“Until the Ekaterinburg remains are recognized, I will not go to church”, says Russian forensic expert

PHOTO: Sergei Alekseevich Nikitin reconstructed sculptural portraits of Emperor Nicholas II and his family

On the eve of the 103rd anniversary of the murders of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, the Ekaterinburg media outlet 66.RU published an interview with Sergei Alekseevich Nikitin, a highly respected Soviet and Russian expert of the Bureau of Forensic Medical Examination in Moscow.

Nikitin is a world-renowned forensic expert, known for his work on the reconstruction and identification of faces and heads of many historical figures, using plastic reconstruction according to the Gerasimov method. His projects have reconstructed the faces and skulls of Ilya Muromets, the mother of Ivan the Terrible Elina Glinskaya and Adolf Hitler.

He is perhaps best known, however, for the main work of his life with the remains exhumed in 1991 from the Porosenkov Log tract near Ekaterinburg. It was Nikitin who first identified the skull of Nicholas II, and then recreated the sculptural portraits of the Emperor and his family.

66.RU: How did it come to be that in 1991 you became involved in identifying the remains of the Imperial family?

SAN: Initially, this work was carried out by the Sverdlovsk forensic medical experts and the Research Institute of Forensic Medicine of the USSR Ministry of Health, but this ministry supported the Emergency Committee, and it was necessary to transfer the research to the Bureau of the Main Forensic Medical Expertise of the RSFSR Ministry of Health. I was included in the expert group as a specialist in the fields of both identification and anthropological reconstruction.

66.RU: Several years ago, in one of your interviews, you said that you immediately “identified” Nicholas II even before you began using the Gerasimov method, at the Verkh-Isetsky District Department of Internal Affairs in Ekaterinburg. Moreover, it turned out to be not skull number 1 at all, as everyone had thought at the time, but skull number 4 (and subsequent studies confirmed your guess). How did this happen?

SAN: There is nothing surprising in this: by August 1991, I already had 19 years of experience in recreating a sculptural portrait from a skull. It was not at first sight that I recognized the emperor, since skull No. 4 had endured some rather serious losses. It wasn’t until the third day that the imperial frontal tubercles on this skull provided me with a clue.

66.RU: Another proof of the authenticity of the remains of the emperor must be considered a scar made by a sabre – a during an assassination attempt on Nicholas II in his youth during a visit to Japan, when he was hit on the head with a sabre by a Japanese policeman. Where did you find this hole on the skull of Nicholas II? Where and when did you manage to examine the hat worn by the heir to the throne at the time of the assassination attempt?

SAN: It was in 2006, after I reviewed details of the wounds inflicted on the heir that I made the discovery. The description is very detailed, with measurements of both the damage to the skull and the distance between the marks. Then I took a profile photograph of the skull No. 4 (I had already photographed it in 1994 with a scale ruler), superimposed it on the profile photograph of the emperor, and it turned out that the “fronto-parietal” wound exactly coincided with the through-damage to the skull! It was from this wound that on 12th May 1891, doctors removed a fragment of the outer bone plate, exposing the spongy layer. It was here that sulfuric acid administered by the killers, which subsequently “ate” through the skull.

It was in 2008, during an examination in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, that I was able to compare the tear on the bowler hat of Nicholas Alexandrovich to the damage to the skull. Any doubt to this mystery was thus solved!

66.RU: Do you, as an expert having handled the skulls of Nicholas II and members of his family, have any doubts about the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains?

SAN: Neither I nor other experts had any such doubts even back in August 1991.

66.RU: The renewed investigation of the ROC Investigative Committee has been going on for six years, experts have repeatedly presented their research and conclusions to the ROC commission, but the church is still in no hurry to recognize the tsar’s remains. What do you think of all this?

SAN: I think this is a classic example of absurdity.

66.RU: Why do you think the Russian Orthodox Church, despite the many examinations and the obviousness of the conclusions, does not recognize the Ekaterinburg remains? When do you think common sense will prevail?

SAN: One of the canons of the sanctity of the remains is their miraculous acquisition, which was not the case with the Ekaterinburg remains. We must not forget that at the time of their acquisition in 1979 (partial) and in 1991 (complete) they were not relics, since neither Nicholas II nor his family members were then canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church. Common sense and faith are different concepts.

66.RU: Is it true that at some point you became disillusioned with the church and even stopped going to it?

SAN: I was not disillusioned, but I did make a vow to myself: that until the Ekaterinburg remains are recognized, I will not go to church!

NOTE: a final decision on the Ekaterinburg remains will be resolved by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), when they meet in November of this year.

© Paul Gilbert. 16 July 2021

Icon belonging to the Imperial Family now in the Church on the Blood, Ekaterinburg

PHOTO: Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

Today – 11th July – the feast of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” – a miraculous icon revered in the Orthodox Church – is being celebrated in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg.

During their house arrest in the Ipatiev House from April to July 1918, the Imperial Family had an Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed”, before which they prayed daily, until their death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918.

The Imperial Family’s icon was discovered following the regicide in the Ipatiev House by a Guards officer who personally knew Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960) and her husband Nikolai Kuikovsky (1881-1958). Later, the icon traveled with Admiral Alexander Kolchak’s (1874-1920) army and Russian emigrants, through China to the United States and Canada. In the early 1920s, through the efforts of officers devoted to Emperor Nicholas II, it was taken to Denmark and presented to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928). Passing from generation to generation, the icon remained in the Romanov family until 2003: upon the Dowager Empress’s death in 1928, the icon passed to her youngest daughter Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna , then passing to her eldest son Tikhon in 1960.

In the year marking the 85th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of the Imperial Family, Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovskaya-Romanova (1926-2020) took part in the consecration of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, erected on the site of the Ipatiev House, demolished in 1977. In addition and according to the last will and testament of her husband and nephew of Nicholas II Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky, Olga Nikolaevna brought from Canada the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed”.

By the Providence of God, on the night of 10th July 2003, Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovskaya-Romanova, solemnly handed over the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” to the Church on Blood in Ekaterinburg, built on the site of the demolished Ipatiev House, where the Holy Royal Martyrs met their deaths and martyrdom. Thus, the dying wish of Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky – the last owner of the family icon – had been fulfilled.

PHOTO: Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovskaya-Romanova (left), solemnly handed over the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” to the Church on Blood in Ekaterinburg on 10th July 2003

In her solemn speech to the pilgrims Olga Nikolaevna said: “I am happy that the Lord deigned me to fulfill the will of my husband Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky-Romanov … This icon in the Ipatiev House was a spiritual witness to the sufferings of the Holy Royal Martyrs. Everything has come full circle. After many years of wanderings, the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed” has returned to its proper place in Ekaterinburg. “

According to tradition, the feast of the Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos “Three-handed”, marks the beginning of Tsar’s Days within the Ekaterinburg archdiocese. In July 2019, during the Divine Liturgy in the Church on the Blood, Metropolitan Kirill, now – the head of the Tatarstan archdiocese, said “from this day, begins Passion Week, dedicated to the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs. Starting from today, and every day of Passion Week, the earthly life and the last moments of the Holy Royal Martyrs will be honoured.”

A Divine Liturgy will be held on the night of 16/17 July in the Church on the Blood. Earlier this week, the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region cancelled the annual Cross Procession from the Church to the Holy Royal Monastery at Ganina Yama. Despite this, Metropolitan Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky insists that he will still take part in the sacred procession.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 July 2021

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles, news stories and translations, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

30th anniversary of the exhumation of the remains of Nicholas II and his family

PHOTO: Avdonin and his team excavate the burial site at Porosenkov Log in 1991

WARNING: please be aware that this post includes graphic images which some readers may find disturbing.

This month marks the 30th anniversary of the exhumation of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and members of his family, discovered at Porosenkov Log in 1979. The Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore in Ekaterinburg have published archival photos of the excavations, which were not carried out until 1991.

The photos show the excavations, which were initiated in the Porosenkov Log area on the Old Koptyakovskaya Road on 11th July 1991. Geologist Alexander Nikolaevich Avdonin and curator from the Institute of History and Archaeology of the Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Lyudmila Koryakova and their team experts, all participated in the exhumation of the skeletons, which, were later established as the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their three daughters Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and their four faithful retainers.

PHOTO: Avdonin and his team excavate the burial site at Porosenkov Log in 1991

According to the museum “1991 was a turning point for Russia” and “the country’s political future was uncertain.” On 12th June 1991, the presidential elections of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) were held, which was won by Boris Yeltsin – Russia’s first president. It was at this point that “more than 70 years of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was coming to an end.” This is what prompted Avdonin to initiate excavations.

It was in 1979, that Avdonin and Gely Trofimovich Ryabov (1932-2015) discovered the unmarked grave containing the skeletons of the Romanovs in the north-western outskirts of Sverdlovsk. At first Avdonin believed that the time was not yet right to announce their discovery, however, Yeltsin’s victory convinced him that it was high time. On 10th July 1991, he turned to Governor Eduard Rossel and said that he knew where the remains of the Imperial Family were buried.

PHOTO: remains of the Imperial Family exhumed from the burial site at Porosenkov Log in 1991

Despite the fact that the political situation in Russia seemed extremely unstable, Rossel decided to exhume the remains. On 11th July 1991, Avdonin and Rossel assembled a team of local archaeologists, who began the excavation of the grave at Porosenkov Log. Upon the discovery of the remains, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation opened a criminal case. The outcome of the investigation divided many Russian Orthodox Christians – some of whom recognized the authenticity of the remains, while many others did not. The investigations and examinations are still ongoing, however a final decision on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains will be made by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which will take place in November of this year.

PHOTO: Alexander Avdonin (right) with Nikolai Borisovich Neuymin, director of the Romanov Memorial Hall in Ekaterinburg, standing at the burial site at Porosenkov Log

Emperor Nicholas II and his family were all shot in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The bodies were taken out of the city, where their murderers attempted to destroy the remains with fire and acid in the area of ​​old mines in the Ganina Yama tract. Their horrific mission failed, after which the remains were transported 3.8 km and buried near the Old Koptyakovskaya Road [Porosenkov Log]. The grave remained a secret until 1979, when the remains were found by a team of enthusiasts led by the Ural geologist Alexander Avdonin, who worked under the patronage of Geliy Ryabov, at that time assistant to the head of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs.

It was not possible to extract and study the remains at that time. Avdonin’s team, together with archaeologists, did this in 1991, only to discover that two skeletons were missing. It was not until 2007, that the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria, were discovered in a second grave just meters from the main burial site.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 July 2021

Orthodox Christians still divided on authenticity of Ekaterinburg Remains

During an interview held earlier this week on the Echo of Moscow, the First Vice-President of the Center for the Political Technologies Dr. Alexei Makarkin, talked about the Ekaterinburg Remains:

On 17th June 2021, the Holy Synod reviewed a report from Metropolitan Tikhon on the genetic examinations of the Ekaterinburg remains, and with the information provided by the Investigative Committee of Russia regarding various examinations as part of the investigation of the criminal case on the murder of members of the Imperial Family. It was decided to publish information on the results of the examinations and submit them for consideration by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), which will take place in the fall.

“Prior to this, the issue of the remains of the Imperial Family (the ROC officially refer to them as the “Ekaterinburg remains”) was discussed at the Bishops’ Council in 2016 and 2017 respectively. In 2017, it was expected that the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria found in 2007 would take place on the centenary of the murder of the Imperial Family in 2018, however, this did not happen. Despite numerous exhaustive scientific tests carried out on the remains by experts, a significant number of Orthodox Christians in Russia still do not believe in the authenticity of the remains, nor do they want to recognize them as holy relics. It is psychologically impossible for them to imagine that both the Moscow Patriarchate and numerous pious believers were wrong, instead believing that the relics were destroyed with fire and acid in 1918, and that Boris Yeltsin and Boris Nemtsov, on whose initiative established the authenticity of the remains back in the 1990s, were right.

“The issue remains controversial to this day, but the position of the opponents of the recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains were weakened earlier this year following the scandalous story with the now former schema-abbot Sergius (Romanov), one of the main opponents of the recognition of the authenticity of the remains. There was concern that he, along with the priests and nuns loyal to him, would go into schism, protesting against the recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains, instead, Sergius was excommunicated by the Moscow Patriarchate. The problem of delimitation among believers still remains – but, as far as can be seen, the state authorities continue to show interest in the symbolic act of burying the last Tsar and members of his family. In order for this to take place, a decision by the Moscow Patriarchate is needed – so that the departed can be glorified as saints and their relics venerated by the faithful.

“So there will be internal church differences, and Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Tikhon will have to resolve them. Unfortunately, there is no ideal solution as there will most certainly be protests, regardless of the Church’s final verdict on the remains. But here’s what is interesting – a couple of decades ago, the topic of the authenticity of the remains was socially significant, it was actively discussed in circles far outside the Church. Sadly, most Russians have today lost interest, especially those who are not practicing believers. Interest in history (and, in particular, in the monarchy) has diminished, they are tired from all the arguments about the country’s past and, instead, desire to understand what the future holds for Russia and her people.”

© Paul Gilbert. 22 June 2021

Metropolitan Hilarion hopeful ROC will recognize authenticity of Ekaterinburg remains

PHOTO: Metropolitan Hilarion

The head of the Synodal Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion, expressed the hope that the question of the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains will be resolved in November by the Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC).

He recalled that last Thursday the Holy Synod discussed the identification of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family members during an interview on Church and Peace, a program on the Russia-24 TV channel .

According to him, the reports of the Metropolitan of Pskov Tikhon (Shevkunov) and the representative of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation were heard, which included results of the multitude of examinations – requested by the Investigative Committee – and carried out in different laboratories around the world. Members of the Holy Synod, were presented with a “very clear and unambiguous” picture, and now have a better understanding of the question on the authenticity of the Ekaterinburg remains, Metropolitan Hilarion said.

“We listened to this report with great attention for a very long time, and we passed the final decision on this issue to the discretion of the Council of Bishops, which will be held in November of this year. I think that the Council of Bishops will put an end to this epic, which has lasted almost a quarter of a century,” noted Metropolitan Hilarion.

When asked what the Council’s verdict would be, the Metropolitan clarified: “I hope that it will be a positive decision.”

PHOTO: icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, near Ekaterinburg

Recall that in July 1991, on the Old Koptyakovskaya Road near Ekaterinburg, a burial site was opened, which contained the remains of nine people. They, according to a subsequent investigation, belonged to members of the Russian Imperial Family – Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their four daughters – Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, as well as four faithful servants. Following the exhumation and examination of the remains, their remains were buried in St. Catherine’s Chapel, a side chapel in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg on 17th July 1998.

On 29th July 2007, during an archaeological excavation near the first burial site, the remains of two more people were found. Numerous examinations identified the remains as those of Nicholas II’s other two children – Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Grand Duchess Maria.

On the eve of centenary marking the regicide in Ekaterinburg, the official representative of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Svetlana Petrenko, stated that a second comprehensive study confirmed the authenticity of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were shot 100 years ago in Ekaterinburg.

Click HERE to read my article The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains, originally published in 2016, and updated on 18th June 2021.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 2021

The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains

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NOTE: This article was originally published on 17th March 2016, it was updated twice since, on 4th January 2017 and 7th March 2020. It has been expanded and further updated on 18th June 2021, based on new information from Russian media sources. Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are my own based on my own research and do not reflect those of the Russian Orthodox Church.

For the record, regarding my personal position on the Ekaterinburg remains, I have now and always believed the remains discovered near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and 2007 respectively, are those of Emperor Nicholas II, his wife, their five children, and four faithful retainers. Further, not only did I attend their interment on 17th July 1998 in St. Petersburg, I have visited both Ganina Yama and Porosenkov Log on several occasions, where I have offered prayers and left flowers. Memory Eternal! Вечная Память! – PG

Bones of Contention

On 17th July 1998, the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their five children: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and their four faithful retainers Dr. Eugene Botkin, Ivan Kharitonov, Alexei Trupp and Anna Demidova were interred in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Not only was I both privileged and honoured to attend this historic event, I was also hopeful that the burial would bring some closure to what is considered one of the greatest tragedies of 20th century Russian history. Sadly, this was not to be.

The questions raised about the murders of the Russian Imperial family in 1918, the discovery of their remains in the vicinity of Ekaterinburg in 1991 and later those of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna in  2007, as well as the recognition or non-recognition of their authenticity, have been unsettling both Russian and Western society ever since.

As a result, many people looked to the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) for its verdict on the Ekaterinburg remains. But expressing an objective view required the Church to conduct a thorough examination of their own, of the historical records as well as the investigation materials and the results of scientific inquiries.

Over the course of the last few years, I have published nearly 100 news stories and articles on the subject, which included many first English translations from Russian media sources. Since that time, I have received numerous emails and telephone calls from readers frustrated by the ROC’s position on the Ekaterinburg remains. I cannot stress enough, that I do not represent the Russian Orthodox Church or His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. I do, however, hope that the contents of this article will help provide some answers.

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His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk

New Investigation

In September of 2015, I published an article on my Royal Russia News blog announcing that the investigation into the Ekaterinburg remains had been reopened by the Russian Orthodox Church. The investigation would include a new series of genetic studies, and a comprehensive review of the evidence accumulated since 1918 into the murders of the last Russian Imperial family. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and at his request to the Investigative Committee a new team of experts was formed. A complex examination would be carried out for the first time – a historical, anthropological and genetic one – one in which the ROC would be involved in all aspects of the investigation.

It is important to note, that had the ROC been invited to participate in the original investigation and forensic tests carried out by Western experts in the early 1990s, that this new investigation might not have been necessary.

Many viewed the 1991 investigation as a propaganda tool by then president Boris Yeltsin (1931-2007), who was anxious to bring closure to the century-long mystery, thus gaining favour with Western nations.

More than 50 descendants of the Romanov dynasty arrived in Russia for the interment in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The only descendants absent were Leonida Georgievna (1914-2010), her daughter Maria Vladimirovna (b. 1953) and her son George Mikhailovich (b. 1981), all of whom did not recognize the authenticity of the remains and declined to attend the reburial ceremony. 

In the face of skepticism, the late Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) was obliged to profess agnosticism over the identity of the bodies, as a way to avoid massive internal rifts within the church. 

Many Westerners believed that the ROC were obligated to accept the findings of the original Western led investigation, however, the Moscow Patriarchate were under no obligation to accept their findings, which they believe left a number of unanswered questions and concerns about the Ekaterinburg remains. The ROC wanted to confirm 100% that the remains were authentic, in order for them to be recognized as Holy Relics.

As Archpriest Oleg Mitrov points out in his essay The Investigation Into the Deaths of the Russian Royal Family and Persons of Their Entourage (first English translation published in Sovereign No. 2 Winter 2016, pg. 7-29), in the early 1990s, the Moscow Patriarchate had suggested “a temporary burial, then completing the investigation which, once it produced indisputable results, could stop all discord that this question created in society.” Their request fell on deaf ears, “the voice of our church wasn’t heard at the time,” added Mitrov.

More than 20 years of scientific testing, extensive theological debates, and the enormous public outcry for resolution on the issue failed to deter the Moscow Patriarchate’s decision to resolve the issue. In early January 2016, Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk noted that the “examination of the Ekaterinburg remains may take several years.” This statement was later confirmed during the bishops’ council of the Russian Orthodox Church, when Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia announced at the opening ceremony that “the inquiry will last as long as is necessary in order to establish the truth”.

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Members of the new ROC investigation inspect the Ekaterinburg remains

Non Orthodox Christians must understand the position of the ROC on the matter of both relics and canonization. The Russian Legitimist web site correctly notes: “Any remains of the murdered Imperial Family are ipso facto religious relics, and therefore the internal procedures of the Russian Orthodox Church in completely satisfying itself of their genuineness must be followed. The Russian Orthodox Church wants to address any remaining doubts about the remains, given the fact that, once accepted by the Church as the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, they will become relics venerated by the faithful.” 

It was hoped, that given the weight of evidence accumulated by experts in their respective fields since the early 1990s, that the Moscow Patriarchate would not dispute the remains recovered from the two burial sites in Ekaterinburg between 1979 and 2007 for much longer. A number of statements made in the Russian media offered some hope that they are moving in that direction:

“The re-examination of the criminal case is not an attempt to reconsider the evidence received earlier and established facts, but rather represents the necessity of additionally investigating the new facts, which was requested by the Russian Orthodox Church,” Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told the TASS News Agency (24 September, 2015).

Markin went on to say, “an interdepartmental working group for the study and burial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria (discovered in 2007) gave its consent to conducting additional identification studies of the objects previously inaccessible for investigators.” To this end, the investigators exhumed the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Blood samples of Emperor Alexander II, Nicholas II’s grandfather who died in a terrorist act in 1881 and whose blood stains are found on his full-dress uniform, kept in the State Hermitage Museum, have also been taken. Additional DNA samples were extracted from Emperor Alexander III in November 2015, in a bid to conclusively answer questions about the fates of Nicholas II and his family.

Markin’s statements would suggest that the Moscow Patriarchate had already accepted the Ekaterinburg remains as authentic, although no official statement had been issued by the Church.

The Russian Orthodox Church also believed that it was necessary to continue the search for the remains of Nicholas II’s children. Only a small part of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria had been found [44 pieces of their bones had been discovered at the site], therefore, the search must be continued, said a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church. Some experts, however, believe that such a search would be in vain, and that given that any remaining bones would have been dug up and carried off by animals.

The investigation into the criminal case of the murder of the Imperial Family also included an examination of the remains found by Nikolai Sokolov in the 1920s and later transferred to St. Job’s Church in Brussels.

On 27th November 2017, the Sretensky Monastery and Seminary in Moscow hosted the conference “On the Murder of the Royal Family: New Evaluations and Materials. Discussion,” devoted to studying the results of the study of the Ekaterinburg remains.

In early 2018, the Russian media announced that Patriarch Kirill would be participating in the commemorative events marking the 100th anniversary of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ekaterinburg in 2018. Many believed that Kirill’s attendance was significant, and fueled speculation that the Moscow Patriarchate was on the verge of officially recognizing the Ekaterinburg remains. Once again, this was not to be!

On the eve of the anniversary marking the regicide, the Investigation Committee announced that the remains were “authentic”. Despite the announcement, the ROC remained silent. The commemoration could have been a great and solemn moment of truth, a time to reflect on the passage from one era of Russia’s tragic history to another. Many (myself included) were hopeful that both the examination and investigation would conclude before the 2018 centenary.

Sadly, the 100th anniversary of the Romanovs’ deaths passed with little notice in Russia. The Russian government ignored the anniversary, as it surprisingly did the year before, when Russia marked the 100th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution. None of the prominent state museums or venues hosted events to mark the anniversary. The few exhibitions and other events organized were tellingly modest.

The most significant event, took place on the night of 16/17 July 2018, when more than 100,000 people from across Russia, and around the world gathered at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg for the Patriarchal Liturgy, followed by a Cross Procession to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama, a journey of 21 km. Porosenkov Log, where the Imperial Family’s remains were discovered was not included in the Cross Procession.

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The tomb of the Imperial Family in the St. Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral

The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains

In the summer of 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate canonized Nicholas II, his wife, and five children as Royal Passion-Bearers. [Nicholas II, his wife, and five children were canonized as martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in 1981] The ROC’s official recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains would result in an elaborate glorification ceremony headed by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and all Russia.

Many people continue to ask when the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister, Grand Duchess Maria will be interred with those of the rest of their family in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. The ROC’s recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains would make this highly unlikely for a number of reasons.

Both the Saint Catherine Chapel and the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral are currently museums under the administration of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, in which visitors must pay an admission fee to gain entry to view the Romanov tombs as a tourist attraction. This is something that the ROC would vehemently oppose, and rightly so!

It seems highly likely that the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, Tsesarevich Alexei, and their four faithful retainers would be reinterred in another church. It is quite possible that a new church would be constructed in their honour, one which would allow Orthodox Christians to enter freely to venerate the Holy relics. During the past few years, there has been some speculation in the Russian media that such a church would be constructed in Ekaterinburg – possibly Porosenkov Log, where their remains were originally discovered in 1991 and 2007 respectively.

It is interesting to add, that one unconfirmed report claims that the remains of the last Imperial Family are no longer entombed in the St. Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral. According to the report when their remains were exhumed for further testing by the new ROC commission a few years back, they were never returned to the tomb. It is believed that the Ekaterinburg remains are now in the possession of the ROC, in the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow, where the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria have been since 2015.

If there is any truth to this rumour, it only adds further speculation that the ROC have no plans to rebury the entire Imperial Family in the St. Catherine Chapel.

Should the ROC recognize the remains of the Imperial Family as Holy Relics, they cannot be returned to their tomb in St. Catherine’s Chapel, 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.

It is important to add that by accepting the remains as authentic, the ROC will be forced to acknowledge that for more than 100 years, they were wrong. This in itself may be perceived by many as a great embarrassment and humiliation to the church.

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Ganina Yama

Will the Imperial Family be reinterred in Ekaterinburg?

A number of rumours have circulated in the Russian media over the past few years that once the ROC have officially recognized the remains, that all of the members of the Imperial Family will be interred in an existing or a new cathedral in or near Ekaterinburg.

For some, one option would be the Church on the Blood, built on the site of the former Ipatiev House, where the Imperial Family met their martyrdom. For others, another possible option would be a new cathedral constructed at Porosenkov Log, where the Imperial Family’s remains were discovered by two amateur archaeologists in 1978.

It is interesting to note that 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.

There is also the possibility that the reconstruction of St. Catherine’s Cathedral (timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of Ekaterinburg in 2023) is being considered?

While some may scoff at the idea of interring the remains of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, it seems only logical that their remains should be interred in the place in which they met their death and martyrdom on 17th July 1918 or the final resting place where their remains were recovered.

Once a bastion of Bolshevism, Ekaterinburg has slowly shed its status as the “capital of atheism”. Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Urals have experienced a revival of faith, with Ekaterinburg at the the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals. It should also be noted, that Ekaterinburg has done more to honour Nicholas II and his family than any other city in Russia.

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Aerial view of Ekaterinburg

“Ekaterinburg was the last capital of the Russian Empire”

The Ural city of Ekaterinburg occupies an important place in the modern spiritual life of Russia. This conclusion was reached by Russian historian Peter Multatuli following the results of the International Festival of Orthodox Culture Tsar’s Days 2019. The historian is recognized as one of Russia’s leading authorities on the life and reign of Nicholas II, having published numerous books, articles, and a popular public speaker.

“On a spiritual level, Ekaterinburg is the last capital of the Russian Empire, because the residence of the Sovereign was always considered the capital in Russia. Peter the Great never officially transferred the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg, but since he lived there, it was the capital,” said Multatuli.

He noted that in 1918, for 78 days, Emperor Nicholas II and his family lived in Ekaterinburg, and that is why the Ural capital can be considered the last capital of the Russian Empire. [It is important to note that many historians – myself included – firmly believe that the Tsar’s signing of the instrument of abdication, his status as Tsar remained inviolate and unassailable – PG]

“Petrograd and Moscow to one degree or another welcomed his overthrow, and they bear a greater responsibility in this than any other Russian city. No matter what anyone says, it was Ekaterinburg that served as the last Imperial residence, which, according to God’s special plan, became the Royal Golgotha,” added Multatuli.

According to him, in the near future, Ekaterinburg will play a great role in the history of Russia, because “the city named after St. Catherine and becoming the Royal Golgotha ​​will be the city of Russian resurrection.”

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Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас! / Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!

The world awaits closure by the ROC

On 17th June 2021, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church met at Danilov Monastery in Moscow under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill. Among the many decisions made by the Synod, it was resolved to refer the results of the extensive examinations carried out on the remains in recent years to the upcoming Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, which will meet in Moscow in November of this year.

The Synod examined the report from His Eminence Metropolitan Tikhon of Pskov and Porkhov on the genetic examinations of the remains, as well as the information provided by the Investigative Committee of Russia on the various examinations (molecular-genetic, physical-chemical, trace evidence, ballistic, handwriting, historical-archival, soil science, forensic, anthropological studies, and more) appointed as part of the investigation of the criminal case of the murder of the Royal Family.

The experts have announced on more than one occasion that their examinations definitively prove that the remains belong to the Royal Martyrs. In an interview last July, senior investigator Marina Molodtsova repeated that the examinations have verified the authenticity of the remains, though investigations were continuing in order to “eliminate the slightest doubt.”

In accordance with the instructions of the Bishops’ Councils of 2016 and 2017, the Synod decided to publish information on the results of the examinations after their completion and to submit the results of the examinations for consideration by the next Bishops’ Council.

For more information about the this highly contentious issue, please refer to my book Bones of Contention: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg Remains, published in 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 18 June 2021

Holy Synod meet to discuss results of Ekaterinburg Remains investigation

On 17th June 2021, a meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church took place in the Throne Hall of the Patriarchal and Synodal Residence in the Danilov Monastery in Moscow under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia.

The members of the Synod examined the report of Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov Tikhon – submitted on 17th April 2021 – on the genetic examinations of the “Ekaterinburg Remains”, as well as information provided by the Investigative Committee of Russia on various examinations: molecular genetic, physicochemical, traceological, ballistic, handwriting, authorship, historical and archival , soil science, forensic – anthropological, forensic. In addition, members of the Synod reviewed the investigation of the criminal case on the murder of members of the Imperial Family on 17th July 1918.

JOURNAL No. 31 of the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, 17th June 2021

LISTENED information about the progress of work on the identification of the “Ekaterinburg remains”.

Reference:

The consecrated Bishops’ Council of 2016 decreed: “The members of the Council got acquainted with the work of the church commission acting with the blessing of Patriarch Kirill for the study of the “Ekaterinburg remains”. The Council expresses satisfaction in connection with the fact that, in response to the appeal of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, the state authorities decided to conduct a comprehensive historical, anthropological, genetic and forensic examination of these remains and a comprehensive study of the circumstances of the murder of the Tsar’s family. The decision on the recognition or non-recognition of the “Ekaterinburg remains” as the holy relics of the Royal Passion-Bearers may be made by the Bishops’ Council on the proposal of the Holy Synod, based on the assessments of the final materials of the comprehensive examination, which must be pre-posted for public comment. The timing of the completion of the examination should not depend on any external circumstances, but be determined by the time required for scientific research” (paragraph 10 of the 2016 Council Resolutions).

The consecrated Council of Bishops in 2017 decreed: “With the host of new martyrs and confessors, the Church glorifies the Royal Passion-Bearers. The church commission, together with state investigative bodies, is still carrying out painstaking work to identify the “Ekaterinburg remains.” Having heard a detailed report on this topic, the Council expresses the hope that in good time an end will be put in the mentioned studies ”(paragraph 3 of the 2017 Council Resolutions). The 2017 Council of Bishops emphasized that the above resolution of the Council of 2016 regarding the adoption or non-recognition of the “Ekaterinburg remains” as the holy relics of the Royal Passion-bearers and the publication of the final materials of a comprehensive examination for public discussion remains in force.

PHOTO: meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Throne Hall of the Patriarchal and Synodal Residence in the Danilov Monastery in Moscow, 17th June 2021

IT WAS RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

Upon acquaintance with the report of His Grace Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov Tikhon regarding the genetic examinations of the “Ekaterinburg remains”, as well as with the information provided by the Investigative Committee of Russia regarding various examinations (molecular genetic, physicochemical, traceological, ballistic, handwriting, authorship, historical and archival , soil science, forensic – anthropological, forensic), appointed as part of the investigation of a criminal case on the murder of members of the Imperial Family:

  1. To express gratitude to all workers on the establishment of the truth in the issue of identification of “Ekaterinburg remains”.
  2. In accordance with the instructions of the Councils of Bishops in 2016 and 2017, to publish information on the results of the examinations after their completion.
  3. Submit the results of the examinations for consideration at the next Bishops’ Council.

What happens next?

The next Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church will be held in November 2021, at which time, the ROC is expected to acknowledge that the Ekaterinburg Remains are those of Emperor Nicholas II, his family and their four faithful retainers.

Click HERE to read my article The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains, originally published on 17th March 2016, and updated on 4th January 2017.

© Paul Gilbert. 17 June 2021

104 years on, Orthodox Church still split over murdered tsar’s remains

PHOTO: remains of Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia, Ekaterinburg 1998

In 2018, the centenary of the murder of Russia’s last tsar reignited a long-running conflict between the state and the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) over what to do with the remains of the murdered Russian Imperial Family.

On the night of 16/17 July 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Rus’, led a cross procession in Ekaterinburg marking 100 years since the Bolsheviks shot dead Tsar Nicholas II, his family and four faithful retainers.

But the ROC — dominated by hard-liners — still remains divided over the authenticity of the remains of the family, whose members were all canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate on 20 August 2000 [Nicholas II and his family were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia on 1 November 1981].

Sadly, the Russian state failed to make any official commemorations of what is surely one of the darkest pages in 20th century Russian history. It was not until the following year, on 17th July 2019, that Russia’s State Duma for the first time observed a minute of silence in memory of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and all those killed in the Civil War (1917-1922).

In 1998, then-president Boris Yeltsin’s government buried bone fragments, first found in 1979, that were identified as those of Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Feodorovna and three of their daughters: Olga, Tatiana and Anastasia. The burial, attended by more than 50 Romanov descendants, took place in St. Catherine’s Chapel [a side chapel in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral] in St. Petersburg. But 23 years later, the ROC still refuses to accept DNA tests confirming their authenticity.

The ROC also does not recognize the remains of the tsar’s other children Alexei and Maria, whose bodies were separated from the others and found in 2007. The government has failed to reach an agreement with the ROC on burying them. For years, the boxes containing 44 bone fragments remained on dusty shelves in the Russian State Archives. In December 2015, their remains were transferred to the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow, where they remain to this day.

The ROC maintains that the Bolsheviks put the burnt bodies of their 11 victims in a pit in a forest in the Urals region, where the ROC has built a large monastery complex: the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama.

In 1998, the late Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) snubbed a state funeral for Nicholas II’s bones in the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. He sent a bishop to bury them as “unknown remains” instead.

Officially, the Patriarchate said there was not enough evidence to accept DNA test results and accused the government of sidelining the Church.

PHOTO: An unidentified specialist places the skull of Nicholas II in a coffin, on 15th July 1998, in Ekaterinburg

“Nobody really knows what happened because everyone who was involved is no longer here,” said Ksenia Luchenko, an expert on the Russian Orthodox Church, commenting on the dispute.

She speculates that tensions could stem from a “personal conflict” between the ROC and state officials.

Liberal-leaning priest Andrei Kurayev noted that the ROC opted to believe a version of the killings favoured by anti-Bolshevik forces during the Civil War in the wake of the revolution.

“Over 20 years, it grew into a huge conspiracy theory,” Luchenko said.

One version says that Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin kept Nicholas II’s head in his office, another that the tsar’s youngest children, Alexei and Maria, somehow survived and lived abroad.

Tikhon Shevkunov — the senior cleric put in charge of the ROC investigation who is reportedly close to President Vladimir Putin — raised the possibility of a “ritual killing,” implying that Jews murdered the ex-tsar. He denied anti-Semitism.

Father Kurayev said such interpretations are common inside a Church now dominated by ultra-conservatives.

“Church circles that had good relations with science were sidelined after the Pussy Riot scandal” in 2012, he said, referring to Russia’s jailing of two punk activists over an anti-Putin stunt in a Moscow church.

The case was a huge boost for the ROC, and its radical wing has been growing stronger “by the day” since, said Kurayev.

Patriarch Kirill is “scared” of recognizing the remains, fearing a backlash from ultra-conservatives, many of whom have not forgiven him for shaking hands with Pope Francis in 2016, Kurayev said.

Church issues — including the question of Nicholas II’s remains — have become “politicized” under Patriarch Kirill, said Roman Lunkin, a religion expert at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

In 2017, “Matilda,” a Russian feature film about Nicholas’s pre-marital love affair with a ballerina, sparked a violent backlash from radical Orthodox activists.

PHOTO: Paul Gilbert (far right) joins 50 Romanov descendants, at the funeral of Nicholas II, in St. Petersburg on 17th July 1998

“It showed that Nicholas II is a figure who can divide Orthodox society,” something the Patriarch wants to avoid, Lunkin said.

Luchenko said that Russian President Vladimir Putin is “less interested” in burying the ex-imperial family’s remains while his predecessor Yeltsin saw it as “personal repentance.”

Putin “does not worship Nicholas II. His heroes are Alexander III and Alexander Nevsky,” she said, referring to Nicholas II’s father and a 13th-century leader.

Nonetheless, she called the dispute an “uncomfortable situation” for Putin, who has positioned himself as a close ally of the ROC.

“It somehow frustrates (the Kremlin),” she said, adding that authorities want to “draw a line under this situation.”

In 2015, at the Church’s request, Russia reopened its criminal investigation into the remains of the Imperial Family, which included the exhumation of the remains of Emperor Alexander III.

Ahead of the centenary in 2018, some Russian newspapers were asking when Patriarch Kirill would finally recognize the remains.

On the eve of the centenary of the regicide, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation concluded that the so-called Ekaterinburg Remains, where indeed those of Nicholas II, his family and their retainers.

But six years on, the ROC have remain silent. “The ROC has not formulated a position on the results of the investigation,” Patriarch Kirill said.

Father Kurayev accused the Church of not wanting to make the results public, suggesting they match previous tests.

“They made a mistake with the science and now they are reluctant to take a step back,” he concluded.

Click HERE to read 7 additional articles and interviews about the Ekaterinburg Remains

© Paul Gilbert. 6 April 2021

New Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg confirms: “ROC in no hurry to recognize Ekaterinburg remains”

PHOTO: Bishop Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky

According to Bishop Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky the Russian Orthodox Church ( ROC ) will not rush to recognize the Ekaterinburg remains – those of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The newly appointed metropolitan made the comments during a press conference held on Saturday, 12th December in Ekaterinburg. On 8th December 2020, by the decision of the Holy Synod, Vladyka Evgeny was appointed Metropolitan of the Ekaterinburg Diocese.

“I had an opportunity to communicate with those on the commission who investigated the remains … there are many arguments and evidence that these are indeed the remains of the Tsar and his family. But at the same time, there are still many questions that have not yet been answered. His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stated that the ROC is not in any hurry to complete their investigation by a certain date. We will wait for answers to these questions. This is not some kind of artifact … For us it is a matter of principle, these are holy passion-bearers, these are people who have played a significant role in the spiritual life of our people, and in the state, so the church is in no hurry, fulfilling the words of the holy patriarch,” added Vladyka Evgeny.

“The church will recognize the remains only if there is not an ounce of doubt. If doubts remain, then we will not rush, we will wait. We do not want to offend their memory by making hasty decisions,” he added.

In the summer of 2018, the official representative of the Investigative Committee, Svetlana Petrenko, said that a repeated comprehensive study confirmed the authenticity of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were shot on 17th July 1918 in Ekaterinburg.

Earlier, Evgeny Pchelov, associate professor of the Historical and Archival Institute of the Russian State Humanitarian University, who took part in the research, told journalists about the completion of the historical and archival examination, which, according to him, confirmed the authenticity of the “Ekaterinburg remains.” According to Pchelov, thanks to a comprehensive analysis of primary sources, it was possible to recreate a fairly complete picture of what happened in the days leading up to the deaths of the Imperial family, and the subsequent days which followed the brutal murder. He emphasized that some specific  questions remained unclear, but “the main picture was clarified.”

On 16th July 2018, the eve of the 100th anniversary marking the deaths of Nicholas II and his family, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation reported that since the resumption of the investigation in 2015, investigators carried out a wide range of new tests, including 37 different forensic examinations. In total, more than two thousand historical sources were analyzed.

The Investigative Committee stated that “on the basis of numerous expert examinations, the committee concluded that the remains belong to Nicholas II, his family and their four retainers.” At the same time, the committee noted that, “excluding the possibility of ambiguous interpretation of certain circumstances associated with the murders, other examinations necessary for the investigation shall continue.”

In addition, the investigation into the murder of Nicholas II and members of his family intends to identify all those involved in the execution and qualify their actions in accordance with the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. This part of the investigation is extremely important! Should the *regicides be found guilty of their heinous crime, then lawmakers and historians will be forced to rewrite history. It is a well known fact that after the murders of the Tsar and his family, that many of the *murderers [Yurovsky, Ernakov, etc.] enjoyed a “celebrity” status among the Bolsheviks and revolutionaries. To now find them guilty of their crime a century later, this then clears the way for the names of streets, squares and buildings named in their “honour” of these criminals to be changed, and the removal of any monuments and memorials from the Russian landscape.

*For more information on the regicides, please read my article: The fate of the regicides who murdered Nicholas II and his family, published on 28th October 2020 – PG

Human remains, presumably belonging to the Imperial family, were found in July 1991 on the Old Koptyakovskaya road near Ekaterinburg. The remains of nine people were found in the grave. Forensic studies confirmed the identity of the remains as those of Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, three of their five children and their four retainers.

In July 2007, during archaeological excavations south of the site of the first burial, the remains of two more people were found, presumably Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Maria. Forensic studies concluded the identity of the remains as those of Alexei and Maria.

In 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate canonized Nicholas II and his family members as passion-bearers. After the opening of the burial near Yekaterinburg, the remains of members of the imperial family were buried in St. Catherine’s Chapel of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. However, the Church did not recognize these remains as genuine due to a lack of evidence. In the fall of 2015, the investigation into the death of the Imperial family was reopened.

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!
Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас!

***

CLICK on the IMAGE above or the LINK below to order my book
‘Bones of Contention: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg Remains’
Published 2020. 156 pages + 55 illustrations. Price: $20 + postage

© Paul Gilbert. 13 December 2020

ROC Investigation Committee confirms (again) the authenticity of Ekaterinburg remains

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On the eve of the 102nd anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family at Ekaterinburg on 17th July 1918, the senior investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Marina Molodtsova provided an update on the criminal investigation initiated in 2015 by the Russian Orthodox Church.

During an interview with the Izvestia News Agency, Molodtsova was asked, “you have been investigating the circumstances of the death and burial of the Tsar and his family for more than three years. What new information did the investigation manage to find out during this time?”

“Since the resumption of the case in 2015, 37 new forensic examinations have been carried out, including forensic (anthropological), molecular genetic, trasological, and handwriting analysis among others,” she stated. “In addition, various kinds of investigative experiments were conducted as part of the investigation. In some cases, their results allowed us to reconstruct a more complete picture of events.”

“For example, in the murder room located in the basement of the Ipatiev House, the dimensions of the room were reproduced. This recreation refuted the arguments by some researchers that 11 victims and the participants in the murders could not fit into such a small room.”

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The basement room in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, where the Imperial Family were murdered

“Another investigative experiment refuted the popular held version that the bodies of the dead were destroyed using sulphuric acid and fire.” But many people consider this a fact, asked Izvestia.

“Yes, this theory has been rehashed for many years in popular science and historical publications. However, it was found that applying concentrated sulphuric acid to the surface of biological tissue slows down the process of their subsequent burning,” added Molotsova.

When asked what else was learned from the forensic examinations, Molodtsova replied:

“As part of the investigation, handwriting examinations were carried out on the notes of Commandant of the House of Special Purpose Yakov Yurovsky. His notes set out the events which occurred, including those on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The experts determined that on the now famous “Yurovsky Note” stored in the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow, corrections made to the note were made by Yurovsky himself, while another person added marginal notes and the addition at the end of the text.”

“Also, handwritten corrections in the transcript of Yurovsky’s speech at the meeting of the old Bolsheviks on 1st February 1934 (where he boasted about the regicide in Ekaterinburg) were made by Yurovsky himself.”

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Senior investigator of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, Marina Molodtsova

Molodtsova also noted, “in order to solve the questions posed as part of the judicial, historical and archival examination of the fate of the Imperial Family, a systematization of some 2,000 historical sources, including those located abroad, was carried out. Some of these sources are multi-volume. A lot of books and scientific papers have been written about the events surrounding the murder of the Imperial Family. The media regularly report a variety of versions and assumptions. We have checked all these contemporary versions as well. However, in this case, we have only taken into account the data from archival documents, primary sources and the results of both the previous and recent examinations.”

Not everyone recognizes that the remains found in 1979 near Ekaterinburg belong to members of the Imperial Family, so what is the situation with their identification now?

“Based on numerous examinations, the investigation has concluded that the remains belong to Nicholas II, his family and their faithful retainers,” added Molodtsova. “Nevertheless, we continue to collect materials and conduct further forensic examinations which we deem necessary in order to eliminate the slightest doubt. At the end of all examinations, their results will be evaluated.”

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Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich in Nagasaki, Japan. 1891

“For example, now experts are proposing to make a 3D-model of a hat, which was on the head of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich at the time of the assassination attempt on his life in Japan. It is now kept in the Collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Three-dimensional copies of the hat and skull, identified as “N.A. Romanov,” can be compared and assessed if the marks found on the hat and the wound found on the skull match. The healed wounds were found on the right side of the cranial vault during an anthropological examination.”

“According to the mechanism of occurrence, localization, relative position, shape and dimensional characteristics, they are similar to the description of the injuries on the head of Nicholas Alexandrovich inflicted on him in 1891.”

Molodtsova was also asked which experts the investigation team turned to work with on the criminal case:

“Honoured scientists, doctors and candidates of science – honoured doctors of the Russian Federation, highly qualified forensic experts, prominent historians and archivists; geneticists were involved in conducting historical-archival, forensic (anthropological) and molecular genetic forensic examinations. Among them are the President of the History Department of Moscow State University Sergey Pavlovich Karpov; Rector of the Russian State Humanitarian University Alexander Bezborodov; Olga Yuryevna Vasilieva (Minister of Education of the Russian Federation from 2016 to 2020); associate professor of the Historical Archive Institute of the Russian State Humanitarian University Evgeny Vladimirovich Pchelov; chief specialist of the State Archives of the Russian Federation Zinaida Ivanovna Peregudova; and chief specialist of the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political Sciences Lyudmila Anatolyevna Lykova,”

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Search for the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria in 1999

“I want to emphasize that all the specialists we have recruited are not exempt from their official activities and conduct research on a gratuitous basis,” Molotsova added.

The senior investigator was also asked about the study of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria found in 2007, and where their remains are stored today:

“According to the conclusion of molecular genetic examinations, the remains of two persons discovered in the summer of 2007 near the first burial place of nine other victims belong to the daughter and son of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. Biological kinship for both parents was established with the maximum probability for both Alexei and Maria.”

“Due to the small number of bone fragments found, it can be assumed that one or more additional burial sites may be located near the place of discovery of the remains of two persons in 2007, that of Alexei and Maria. Their remains are in storage at the Novo-Spassky Monastery in Moscow, since all the necessary expert studies have not yet been completed.”

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Investigator Nikolai Sokolov

But what about the documents of the investigator Nikolai Sokolov:

“Copies of these materials are attached to our criminal case and are considered part of the evidence. As part of a historical and archival examination, data from official inspection reports compiled by Nikolai Sokolov and those cited in his book The Murder of the Tsar’s Family were initially compared with other materials. Significant discrepancies were revealed in the details and circumstances of the discovery of Sokolov’s investigation. This is of great importance: public opinion on this case was mainly based on the facts set forth in Sokolov’s book, since the primary sources on this issue were not available.”

“We are in regular communication with the Church Commission to study all the results of the remains found near Ekaterinburg. The investigation, in the manner prescribed by law, answers all questions that come to us from representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church. It is important to note that locating materials on this criminal case has been a very complicated and laborious process. No single register of all the documents in the case of the murder of the Imperial Family exists.’

“We have researched sources from around the world. These include public and private archives, museums and libraries in various cities in both Russia and abroad.”

“Finally, this important investigation has been the quintessence of many years of work by investigators, experts, scientists and researchers. The purpose of the investigation is to recreate and examine all the events and their participants as thoroughly as possible, objectively, using all the achievements of modern science. This is the task that the Chairman of the Investigative Committee set when he decided to transfer the criminal case to the Main Directorate for the Investigation of Highly Important Cases. We try to do our job professionally, efficiently and in strict accordance with the law. And the solution of questions of this kind does not apply to our work – rather, it needs to be asked to the public.”

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The remains of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, 1997

On a final and personal note, as the investigation seems to be coming to a close, can we at last see a light at the end of the tunnel? Will the Russian Orthodox Church, at long last bring closure to this highly emotional and contentious issue? For the time being, we will have to wait until October when the bishops of the Holy Synod meet. Let us all hope and pray that they will at last accept the truth.

© Paul Gilbert. 19 July 2020