USSR (now RUSSIA). Moscow. August 19, 1991. People march toward the Russian White House holding a poster reading: “No to fascism! Yes to Yeltsin! All on strike!” One of the men has also a picture of Russian President Boris Yeltsin pinned to his shirt.

Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty

i hope one day ill be famous enough to go on drunk history and talk all about the russian revolution bc my mom was a russian history major and i grew up w/,, fuckin,,, the czar n czarina,,,,,,,, trotsky was my favorite disney princess,,,,,

The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde

A Revolutionary Impulse: The Rise of the Russian Avant-Garde opens this Saturday, December 3. The exhibition brings together 260 major works from MoMA’s collection, tracing the period of artistic innovation between 1912 and 1935. Planned in anticipation of the centennial year of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the exhibition highlights breakthrough developments in the conception of Suprematism and Constructivism, as well as in avant-garde poetry, theater, photography, and film, by such figures as Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Lyubov Popova, Alexandr Rodchenko, Olga Rozanova, Vladimir and Georgii Stenberg, and Dziga Vertov, among others.

[Gustav Klutsis. Memorial to Fallen Leaders. 1927. Cover with lithographed photomontage illustrations on front and back. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of The Judith Rothschild Foundation. © 2016 / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York]


December 30th 1916: Rasputin killed

On this day in 1916, by the new style calendar, Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin was killed in St. Petersburg, aged 47. Born to a peasant family around 1869, Rasputin received little formal education, and joined a monastery with the intention of leading a monastic life. However, he soon left the monastery, and travelled extensively around Europe and the Middle East, ultimately arriving in St. Petersburg. There, Rasputin cultivated a reputation as a mystic and a faith healer, and found a place in the Russian court of Tsar Nicholas II. Rasputin acted as an adviser to the tsar’s wife Alexandra, who sought help for her son Alexei’s hemophilia, which the mystic appeared to help alleviate; he thus secured a place as Alexandra’s personal adviser. As the credibility and popularity of the tsar’s rule began to wane, his critics used the position of the peasant ‘mad monk’ in the court to call for reform. While Rasputin’s influence over the Romanovs was limited, Alexandra’s defiant defence of him gave rise to rumours of impropriety and, even, an alleged affair between the tsarina and the mystic. On the evening of December 29th 1916, a group of conspirators invited Rasputin to the palace of Prince Felix Yusupov, who had cultivated a friendship with Rasputin, intending to kill him in order to save the monarchy. They fed him poison, which had no effect, then shot him, which he initially survived, and finally shot him in the head and threw his body into a river in the early hours of the morning. Rasputin’s body was found a few days later, with his hands frozen in a raised position, giving rise to rumours that he was still alive while underwater and had tried to untie the rope on his hands, only to finally die by drowning. A few months later, in March 1917, the tsar’s government was toppled by Bolshevik revolutionaries, and, the next year, Nicholas, Alexandra, and all their children were executed. The remarkable story of Rasputin’s murder is the final chapter in a peasant monk’s rise to become one of the most influential and notorious figures of Russian history.

Russian artist El Lissitzky, born this day in 1890, originally trained to be an architect.

[El Lissitzky. Proun 19D. 1920 or 1921. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn]

Obit of the Day (Historical): The Romanovs (1918)

Tsar Nicholas II was awoken abrutly at midnight on July 17, 1918. He and his family, wife Alexandra and children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei, were told to get dressed and move to the basement of the Ipatiev House (aka, “The House of Special Purpose”) where they were being held prisoner by members of the Bolshevik Party.

The seven family members, as well as the family doctor, housekeeper, chef, and a footman, were told that advancing opposition armies had made the upper floors dangerous. The Romanovs and their servants followed the instructions without argument.

They were placd in a smal basement room and Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra, and Tsarevich Alexei were given chairs to sit on while they, presumably, waited out the fighting.

Instead, nine armed men walked into the room. The commander of the troops in House Ipatiev, Yakov Yurovsky, then read a statement: “Nikolai Alexandrovich, in view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Soviet Russia, the Ural Executive Committee has decided to execute you…”

Tsar Nicholas, stunned by the words spoken by Yurovsky, only responded, “What? What?” before Yurovsky shot and killed him. Then the other soldiers opened fire. After a few minutes, the door to the room was opened and the smoke cleared. It was then discovered that several members of the former royal family were still alive. Yurovsky and his men finished the job by bayoneting the surviving Romanov daughters - who were not killed instantly by gunfire because of more than 2 pounds of jewels sewn into their dresses - and then shooting them in the back of the head. (Sources differ on whether Alexei was killed in the first barrage or survived briefly before being murdered.)

The Romanovs were wrapped up, removed from the house and buried behind the house in a forest. The location of their bodies would remain a mystery for decades.

The decision to murder the Romanovs, according to an entry in Leon Trotsky’s journals, came from Lenin himself. A “White” (as opposed to “Red”/Communist) Czech army was approaching Yekaterinburg, where the Romanovs were living, and Lenin feared that if the royal family fell into opposition hands they would become a rallying point for Whites all through Russia. The killing of the children insured that nall immediate heirs were eliminated as well.

The day after the execution a statement was released, not by Lenin or the Bolshevik Party, but by the Ural Regional Soviet who announced the death of the Tsar and his family because of the approaching White army and Nicholas’ “countless, bloody, violent acts against the Russian people.”

Interestingly, the Czech army had no idea that the Romanovs were in Yekaterinburg and were advacing only in order to protect the Trans-Siberian railrod. They took the city only days after the execution.

Sixty-one years after the Romanovs were killed their grave site was stumbled upon. In the grave were only nine bodies, leaving two missing, including the body of Alexei and one of his sisters. DNA and forensic testing confirmed, in 1998, that the bodies in the grave were the Tsar, his wife, the servants, and three of the Romanov daughters. They were given a state funeral attended by Russian president Boris Yeltsin.

Nine years later, another grave was discovered with two additional bodies. Scientists determined that it was Alexei, which they had presumed, and his sister, Maria, solving the final Romanov mystery.

The ages of the Romanovs at the time of the execution were as follows: Tsar Nicholas II, 50 years old; Tsarina Alexandra, 46; Olga. 22; Tatiana, 21; Maria, 19; Anastasia, 17;  and Alexei, 13. 

Sources:,, and Wikipedia

(Image of Nicholas II of Russia with the family, left to right,: Olga, Maria, Nicholas II, Alexandra Fyodorovna, Anastasia, Alexei, and Tatiana. Livadiya, 1913. Portrait by the Levitsky Studio, Livadiya. Today the original photograph is held at the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. Courtesy of


January 9th 1905: Bloody Sunday

On this day in 1905, Russian workers were massacred by Tsarist troops in St. Petersburg, an event which became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. The workers were staging a peaceful, unarmed march to Tsar Nicholas II’s Winter Palace to petition him. They were gunned down by the Imperial Guard. The massacre, and apparent disregard for the lives of Russian citizens shown by the Tsar undermined support for the government. It also set off the failed 1905 Revolution, and some have said gave impetus to the successful 1917 Revolution, when the Bolsheviks seized power and created the Soviet state. By the Julian calendar, which was used at this time, the massacre occured on the 9th January. By the modern Gregorian calendar, it would have fallen on January 22nd.

“There is no God anymore, there is no Tsar”
- march leader Father Gapon as he saw the massacre