Carl William Ackerman, a reporter, accompanied the Siberian Intervention in 1918. From Vladivostok to Ekaterinburg, the Americans, British, French and Japanese battled against the Bolsheviki which terrorized the land. Ackerman wrote a book about his experiences, Trailing the Bolsheviki, published in 1919. (Background: Mission to Siberia, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of August 20, 2014.)
Besides French, Japanese, English and Americans, the Czecho-Slovaks had a significant presence in Siberia. In fact, Ackerman claims it was the Czecho-Slovak army which had kept the Bolsheviki forces out of Siberia! “To the Czechs and to them alone belongs the credit for the order which exists in eastern and western Siberia, excepting, perhaps, in the few cities where the other Allies are stationed. The Czechs are not strutting on the war stage of the East. They are not even asking for praise.”
At the time Ackerman was in Siberia, Ekaterinburg was the headquarters of the Czecho-Slovak National Council in Russia. What Ekaterinburg is most famous for is “the residence of Professor Ipatieff in which the Tzar, Nikolas II, and his family were imprisoned until they mysteriously disappeared in July, 1918.”
Russia is called by Ackerman “the supreme tragedy of the war.” When Belgium had been invaded in 1914, there was universal sympathy. “But as for Siberia and Russia, during their days of trial the world looked on with cold pity.”
“The fate of the former imperial family of Russia is one of the great mysteries of the war,” writes Ackerman. “The last place in which they are known to have been imprisoned is Ekaterinburg, that beautiful snow-white city with broad thoroughfares and palaces – the jewel of the Ural Mountains.”
In April 1918 Professor Ipatieff was ordered by the Bolsheviks to relinquish his residence, the Ipatieff house. This residence, the last known prison of the Tsar and his family, “was within a stone’s throw of the British and French consulates.”
Parfen Alexeivitch Dominin, the Tsar’s personal valet, wrote an account of what happened, which Ackerman gives a “verbatim translation” of:
“Beginning with the first days of July , airplanes began to appear nearly every day, over Ekaterinburg, flying very low and dropping bombs, but little damage was done. Rumors spread about the city that the Czecho-Slovaks were making reconnoissances and would shortly occupy the city.”
Parfen Alexeivitch Dominin’s account has Tsar Nicholas II alone executed: “So Nikolas was taken away, nobody knows where, and was shot during the night of July 16, by about twenty Red army soldiers.” (But notice that Alexeivitch Dominin did not actually see the purported shooting of the Tsar.)
Alexandra Feodorovna Romanoff and her son Alexei were “taken away by an automobile truck, it is not known where,” recalled Parfen Alexeivitch Dominin.
Parfen Alexeivitch Dominin does not specifically say what happened to Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, daughters of the Tsar and Tsarina. He mentions a newspaper account from the “Cheliabinsk newspaper Utro Sibiri” which claimed the Tsar had been murdered at a place ten versts (about 10 kilometers) from Ekaterinburg. A “tumulus” had been found on July 30, 1918 containing personal belongings of the royal family and “bones of burned corpses.”
But Parfen Alexeivitch Dominin himself did not actually see anyone killed. He does not from his own witnessing say any of the Romanovs were killed: “Thus the Tzar spent the last days as a Bolshevist prisoner, disappearing within a few hours before the Czecho-Slovak troops freed the terror-stricken city of Ekaterinburg, according to the testimony of his faithful servant.”
Ackerman is certain that the Tsar was in communication with the outside world “through various secret channels.” An old nun from the monastery of Ekaterinburg frequently brought milk, eggs and butter to the imprisoned Romanovs. During these visits the nun had “audiences” with royal family members. It is suspected the old nun carried messages back to the monastery. And it was through this monastery that friends of the Tsar in Crimea maintained contact with Nicholas II.
Another channel of communication was a friendly guard, still secretly loyal to the “Little White Father.” A brick house across the street from the Ipatiev house sent signals from its attic to the Tsar. Was this “brick house” the British consulate? Ackerman does not say. Throughout the time the Tsar and his family were held at the Ipatiev house, “efforts were being made to release him. On more than one occasion the Tzar received a message stating that he would soon be freed… More money was spent trying to free Nikolas Romanoff than the Bolsheviki ever used in guarding and transporting him or maintaining an organization to prevent his escape.”
After the Bolsheviks had condemned the Tsar to death, the Moscow wireless station sent out an official notice addressed, “To all, to all, to all!” The official notice announced that the Tsar had been executed in Ekaterinburg, but that his family had been removed from the city to a place of safety. But the official notice of execution went out before the supposed execution had happened!
“But was Nikolas II killed?” writes Ackerman. “If so, how and where? This is where the real mystery of the Tzar begins.”
The old nun who carried eggs and milk to the Tsarevich Alexei told Ackerman “that she is positive none of them was executed in [the Ipatiev house], and that the Tzarina, the Tzarevitch, and the daughters were taken away in a motor-truck which she saw standing in the grounds of the Ipatiev residence on July 15. She believes the Tzar is dead, but that the family is still alive.”
“On the other hand, one of the priests from the same monastery, who held short services upon a few occasions in the house of the imperial family, assured [Ackerman] that ‘the whole family is alive and well.'”
An unnamed member of the Russian nobility who was a close friend of Tsarina Alexandra received, after the supposed execution, a message from the interior of Russia by courier saying, “Your friends are all well.”
Ackerman inspected the room in the Ipatiev house where the Romanovs were supposedly mass executed. He remained unconvinced it had happened for several reasons:
- Little blood. “There were no pools of blood, and it seemed doubtful to me that seven persons should die a horrible death and leave only small ‘blood clots’ in the bullet-holes and small blood-stains on the floor.”
- It was mid-July, hot and sultry. Surely the Romanovs would not have worn heavy clothing.
- It would have been hard to destroy the bodies completely by just burning them. (Later, a “sulphuric acid” story appeared.)
- Parfen Alexeivitch Dominin, the Tsar’s valet, was in the Ipatiev house at the time of the “mass execution” and did not hear any shots.
The Bolsheviks at first claimed the Tsar alone had been murdered at a place ten versts (about 10 kilometers) outside Ekaterinburg. Enroute to this “ten versts” execution, only three guards accompanied the Tsar. “Considering all of the efforts which were being made in and around Ekaterinburg to save the Tzar, does it seem possible that his friends, who were numerous in the city and watchful, should permit three soldiers to take him away?” And couldn’t one or all of the three guards have been bribed?
A prominent Russian merchant of Ekaterinburg testified that he saw the Tsar and his family in the private office of the railroad depot master on July 20th, three days after the supposed “mass execution” of July 17, 1918.