Operation Savior of Man
Part of the Russian Civil War
Tsar Nicholas II & King George V
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (left) with his cousin King George V of the United Kingdom (right)
Date 17 July 1918 - 5 September 1918

(1 month, 2 weeks and 5 days)

Location Ipatiev House, Yekaterinburg; throughout Siberia
Result Successful rescue of the Russian Royal Family
Flag of Russian Empire for private use (1914–1917) Russian Empire
Flag of the Soviet Union Bolshevik Party
Commanders and leaders
Flag of Russian Empire for private use (1914–1917) Tsar Nicholas II Flag of the Soviet Union Vladimir Lenin
600 Russian-Greenland Legion volunteers

5 ships of the Imperial Russian Navy

Unknown number of Red Guards under Yurovksy

3 ships

Casualties and losses
between 30 to 50 men

Russian cruiser Admiral Kolchak

est. 100 to 200 men

All 3 ships

Operation Savior of Man (Russian: Спаситель человек, Spasitel' chelovek) was an operation enacted by members of the Russian-Greenland Legions to save the Russian royal family, the Romanovs, from the hands of the Bolsheviks and bring them to safety in Romanova. The operation is regarded as a crucial success and helped to keep the whites motivated during the war.



Ever since the start of the Russian Civil War, the people of Romanova were worrying about the royal family, which had been placed under house arrest by the Provisional Government of Alexander Kerensky. Officials of the Russian-Greenland Company kept close to the Tsar and his family in hopes of sending troops to whisk them away to Romanova. When Kerensky ordered the Romanovs moved to Tobolsk, a few brave officials followed them, keeping in contact through their physician Dr. Eugene Botkin.

When the Bolsheviks came to power on October 1917, most of the Russian-Greenland officials escaped back to their land, but they left the Romanovs with hope of rescue. Between April and May 1918 they were moved to Yekaterinburg, but still they hoped for rescue by the Russian-Greenlandics. Such were their hopes that they went to sleep fully clothed, if ever their rescue came in the middle of the night.

The Bolsheviks wanted to bring Nicholas to trial, but the present circumstances led them to believe that execution was the better option. With White Russian forces surrounding Yekaterinburg, they feared that the Tsar could be taken by the Whites and used as a figurehead to rally their forces, and that Nicholas and the other members of his family would be seen by the other European powers as the legitimate successors to the Russian government, and therefore aid the White Russians. In July 1918, the Czech and Russian-Greenland Legions were closing in on the city. The Russian-Greenlandics knew that the Romanovs were under house arrest there; the Czechs did not. But the Bolsheviks feared that the Czechs were there to free the Romanovs, and so they decided to execute the royal family.

The telegram giving the order to execute the prisoners on behalf of the Supreme Soviet in Moscow was signed by Yakov Sverdlov, and it arrived in Yekaterinburg at six in the evening. Russian-Greeenland soldiers managed to intercept the telegram using a jerry-rigged eavesdropping line, and they presented this to their commander, Colonel Boris Mikoyan. Ironically, he was in the middle of planning a rescue operation set for the next day when he received the telegram. He realized that he had only a little time left to save his Tsar.[1]


Based on rumors he had heard about Yakov Yurovsky, Mikoyan believed that he would execute the royal family as soon as midnight struck. He decided that he had at most until that time to gather troops and weapons, make a workable rescue plan, and deploy to Yekaterinburg. By eight in the evening, he had 600 volunteers, armed with Mosin-Nagant rifles and Nagant M1895 revolvers. He also managed to requisition some tachankas captured from the Bolsheviks for his use. Before he left, he sent a brief telegram to the Russian-Greenland Company, promising to have the Tsar and his family safe and sound in Romanova as soon as possible.[2]

Mikoyan and his forces left for Ipatiev House at 8:13 pm. Before reaching the house, they hunkered down behind some hills and waited for the Reds to reveal the location of the Romanovs. Finally, at about 11:20 pm, a truck arrived. Mikoyan observed lights being turned on at the second floor of the house, which he took to be the royal family's rooms. He then gave the signal to attack. The tachankas, which had been disguised as ordinary horse-drawn carriages, removed their cloth tops and began firing at the house. Mikoyan then stepped out of cover and shot the driver of the truck point-blank with his revolver. He then led the attack on the House.[3]

IIlarion Antonov, a member of the operation task force, wrote in his memoirs:[4]

Our machine guns chewed up the Red Guards' defenses very easily. Everyone who was unlucky enough to be at the front of Ipatiev House was killed immediately. I feared that we may have shot one of the Tsar's daughters, the Tsarevich, the Tsaritsa or worse, even the Tsar himself. But Colonel Mikoyan just when on into the House without a care in the world. The others followed him, and you could clearly see that they were following him not because they had no choice, but because they believed in him to be able to lead them into battle and to victory.

In those first moments of the battle, the Red Guards were sufficiently surprised by Mikoyan's attack that they became confused, which the Russian-Greenlandics used to their advantage. Under orders to kill the Romanovs at the first sign of attack, the Red Guards did not expect the attack to come so soon, and so most of them were killed in the initial onslaught, and those that survived were more focused in keeping alive and defending themselves that killing the Romanovs.[5]

The Russian-Greenlandics cleared Ipatiev House out room by room, killing anyone who had a weapon pointed in their direction. They managed to secure the royal family and brought them to the truck that was supposed to carry their dead bodies. Meanwhile, the surviving Red Guards had entrenched themselves in the basement of the house, where they were prepared to make a final stand. Antonov wrote:

The Reds had sealed themselves inside the basement. They'd even locked the doors so that we couldn't enter easily, and that they would hear if ever we tried to break down the door. Colonel Mikoyan decided that we would need to kill them or else they would tell Lenin and his Bolsheviks that the Tsar had escaped his grasp. So he set me and Anastasia [Vasilyeva (a female volunteer of the Russian-Greenland Legions)] to the door. I placed two grenades taken from the Germans, watched Anastasia tie them to the doorknobs, and pulled the fuses and ran away. The grenades exploded, and Anastasia and I went in guns blazing, as the American cowboys of old are said to have done, with Colonel Mikoyan right behind us. We fired our Nagants indiscriminately, not caring whether we hit a target or not, just that we were shooting at the damned Reds.

Mikoyan and the others left Ipatiev House after this action. Unfortunately, they didn't check the bodies for survivors, therefore, Yakov Yurovsky, who survived the attack, was able to inform Sverdlov that he had failed to kill the Tsar as ordered. In a telegram that probably failed to convey the anger that Sverdlov felt, he ordered Yurovsky to pursue the Tsar and his rescuers.[6]

The Red Guards, led by Yurovksy and Peter Ermakov, a political commissar, chased the Tsar's rescuers throughout Siberia, but Colonel Mikoyan and his men were too elusive for them. Even then, they managed to ambush the force on a few occasions, killing a few Russian-Greenlandics, but they always failed in their main objective of recapturing the Romanovs.[7]

Finally, the Russian-Greenlandics reached Anadyr after a month-long odyssey. There, they boarded ships of the Romanovan Navy under the command of Captain-Commander Vladimir Danilov and set off for Kolomeitsev in Romanova. Their journey was mostly uneventful until they reached the coast of Donskoya, whose northern part has been conquered by the Communists. There, Anatoly Dendarov, leader of the Donskoyan Communists, ordered his pitiful Navy to attack the Tsar's fleet. Led by the ruthless Khariton Melnik, the three Donskoyan ships managed to sink the Russian cruiser Admiral Kolchak, at the cost of all three ships and their crews. Melnik, who survived the sinking of his flagship, committed suicide in the freezing waters rather than be captured by the Romanovans.[8]

The Russian-Greenland fleet finally arrived in Kolomeitsev on September. After arrangements were made to transfer the royal family to Peter City, the Romanovs arrived there amid massive celebrations in spite of the cost-cutting measures enacted by the Russian-Greenland authorities. Later on, Tsar Nicholas was crowned Tsar of the newly created United Subjects of Romanova.[9]


The obvious outcome of the Operation is that it saved the Russian royal family and kept the Royalist forces united. However, even this victory wasn't enough to stem the tide of Bolshevism, and the last remnants of the mainland Russian Empire were conquered by the Reds in 1921. However, the inspirational story of the Tsar's escape from enemy territory kept Romanovan nationalism high, and the Tsar would later on become the figurehead of the symbolic reunion of the Russian Empire's former territories that is the Commonwealth of Independent States.[10]

In popular culture

The story of Operation Savior of Man is a popular topic among writers and has been depicted in film at least seven times, the most popular being the 1970 Romanovan movie Spasitel' chelovek, starring the famed actors Vasily Degtyarov as Colonel Mikoyan and Borislav Vaneyev as Tsar Nicholas II. The American film Long Live the Tsar!, the English adaptation of Spasitel' chelovek, was released in 2012, and starred Gary Sinise as Colonel Mikoyan and Degtyarov as Tsar Nicholas in a cameo.


  1. Olluvanov, Pavel, Operation Savior of Man: The Story Behind the Rescue of Our Tsar (Gagarin: Tsar Nikolai II Publishing House, 15 May 2008)
  2. Olluvanov, p. 36
  3. Mikoyan, Boris, Romanovan Fighting Man (Peter City: United Romanov Publishers, 8 September 1956), p. 28
  4. From the written memoirs of Illarion Antonov
  5. Olluvanov, p. 69
  6. Olluvanov, p. 75
  7. Olluvanov, p. 84
  8. Olluvanov, p. 100-197
  9. Olluvanov, p. 200
  10. Olluvanov, p. 216