In 1917, former Russian Tsar Nicholas II and his family were executed by Bolshevik troops, an event that toppled Russia’s Romanov dynasty. It was a scene straight out of a horror movie: Nicholas, ex-tsarina Alexandra, their five children, their servants, and the family doctor, were brutally slaughtered in the basement of their makeshift home. The world was horrified.

A reluctant leader

Poorly trained and reluctant to rule, Nicholas never wanted to be Tsar in the first place. Alas, as the eldest son of Alexander III, it was his destiny.

Reported to be a shy boy and a good student, Nicholas was a decent man, but not quite leader material. By all accounts, he was rather unremarkable (and his wife totally wore the pants in his household).

Nicholas’ reign

Almost from the start, Nicholas’ time on the thrown was fraught with problems. Things really started to fall apart after Russia’s defeat in the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War. After the Russian Baltic Fleet was annihilated at the Battle of Tsushima, the country lost influence over Manchuria and Korea, and the Japanese annexed South Sakhalin Island.

To make matters worse, after Russian diplomatic efforts to prevent the First World War failed, Nicholas mobilized the Imperial Russian Army. An estimated 3.3 million Russians were killed in the war and, needless to say, the people weren’t happy.

The Army’s losses, the lack of food and supplies on the home front, and the Command’s incompetent management of the war efforts all led to the downfall of the House of Romanov.

Bolsheviks seize power

In 1917, the Bolsheviks seized power and Nicholas abdicated his throne. He and his family were imprisoned and sent to live in exile in Tobolsk. They were placed in a two-story house under tight security, but the family was comfortable. Nicholas’ daughter Tatiana described the home as “small but cozy.”

For quite some time, the family lived happily under their house arrest, but in 1918, Nicholas, Alexandra, and their daughter Maria were handed over to the local Ural Soviet Council. The rest of the family soon followed.

Just a few short months later, the entire family and everyone in their household were executed. It was a brutal affair: several men shot at the victims in a seemingly blind rage, missing again and again. When more than one daughter turned out to still be alive, they first tried to stab them with bayonets and eventually shot them in their heads.

For many decades, conspirators alternately claimed that either only Nicholas had been shot and the rest of the family escaped, or that his daughter Anastasia alone had made it out alive. Blood tests have since proven that all family members were killed on that fateful day.