MOSCOW, NOV. 20 -- Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, ordered the execution of the last Russian czar and his family, according to an account published today in Argumenty i Fakty, the Soviet Union's most widely read newspaper.

Scholar Eduard Radzinsky told the weekly paper that Lenin gave approval to Communist leaders in the city of Ekaterinburg to execute Czar Nicholas II and his family in the summer of 1918.

Lenin, who was revered here for seven decades as a kind of state icon, is now undergoing a critical historical reevaluation. Until now, most official historical accounts have distanced him from the firing-squad executions, asserting that he learned of the killings only later.

After being forced from power in the February 1917 revolution, Nicholas, his wife Alexandra and their five children were driven into isolated domestic exile, ultimately in the Ural mountains city of Ekaterinburg, now Sverdlovsk, where they were slain on July 16.

Numerous accounts have been published recently describing the brutality of the executions, and one historian, Geli Ryabov, even claimed to have found remains of the family in an underground shaft in Sverdlovsk. Communist leaders were said to have ordered the bodies to remain unmarked to avoid creating a place of pilgrimage.

In the 1970s, the house where the family had been held in Sverdlovsk was ordered torn down. Local authorities, however, have now given the site to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Radzinsky said documents discovered in a museum in the Russian city of Kuybyshev indicate that Lenin approved the execution of the czar and his family just hours before it took place. He said he had documentary evidence of Lenin's cable to the Ekaterinburg Communists.

"For 72 years, there has been a myth that Lenin only learned about the shootings in Ekaterinburg afterwards," Radzinsky told the newspaper.

The debunking of the Lenin cult has become so pervasive that the evening television news program Vremya recently began a segment with the announcer saying: "And now for a roundup of the Lenin monuments attacked today. . . . "