Written by Vladimir Moss



     At the end of November, 1917, the Bolsheviks sought to come to terms with the Germans in accordance with their promise (the only one they ever kept) to end the war. The Germans’ overwhelming military superiority since the failure of Kerensky’s July offensive meant that they could more or less dictate the terms of the peace, which were truly humiliating: the treaty of Brest-Litovsk that was eventually signed in March, 1918 deprived Russia of about a quarter of her territory, a third of her population and a half of her industry… Many Bolsheviks, not to mention patriots in other parties, wanted to reject the terms and fight on, but Lenin claimed that this was just romanticism. The treaty would provide some essential respite for the Bolsheviks while allowing Germany and the Western powers to continue destroying each other. And indeed, with the Germans only a few hours’ march from Petrograd, the Bolsheviks had no choice but to kow-tow to the Germans if they were to cling on to power.

     The treaty was immediately denounced by Patriarch Tikhon. The Tsar had promised that he would never sign a unilateral truce with Germany – and kept his promise. Lenin promised to take Russia out of the war – and did so on the worst possible terms. His aim was to turn the international war into a civil war fought, not against Germans (of whom Lenin was, after all, a paid agent[1]), but against Russians. That war had already begun in the south of the country, where the White armies, having survived a difficult first winter, were gathering their strength.

     Everybody was now against the Bolsheviks, even the other socialist parties. The Left SRs abandoned them after Brest-Litovsk. Only the Latvian riflemen propped up the regime until Trotsky started building up the Red Army by the most ruthless methods of forced conscription and blackmail.

     This was a great opportunity for the West to snuff out Bolshevism. The US Secretary of State Lansing was certainly ready to intervene; he saw Bolshevism “in precisely the terms that Lenin imagined – as a natural ideological enemy of the US that must be stamped out. What was ‘coming to the surface’ in Russia, Lansing presciently observed, was ‘in many ways more to be dreaded than autocracy’.”[2]And indeed, if the abdication of the Tsar had gladdened the hearts of the liberals, the Bolsheviks’ dissolution of the Constituent Assembly must have appalled them. For all those with eyes to see, it was obvious that the Bolsheviks were not only no democrats and no less despotic than the German militarists, but probably much worse.

     However, for the Americans to intervene would have meant making peace with Germany first – and the moment for that had passed with America’s joining the war on the Allied side. In any case, the American president in 1918, as later in 1945, was blind to the threat posed by Bolshevism… It was one of Wilson’s most radical advisors, William Bullitt, who dissuaded him from a decisive intervention against the Bolsheviks. “’In Russia today,’ Bullitt insisted, ‘there are the rudiments of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.’ The real threat to democracy lay not in Lenin’s Sovnarkom (Council of People’s Commissars), but in the forces of reactionary imperialism that were alive within the Entente as much as in the Central Powers. ‘Are we going to make the world safe for this Russian democracy,’ Bullitt demanded, ‘by allowing the allies to place [the Japanese] Terauchi in Irkutsk, while Ludendorff establishes himself in Petrograd?’ On 4 March 1918, Bullitt’s arguments prevailed. The President swung firmly against any Allied intervention, on the advice of Bullitt and Colonel House he renewed the attempt to enlist the Russian revolution in a democratic alliance against reactionary Germany. Wilson appealed directly to the Congress of Soviets, which was meeting on 12 March to hear Lenin’s arguments for ratification of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty. Under even more incongruous circumstances than in January, Wilson restated the message of the 14 Points. Ignoring the fact that the Congress of Soviets was standing in for the repressed Constituent Assembly, Wilson expressed ‘every sympathy’ for Russia’s effort to ‘weld herself into a democracy’. He demanded that she be left free of ‘any sinister or selfish influence, which might interfere with such development’.”[3]

     The Japanese took the hint, and in April countermanded the order to land troops in Vladivostok. In any case, the Congress of Soviets rejected Wilson’s overtures. For Lenin had decided that the only chance of survival for the Bolshevik regime lay in an alliance with – or rather, in humiliating subjection to – the German militarists. For even after the signing of the Treaty, the military situation continued to deteriorate from the Bolsheviks’ point of view. In the south, the Germans, furious at the Ukrainian Rada’s refusal to cultivate all its land so as to feed starving Germans and Austrians, had overthrown it and installed in its place a former tsarist cavalry officer, Skoropadsky. Thus “only six weeks after the ratification of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, under the pressure of economic necessity the German military had unilaterally abandoned any residual claim to be acting as the protector of the legitimate cause of self-determination. Skoropadskyi spoke virtually no Ukrainian and filled his cabinet with conservative Russian nationalists. The real power-holders in Germany seemed to have lost interest in the project of creating a viable Ukrainian nation state. Instead, they appeared to be readying Kiev as the launching pad for a conservative conquest of all of Russia…”[4]

     This was indeed a great threat to the Bolsheviks, and if the German armies had not begun to falter at precisely that moment on the western front, then a German-sponsored restoration of Tsarism in Russia (let us remember that both the Tsars, Nicholas and Michael, were still alive) was a distinct possibility.. 

     “If these threats were not menacing enough, by May Lenin’s regime faced an even more direct threat from the north. Along with the other Baltic states, Finland had declared independence from Russia in December, 1917. In line with Lenin’s nationalities policy, Petrograd had given its blessing. But at the same time it directed local Bolsheviks with strong trade union support to seize control of Helsinki. By the last week of January, Finland was plunged into civil war. In early March 1918 as German troops marched into Ukraine, the Kaiser and Ludendorff settled on a plan for a joint German-Finnish force that would first wipe out the Finnish Bolsheviks before continuing the march south towards Petrograd. Icy weather delayed the arrival of General von der Goltz’s German expeditionary force until early April. But when they joined up with the Finnish White Guards of General Mannerheim they made up for lost time. By 14 April, after heavy fighting, they had cleared Helsinki of Red Guards. As a token of German appreciation, von der Goltz distributed food aid to the cheering burghers of the city. The civil war ended on 15 May, but the killing did not. Following a reprisal shooting of White prisoners of war by Red Guards, the Finnish-German combat group unleashed a ‘White terror’ that by early May had claimed the lives of more than 8,000 leftists. At least 11,000 more would die of famine and disease in prison camps. In the spring of 1918 Finland became the stage for the first of a series of savage counter-revolutionary campaigns that were to open a new chapter in twentieth-century political violence.

     “In the first week of May 1918, with the terror in full swing, Mannerheim and his German auxiliaries pushed menacingly towards the Russian fortress of Ino guarding the northern gateway to Petrograd. To the Soviets it seemed as though the Kaiser and his entourage had thought better of the compromise they had settled for at Brest. Why after all should Germany allow itself to be constrained by a mere treaty, one furthermore that the Soviets themselves had dismissed as nothing more than a scrap of paper? If Lenin’s strategy of balancing between the imperialist powers was to work, he would have to go beyond merely ratifying Brest. After signing the treaty he had tacked away from the Germans, encouraging Trotsky to cultivate close contacts with emissaries of the Entente and the United States in Petrograd and Moscow. Now in early May he embarked on a second desperate gamble. If the Brest-Litovsk Treaty was no longer enough to satisfy German imperialism, Lenin would put more flesh on the bare bones of the peace.”[5]

     Lenin proposed large-scale economic concessions in order to buy off the Germans. And the German militarists and big businessmen were interested. But the liberals in the Reichstag were not. “On 18 May after an urgent intercession by Chancellor Hertling, Ludendorff agreed to halt the Finno-German march on Petrograd. As in Japan, civilian political control asserted itself as a basic safety catch against the more radical fantasies of the German imperialists…”[6]

     Like another Houdini, Lenin had again escaped the coils of his enemies…


     The Bolsheviks had been very fortunate. At one time the Party had once been so thoroughly penetrated by Tsarist agents as to make its success extraordinarily improbable.[7] But Kornilov’s attempted coup, and Kerensky’s reaction to it, had played into their hands at a critical time. Now “useful idiots” in the German Reichstag and the American White House, together with Lenin’s absolute willingness to sacrifice Russian national interests on the blood-stained altar of the revolution, had saved them again. 

     That the Bolsheviks hung on to power in their first nine months in power was probably owing to three factors. First, they decided very quickly not to nationalize the land that the peasants had seized from the landowners, thus neutralizing the appeal of their main political opponents, the Social Revolutionaries. Secondly, on December 20, 1917 the Cheka, with Felix Dzerzhinsky at its head, was founded in order to defend “the fruits of October” by all means possible, including the most extreme cruelties. And thirdly, in spite of strong opposition within the Party and throughout the country, Lenin moved, as we have seen, to neutralize the external threat coming from the Germans by the most humiliating and drastic concessions...

     Nevertheless, no deal with Germany had been done, and Bolshevik Russia remained on the verge of economic and military collapse as the Germans, angry at Bolshevik violations of the truce, continued to threaten Petrograd. The SRs and Mensheviks had been forced out of the government, and were now part of a militant opposition; one SR would make an attempt on Lenin’s life. Moreover, the anti-Bolshevik White Russians were forming armies under General Denikin in the south, General Yudenich in the North-West and Admiral Kolchak in Siberia. To cap the Bolsheviks’ woes, the Western Allies, fearing that Russia was turning into a colony of Germany, finally decided on intervention on the side of the Whites. The British in particular, fearing that the Germans could use Russian slave-labour and natural resources in order to continue the war at least until the end of 1919[8], sent spies to Moscow and troops to Murmansk, and urged the Americans to intervene in Siberia, as the Japanese were intending to do.


     The most unexpected combatant in the vast conflict that was now unfolding from the Baltic to the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean was the Czech legion. They were, according to different sources, 38,000 or 50,000 soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian empire who had been taken prisoner by the Tsar and then recruited by Kerensky against the Germans. Their leader was a Czech professor, Tomas Masaryk, who was in exile in America. 

     “To advocates of intervention in Britain and France,” writes Tooze, “the Czechs seemed like an army parachuted from heaven. However, with an eye to the post-war peace, Masaryk would not act without approval from President Wilson, whose position on the question of Czech independence was notoriously ambiguous. In the 14 Points, in the hope of keeping open the door to a separate peace with Vienna, Wilson had abstained from any mention of the Czech cause. It was not until the ratification of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty, and the even more draconin peace imposed on Romania in May 1918, that Wilson was willing openly to endorse national autonomy for the Czechs and their South Slav brethren. Even then, this did not translate into any eagerness to see the Czechs in Siberia used against the Bolsheviks. Wilson was seconded in this reluctance by Masaryk, who continued to profess his sympathy for the ‘revolutionary democracy’ in Russia. It was not until early June, with the drastic British strategic appreciations in hand, that Secretary of State Lansing managed to persuade Masaryk that the Czech Army, rather than withdrawing towards Vladivostok, could do a vital service to the Allies by establishing a blocking position along the Trans-Siberian railway. Coached by Lansing, Masaryk demanded as his quid pro quo a Wilsonian death sentence on the Habsburg Empire.

     “The stakes of the intervention in Siberia were growing ever higher. Just as Lansing and Masaryk were bartering the end of the Habsburg dynasty against Czech assistance in Siberia, William Bullitt, Wilson’s radical advisor, was making one last effort to stop the intervention. ‘We are about to make one of the most tragic blunders in the history of mankind,’ Bullitt wrote to Colonel House. The advocates of intervention were typical exponents of imperialism. Following a violent counter-revolutionary intervention, ‘how many years and how many American lives’ would it ‘take to re-establish democracy in Russia?’ There was no question that Bullitt was closer to Wilson in spirit than was Lansing. But whereas less than six weeks earlier, with regard to Japanese intervention, Wilson had boasted of his grip over the Japanese, Lenin’s abrupt embrace of Germany had robbed him of his grip. He could not hold back the momentum for intervention if its principal rationale was anti-German rather than anti-Soviet.

     “On 30 June 1918 Britain and France publicly proclaimed their support for Czech national aspirations, citing as their justification the ‘sentiments and high ideals expressed by President Wilson’. Once more, Wilson was entangled in the logic of his own ideological programme and the experience drove him to the point of distraction. Speaking to his cabinet in June 1918 he remarked that the Allied war advocacy of intervention in Russia left him lost for words. ‘They propose such impractical things to be done immediately that he often wondered whether he was crazy or whether they were..’ When a US Treasury official reported after a visit to Europe that the British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, was openly mocking the idea of a peace based on the League of Nations, the President replied: ‘Yes, I know that Europe is still governed by the same reactionary forces which controlled this country until a few years ago. But I am satisfied that if necessary I can reach the peoples of Europe over the heads of their rulers.’ Once more, Wilson’s reluctance to intervene was bringing to the fore the politics of ‘peace without victory’. But with Germany apparently about to establish control over all of western Russia, Wilson could not uphold he position of moral equivalence that this stance implied. On 6 July he took the initiative. Without prior consultation with either Japan or Britain, Wilson announced that the Allied intervention would be directed through Siberia and would take the form of two contingents of 7,000 men, supplied by the US and Japan. Their mission was neither to take the offensive against Germany nor to overthrow the Bolsheviks, but simply to screen a Czech withdrawal to Vladivostok.”[9]

     The British were furious. Lloyd George said that such an intervention would provoke the Bolsheviks without overthrowing them, while Bruce Lockhart called it a “paralytic half-measure, which in the circumstances  amounted to a crime”. In any case, the Czechs did not withdraw but, as S.A. Smith writes, “seized control of a vast area east of the Volga and helped the SRs to set up governments committed to overthrowing the Bolsheviks, restoring the Constituent Assembly, and resuming war with Germany. The revolt threw the Bolsheviks into panic. Secret orders were given by Lenin to execute the imperial family in Ekaterinburg lest they be liberated by the insurgents.” [10]

     The question of the imperial family was critical both for the Whites and for the Reds. For the Whites was: were they going to fight under the banner of Orthodoxy and Tsarism or not? “Some such as General Wrangel of the Volunteer Army were committed monarchists but most favoured some type of military dictatorship, possibly paving the way for a new Constituent Assembly. In an effort to keep political differences at bay, the Whites advanced the principle of ‘non-determination’, i.e. the postponement of all policy-making until the war was over. What kept them united in the meantime was little more than detestation of the Bolsheviks and outrage at the ‘German-Jewish’ conspiracy inflicted on the Russian people.”[11]

     Tsarism meant for the Whites, not Tsar Nicholas necessarily, who had, of course, abdicated, but the monarchical principle. And to that they never committed themselves unequivocally… However, as long as the Tsar was alive, the possibility of a just and successful war against Bolshevism under the banner of Orthodoxy and Tsarism still existed. That is why the attempts to rescue the Tsar from captivity were not romantic side-shows, but critically important.

     And that is why the Bolsheviks decided to kill the Tsar. As Trotsky wrote: “In essence this decision was inevitable. The execution of the tsar and his family was necessary, not simply to scare, horrify and deprive the enemy of hope, but also to shake up our own ranks, show them that there was no going back. If the White Guardists had thought of unfurling the slogan of the kulaks’ Tsar, we would not have lasted for two weeks…[12]

     And so, on the night of July 17, 1918 Blessed Maria Ivanovna, the fool-for-Christ of Diveyevo, began to shout and scream: “The Tsar’s been killed with bayonets! Cursed Jews!” That night the tsar and his family and servants were shot in Yekaterinburg.[13] As Edward Radzinsky writes, there is a certain “mysticism of history” in the last dwelling-place of the Royal Family: “the monastery whence the first Romanov was called upon to rule, was the Ipatiev; the house where the last ruling Romanov, Nicholas II, parted with his life was the Ipatiev, named after the building’s owner, the engineer N.N. Ipatiev.”[14 

     The Royal Family had given a wonderful example of truly Christian love, displaying exemplary piety and frugality while doing innumerable acts of mercy, especially during the war. And in their deaths they showed exemplary patience and love for their enemies. Thus Martyr-Great-Princess Olga Nikolayevna wrote from Tobolsk: "Father asks the following message to be given to all those who have remained faithful to him, and to those on whom they may have an influence, that they should not take revenge for him, since he has forgiven everyone and prays for everyone, that they should not take revenge for themselves, and should remember that the evil which is now in the world will be still stronger, but that it is not love that will conquer evil, but only love..."

     And in the belongings of the same holy martyr were found these verses by S. Bekhteyev:

Now as we stand before the gates of death,

Breathe in the lips of us Thy servants

That more than human, supernatural strength

To meekly pray for those that hurt us.

     The next day, at Alapayevsk, Grand Duchess Elizabeth was killed together with her faithful companion, the Nun Barbara, and several Romanov princes.

     Tsar Michael had already been shot in June with his English secretary…

     On hearing of the Tsar’s murder, Patriarch Tikhon immediately condemned it. He had already angered the government by sending the Tsar his blessing in prison; and he now celebrated a pannikhida for him, blessing the archpastors and pastors to do the same. Then, on July 21, he announced in the Kazan cathedral: “We, in obedience to the teaching of the Word of God, must condemn this deed, otherwise the blood of the shot man will fall also on us, and not only on those who committed the crime…” And truly, the murder of the Tsar and his family was not the responsibility of the Bolsheviks only, but of all those who, directly or indirectly, connived at it. As St. John Maximovich explained: “The sin against him and against Russia was perpetrated by all who in one way or another acted against him, who did not oppose, or who merely by sympathizing participated in those events which took place forty years ago. That sin lies upon everyone until it is washed away by sincere repentance…”[15 

     However, the people as a whole did not condemn the evil deed. The result was a significant increase in their suffering… For since “he who restrains” the coming of the Antichrist, the Orthodox Autocrat, had been removed, the world entered the era of the collective Antichrist...


March 28 / April 10, 2019.


[1] Even after smuggling Lenin and his men into Russia in the sealed train, the Germans continued to pay him vast sums of money. Thus a “top secret” document of the Reichsbank in Berlin dated January 8, 1918 informed the Foreign Affairs Commissar that 50 million rubles were to be sent to the Sovnarkom (Istoki Zla, p. 39).

[2] Adam Tooze, The Deluge. The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order, London: Penguin, 2014, p. 144.

[3] Tooze, op. cit., p. 145.

[4] Tooze, op. cit., p. 150.

[5] Tooze, op. cit., pp. 150-151.

[6] Tooze, op. cit., p. 155.

[7] Alan Bullock writes: “One of the most celebrated Okhrana agents, Roman Malinovski, became Lenin’s trusted chief agent in Russia and led the Bolshevik deputies in the Fourth Duma. In 1908-10, four out of five members of the Bolsheviks’ St. Petersburg Committee were Okhrana agents. Persistent rumours that Stalin was one as well have never been confirmed…” (Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives, London: HarperCollins, 1991, p. 435, note)

[8] Tooze, op. cit., p. 156.

[9] Tooze, op. cit., pp. 158-159.

[10] Smith, The Russian Revolution. A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2002, pp. 49-51.

[11] Smith, op. cit., p. 51.

[12] Trotsky, in Edvard Radzinsky, The Last Tsar, London: Arrow Books, 1993, p. 297.

[13] It has been claimed that the murders were Cabbalistic and ritualistic. Strange cabbalistic symbols were supposedly found on the walls of the room where the crime took place which have been deciphered to mean: "Here, by order of the secret powers, the Tsar was offered as a sacrifice for the destruction of the state. Let all peoples be informed of this." See Nikolai Kozlov, Krestnij Put'(The Way of the Cross), Moscow, 1993; Enel, "Zhertva" (Sacrifice), Kolokol' (Bell), Moscow, 1990, N 5, pp. 17-37, and Michael Orlov, "Ekaterinburgskaia Golgofa" (The Golgotha of Yekaterinburg), Kolokol'(Bell), 1990, N 5, pp. 37-55; Lebedev, op. cit., p. 519; Prince Felix Yusupov, Memuary (Memoirs), Moscow, 1998, p. 249. However, doubt is cast on the ritual murder hypothesis by the fact that when Sokolov’s archive was sold at Sotheby’s in 1990, the critical piece of evidence – the symbols on the wall-paper – were missing (Bishop Ambrose of Methone, personal communication, June 4, 2010). Other problems with the ritual murder hypothesis are discussed in Dmitri Lyskov, “U Versii o Ritual’nom ubijstve tsarskoj sem’i est’ serieznie problem” (There are Serious Problems with the Hypothesis of the Ritual Murder of the Royal Family”, Vzgliad, December 8, 2017).

[14] Radzinsky, op. cit., p. 2.

[15] St. John, “Homily before a Memorial Service for the Tsar-Martyr”, in Man of God: Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Richfield Springs, N.Y, 1994, p. 133. Archbishop Averky of Syracuse continues the theme: “It is small consolation for us that the Royal Family was killed directly by non-Russian hands, non-Orthodox hands and non-Russian people. Although that is so, the whole Russian people is guilty of this terrible, unprecedented evil deed, insofar as it did not resist or stand against it, but behaved itself in such a way that the evil deed appeared as the natural expression of that mood which by that time had matured in the minds and hearts of the undoubted majority of the unfortunate misguided Russian people, beginning with the ‘lowers’ and ending with the very ‘tops’, the upper aristocracy” (“Religiozno-misticheskij Smysl Ubienia Tsarkoj Sem’i” (The Religious-Mystical Meaning of the Killing of the Royal Family),

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