July 17, 1918: Tsar Nicholas II and his family are executed.
Since May of 1918, the Tsar, his wife, and their five children - Alexei, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia - were captives of the Bolsheviks, imprisoned in a merchant’s house in Yekaterinburg. As the White Army neared the city, however, the communists feared that it (and with it, the royal family) would fall into the enemy’s hands. On July 16, the family’s Bolshevik guards were alerted of approaching Czech forces and ordered by telegram to wipe out the Romanovs in one fell swoop.
At around midnight, the the Tsar and his family were awakened and taken to the cellar room under the pretext that they would soon be transported to a safer location. Soon after, a group of executioners entered the room, led by Yakov Yurovsky; before committing the act, they had all downed shots of vodka, perhaps resulting in the messy and bloody execution that followed. Nicholas was shot and may have died instantly, but Alexei and the girls had not even this luxury. Wounded and in shock but still alive, the Romanov children were finished off by the guards’ bayonets.
In 2000, the family and their physician, cook, footman, and maid, were all canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as ‘passion bearers’.