PHOTO: The Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. A wooden causeway surrounds the abandoned mine shaft – visible as a depression in the ground – where the remains of Nicholas II and his family were first discarded after their brutal murder at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg
Thirty years after the discovery of the burial site of the Imperial Family in Porosenkov Log, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is apparently now ready to accept the findings of numerous genetic examinations and admit that the remains of the bodies found there really belong to Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
It is not yet clear whether a new monastery will be built on the site, in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, but the church has already requested that Porosenkov Log be transferred to the Ekaterinburg Diocese “for the purpose of carrying out religious activities.” And, will most likely, receive it.
It is speculated, that next month, the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) will formally recognize the results of examinations which prove the authenticity of the remains of the Imperial Family, exhumed in the summer of 1991 in the area of Porosenkov Log on the Old Koptyakovskaya Road.
“The examinations that have been carried out convincingly show that the remains found near Ekaterinburg are indeed the remains of the Imperial Family. But for the church to recognize this, it is necessary that all bishops study the results of these examinations. I think as soon as this happens – probably at the bishops’ council in November – the authenticity of the “Ekaterinburg remains” will be recognized by the church,” said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk (Alfeyev), chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate in September 2021.
PHOTO: Porosenkov Log, situated 3.8 km from Ganina Yama. The main grave is seen in the center of the photo, a small path (seen in the upper left) leads to the second grave, where the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Grand Duchess Maria were discovered in 2007
The discovery of the remains of the Imperial Family in Porosenkov Log
The family of Nicholas II were shot in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The bodies were then taken out of the city to an area of old mines in the Ganina Yama tract, where their killers attempted to destroy the remains using fire and acid.
For many years the Russian Orthodox Church insisted that the bodies of members of the Imperial Family had been destroyed. According to the inhabitants of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, the monastery stands on the ground, where the ashes from the burnt remains were scattered.
However, historians believe that Ganina Yama is the site of the first attempt of burying the remains, however, the killers returned the following day, exhumed the remains and transported them 3.8 km, and reburied them near the Old Koptyakovskaya Road, which led from Ekaterinburg to Lake Isetskoye.
The remains of the Imperial Family were originally found in 1978 by a group of enthusiasts led by the Ural geologist Alexander Avdonin, who worked under the patronage of film director Geliy Ryabov. Due to the political situation in the Soviet Union at the time, no exhumation of the remains was carried out. It was not until 1991, after the victory of Boris Yeltsin in the presidential elections of the RSFSR, that Avdonin decided that it was time to make the discovery public.
Meanwhile, the search for the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria continued, and discovered in 2007 at Porosenkov Log, in a second grave [only 44 pieces of their bones had been discovered at the site] just meters from the main burial site.
Since that time, the authenticity of the bones of Nicholas II and his family has been confirmed three times. In January 1998, the Commission of the Republican Center for Forensic Medicine of the Ministry of Health of Russia concluded: “The remains found in Ekaterinburg are the remains of Nicholas II, members of his family and his retainers.” In 2008, the authenticity of the remains was also confirmed by a genetic analysis carried out by experts from Russia and the United States. In the summer of 2018, the official representative of the Investigative Committee of Russia (TFR) Svetlana Petrenko said that repeated commissions of molecular genetic examinations confirmed the authenticity of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
PHOTO: The tomb of the Imperial Family in the St. Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral, St. Petersburg
Why has the Russian Orthodox Church not recognized the authenticity of the remains for 30 years?
Despite these numerous extensive scientific studies and examinations, the Russian Orthodox Church has still not officially recognized the remains discovered at Porosenkov Log. There are several reasons for this:
First, the recognition somewhat discredits the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. If the remains of the Imperial Family are nevertheless recognized as genuine, it will turn out that the monastery has to be rebuilt in another place. At the same time, Ganina Yama is the main place of pilgrimage for Orthodox Christians, where traditionally all religious processions in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs end.
Secondly, as the historian and local historian Nikolai Neuymin explains, there will be confusion in the minds of believers, since “there will be several graves: at Ganina Yama, Porosenkov Log and the Peter and Paul Fortress [St. Petersburg].”
Thirdly, the recognition of the remains threatens a split among Orthodox Believers, some of whom will not believe the results of the genetic examination.
Fourth, the Russian Orthodox Church will be forced to publicly admit that for more than 100 years, they were wrong.
PHOTO: Independent researcher Paul Gilbert, standing at the entrance to the Romanov Memorial at Porosenkov Log. 2nd June 2016
What will happen to Porosenkov Log and Ganina Yama?
If the Russian Orthodox Church does recognize the remains, then, most likely, it will most likely construct a new monastery, church or just a chapel for pilgrims. It is difficult, however, to say at this time.
In March 2016, the Ministry of Culture of the Sverdlovsk Region reported that if the ROC requests the transfer of the territory in and around Porosyonkov Log (added to the cultural heritage list in 2014), would be designated as sacred land and transferred to the ROC, where a memorial and monastery, similar to that at Ganina Yama would be constructed. This in itself suggests that perhaps the ROC has already come to a decision on the authenticity of the remains, and were making preparations?
Porosenkov Log is currently under the administration of the Sverdlovsk Museum of Local Lore, who have plans to build a museum complex on this territory. As a result, Governor Evgeny Kuyvashev suspended the process of land allocation for an indefinite period.
It should also be added, that if the ROC recognize the remains of the Imperial Family as Holy Relics, they cannot be returned to their tomb in St. Catherine’s Chapel [SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg], as relics cannot be returned to the earth. They must be placed in reliquaries above ground which allows the faithful to venerate them. This would be one very important reason why their remains would be interred in a new cathedral named in their honour.
Even if a new monastery is constructed at Porosenkov Log, it will not take away the significance and historic importance of the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, because the burial of the Imperial Family took place at each in the summer of 1918.
In conclusion, perhaps, after the recognition of the remains by the church, the annual Cross Procession in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs, will end not end at Ganina Yama, but at that of Porosenkov Log.
© Paul Gilbert. 3 October 2021