Sunday, September 12, 2010


We're about to leave Yekaterinburg for a 30-hour train journey to Moscow. Even though there are interesting places in between such as Kazan, Perm, and Vladimir, we've decided to go straight there in order to give us enough time to enjoy Moscow and St Petersburg. I was also getting a bit tired of traveling one night on a train then seeing a city for only one day and then getting back on the train - it'll be nice to spend a few days in one place.

Yekaterinburg was where the Romanovs were executed by the Bolsheviks after the revolution in 1917. We visited the church that now stands on the site of the house where they were killed. Since the fall of communism, the family have been made saints by the Russian orthodox church and there were plenty of postcards and mementos of them being sold there.

The city is also regarded as being on the border between Europe and Asia, lying as it does along the Ural mountains. So I have now officially ended my journey through Asia and am beginning my trip through Europe. Although I haven't planned much at this stage, my tentative aim is to travel from St Petersburg to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania (where the visas are easier to come by than in Belarus and the Ukraine) and from there to Poland. Once I hit the EU I no longer need to worry about visas because I'm the lucky owner of a UK passport.

Romanov death site

Incomprehensible blurb about the Europe - Asia border


  1. I always found it amusing how the industry arose around Anastasia, despite the story seeming pretty far fetched on any view. Then of course they did some DNA testing and confirmed that she wasn't Anastasia or even remotely so, not that that managed to pour all the conspiracies back into their bottle.

  2. Who needs bookclub? The libraries are still closed here and i have run out of reading material. I finally got hold of your blog address so have spent the evening catching up on your adventures since Vietnam...loving your work! It sounds like you are having a great adventure with all the trials and tribulations that brings. Look forward on completing the catchup on your early journey tomorrow night. Take care- Jude (from bookclub).

  3. James: they also did some DNA testing recently on the remains that they have and discovered that Anastasia was among them after all. So it was all just because of poor testing when the remains were first found.

    Hi Jude. Thanks for reading. Maybe I'll turn the blog into a book and that will be my bookclub choice to read!

  4. Here's more info about the killing of the Romanovs, from Lonely Planet:

    What happened to the Romanovs after their 1918 execution is a mixture of the macabre, the mysterious and the just plain messy. The bodies were dumped at Ganina Yama, an abandoned mine 16km from Yekaterinburg. When grenades failed to collapse the main shaft, it was decided to distribute the bodies among various smaller mines and pour acid on them. But the expert in charge of the acid fell off his horse and broke his leg; and the truck carrying the bodies became bogged in a swamp.
    By now understandably desperate, the disposal team opted to bury the corpses. They tried burning Alexey and Maria in preparation, but realised it would take days to burn all the bodies properly, so the others were just put in a pit and doused with acid. Even then, most of the acid soaked away into the ground – leaving the bones to be uncovered 58 years later in 1976, near Porosinkov Log, about 3km from Ganina Yama. The discovery was kept secret until the remains were finally fully excavated in 1991. The bones of nine people were tentatively identified as Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsaritsa Alexandra, three of their four daughters, the imperial doctor and three servants.
    Missing were the remains of the imperial couple’s only son, Tsarevitch Alexey, and one of their daughters, giving a new lease of life to theories that the youngest daughter, Anastasia, had somehow escaped. In 1992 bone samples from the excavated skeletons were sent to the British government’s Forensic Science Service, to be tested by DNA identification techniques. Using blood and hair samples from distant relatives of the tsar and tsarina, the scientists established with ‘more than 98.5%’ certainty that the bones were those of the imperial family.
    In 1994 an official Russian inquiry team managed to piece together the skulls found in the pit, badly damaged by rifle butts, hand grenades and acid. Using plaster models of the faces, DNA tests and dental records, they determined that the three daughters found were Olga, Tatyana – and Anastasia. The missing daughter was Maria, whose remains were unearthed in 2007, and formally identified along with those of her brother Alexey in 2008.
    In mid-1998 the imperial remains were given a proper funeral at St Petersburg’s SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, to lie alongside their predecessors dating back to Peter the Great. The Orthodox Church later canonised the tsar and his family as martyrs.

  5. Curiously zealous, and badly executed body disposal. Was the fear they would be identified? Surely they wanted them definitely dead, why be afraid of the evidence that proved there was no monarchy any longer? Were they afraid they were not really dead (vampirically hard to kill, like Rasputin)? Was it sheer hatred? Now the elitist figurative vampires are martyrs! But martyrs to what cause??!

    Tragic, yes, but they were extraordinary only for wealth, privilege, power (and failure to exercise this for the good of the people) and haemophilia. Surely you have to do something special to be canonised?

    This is doing my head in... along with that incomprehensible sign...

    However I did work with a guy from Yekaterinburg and he was very rational, so not all nuts.

  6. From what I can remember from history class in school (we covered the Russian revolution, all seven of us in 5th form history at Birkdale College) there were two (related) reasons why they wanted to get rid of the bodies: (1) they didn't want them to be martyrs for the antirevolutionists which they were less likely to be if they had simply 'mysteriously' disappeared. (2) the Bolsheviks didn't want to be known as murderers - they could maintain that they didn't know what had happened to the family.
    Yes, it does also seem some sheer hatred was involved on the part of those who did the actual disposing. They took out their hatred of the conditions in Russia at the time on those who they thought were responsible.
    I can't see why they were canonised either. Just privileged inbreds (the inbreeding i seem to remember was suggested as part of the reason for the haemophilia).

  7. I went and had a look online (after I wrote of course), seems from one account, the bullets bounced from the jewelled corsets of the girls (failing to kill them) leading to the fear that they might actually have a divine royal mandate.

    Just to add to the madness of this all!

    Yes, they were inbred as royal houses of Europe tended to be a bit that way but that is not the cause of the haemophilia. Once in the family, the gene just got passed down. The inbreeding probably just spread it further within in subset of royal houses rather than make it more prevalent than it would normally be in any given family. l Queen Victoria carried this gene and it affected some of her children and grandchildren.