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19 June 1878|
Tomsk, Siberia, Russian Empire
|Died||2 August 1938
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovsky (Russian: Я́ков Миха́йлович Юро́вский; 19 June [O.S. 7 June] 1878–2 August 1938) was an Old Bolshevik best known as the chief executioner of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, his family, and four retainers on the night of 16/17 July 1918.
Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovsky was the eighth of ten children born to Mikhail Yurovsky, a glazier, and his wife Ester Moiseevna (1848–1919), a seamstress. Born on 19 June [O.S. 7 June] 1878 in the Siberian city of Tomsk, Russia. The Yurovsky family was of Jewish origin but its relation to the Jewish faith seems ambiguous: the historian Greg King states that the Yurovsky family belonged to Russian Orthodox Church, and the historian Helen Rappaport writes that the young Yurovsky studied the Talmud in his early youth, while the family seems to have later attempted to distance themselves from their Jewish roots; this may have been prompted by the prejudice toward Jews frequently exhibited in Russia at the time. Shortly before fully devoting himself to the cause of revolution, in the early twentieth century Yurovsky converted to Lutheranism.
He was a Chekist for a short period of time in 1917.
Execution of the Imperial Family
On the night of 16/17 July 1918, a squad of Bolshevik secret police (Cheka), led by Yakov Yurovsky, executed Russia's last Emperor, Nicholas II, along with his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna of Hesse, their four daughters–Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia–and son Alexei. Along with the family, four servants (their physician Dr. Yevgeny Botkin, a lady-in-waiting, and two other servants) 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 Ural Mountains region, where they were being held prisoner. The firing squad comprised three more local Bolsheviks and seven soldiers. It is unlikely that Yakov Yurovsky acted on his own initiative and it has been documented that the order to assassinate the Imperial family came from Yakov Sverdlov in Moscow and had been initiated by Lenin himself. It is also well documented that Yurovsky had visited the Bolshevik leadership in Moscow, and notably Sverdlov, only a few weeks before the assassination took place.
To prevent the development of a personality cult of the former Imperial Family, the bodies were removed to the countryside, where they were initially thrown into an abandoned mineshaft. The following morning, when rumours 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.
During and after the Russian Civil War, Yurovsky worked as a head of local Cheka in Moscow, then member of Vyatka Cheka, head of Yekaterinburg Cheka (1919). In 1921 he worked in the Rabkrin and became Chief of the Gold Department of the Soviet State Treasury. Yurovsky achieved a solid reputation by combating corruption and theft. He also worked in management at the Polytechnical Museum starting in 1928 and became its director in 1930. He died in 1938 of a peptic ulcer.
Yurovsky was survived by a wife, two sons, and a daughter.
In 1920, a British officer who met Yurovsky recorded that he was remorseful over his role in the murder.
- Rappaport, Helen. The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg. ISBN 0-312-37976-5, ISBN 978-0-312-37976-6. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2009. p. 32.
- A description of the execution
- Yurovsky's account of the execution of the Imperial Family
- Yakov Yurovski, Executioner of the Romanovs