Travel to the Past: Ekaterinburg

Helen Rappaport visits the town on the Russian-Siberian border that has become a focus for Romanov pilgrimage.

In 1924 the American dancer Isadora Duncan, down on her luck and past her best, undertook a tour of the Russian provinces. Finding herself in the city of Ekaterinburg in western Siberia, she sent an impassioned plea to her sister to get her out of there. ‘You have no idea what a living nightmare is until you see this town,’ Duncan wrote. ‘Perhaps the killing here of a certain family in a cellar has cast a sort of Edgar Allen Poe gloom over the place – or perhaps it was always like that. The melancholy church bells ring every hour, fearful to hear.’

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