In the early hours of 17 July 1918 the Russian Imperial family (Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei) were shot dead : it was the end of the three-century-old Romanov dynasty, related to several European sovereigns.
On the night of 16 July the Romanov family was awoken and told that there was trouble, so it would be safer for them to go into the basement of the house they were staying in. Therefore they dressed quickly and went down to the cellar, where the family and their four assistants were arranged in two rows. They were explained they were going to be photographed , in order to supress rumours that they had escaped. Suddenly, a dozen armed men burst into the room and shot them all. Those who were still breathing were then stabbed to death: the princesses had to be finished off with bayonets as they had stuffed jewels in their blouses which had deflected the bullets.
The bodies of Nicholas, Alexandra and three of their children were then mutilated, burned and buried in a forest.
After that, the Bolsheviks only announced the Tsar’s death while “Nicholas Romanov’s wife and son have been sent to a secure place.”
For over eight years, the Soviet leadership maintained a systematic web of disinformation as to the fate of the family. They recognised the murders only in 1926, after the publication of an investigation by a White émigré, but stated that the bodies had been destroyed, adding that Lenin’s Cabinet was not responsible
The burial site was discovered in 1979 by an amateur detective, but the remains were not made public until 1989, when their identity was confirmed by forensic and DNA investigation.
Prince Alexei and one Romanov daughter were not accounted for, creating the legend that Anastasia, the youngest Romanov daughter, had survived the execution of her family. However, a second, smaller grave containing the relics of the two Romanov children missing from the larger grave was discovered by amateur archaeologists in 2007, but the remains are still waiting for further DNA tests.