Yakov Yurovsky Biography

(Soviet Era Executioner)

Birthday: June 19, 1878 (Gemini)

Born In: Tomsk, Siberia, Russian Empire

Yakov Yurovsky was a Russian ‘Old Bolshevik’ and a revolutionary, best remembered for leading the killing squad that executed the Russian Imperial Family on July 17, 1918. He later claimed that he was the one who had fired the bullet that had killed the Tsar and that he felt no remorse for the execution. There was a lot of controversy surrounding his actions, as he was a complicated and strange man. He grew up amidst a steady environment, in a family with great values and faith in God. Yet, he turned into someone who was able to murder an entire family while still claiming that praying was important for the salvation of the soul.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovsky

Died At Age: 59


father: Mikhail Yurovsky

mother: Ester Moiseevna

children: Alexandr Jakovlevič Jurovskij, Rimma Yurovskaya

Born Country: Russia

Revolutionaries Russian Men

Died on: 1938

Childhood & Early Life
Yakov Mikhailovich Yurovsky was born on June 19, 1878, in Siberia, Russia, more exactly in the city of Tomsk. His parents, Mikhail Yurovsky and Ester Moiseevna, were Jewish and they had 10 children. His father was a glazier, and his mother worked from home as a seamstress. They had solid values and a traditional dedication to family life and the Orthodox Church and apparently worked to the point of exhaustion to sustain their large family.
Although it was not easy to feed and care for 10 children, they were not poor and actually had two houses, unlike most other families of the time. They had a wooden house near the river, where they lived from June to February, and when the river overflowed because of the melting snow, they moved to a small apartment in the center of the town. Yurovsky later remembered that the crowded apartment would always smell of blood and boiling meat, because it was right above a butcher shop.
As a child, Yakov felt trapped in a life that had been predetermined for him. He hated his father’s religious beliefs and the way he enforced them on his children, forcing them to pray and accept the fact that all the hardships came from God’s will. He did not understand why they had so little even though his parents worked so hard, while others enjoyed great luxury. He wanted to be able to appear in front of the Emperor and tell him how difficult their existence was, but he knew that would not solve anything. He had a deep feeling of frustration because he felt his role in the world had been decided since birth, and he was going to be just a worker, like his father.
Yurovsky studied the ‘Talmud’ at an early age, but later, his family would try to forget their Jewish roots, probably because there was a lot of prejudice against their religion at that time in Russia. Then, at some point, he converted to Lutheranism before discovering the cause of the revolution.
When he was 6 years old, he attended the ‘River District Grammar School.’ However, his father later made him quit so he could learn a trade. He became the apprentice of the best watchmaker in town and worked almost 60 hours a week until he was 22 years old.
Ironically, during his childhood, Yakov actually admired the Imperial Family. They would often spend their evenings talking about the Tsar and his heirs. However, over the years, Yakov realized the working class was actually the force that made things happen, and all that admiration turned to hate. He viewed the Emperor as a bloodsucker and a killer and considered that the power was in fact in the hands of the working class and the Imperial Family actually depended on them.
In 1897, Yakov was the leader of the first workers’ strike that had ever happened in Tomsk. He was arrested, and although he did not spend much time in prison, when he got out, he realized not only had he lost his old job, but nobody else wanted to hire him because of his previous actions during the strike. He looked for work all over Siberia and finally found a job at a jeweler’s shop in Ekaterinburg. Around that time, he also met his future wife, whom he married in an Orthodox ceremony in 1904.
In 1905, his feelings of injustice and desire to have a different life for his children made him join the ‘Bolshevik Party.’ He was still part of the ‘Bolshevik’ underground movement in 1912, when he was arrested and exiled to Ekaterinburg. There, he started working in his own photographic studio. Three years later, he was drafted in the army, which was a hard experience that apparently only caused him to lose his decency completely. When the revolution started, he left the army and went back to Ekaterinburg to become one of the founding members of the ‘Ural Regional Soviet.’ He became Deputy Regional Commissar of Justice and joined the ‘Regional Cheka.’
When he was 40, he became the Commandant of the ‘Ipatiev House,’ a house that was taken from its owner and called “The House of Special Purpose.” That was where his most brutal actions would take place, with the execution of the Emperor and his entire family, on the early morning of July 17, 1918. Initially, his job was to harden the conditions in which the Imperial Family was detained. However, he also made sure the supplies meant for the prisoners would not be stolen anymore. That was just because of his principles, as he had absolutely no sympathy toward them.
Yurovsky was the one to receive the order for the execution. He told his men to wake the prisoners up and bring them downstairs. An execution squad shot all the members of the Imperial Family as well as the doctor, the maid, and the two waiters of the family. After trying to dispose of the bodies in an old mine, they eventually burned them and buried them in a shallow grave.
He continued his career during and after the Russian Civil War and even became Chief of the Gold Department of the ‘Soviet State Treasury.’ He was famous for his fight against corruption and theft.
Although Yakov took the credit for killing the Tsar, according to other sources, it was Mikhail Medvedev’s shot that had killed the Tsar.
Yurovsky was definitely a strange and controversial figure. It was not clear why he had decided to convert to Lutheranism. His attitude toward the Church was ambivalent. Although he railed against religion and sustained the Soviet ideology, it seems that just a few days before executing the Emperor, he had told a visiting priest that praying was important for the salvation of one’s soul.
Family & Personal Life
Yakov Yurovsky was married and had two sons and a daughter. He died in a hospital in Kremlin due to a duodenal ulcer.

See the events in life of Yakov Yurovsky in Chronological Order

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