Yakov Mikhaylovich Yurovsky (Russian: Я́ков Миха́йлович Юро́вский) (born 19 June Julian calendar 7 June Gregorian calendar 1878 in Tomsk, Siberia, Russia; died before 2 August 1938 in Moscow) A Jewish Bolshevik, he was the chief executioner of Russia's last emperor Nicholas II and his family after the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Yurovsky was born as the eighth of ten children in a working class Jewish family in Tomsk.
He was a watchmaker. He lived in the German Empire in 1904. After returning to Perm, Russia, during the Russian Revolution of 1905, he joined the Bolsheviks. Arrested several times over the years, he became a devoted Communist. His manner and behaviour were ruthless.
Execution of the Imperial Family
On the night of 16 July/17 July 1918, a squad of Bolshevik secret police Cheka led by Yurovsky executed Russia's last Emperor, Tsar Nicholas, along with his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna of Hesse, their four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, and their son Alexei. Along with the family, four servants, their Butler, Cook, Valet and Lady in Waiting were also killed. All were shot in a half-cellar room (measured to be 25 feet x 21 feet) of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Urals region, where they were being held prisoner. The execution squad comprised three more local Bolsheviks and seven soldiers. The latter were Hungarians, prisoners-of-war. As Communists they had joined the Red Army and were serving in the 1st Kamishlov Rifle Regiment. They didn't speak Russian and talked with Yurovsky in German. They were chosen because the local Cheka feared that Russian soldiers would not shoot the Tsar and his family.
In a detailed report of the killings prepared in 1934 and held in the Soviet archives, Yurovsky stated that he had shot the Tsar and his son himself, while his comrades killed the other members of the royal family. The killings were said to have been botched by the firing squad; the bullets failed to kill the family, and the jewelry sewen into the daughters' clothes acted as bullet proof vests. The daughters were finished off with close range shots to the head, after attempts to bayonet them also failed. Recently, it has been discovered that Yurovsky himself killed Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia with a single bullet through the back of her head.
To prevent the development of a cult for the dead Tsar, the bodies were removed to the countryside. The bodies of Nicholas and his family were long believed to have been disposed of down a mineshaft at a site called the Four Brothers. Initially, this was true; they had indeed been disposed of there on the night of 17 July. The following morning, when rumors spread in Yekaterinburg regarding the disposal site, Yurovsky removed the bodies and concealed them elsewhere. When the vehicle carrying the bodies broke down on the way to the next chosen site, he made new arrangements and buried most of the bodies in a sealed and concealed pit on Koptyaki Road, a since-abandoned cart track 12 miles north of Yekaterinburg.
After the Civil War
- The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II by historian Edvard Radzinsky
- A description of the execution
- Yurovsky's account of the execution of the Imperial Family
- Yakov Yurovski, Executioner of the Romanovs a biography