19 APRIL 1963, Page 8

Anastasia's Pekinese

By STRIA A s aides to the police and as custodians of private property dogs fill a valuable role in our society; but when they figure in judicial proceedings it is seldom indeed that they emerge with credit. Biting postmen, worrying sheep, keeping people awake at night—whenever dogs get involved with the law they always seem to be on the wrong side of it. I make, there- fore, no apology for drawing attention to the exceptional cases of Jimmy and Joy, who played small, sad but helpful parts in a judicial inquiry more than forty years ago.

The object of this inquiry, which was con- ducted by a judge called Sokolov, was to estab- lish the circumstances in which the last Tsar of Russia, together with his wife, his children and several members of his household, was mur- dered by the Bolshevik authorities on the night of July 17, 1918, at a town in the Urals which was then called Ekaterinburg but is now called Sverdlovsk.

Ekaterinburg was threatened by Czechoslovak and White Russian forces advancing from the east. The local Soviet sought and obtained Moscow's authority to liquidate the Imperial family, who might otherwise have been rescued. Soon after midnight on the 16th/17th the prisoners, who were confined under rigorous and humiliating conditions in the Dom Ipatiev, a large house in the centre of the town, were awakened, warned that disturbances had broken out and ordered to descend, for their own safety, into the basement. Fearing no evil, they dressed and did as they were told, taking pillows or cushions with them to mitigate foreseeable discomforts. The Tsar had to carry in his arms his ten-year-old son, who suffered from hxrno- philia and was too ill to walk. Anastasia, the youngest of the four Grand Duchesses, carried Jimmy, her small Pekinese. With the family were their doctor, the cook, a valet and a chamber- maid.

In the basement the commandant of their guards, a Jew called Yurovsky, produced three chairs. The Tsar, the Tsarina and the ailing Tsarevitch sat down on them. Yurovsky, who had with him two other. Russians and seven or eight Letts from the Tcheka, then either said or read from a paper something which the Tsar could not hear, drew a revolver and shot him down. Thereupon the other executioners opened fire; bayonets were used, where necessary, to complete the massacre.

Ekaterinburg was captured by the Whites about a week later. In the meantime the Soviet Government had announced that Nicholas Romanov, the Imperial hangman,' had been executed, but their communique stated that his wife and son had been removed to a place of safety. (The Tsarina--like her sister, who was thrown alive down a well on the 18th—was of German birth, and the German Government was showing some concern about their fate. Hence, possibly, Moscow's attempt to dissemble.) The uncertainty, which prevailed for some time and was nourished by every sort of rumour, about the fate of the Tsarina and her children lent an added importance to the investigations of the judicial inquiry, one of whose first tasks was to find out what had happened to the bodies of the persons butchered in the basement. The Soviet authorities had done all, or very nearly all, that was possible to obliterate the corpses of their victims. These were hastily wrapped in blood- soaked sheets, flung on to a lorry 'arid driven to a lonely place, twelve miles from the town, where there were some disused iron mines. Here, during the two preceding days, Yurovsky had assembled a large quantity—some 200 kilograms --of sulphuric acid and a plentiful supply of petrol; and here, on two enormous pyres, the bodies, after being stripped and dismembered with axes, were douched with acid and burnt. Their clothing, after being rifled, was burnt with them. At a distance, on smaller fires, Yurovsky's associates cooked breakfast; their far-sighted leader had ordered, in addition to the sulphuric acid, four dozen eggs.

Later the Imperial ashes were thrown down one of the old mine-shafts, and after them various odds and ends which had been over- looked or had been imperfectly incinerated. One of these odds and ends was Jimmy, Anastasia's Pekinese. Whether he was dead or not when they dropped him down the mine-shaft we do not know; but when, much later, his corpse was identified by the Tsarevitch's English tutor (who died last month), Mr. Gibbes said that he recognised Jimmy by, among other things, the colour of his fur: so the dog can hardly have been on the bonfire which melted the bullets in his mistress's body. Except for the finger of a woman, possibly the Tsarina, which somebody had chopped off for the sake of a ring, Jimmy's corpse was the only organic substance found which escaped the action of fire and acid; and although there were various other relics at the bottom of the mine—charred dentures, buttons, buckles, bits of jewellery and icons, frag- mented spectacles—the dead Pekinese provided a clue of considerable importance. Since his corpse, if available, would certainly have been burnt before the fires were put out, one suspects that he was alive during the proceedings, and that it was as an afterthought that he was con- signed to the shaft. Yurovsky was an extremely thorough man.

Joy, a spaniel, belonged to the Tsarevitch, who in the Dom Ipatiev (officially designated as The House Reserved for Special Purposes) shared a bedroom with his parents. The boy was sick; spaniels, especially in hot weather, tend to scratch and thump and generally disturb the night's rest of human beings; and it seems safe to infer that Joy, on the night of the murder, . was kennelled in the small garden, or at least was accommodated outside the cramped quar- ters allotted to the Imperial family and their servants. The spaniel was not, in any case, in- volved in the blood-bath below stairs.

But Joy appears twice in the official report of the judicial inquiry. Not only all the murderers, but most of the witnesses and the entire police force, had fled or gone underground before the Whites captured Ekaterinburg from the Reds; and but for Joy one of these witnesses, a lout called Letemine, might have escaped the atten- tion of the investigators.

Letemine belonged to the detachment of Red guards who, manning posts inside and outside the house of detention, invigilated over the prisoners. These men were workers from a local factory. Besides enhancing their self-importance, guarding the Tsar bought them extra pay and rations and involved minimal exertions; they spent much of their time embellishing the walls with obscene drawings or (if they were literate) inscriptions.

Letemine came on duty at 8 a.m. on July 17, by which time the bodies had been removed; but he talked to one of his colleagues who bad seen the massacre carried out and to the lorry driver who had driven the corpses to the mine' shaft. His testimony was thus of considerable value, and he might not have been required to give it if he had not, along with other miscel- laneous loot, removed to his home the now masterless Joy, of whose former ownership everyone in Ekaterinburg was aware.

What happened in the end to the spaniel we do not know. We get a glimpse of him on the morning after the murder. Another Red guard, Yakimov, identified much later in the ranks of a White regiment, describes the scene in the commandant's room, a sort of ante-chamber to the Imperial family's quarters. Four of the murderers—two Russians and two Letts—were present.

`None of them was in high spirits; they were all anxious and overwhelmed. Nobody spoke 3 word. The table was covered with precious things--stones, earrings, brooches, necklaces. There were very many jewels, some of there in cases. All the cases were open. The door leading from the ante-chamber into the rooms where the Imperial family had lived was shut as usual, but there was nobody on the other side of it. This was evident: you no longer heard the sound of voices and footsteps. NOW there was no sign of life at all. Only, outside the door, the little dog was sitting, waiting for them to let him in. I remember that very clearbe I said to myself, "It's no good your waiting there." ' Vaguely worried by the silence, disconcerted by the unfamiliar reek of blood and cordite, but faithful and expectant, Joy waits for the door to be opened. His vigil has only the most COlt' ventional, the most Landseerian pathos; but no one, I think, who reads through the long Pro. ceedings of Sokolov's judicial inquiry can fail to be disproportionately relieved by finding in the endless tale of man's atrocious inhumanity CO man, a footnote in a different vein.