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Anna Pavlovna with her father Pavel Alexeevich Voronov

Assassination in St Petersburg! The Tsar is dead!

On the 13 March 1881 (1 March in the Russian old style calendar) Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. His carriage was bombed in St Petersburg by the group known as People’s Will. Initially the bombs missed their target but, when the Tsar insisted on leaving his carriage to check on the wounded, another bomb was thrown, mortally wounding the Tsar. My great-grandmother, Anna Pavlovna Voronov, was in St Petersburg and noted the assassination in her diary.

After mass we all gathered for breakfast. We talked, drank coffee and were about to leave the table when suddenly there was a deafening explosion, as if from a cannon shot. My brother and cousin quickly dressed and, rattling their sabres, ran down the stairs. Burning with impatience to find out what was the matter, we wanted to send for the doorman, but he himself came running. He told us there had been another attempt on the Emperor and that, thank God, everything seemed to be fine, all the people were hurrying to the Winter Palace.

My father had to go to work, he was in full dress uniform. Turning to me, he said, “if you are ready in five minutes, we will go to the palace, probably there will be a prayer service.”

A lot of people were hurrying to the Palace Square. After passing the Arch of the General Staff we stopped, it was impossible to move further. We saw many people we knew. The wife of the Palace Commandant told us that no one was allowed to enter the palace, even though she lived there she could not get in.

The commander of His Majesty’s Cuirassier Regiment, General Arapov, approached my father and quietly informed him that it seemed the Sovereign was wounded. I was immediately sent home, but my father remained.

My father came back in tears. He took my mother into his office. At last he opened the door and called us and all our servants to him. He stood in the middle of the office, pale, with reddened eyes and said in a broken voice that the Emperor had died. Apparently after I left the Palace Square it became known that the Emperor was seriously injured and, an hour later, His Serene Highness Prince Suvorov came out of the palace and announced the death of the Emperor to the people.

My father said it was difficult to express the despair of the people. There was a groan in the square. People fell to their knees, crossed themselves, and sobbed.

I can’t talk about our personal grief; I can’t believe it! After all the Emperor knew our whole family, he was so merciful to us.

According to this website, members of People’s Will wrote a manifesto after the assassination, part of which claimed the Tsar had not cared for his people; that he did not give the people freedom; that he did not heed the people’s tears; that he cared only for the rich and that he himself lived in luxury.

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Alex

Alex de Fircks is a writer of memoir and short fiction. She blogs about family, moments in time, memories and travel. Alex is passionate about history, genealogy and family stories.

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