Islam and Russia – 2

Islam and Russia (2) (Qazi Muhammad Barkatullah) PROMISED MESSIAH’S PROPHECY The Promised Messiah’s prophecy about the tragic end of the Tsar is part of a poem which originally appeared in Braheen-i-Ahmadiyya, Vol. 5. (Roohani Khazain, Vol. 21, pp. 151-152). The prophecy was made on April 15, 1905. At that time Tsar Nicholas 11 was enjoying prestigious autocratic rule over Russia. The prophecy is transliterated into English by Sir Chaudhry Muhammad Zafarullah Khan and is as follows: “A sign will appear some days hence (April 15, 1905) which shall overwhelm country and town and meadow. People will be seized in a wave of Divine wrath, so suddenly that a naked one will have no time to secure his loin cloth. Suddenly an earthquake will severely shake man, and trees, and rocks, and oceans. In the twinkling of an eye the earth will be overwhelmed and streams of blood will flow like channel tides. Those whose night garments were white as jasmine will wake up in the morning as if clad in red. Men and animals will go out of their minds and pigeons and nightingales will forget their songs. That hour will bear hardly upon every traveller and those on a journey will lose their way in agony. The waters of mountain streams will run red with the blood of the dead like red wine. Men high and low will be convulsed with fear and the Czar himself will, at that hour, be in sad case. That Divine sign will be a specimen of terror. Heaven will attack with a drawn sword. Hasten not to repudiate this, thou stupid fool, for on the fulfilment of this sign depends my truth. This is a prophecy based on Divine revelation and will surely be fulfilled; wait then a while in righteousness and steadfastness.” (Tazkira, English, pp. 308-309). THE TSAR’S FAMILY The Tsar Nicholas 11 was about 50 years old at the time of his tragic end. He was man of middle height, with gentle eyes and brown beard. Tsar Nicholas 11 ISLAM AND RUSSIA 15 knew well how to guard his dignity while he was in power. His wonderful eyes of a most delicate blue looked at a person straight in the face with kind and tender expression. To sum up he had a charming personality. The Empress Alexandra Fedorovna was a beautiful, dignified and gracious lady. She was five years younger than her husband. She had a slender figure. The Royal Family had four young daughters called Grand Duchesses and one son officially called Grand Duke, Tsarevich, Crown Prince and first in succession to the throne of Russia. Grand Duchess alga was twenty-one and closely resembled her father. She was shy, blue eyed with chestnut hair and taller than her sisters and brother. Grand Duchess Tatiana was twenty years of age. She was devoted to her mother. Grand Duchess Marie was eighteen. She was enchanting, cheerful and a languorous young lady. Grand Duchess Anastasia was sixteen. She was slightly built and had grown up rapidly. She was full of humour, eager in her movements and intelligence sparked through her beautiful eyes. The Imperial Heir Alexis was thirteen years old. He was an auburn haired youth. He was officially Grand Duke Alexis Nicolaievich, heir apparent to the Russian throne. He was to succeed his father as the next Tsar. However, he was in poor health. He was suffering from a chronic disease which had impaired his health. As such, the Tsarevich’s health was a source of constant grief for his parents. It was on account of his poor health that the Empress was very seriously given to the Orthodox Church. She deeply sought spiritual help for the health of the Tsarevich. The Tsar himself was inclined to seek spiritual help from one named Rasputin. In the eyes of the public, Rasputin was not what he posed to be, so he was hated by the general public. Indirectly the Royal couple was also disliked to seek Christian spiritual help from such a man. However, Rasputin was very close to the Emperor and Empress who constantly sought Christian spiritual help for the health of their dear son and in the matters of state affairs also. Thus Rasputin became one cause for the downfall of the Russian empire. THE FALL OF THE TSAR Tsarist Russia was in turmoil for quite some time. But the real danger arose when Germany declared war on Russia. It was early August 1914 (Western Calendar). In the heat of noon, next day, the Tsar made an official declaration from the Winter Palace. Russian crowds greeted it profusely and enthusiastically. 16 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS At Tannenberg, at the close of August 14, the Imperial Russian Army was besieged, attacked and defeated by the German army. Russia’s manpower and casualty list was vast. Throughout the country hatred of all things connected with Germany had become unbearable. By Royal decree, the Tsar, changed the name of the capital St. Petersberg (German) to Slav Petrograd. (It has now been changed to Leningrad.) The Empress was assailed because of her German birth. Also, because she relied too much on Rasputin the so-called Christian man of God. However, during the war the Tsar was seldom away from his soldiers. The Empress devoted herself to the Red Cross. The Empress, Grand Duchesses alga and Tatiana also joined the Christian Order as Sisters of Mercy, wore their required dress, habits, and all the time visited military hospitals in time of war. Petrograd was threatened by advancing German troops. As a precautionary measure the State Treasury was removed from the Imperial Bank to another safe place in the city. Food was becoming scarce. In the freezing weather there was a shortage of fuel. The morale of the army suffered considerably. At that time the Parliament (Duma) went on record in the beginning of 1915 as stating: “Our valiant army is retreating. Our army does not have the necessary equipment to fight the enemy. The enemy is bombarding lead and steel. But we are returning the fire with an inferior number of shells.” The Parliament called Duma expressed pessimism about the performance of the Russian army. Rasputin, the spiritual leader of the Tsar wrote to the Emperor in 1915: “Dear Friend! I know that everything depends upon you. But the Russians who want the war do not understand that it is of no use. You are the Tsar, father of the people.” The Tsar frequently sought the advice of Rasputin the so-called man-of- God but the Russian revolutionary people did not like him. They did not like the Tsar seeking advice from Rasputin and having close relationships with him. However, there appeared no relief in sight for the people of Russia and the Tsar considered it a personal disgrace to end the war. The Tsar dismissed the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army. He assumed that the army chief was planning to dethrone him by attacking the capital. So in the autumn of 1915, Emperor Nicholas n, pursuing what he regarded the sacred duty of Russian Tsar, assumed the Supreme Command of the Russian army himself. This act of the Tsar, however, did not please the members of the Parliament. The life of the Russian people was not comfortable. In the capital city Petrograd, conditions of the poor were becoming deplorable. The bread shops were besieged with people in the harsh cold weather and after waiting ISLAM AND RUSSIA 17 for about two hours, a customer would receive an insufficient quantity of bread. Sometimes people, broke down the doors of the bread shops. Unrest among the masses was growing and spreading. There was general discontent in all phases of life. The confidence of the people in the Central Government had expired. Civil liberties were curtailed with plain clothes police surveillance. Military dissatisfaction had grown. It appeared that a revolution was at hand. The British Ambassador warned Nicholas 11 of the seriousness of the situation; but the Tsar did not move. All he did was to return to Imperial Headquarters some five hundred miles away from the capital. The Romanov dynasty was about to collapse. Between February 23IMarch 28 and March 4117 the February Revolution took a violent direction. There were general strikes, processions chanting revolutionary songs which met shooting from the troops. In one section of Petrograd, the Police were disarmed. Tension was growing. The army started taking sides with the people. The soldiers would not charge or shoot the rebellious crowds. Young soldiers of Petrograd revolted. Public buildings were set on fire. Attempts were made to free prisoners. As such, the Imperial Government appeared to have disintegrated. The Tsar was slow to react. A Provisional Government came into operation. The Tsar did not appear to be disturbed. He did not take any action. Then he received a letter from the Empress on February 27/March 12, 1917 saying that concessions were inevitable, street fighting continued and many units had gone over to the enemy. It was too late for the Tsar to take any constructive action. However, he wanted to reach Petrograd as early as possible but to his great disappointment, the direct train routes were blocked by the revolutionaries. So the Imperial train was diverted by way of a tedius, time wasting route through snow covered areas of the country. The Tsar arrived at an empty station away from Petrograd. It appeared that he was helpless and could do nothing. He received messages from his generals on various fronts on March 2115, that he should abdicate. There was no alternative in sight and the Tsar gave in. That afternoon, he signed a document abdicating in favour of his son, His Imperial Majesty Alexis 11. However, he was informed by his son’s physician that the Tsarevich was too sick to assume the responsibilities and duties of Tsar, so he revoked the abdication document immediately. That evening, two representatives of the Provisional Government met him on the train. The Tsar told them that he would abdicate in favour of his brother Grand Duke Michael, second in succession. The Document was prepared and handed over to the delegates who returned to Petrograd. The Grand Duke, after some discussions, was confused and himself resigned. The Royal Throne became vacant and thus three hundred years of the Romanov dynasty came to an end in Russia. Ex-Tsar Nicholas 11 is said to have written in his diary that all around him he saw treason, cowardice and deceit. On March 8/21, 1917 he surrendered 18 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS himself to the Commissioners of the Provisional Government. Early next morning, a car drove him to a place about a hundred miles away and eventually stopped outside a locked gate. The guard at the gate called out: “Who is there?” Someone said: “Nicholas Romanov.” The guard instructed that he should pass through. At that time, the former emperor, Tsar, the autocrat ruler of all Russia, discovered that he had been disgracefully arrested and made a prisoner. THE LAST DAYS Ex-Tsar Nicholas II was made a prisoner from March 9/22, 1917, and kept inside the locked gates of what was called Alexander Palace. His family joined him. The Imperial Family had a restricted life. Telephone lines were cut; incoming and outgoing letters were censored. He walked in the park under watch. He was not permitted to go outside after dusk. Lunch was at 1 p.m. He would often work in the garden until three. Tea at four, dinner at seven and this was the routine day after day. For months, during Russia’s liberal attitude, the Provisional Government had considered plans to let the Imperial family go to England. The Bolshevik extremists had demanded that the ex-Tsar be executed. But the Minister of Justice of the Provisional Government firmly said “No” to that demand, because he said “The Russian Revolution does not take vengeance.” The Bolsheviks were not strong enough, otherwise, they would have stormed the Alexander Palace where the ex-Tsar was leading the life of a prisoner. A period of three months elapsed. The British Government was willing to give asylum provided Russia would bear the expense of the Imperial family. Nevertheless, the Provisional Government told the Russian people that the Imperial family would remain in Russia. The Provisional Government faced a threat from the supporters of Lenin who wrote a letter to his deputy from exile: “No support for the New Government.” Lenin was forty seven at the time. He was given the name Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. The Germans helped him to reach home from exile in order to create an internal turmoil in Russia already politically and generally weak. The Germans helped Lenin to enter Russia through Sweden and Finland. In Winston Churchill’s words: “They transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus” (The world crisis: The aftermath, London, 1929). But his tactics did not work as he hoped and he had then to escape to Finland disguised as a fireman of a locomotive after the so named “July day”. For safety and security, the Provisional Government told ex-Tsar Nicholas II that it was time for the family to leave. The destination was supposed to be the Crimea, but instead they were taken to Tobolsk, a town of twenty thousand people in Western Siberia. Early in August 1917, the family was scheduled to move. In utter darkness, two days after the Tsarevich’s ISLAM AND RUSSIA 19 thirteenth birthday, the travellers were packed and waiting to travel. The ex-Tsar had turned fifty and the ex-Empress forty-five. No one guessed how long that stay at Tobolsk might last. The Provisional Government believed it should end when the Constituent Assembly met that winter. The waiting was very tense. Grand Duke Michael, who turned down the offer of becoming the next Tsar, came to meet the family under close supervision. Because of the railway workers’ irreconcilable attitude, the train ordered from Petrograd was delayed for some hours. The Imperial family – irritated and worried – sat about on suit cases and trunks in the semi-circular hall. It was day break and still there was no news of the train. At last, the travellers were alerted to move. It was still dark. They were driven through a park and village streets to a pair of trains displaying the placards of the Japanese Red Cross Mission, and decorated with Japanese flags. The ex-Tsar was sombre that morning. Tsarevich was growing up to be a young man, but pale in appearance. The former Grand Duchesses were also pale, their hair had been cut too. The ex-Empress seemed to be crying. All the household things were to become part of the national museum. The trains were comfortable. In the main carriage travelled the Imperial family, thirty people or so from the household and a company of the First Regiment and some of the baggage. In the other compartments were servants and about three hundred soldiers who would mount guard at Tobolsk under orders of the Provisional Government. The Imperial train remained unnoticed except by Siberian Railway officials. They did not maintain any schedule or timetable for the Imperial Train. Some people at the stations were surprised to notice that the blinds were drawn and that the compartments were heavily guarded. At one empty station some peasants wondered who the handsome bearded man was, and also the tall boy, who, along with a group of ladies, alighted away from the platform just for a short walk with a little dog. There was one brief alarm when the workers at Zvanko railway station did not want the train to pass through. However, the train moved on after all. After crossing the Urals towards the end of August, 1917, the Imperial family disembarked at Tyumen and were transferred to steamers named Rus and Kormilets for the voyage on the Tura and Tobol Rivers. It took the travellers about forty hours to cover the last two hundred miles. They passed by the village where Rasputin had lived and whose house could be seen. The sun was going down when the two steamers slid beside the wharf at Tobolsk. The passengers could see their temporary lodging on top of a hill that dominated the sprawling little town. But the journey of the travellers was not quite over. They had to live on board for about a week while the Governor’s House of Tobolsk Province was being properly furnished for the Imperial family. It was a two storey white house with a balcony and thirteen or fourteen rooms. The Imperial family 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS took the upper floor. To curtail their free movement outside the house, the guards erected a tall wooden barrier around the Governor’s House. Within a week or two, the Royal prisoners felt at home. People in Tobolsk, many of whom were descendants of former exiles to Siberia, were warm and loyal. For them the ex-Tsar was still the Tsar. They would eagerly watch the members of the Imperial family appearing at the window. The people would remove their hats as a gesture of respect. When the ex-Tsar and Empress walked through a public garden, they would kneel before them. From the town and round about, regular gifts of food came to the house. Also, nuns brought eggs and sugar. Things went steadily until the end of September, 1917. Then another officer arrived to take over the control. He was a brutal person and constantly sought revenge for his previous exile to Siberia as a revolutionary. He insisted that the prisoners be photographed from head to foot for identification, as was required for prisoners. In those days of misery and also earlier, the ex-Tsar relied heavily on his wife Alexandra. By now the ex-Tsar had become quiet and reserved. However, he always appeared Royal in appearance and manner. The Empress took a very serious attitude at being a prisoner. Suddenly she started to age. She was overwhelmed with her religious beliefs and sometimes became hysterical. The Provisional Government was loosing control of affairs. The Bolsheviks were appearing everywhere. Lenin was still in Finland, hiding, and conveying messages such as “History will not forgive us if we do not take power now. ” Soon afterwards he returned to Petrograd in disguise. Soon the Provisional Government surrendered, Lenin came to power and the so·called Workers’ State came into existence in Russia. The regular delivery of mail and newspapers was interrupted at Tobolsk. The ex-Tsar was becoming exceedingly uneasy because he did not receive any factual news. He only heard rumours, and little of the truth. Sometimes he received distorted, cut down old telegrams attached to local packing papers. At times, he received a bundle of newspapers which terrified him completely. For a moment he would become incapable of saying or doing anything and was petrified for a short time. The ex-Tsar began to realise the approaching danger, but, for the time being, the Governor’s House remained without new instructions from the Bolshevik Government. It appeared that Tobolsk had been forgotten momentarily. The house was shivering cold in spite of fires in the rooms. The former Empress wrote to someone, “Everyone lives from day to day. God have mercy and save Russia.” The ex-Tsar marched up and down the empty compound in the company of his daughters. Tsarevich Alexis sometimes suffered from severe pain and sometimes played alone or ran about here and there. The security ofthe family was very strict. Once a box of wine arrived for the ex-Tsar but was thrown into the river unopened. ISLAM AND RUSSIA 21 The year 1918 started in the full grip of winter. The children would study and run around. The ex-Tsar built a platform on the roof of a greenhouse to keep himself busy and in health. The chief of guard at the Governor’s House was altered when he found out that the local priest had prayed for the long life of the Imperial family. The Bolsheviks in the guard had taken control. The soldiers objected to anything the family was doing. Once the ex-Tsar wore a different kind of dress and he was searched completely by the soldiers. In the heat of the revolution, making everyone equal, the military officers were to remove their shoulder straps identifying their rank. The ex-Tsar wore the uniform of a colonel and he was asked to remove his shoulder straps. He started wearing a black sheepskin overcoat without any badge of rank. The soldiers had earlier decided that in case the ex-Tsar refused to comply with the revolutionary demand, his uniform should be removed. The chief of guard received orders from the Bolshevik Government that the Imperial family should receive the same rations as the soldiers, similar living quarters and the same amount of heating fuel. In order to comply with these instructions the servants were discharged. The food was reduced to soup and meat and no butter, cream or coffee was allowed. Lenin had assumed power and Moscow was made the capital instead of Petrograd. Lenin gave in to the German demands. The Bolsheviks signed away four thousand square miles of territory: Finland, Esthonia, Livonia, Courtland, Lithuania, Russian Poland. The ex-Tsar was shocked when the complete details of the treaty reached him. The Imperial family was placed under further tight security. Frightening developments were reaching the family. The Regional Soviets were anxious to grab the Imperial family. They sent their demands to the Centre. At the same time, from a rival city, the Bolsheviks reached Tobolsk to take the matter into their hands. A new stern Commissioner from Moscow reached Tobolsk and took charge of the prisoners. To add to the misery of the Imperial family, the Tsarevich had become gravely ill and his foot was paralysed. With severe pain he cried aloud to his mother telling her he would like to die. He feared what the Bolsheviks might do to them. The new Commissioner told the ex-Tsar that the family had to move. As the Tsarevich was too ill to move, the family could wait, but the ex-Tsar had to move immediately. The destination was not disclosed. If the ex-Tsar wanted to take some family members with him he could. They would start at four o’clock the next morning. Apparently calm, the ex-Empress went to the sick Tsarevich and told him that she and his sister Marie, would accompany the ex-Tsar, and that when he felt better, the others could join them. In darkness, early the next morning, horses clopped into the courtyard of the Governor’s House. The horses were drawing peasant carts, bare, unsprung and unseated, tarantasses as they were generally called. The former Emperor and Empress said farewell to the rest of the family in the light of the stars. Ex-Tsar Nicholas had to ride with the Commissioners, while Marie sat 22 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS with her mother in another cart. The three daughters left behind were full of tears and Alexis had been weeping for a long time. Thus a sad little procession moved away from Tobolsk in the cold, chilly dawn. It was a frightening journey to Tyumen railway station. Horses had to be changed many times. At the station, the prisoners were transferred to a special train. It was the Commissioner’s personal decision that the train should take a longer route avoiding the regional Soviets who had earlier demanded to take hold of the Imperial family. The train left the Tyumen. In the meantime, the Ural Soviets sent a message to Siberian Soviets to block the railway line. Sixty miles from Omsk, the railway line was blocked by troops. The Commissioner, leaving the party to wait, went to town to get in touch with Moscow. He was told by the Moscow Chairman of the All Russian Congress of Soviets that he would have to hand over the prisoners to the Comrades at Ekaterinburg. Then the train started and entered Ekaterinburg railway station. A noisy mob was awaiting and shouting: “Show us the Romanovs!” The Regional Soviets formally took charge of the ex-Tsar, Empress and Grand Duchess. The ex-Tsar had expressed several times that he would go anywhere but to the hostile Urals, and now he was surrounded by them. That night, at one door, he was contemptuously greeted: “Citizen Romanov! You may enter.” He and his family slept in the house called The House of Special Purpose. It was April 17/30, 1918. A formal deed was signed that the party would be kept under guard in the town of Ekaterinburg. Ironically, the document was signed with full names and exact formal titles of each captive. THE TRAGIC END It was a tiresome and rough period as well for the remaining members of the Imperial family at Tolbosk. A new red-guard arrived from Ekaterinburg. Also, a new vicious Commissioner arrived. His assignment was to bring the rest of the family to join their parents. The Commissioner insisted on a daily roll-call of the prisoners. He did not permit the young ladies – former Grand Duchesses to lock their doors at night. Tsarevich was very sick and confined to bed. By May 6/19, 1918, Tsarevich Alexis could just travel even though he could not walk. Tsarevich, almost an invalid, was carried from the river wharf to the steamer Rus. The Commissioner, however, insisted that Tsarevich’s cabin be kept locked. But the young ladies were refused permission to lock their cabin door. Having reached Tyumen, the steamer Rus came along the bank opposite a waiting train. The Imperial young ladies, called each by name by the Commissioner, walked slowly to the bank. Tsarevich Alexis, however, was carried by someone. The Imperial children were given an ordinary passenger coach on the train. The train reached the outskirts of Ekaterinburg after ISLAM AND RUSSIA 23 midnight on May 10/23, 1918. It stopped briefly at the principal station for the Commissioner to submit his report. The train moved, sometimes forward, sometimes backward, halting for a while to change directions throughout the night. At 7 a.m. on May 11/29,1918, it appeared that the train had come to a final halt. The members of the Imperial family were ordered to get off the train and climb into some local droshkies waiting close by. The young ladies moved first and the sick Tsarevich was then carried over to join them. The horses moved under the supervision of an escort. At last, the final stop came. It was raining at the time. The Imperial young people were carried to the Ipatieu House – named The House of Special Purpose. The rest of the party, servants etc. were free to go anywhere they liked. Now only the Imperial family was confined to imprisonment. The House of Special Purpose stood upon the highest of hills in the town of Ekaterinburg now called Sverdlovsk, the town of miners and metal workers. The wealthy owner Ipatiev had been ordered to vacate the house. Before the Imperial family arrived, a wooden fence, close to the windows had been built. Later, another fence hid the building completely up to the top and enclosed also the front entrance and gateway. It was a two storey house. The upper floor was the prison and the lower floor was turned into offices and guard rooms. The Imperial rooms were closely guarded. The ex-Tsar was rudely called Nicholas the Blood-Drinker. Family requests were denied. The guards entered any room they wanted. The Imperial family was under constant mental torture. The orders for the murder of the Imperial family had been issued by the Bolshevik government. On May 19/June 2, 1918, and on July 1/14, 1918, priests were summoned to conduct services at the House. On the morning of July 3/16, 1918, the Commissioner assembled the guards and issued final orders that the Imperial family had to be shot. Just after midnight on July 3/16, 1918, the Commissioner went upstairs to tell the family that they had to be moved immediately. All of them quickly washed and dressed themselves in preparation for another unknown journey. The Commissioner led them downstairs into the yard and to a vaulted unfurnished small semi-basement room. They were asked to wait there. The ex-Tsar requested chairs which were provided. The former Empress was too weak to stand so she took one chair. The ex-Tsar took another supporting his son on his arms and shoulder as Tsarevich rested across the third chair. Behind them chairs were taken by the former Grand Duchesses. It was a scene of an Imperial group photograph to be taken. For a while, it was calm and quiet. Suddenly the Commissioner entered and appeared to be saying that we are compelled to shoot you. The ex-Tsar half arose, still holding Tsarevich. He was going to say something but the 24 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS Commissioner shot him in the head and he died on the spot. The Empress made the sign of the cross and was instantly shot. More shots were fired. Tsarevich moved his hand and was shot three times. One Grand Duchess screamed and she was immediately bayoneted and beaten to death. One Grand Duchess’s play dog was beaten to death with the butt of a rifle. No one survived. The Imperial Russian family had mercilessly been murdered after prolonged agony and suffering. Rolled up in sheets, covered with mats, the corpses were packed into a lorry and driven into woods. There, the bodies were burned where it is said, they burned for three days. r—–Company of the Righteous——-, “0 ye who believe! fear Allah and be with the righteous.” (Ouran 9:119). To keep company with the righteous and the truthful is highly essential. It serves to remove moral and spiritual rust from one’s heart, and exercises a very wholesome influence on it. It leads a believer to the fountain of purity and righteousness. Truth and Justice “0 ye who. believe! Be strict in observing justice and be witnesses for Allah, even though it be against yourselves or against parents and kindred. Whether he be rich or poor, Allah is more regardful ofthem both more than you are. Therefore follow not low desires so that you may be able to act equitably. And if you conceal the truth or evade it, then remember that Allah is well aware of what you do.” (Ouran 4:136).

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