Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Fate of Joy

As most of you know, I am deeply passionate about the story of the Romanov's, the last royal family of Russia. For years, I have been captivated by Joy, the dog belonging to Alexei Romanov, the Tsarevitch. This spaniel was well-known throughout Russia, as he was frequently featured in photographs of Alexei for the public. It is not known in precisely which year Joy became a part of the Romanov family, but it was known that Joy followed Alexei faithfully into exile and imprisonment, following the first revolution in March 1917 and Tsar Nikolai II's abdication. There are so many touching pictures of Alexei and Joy. Some of my favorites:

The rest of the story has been portrayed across the world stage: the Bolsheviks, the Ipatiev House, the basement, the bullets bouncing off the bodies, the acid, the inept burial of the bones, the missing bodies, Anastasia's possible survival, the discovery of the bones, the state funeral, and finally the discovery of the last two bodies, the DNA testing, and peace.
Throughout this saga, I had always thought that Joy had died during the execution on that fateful night, July 16-17th 1918. I'm not sure where exactly I got this from, possibly because Anastasia and Tatiana's dogs were killed during the shooting. Something about the murder of this innocent dog struck me: I could understand why they killed Nicky—regardless of his character, he was, after all, a terrible ruler and responsible in many ways for Russia's problems. I could understand why they killed Alix—she was a hated ''German bitch,'' haughty and arrogant, responsible for Rasputin and his overarching influence into politics. I could understand why they killed Alexei—after all, he was the heir to the throne, even if he was a hemophilic 13-year old boy who, at this point, was unable to walk properly due to injuries. I could understand why they killed the Grand Duchesses—they needed to wipe out the entire family, in order to ensure that no Romanov resurgence could take place. I could even understand why they killed the four loyal servants—if no one objected to killing the innocent girls, killing innocent servants really isn't all that different, and they would only be a nuisance. But I could never understand why they killed the dog.

Whenever Joy popped up in the books I read, I always felt a twinge that something wasn't right. Searches on the internet weren't very productive, since it was such a specific topic and very little information was known. Then something popped up: someone had referenced an article, titled ''The Final Resting Place of Joy,'' by Marion Wynn and published in Royalty Digest in November 2004.
“Joy, Alexis' spaniel, hid during the murder and, when the bodies were taken out of the cellar room, he ran out into the streets of Ekaterinburg. Later, Joy was found in the home of an Ipatiev House guard, Michael Letemin. When the guard was arrested by the White Army, Colonel Paul Pavlovich Rodzianko looked after Joy who had by then became totally blind. Joy was taken to Omsk with the British Military Mission. There, Baroness Buxhoeveden went to see Joy and the dog seemed to recognize her, despite he was blind, probably because of a familiar smell. Then Paul Rodzianko brought the dog out of Russia with him to a new home in England."

I couldn’t really believe it—I didn’t know this author, the magazine it was published in, where the author had gotten the information, or where the person who posted this had found the information. I didn’t think much of it until the end of this summer, when I was reading The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg by Helen Rappaport. At the end of the book, this same exact story was quoted almost word-for-word. I knew then that I had to find out the truth about what happened to Joy. (Sorry I can't give the exact quote from this book, I don't have it with me since it's at home in the U.S!)

It was awkward timing, since I was leaving for a year in England. The magazine Royalty Digest had been taken over in 2006 by Rosvall Royal Books, in Sweden, and renamed Royalty Digest Quarterly. I emailed the publisher, asking if it was possible to get the article I needed. He immediately emailed me back with the personal email address of both the author, Marion Wynn, and the publisher of the article. I proceeded to email the author, who kindly offered to mail me a photocopy of her article. The day I arrived in England, it was there, waiting for me.

Her article on Joy is fantastic, although it is more a biographical piece on Paul Rodzianko, who was serving with the British Expeditionary Force in Siberia, and who rescued Joy from Ekaterinburg. This led me to two sources: Rodzianko’s autobiography, Tattered Banners, and an autobiography by Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, a former lady-in-waiting to the tsarina, entitled Left Behind: Fourteen Months in Siberia December 1917-February 1919. I most likely could have obtained a copy of these books through the Inter-Library Loan system at Luther (there was a copy of Tattered Banners at the University of Nebraska Lincoln), but I was in England and so instead made two trips to the British Library to get my sources. One of the books was in Document Supply, which meant it would take 48 hours to get to the library for me to use. I obviously didn’t know this before I registered for my Reader Pass, so I was only able to get one of the books on my first trip. On my second trip, I was able to get both books (and since I had remembered to bring my wallet with me into the Reading Rooms) and make photocopies of the pages I needed.

Post-British Library success
From “The Final Resting Place of Joy”: “Joy, the Tsarevich’s spaniel hid [during the murder], and when the bodies were taken out of the cellar room, he ran out into the streets of Ekaterinburg. He was found in the home of an Ipatiev House guard, Michael Letemin, when the guard was arrested. After Joy was rescued, Paul looked after him. The spaniel came, wagging his tail uncertainly, stumbling a little, finally bumping his nose into Rodzianko’s leg. He was totally blind. He seemed to be always looking for his master, and this had made him so sad and dejected that he would scarcely touch his food even after he was lovingly cared for. Joy was taken to Omsk with the British Military Mission, and when Baroness Buxhoeveden was there, she went to see him.”

From Left Behind: “I went to see Joy, and he, evidently connecting me in his dog’s brain with his masters, imagined that my coming announced theirs. Never did I see an animal in such ecstasy. When I called him he made one bound out of the carriage and tore down the platform towards me, leaping in the air and running to me with his forepaws, walking upright like a circus dog. General Dietrichs said that he had never given such a welcome to anyone before, and I attributed this solely to the fact that my clothes, which were the same that I had worn at Tobolsk, had still kept  familiar smell, for I had never specially petted him. When I left, Joy lay for a whole day near the door through which I had gone. He refused his food and relapsed again into his usual despondency.
            What had little Joy seen on that terrible night of July 16? He had been with the Imperial Family to the last. Had he witnessed the tragedy? His brain had evidently kept the memory of a great shock, and his heart was broken.
            It was pathetic seeing this dumb friend, who brought back the memory of the Cesarevitch so vividly. Little Joy was well cared for. He was taken to England by Colonel Rodzianko and spent the last years in the utmost canine comfort, but still never recovered his spirits.”

Eventually Lloyd George ordered all British troops to withdraw and return to England, Paul Rodzianko being one of them. He took Joy back to Windsor, where he lived out the rest of his days in peace.

From Tattered Banners: “With heavy hearts we sailed away from Vladivostok. Joy, the little ill-named spaniel who had seen his master murdered, that fateful night, traveled with me. I have never seen Russia again.”

From “The Final Resting Place of Joy”: “Joy seemed happy enough in his new home, but staring into his limpid brown eyes, Paul often wondered how much the dog could remember. He had been through such a traumatic time in Ekaterinburg, he was such a gentle and faithful friend to his young master. How could he forget such horrors. Joy died at Sefton Lawn and was buried in the garden. His simple tombstone read ‘Here lies Joy.’”

From Tattered Banners: “Every time I pass my garden at Windsor I think of the small dog’s tomb in the bushes with the ironical inscription ‘Here lies Joy.’ To me that little stone marks the end of an empire and a way of life.”

The last line of “The Final Resting Place of Joy” reads: “Joy, you are not forgotten.”

The fate of the Romanov family is full of grief and tragedy. For me, the story of Joy is now the silver lining of this story. They may have killed Nicky, they may have killed his innocent children and his innocent, loyal, servants. They may have killed both Anastasia and Tatiana’s dogs. But Joy survived. He lived through it all and peacefully spent the rest of his life in England, safe. He might not have been the same—he was obviously traumatized. But he lived. In a family that lost most of its members between the years 1917 and 1920, Joy survived. Discovering this small happy ending was well worth the work. It’s the little things in life that make it all worthwhile. Thank you to all the people who have helped me on this journey and who have made solving this mystery possible.

RIP Joy. You are not forgotten.

Because not having citations would be just wrong…


Buxhoeveden, Sophie. Left Behind: Fourteen Months in Siberia December 1917-February 1919. London: Longmans & Co., 1929.

Rappaport, Helen. The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg. St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010.

Rodzianko, Paul. Tattered Banners: An Autobiography. London: Seeley Service, 1939.

Wynn, Marion. “The Last Resting Place of ‘Joy’ and the Story of His Rescuer, Colonel Paul Pavlovich Rodzianko.” Royalty Digest 19, no. 5 (November 2004): 147-153.


As of 24 June 2015, it’s been over a year and a half since I originally published my research in this blog post. I haven’t changed or edited my original post, so it still remains in the informal-blog-style I originally wrote it in. Somehow, this blog post still gets hits every week! For anyone who has gotten here by a Google search for Joy and wants to know more, here is the information on what has happened with my research on Joy:

In January 2014, The Siberian Times picked up on this research and wrote a fantastic article about Joy, which credits and links this blog post. The Daily Mail and Topky, a Slovakian newspaper, also published articles on this research and Joy’s survival (luckily a friend of a friend knew Slovak and was able to translate for me!). In April 2015, I presented my research on Joy at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) 2015 in Spokane, Washington (USA). This research is now pending publication in the Proceedings for NCUR 2015. Hopefully my formal paper on Joy and his survival will be available soon!

Here are links to the other articles published about Joy’s story:
The Siberian Times Article
Daily Mail Article
Topky Article 

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey! I’m continually amazed at how many people around the world this story has reached.


  1. Dear Maja, Thank you for your article. Like you, I was curious with regard to the fate of Joy. Thank you.

  2. Just a postscipt: that short of video clip of Alexei and Joy just brought tears to my eyes. The little boy looked so happy in that clip. Thank you for uploading and sharing that clip.

  3. What an awesome article, dear Maya. Thank you very much for your work and research!

  4. Read the Siberian article a few months ago. Came back today and read your update. I'm sure animal lovers everywhere appreciate your work. Good luck on your paper. Looking forward to reading it.

  5. like you I just needed to know what happened to the dog that was there at the time of the shootings but nothing else was said only a little dog was there, something touched me and I needed to know as I have dogs of my own and know how loyal and sensitive they are

  6. like you I just needed to know what happened to the dog that was there at the time of the shootings but nothing else was said only a little dog was there, something touched me and I needed to know as I have dogs of my own and know how loyal and sensitive they are

  7. I was just about finishing the book about the Romanovs, and wondering what happened to Joy. I fell so bad & scared for this precious dog, I had to find out that nothing bad happened to him as well. It's great to know that he was rescued although his family perished. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your research & remembering this four-legged baby.

  8. I'd always thought that all the dogs had been killed as well, so this was a very interesting news. That the royal family were killed was so unneeded. Other deposed royals have lived in exile, and they had many relatives among other ruling families. Cruelty was the only true reason. If it was known that Nicholas and Alexandra did much of what they did to hide the fact that the Czaravich was so ill, I doubt the Russian people would have been so unfeeling. People forget that hemophelia had no treatments in their day. However strange, it seems that Rasputin helped the boy where noone else could. Rasputian was an bad influence, but they were desperate. The appearance of instability in the monarchy was to be avoided, lest their people lose faith. Ironic that things should go against them for similar reasons.
    There was a chance that the english monarchy could have saved the russian monarchy, as there was an effort to exchange the russian rulers, I believe, for money that the revoltutionaries needed. For some reason, that didn't happen, and crueler minds prevailed.
    Just for interest sake, the other executed dogs were a Japanese Chin, and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The dogs were named Jimmy, and Gemmy, though it's not clear now which was which. I follow Russian history and historic Cavalier news (there was a Cavalier at Versailles, with Mary Queen of Scot's execution, at Charles I's execution, and on the Titanic). I'm of Russian descent.

  9. Such a sad and touching story-Joy was agreat dog!

  10. All very interesting. My Uncle told me about this story a few years ago. My grandparents owned the house and gardens at Sefton Lawn, and my Mother and her four brothers were brought up there. I used to go regularly as a little boy, but don't recall seeing the grave stone for Joy - I was young. Sefton Lawn was knocked down after my grandparents retired to Cornwall, and the land used for a housing development. The family buisness, Keeler (optical instruments), still has a factory there I believe. If you want to know more, you can drop me a line at - Stephen

  11. Anastasia was the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary, the true and only God, and this boy is myself, Jesus Christ, the man killed by Cain, I am happy that you to sympatize with us, I liked the countryside, Cain was a man of a highly avanced civilization, the progress is the only feeling he has in his heart of ice.