWI. From left to right his daughters are: Maria Romanov, Anastasia Romanov, Olga Romanov, Tatiana Romanov. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Anastasia (left) and Maria visit wounded soldiers during World War One.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Maria, Olga and Tatiana Romanov pose with their brother Alexei at the beach. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Sisters pose at a palace.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Tatiana with an unidentified man, sometime between 1915 and 1916.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Tsar Nicholas II Romanov with his son Tsarevich Alexei. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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The Romanovs at a beach sometime between 1915 and 1916.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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The family sits in a carriage sometime from 1915-1916. Maria, who inherited her father's love of photography, likely colored this photograph.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Tsar Nicholas II, 1915-1916.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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In 1915, the Romanovs pose before a dock.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Olga Romanov lies in bed.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Youngest daughter Anastasia makes faces with false teeth sometime between 1915 and 1916.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Olga and Anastasia enjoy quiet time with their mother in 1916.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Tsarina Alexandra on the Standart royal yacht, 1914.Romanov Collection, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
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War breaks out in 1914, and Alexei (left) is pictured playing a war game with his tutor's children.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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The Tsar, Crown Prince Alexei and his tutor walk an elephant near their palace in Tsarkoye Selo, 1914. In Tsar Nicholas' journal, he writes "Took the elephant to our pond with Alexei today and had fun watching him bathe." Following the 1917 revolution, the zoo was closed. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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From left to right: Olga, Alexei and Tatiana. This photo was taken in 1914, four years before their July 1918 execution.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Alexei and Nicholas II play on the banks of the Dnieper River in 1915. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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In winter 1916, Alexei poses with his dog, Joy. While many claim that the Bolsheviks executed the dog along with his family, the Siberian Times reports that Joy escaped after an executioner took pity on him, and was later taken to Windsor.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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The Tsar and Alexei on a boat in Finland.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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During World War One, the Romanov sisters would pay visits to soldiers, wounded and not.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Sisters Tatiana and Olga worked as nurses during World War One.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Extracts of letters from Maria to her father report that Olga (featured above) was deeply affected by the wounded, so much so that in October of 1915 she was given arsenic injections, then believed to treat depression and nervous disorders. She was later removed from the operating theater and sent to do office work instead.
Gleb Botkin, the son of the family's physician Yevgeny Botkin is quoted as saying that, "as it later seemed to me, [Olga] understood the general situation better than any member of her family, including even her parents. At least I had the impression that she had little illusions in regard to what the future held in store for them, and in consequence was often sad and worried."Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Nicholas II inspects the scene and porridge near Mogilyov, where the Russian military was headquartered during World War One, in 1916. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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In 1917, the Romanov sisters came down with the measles and had to have their heads shaved. From left to right are Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga and Maria.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Tatiana with a shaved head.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Nicholas II meets with daughter Anastasia, after she shaved her head due to a bout with measles.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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A photo of the sisters as they recover. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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After being imprisoned at their first home in Tsarskoye Selo, the interim Kerensky government evacuated the Romanovs to Tobolsk, western Siberia in 1916. The Tsar hoped to go into exile in the United Kingdom following his abdication, but King George V (his cousin) denied the request, as did France. The family stayed at the Governor's Mansion (featured above) until the spring of 1918. Then, they were transported to the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, where they would later be executed.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Some questioned the Kerensky government's motivations behind the decision to send the family to Tobolsk instead of Crimea. Kerensky claimed that it was for matters of safety. But according to Nicholas Sokolov, the judge who conducted the judicial inquiry into the murders' circumstances, all relatives of the imperial family who reached Crimea were eventually saved.
Sokolov later wrote that there was "one reason for the choice of Siberia—the dethroned Autocrat of All the Russias must be made to taste the bitterness and dreariness of exile in Siberia, must be made to experience the icy blasts of that House of Dead Souls to which he and his ancestors had banished so many Russians!"Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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The Romanovs at their home in Tobolsk. For a time, the family continued to live "normally" -- even though they were not permitted to go to town. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Alexei, seen here while in Tobolsk, would take care of the poultry.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Nicholas, sometime between 1917 and 1918, would engage in simple manual work, such as cutting wood.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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For a time in Tobolsk, the children continued their studies as normal. From left to right: Maria, Olga, Anastasia and Tatiana.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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In Christmas of 1917, Olga wrote "Everything is peaceful and quiet, thank God. We are all healthy and not losing hope. Today my sisters' and brother's vacation begun. There is still not a lot of snow, the frost reaches -20C, and the sun shines almost all the time, it rises and sets bright and beautiful. ...It's so nice to go for walks. Mama works all day or draws and paints, keeps herself busy all the time and the time flies quickly."
From left to right: Olga, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei, 1917. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Anastasia and Maria make playful gestures while held in captivity.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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The Romanovs sit in Tobolsk, western Siberia, sometime during 1917 and 1918. During this period, they remained hopeful that help was on the way and that their exile would be temporary.Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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During the family's last Christmas together, Tsarina Alexandra wrote to her lady in waiting, Sophia Karlovna Buxhoeveden. Said Alexandra, "Perhaps the word 'joyful Christmas' sounds like a joke now, but after all this joy of the birth of our Lord. .... He will manifest His mercy when the time comes, and before that we have to wait patiently. We cannot change what is happening - we can only believe , believe and pray and never lose love for Him." Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Tatiana and Olga sit with their mother in 1918. According to the 1928 writings of reporter Edmund Walsh, "The townspeople showed themselves courteous and sympathetic, frequently sending gifts, particularly fresh food, and saluting the members of the family respectfully or blessing them with the sign of the cross when they appeared at the windows of the Palace."Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Walsh continued, "It was only, the unending monotony, the drab Siberian monotony, that oppressed, together with the almost complete absence of news."Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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Alexei and his mother take what is likely the last photo of the two in 1918. As the Kerensky government fell to Bolshevist power, treatment of the exiled family was increasingly severe. At the end of April 1918, the family began their trip to Ekaterinburg, the headquarters of the Ural Soviets, where they would be killed. Laski Diffusion / Getty Images
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The cellar of the Ipatiev House, where the family was systematically killed.
Walsh describes the family's final days this way: "Under the moral torture and physical confinement—toward the end the prisoners were allowed but five minutes in the garden each day —the ex-Tsar maintained that astonishing external calm and passivity which characterized his whole life. His health did not seem to weaken, nor did his hair whiten. During the few minutes allowed for exercise in the open air, he carried [Alexei] in his arms, as the boy was unable to walk, and marched stolidly up and down until his precious five minutes were over. But the Empress never left the porch; she aged visibly, her health failed, and gray hairs appeared." The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images
End Of Empire: 47 Photos Of The Last Days of The Romanov Family
On March 15, 1917, Tsar Nicholas II bowed to the chaos sweeping through Russia and abdicated the royal throne. This signaled an end to the centuries-old rule of the Romanov family, but it also marked the beginning of what Edmund Walsh would later describe in The Atlantic as the "weaving of the complicated net of death."
Upon abdicating the throne, the Romanov family -- symbols to many of the feckless imperial glut that stood at the root of much of Russia's hardships -- were exiled and shuffled about Russian residences until their violent July 1918 executions in Ekaterinburg. We track their final years, from 1914 to 1918, in this photo gallery.
The Romanov Family's Demise: A Lack Of "Peace, Bread And Land"
The 300-year Romanov dynasty came to a grinding halt in 1917. In an incredibly quick fashion, two revolutions ousted the House of Romanov and stamped out the Provisional Government taking the Romanovs' place, ultimately replacing it with a Communist government later that year.
Such an astonishing sequence of events was not entirely unforeseen. Tsar Nicholas II, whom many considered to be a credulous man and a weak political leader, presided over a time of great change.
By the early 20th century, Russia had entered a period of rapid industrialization that mainly benefited foreign investors and landowners, and people began to pour into towns and factories at incredibly high rates.
Russia had not prepared for such shifts. Millions of industrial workers now lived within Russia and started to form a new social class, the industrial proletariat, which demanded better wages and conditions than the rural peasants with which Russia was previously familiar.
By 1914 -- seven months before World War One broke out -- over 4,000 worker strikes occurred, largely in protest of extreme economic inequality and against an autocratic regime that seemed ill-disposed to do anything that would improve the livelihoods of this ever-growing industrial class.
World War One exacerbated impoverishment and class-based animosities, as an already-fractured Russia suffered terrible losses both on the field and within its factories. Russia's industrial output plummeted; its army lacked the equipment necessary to stand a chance against the Germans, and casualty and soldier desertion numbers soared. Many Russians looked to Tsar Nicholas II -- who, lacking the military chops to do the job right, foolishly made himself commander of the armed forces -- as the primary source of their starvation.
As Nicholas II expanded his epic losing streak to Prussia and left his wife Alexandra -- a German under the influence of an unpopular "monk" named Rasputin -- in charge of Russian cities, civil discontent swelled and others attempted to capture the loyalty of the hungry and disillusioned Russian populace to advance their own cause.
One such person was Vladimir Lenin, who while in exile in Switzerland campaigned against the war and called upon Russians to turn the "imperialist war into civil war."
And it soon happened. Extreme hunger, cold and inflation drove citizens to the streets in what became known as the February Revolution in Petrograd. Nicholas called on police to control the situation, but they instead joined the strikers.
The soldiers, now wise to the fact the Nicholas' strategies were seldom winners, followed police and refused to fulfill the Tsar's request that they tamp down the strikers. This, coupled with the massive losses incurred during World War One, led the Tsar -- lacking any real authority at this point -- to step down, leaving the Duma tasked with forming some semblance of government as all hell broke loose.
The start of the Russian Revolution, on International Working Women's Day, 1917 Source: Marxists.org
What provisional governments they did manage to form dissolved within a year: War continued, living standards made no progress, and Lenin returned to Russia to help form the Petrograd Soviet, a labor-led council meant to oppose and bring down the Duma-crafted provisional government.
The Bolsheviks -- who ultimately killed the Romanov family in Ekaterinburg after convincing them that they were being led beneath the earth not for execution but protection -- stormed the Winter Palace, assumed control over the state and signed a preliminary armistice with Germany in December to bring the war to an end.
But after all the pains that millions of Russians made to remove themselves from the yoke of a decadent, oppressive dynasty, they fell for Lenin's promises of "peace, land and bread" and would soon find themselves under another oppressive regime that was arguably worse than the one that preceded it. Credulity struck Russia twice.
A gulag memorial along a Russian highway. Not long after the Romanovs were executed, Lenin demanded "mass terror" against his opponents, and that "unreliable elements" must be locked up in concentration camps outside major towns. Over 14 million people were in forced labor camps from 1929 to 1953. Source: WordPress