S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “Bolshevik”

BOOK REVIEW: The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg by Helen Rappaport

RomanovsThis powerful account of the Romanovs’ internment and regicide at “The House of Special Purpose” at Ekaterinburg, July 1918, is compelling, evocative, and horrifying. I suspect that Rappaport’s book on this ghoulish event is the most meticulously researched and accurate account of the Bolshevik’s liquidation of Czar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, and their five children.

She weaves the historical events in a storybook style that imbues life into the Royal Family.  We look askance at the Czar who lacks moral courage, is fearful of innovation and change, and refuses to see the social and political problems engulfing Russia. We wonder at Empress Alexandra’s idiosyncratic brand of Victorian prudery, her impulsive sensuality and her hysterical passion, and her onerous addiction to narcotics: morphine and cocaine.  We empathize with soft tears at the naive innocence of their daughters: Maria, Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia.  We sympathize with the hemophiliac, Tsarevich Alexy.

We abhor the Bolsheviks’ regicide of the Royal Family as they perished in a fusillade of bullets, bayonets, and blood.  We are appalled that the family’s servants also were included in this senseless butchery: their physician, Doctor Eugene Botkin; valet. Alexey Trupp; cook, Ivan Kharitanov; and maid Anya Demidova.

Lastly, we recoil at the senseless killing of Tatiana’s Pekinese dog “Jimmy”.

We damn Vladimir Lenin who ordered the regicide, Commissar Yakov Yurovsky, the leader of the assassination squad, and the Cheka guards who took unbridled, and unnatural pleasure in their perverse passion.

I wonder if Rappaport had to detail the gruesome details of the regicide and the Cheka’s inept attempts to destroy the corpses.

The Last Days of the Romanovs is a must read for the aficionados of the Russian Revolution.  For the faint of heart, I would suggest an alternate book.

You may also read St. Catherine’s Crown, historical fiction based on the regicide that begs the question, what if Anastasia survived?

Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great of Russia, (1729 to 1796). Reigned from 9 July 1762 to 17 November 1796. Catherine became Czarina on the death of her husband, Czar Peter III.  Her reign is a study in contrast. Legend has it that she organized a plot to have some of her sycophants murder Peter, and that her sexual proclivities were legend.  On the other hand, the actual historical record is replete with accomplishments. Catherine the Great

In 1757, Voltaire called her an “enlightened despot.” For example, Catherine established the Free Economic Society in 1765 to encourage the modernization of agriculture and industry. She promoted trade and the development of under-populated regions by inviting foreign settlers, and she founded new towns. Catherine patronized the arts, letters, and education. She permitted the establishment of private printing presses and relaxed censorship rules. Under her guidance, the University of Moscow and the Academy of Sciences became internationally recognized centers of learning; she also increased the number of state and private schools. Finally, Catherine greatly expanded the Russian empire–prizes from two successful wars with Turkey. After her death, the Russian Orthodox Church proclaimed her a saint.

In my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown  Catherine the Great’s diadem is the raison d’être that threads the narrative and is the Alfred Hitchcock’s MacGuffin.  Follow the adventures and trials of those Whites that want to keep the crown from the Bolsheviks, and those Reds that want to recover and exploit it.  Follow from afar, I might suggest.  The narrative is fraught with hidden perils.

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Vladimir Lenin


Vladimir Llich Lenin

Lenin was born into a wealthy middle-class family in Simbirsk, Russia—a town on the Volga river about 850 miles east of Moscow.  He became a leftist revolutionary after the OHKRANA (the Czar’s secret police)  arrested and executed his brother in 1887. He attending the Kazan State University, but he was suspended for his anti-Tsarist protests.  Eventually he earned a law degree, and embraced radical politics and became an avid Marxist.

In 1893, while in St. Petersburg, the OHKRANA arrested Lenin for sedition and exiled him to Siberia for three years.  After his release, he married Nadezhda Krupskaya, and lived in Western Europe.   In 1909, Lenin published Materialism and Empirio-criticism that set the course for socialist revolution, and became the philosophic foundation of Marxism-Leninism.  At the start of World War I in 1914, he was living in Switzerland and in poverty.

The February Revolution of 1917, precipitated by the Russian military disasters on the Eastern Front and the revolutionary chaos forced, Czar Nicholas II to abdicate.  Germany seized this opportunity to weaken the Russia war effort by sending the rabble-rouser Lenin to St. Petersburg in a sealed train.

Lenin realized that his Bolshevik party had the advantage and must seize the moment.  From the steps of the post and telegraph building, he shouted the mantra of the Marxist revolution: “Workers of the world unite! Throw off your chains. You are the vanguard of the proletariat. Today, the armed revolution has begun,  We will have peace, land, and bread.”


This is the locomotive that brought Lenin to St. Petersburg in 1917

Young Lenin

Lenin in disguise in 1917: clean-shaven and with wig

Then, much to Lenin’s chagrin, the Petrograd Soviet, with its Menshevik and Socialist majority, elects Alexander Kerensky as minister of justice and commander-in-chief of the army. In effect, Kerensky becomes the premier of the provisional government. He promises democracy, abolition of the death penalty, and a continuation of the war.


 Alexander Kerensky (1881-1970)

 The provisional government under Kerensky isolated the Czar and his family at the TsarskoeSeloPalace—about thirty miles from St. Petersburg.  And, on March 21, Kerensky placed Czar Nicholas and his family under house arrest.

 In late October, Lenin’s Bolsheviks launch the second revolution with the goal to overthrow Kerensky’s provisional government. Bolshevik troops invade the Duma of Deputies in Petrograd and arrest the top two hundred leaders, including Kerensky and Leon Trotsky.


 Leon Trotsky (1879-1940)

 On November 8, the Bolsheviks’ All-Russian Congress of Soviets elected Lenin chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars—in essence, the head of government.  Lenin pronounced, “Communism is Soviet power. “Henceforth the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics will be totalitarian Communism.” Bolshevik commissars throughout Russia establish socialist Soviet Councils of Workers’ Deputies to govern provinces and cities. Felix Dzerzhinsky’s Cheka begins the Red Terror.

On March 3, 1918, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics signs the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, ending its participation in World War.

Lenin ruled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for the next seven years with an iron-hand dictatorship.  His secret police, the Cheka, reigned unchecked and murdered an estimated 2,000,000 people—anyone who opposed him, or his revolutionary policies.

The Royal family was under house arrest in the “House of Special Purpose” in Ekaterinburg, Siberia,   On 17 July 1918 Lenin signed the regicide telegram that ordered his Cheka lieutenant to eliminate the Czar, the Empress and their five children and others in their entourage.

Lenin died of a massive stroke on 21st January 1924.

It’s a gloomy day in the Kremlin and Lenin sits at his desk in my historical novel St. Catherine’s Crown.  He solicits comments from his revolutionary comrades about the regicide telegram he has just drafted.   When he asks for your opinion, try to dissuade him from signing that telegram—the regicide will engender the enmity of the western nations.  May I suggest that soon afterward you skedaddle tout de suite to the nearest friendly border and seek asylum.   The Cheka has alerted its worldwide network to arrest you:  or to “terminate with prejudice.”

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