Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!

245

Icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs, Church of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky in Tula.

Earlier this year, a unique icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs was presented to the Church of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky in Tula. The top layer of the icon was gifted by local needlewomen, who spent many months sewing it together.

According to Irina Alekseevna Vishnevskaya, the head of the needle circle, more than thirty women worked on the image of the Royal Family from the beginning of last summer. Another participant of the circle, Irina Sergeyevna Romanova, noted that pebbles from the basement of the Ipatiev house in Ekaterinburg, and from the mining pit at Ganina Yama were sewn into the icon.

icon3

icon2

Depicted in their royal robes, the women took great care to ensure accuracy, right down to the smallest detail in the colourful vestments. As you can see in the video (below), the top layer of the icon was laid on top of the wooden icon depicting the images of the Holy Royal Martyrs. The two layers of the icon were joined together by ribbons, mounted in a wooden frame and hung on the side of a pillar within the church.

On Sunday 23rd February, the icon was consecrated by the rector of the church, Archpriest Victor Ryabovol, followed by a prayer to the Holy Royal Martyrs.

CLICK on the VIDEO below to watch the consecration of the icon performed in the Church of the Holy Blessed Prince Alexander Nevsky in Tula:

© Paul Gilbert. 29 March 2020

Why was Russia’s senior investigator and forensic expert dismissed from the Ekaterinburg remains case?

240b

The skull of Emperor Nicholas II

Vladimir Nikolaevich Solovyov, senior investigator and forensic expert at the Main Department of Criminalistics (Forensic Center) of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, who from 1991 to 2015 led the investigation into the death of the imperial family is calling it quits. Over the years, the case of the Ekaterinburg remains has taken up much of his professional career.

After his removal from the case, Vladimir Nikolaevich consented to the first interview, with the journalist Andrei Kamakin of the Russian media outlet MK – this is the First English translation – PG

***

– Vladimir Nikolaevich, let’s start with your retirement. What are the reasons?

– The reason is age (born in 1950 – PG). The Investigative Committee generally has a term of service of up to 65 years. After that, every year you need to renew it. But 70 years is considered the age limit, after 70 – you can no longer remain in the service if you are in uniform. I began my investigative work in 1976, after graduating from Moscow State University, so it’s time to retire. 

– What is the current status of the Ekaterinburg remains? What do you know?

– I have had nothing to do with the investigation, for more than four years now. Formally, I resigned from the investigation team in May 2016, but in fact I had already been dismissed in early November 2015. I do not have any reliable information on the current status of the investigation. In addition, the case materials are classified and remain “secret”. Further, I signed a non-disclosure agreement upon my dismissal.

– The case was classified immediately after you were dismissed?

– Yes.

– And how common is this practice – classified?

– The decision is made by the investigator. It is clear that many things need to be kept secret. We once worked in Togliatti investigating the criminal activities of one gang. Well, of course, this case had to be kept secret! A small leak of information – and a dozen people can die. But as far as the Ekaterinburg remains is concerned, I have always been against the case being “classified”. On the contrary, I believe that it should be as open as possible. This is not an ordinary criminal case. Rather, it is a historical investigation with forensic elements. I can hardly imagine what needs to be classified?!

– Well, what about the period when you conducted the investigation, can you discuss this?

– I can, however, I have no right to divulge the findings of the investigation before my dismissal. I know very little about the further progress of the investigation. Prior to this, until mid-November 2015, the case, was without a bar. I gave an interview, and did not hide anything. Therefore, I do not think that I can disclose something which is still classified as “secret” on the case.

– What, then, was the picture at the time of your dismissal?

– The case was resumed on September 23, 2015. On the same day, we exhumed the remains of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. As witnesses, I invited the Metropolitan of St. Petersburg and Ladoga Barsanuphius and Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin (at that time – Chairman of the Synodal Department of the Moscow Patriarchate for the Relations of the Church and Society. – AK).

I told them: “I will not touch a single bone. Here are the packages for you, here are the specialists who will take fragments for research with you. You yourself will seal, sign these envelopes, and then I will sign them. This is a precaution, so that there would be no questions, no suspicion that ‘Solovyov might have replaced something there’ ”.

240f

Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008) with HM Queen Elizabeth II, during her visit to Russia in 1994

– For what purpose was this examination carried out?

– It was a request of the patriarchy to check the ritual murder theory that the heads of the emperor and empress had been separated from the bodies after their execution, and that the skulls of two other people had been buried with the remains. The church has always been very nervous about this theory. I had numerous conversations with Patriarch Alexei II (1929-2008), and he repeatedly asked questions: “were their heads separated from their bodies, was their execution a ritual murder?”

The severed heads myth began with General M.K. Diterichs (head of the Kolchakovo commission to investigate the killing of the imperial family. – AK ). According to Diterichs, the heads of the Romanovs were placed in barrels filled with alcohol and brought to Moscow to Lenin and Sverdlov.

Then there were the so-called “witnesses”. For example, the monk Iliodor (Sergey Trufanov), a famous friend, and then enemy of Rasputin, claimed that Dzerzhinsky allegedly showed him a barrel containing the tsar’s head when they met in person in the Kremlin. It was all bullshit, of course!

In short, the task was to conduct a genetic examination of the skulls to make sure that they had not been replaced.

– At the first stage of the investigation, in the 1990s, such a study was not conducted?

– It was not. I was often criticized for not conducting a genetic examination on the skulls at the time. 

– Why?

– I will try to explain. Genetics can now work with microscopic volumes of matter, even with individual molecules. And in the early 1990s, after a full genetic examination, there would be little left of the skulls. At the same time, we had the categorical conclusion of anthropologists: the heads had not been separated. All the cervical vertebrae of the emperor and empress were preserved. Post-cranial skeletons, that is, the part that is below the head, corresponded to that of the skulls.

– Were the results ready when you were dismissed?

– Yes, a genetic examination confirmed that both the skulls and skeletons belonged to the same people – the emperor and the empress. There had been no substitution. 

– Did the church also ask you about them?

– No. A genetic examination was carried out on the traces of blood, on the shirt worn by Nicholas II, which he was wearing during an assassination attempt on him in Japan in 1891, as well as blood on the uniform and boot of Alexander II, which he was wearing during an assassination attempt. All these things are today stored in the State Hermitage. In addition, samples of bio-materials were taken from the descendants of Anna Demidova, Dr. Eugene Botkin and Ivan Kharitonov (a lady-in-waiting, the family doctor and the cook who were all murdered with the Imperial Family in the Ipatiev House on July 17, 1918. – AK). We were unable to locate any descendants of the valet Alexei Troupe.

The experts worked day and night, and by mid-October all the results were ready. All of them categorically confirmed that the remains found in the Porosenkov ravine near Ekaterinburg belong to the Romanovs and their servants. But the patriarch still had doubts.

240d

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin (1968-2020)

– Did the Patriarch insist on the resumption of the investigation?

– Here is how it was. In July 2015, a government working group was created (on issues related to the investigation and reburial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria. – AK), which was headed by Sergei Prikhodko (at that time – Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Government of the Russian Federation. – AK).

All departments and organizations that were involved in the identification of the remains and historical research – the Federal Center for Forensic Medicine, Rosarchive, the Institute of General Genetics of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Investigative Committee – presented their conclusions. And all the references clearly and definitely stated that the Ekaterinburg remains were indeed those of the murdered Imperial Family. Therefore, the working group, convinced of the seriousness of the arguments, proposed a burial on October 18, 2015.

But when Vsevolod Chaplin, who represented the patriarchy in the group, was asked if the representatives of the church would give the names of members of the Imperial Family at the burial ceremony, he replied that the names would not be spoken, since the church had no confidence in the research of scientists. All the results had been allegedly obtained secretly by him.

This, I must say, was an outright lie. Nobody hid anything from the church. Moreover, from 1995, the investigation actually worked only for the church: it answered its questions and complaints. I will say more: the experts who participated in the investigation from 1995 to 1998 were appointed at the proposal of Patriarch Alexy II.

I realized that Vsevolod Chaplin voiced the position of Patriarch Kirill and that we would face the same scandal as in 1998. Then, at the funeral (July 17, 1998, the remains of 9 of 11 prisoners of the Ipatiev House — Nicholas II, Alexandra Fedorovna, three of their daughters and four servants — AK) were buried, the priest was forbidden to acknowledge the unidentified corpses by name.

We met with Chaplin face to face. “Father Vsevolod,” I said, “we must somehow get out of this situation. I suggest such an option. We will resume the criminal case. If you want the church to be involved in the investigation, then there is no problem. We will give you complete carte blanche: do what you want, invite any kind of specialists. Talk, I ask you, with His Holiness. ”

Chaplin spoke with the patriarch. The patriarch then made a request to President Vladimir Putin to conduct additional research, which would allow church representatives the opportunity to actively participate in this. The church’s proposal was forwarded to the First Deputy Prosecutor General of Russia, and Chairman of The Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office Alexander Ivanovich Bastrykin, who moved quickly to reopen both the criminal case into the deaths of the Imperial Family and a new investigation. I was ordered to lead the new investigation.

– That is, it turns out that it was you who initiated the “resumption” of the case?

– Yes, but in reality, all I wanted was to wait for the funeral, probably get a departmental medal for good service, retire and forget about the Ekaterinburg remains case.

But I saw an imminent conflict and believed that only the participation of the church in the investigation could prevent it. Conversations with Chaplin encouraged me then. I was sure that we would finish the job before the new year 2016, after which I would calmly retire. But I was wrong.

Instead of a calm, honorable resignation – it became a nightmare. I was inundated with a flurry of criticism from the press, public organizations, and pundits close to church circles. They accused me of grossly breaking the law, falsifying the tsar’s bones, bribing experts all over the world, and forcing the Russian people to pray to the devil through “fake bones”.

These outrageous accusations endured for five years. Since all my work on the Ekaterinburg Remains was being called into question, I decided to wait for the final results of the investigation.

– Do you regret intervening?

– No, not at all! It was necessary for me to go this way. This way, the church could not say later, that I did not listen to their position.

240h

Exhumation of the remains of Emperor Alexander III

– What led to your removal from the case?

– Relations with the patriarchy escalated. As an example, I can cite the conflict around the remains of Alexander III. The church commission (to study the “remains found near Ekaterinburg”, formed by order of the patriarch in September 2015. – AK ) appealed to the Investigative Committee with a request for the exhumation of the ashes of the “Tsar-Peacekeeper”. I was categorically against opening the grave.

– For what reason?

– In 1994, when we exhumed the remains of Grand Duke George Alexandrovich, the brother of Nicholas II, we were convinced of two things. First: the graves in the Peter and Paul Cathedral had not opened and not defiled, according to many, by the Bolsheviks. And the second: burials, a significant part of them, were exposed to water. Including the sea, which, apparently, was caught up in the Neva during the floods.

The remains of George Alexandrovich, in addition to a wooden coffin, were enclosed in a zinc coffin and a copper ark. And when the crypt was flooded, then, apparently, in salty sea water metal objects formed a kind of battery. Moreover, the current was generated so thorough that only a few small pieces remained of the zinc coffin. The wooden coffin, however, was perfectly preserved. But the remains themselves were also badly damaged.

I had serious doubts about how well preserved the remains of Alexander III would be. More appropriate, if the church so wanted to double-check everything, I thought to open the grave of George Alexandrovich once again. We already knew the degree of preservation of these remains. In addition, before the second burial, the grave was put in order and  drained. That is, from a technical point of view, exhumation would not be as difficult.

And most importantly: George Alexandrovich carried the genes of both the father and mother of Nicholas II, that is, from the point of view of genetics, his remains are much more important and informative than those of his father, Alexander III.

But I understand now why the patriarch and Tikhon Shevkunov (Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhovsky, secretary of the church commission on the Ekaterinburg remains.” – AK) insisted on opening the tomb of Alexander III.

In the 1920s, I recall, Poland was at war against Soviet Russia, Polish newspapers published stories about how the Bolsheviks had desecrated the graves of the Russian emperors. In particular it noted how the tombs of Alexander III and Peter I had been opened … thus raising speculation by the church.

As I understand it, the representatives of the church really wanted to prove that the grave of Alexander III had indeed been looted. Then it would be possible for the church to say that Solovyov or someone else took the bones from the graves in the Peter and Paul Cathedral, and then passed them off as the Ekaterinburg remains.

– As far as I remember, opening the tomb did not show anything which confirmed this version?

– That’s right. The exhumation, which was carried out after my dismissal, unequivocally established that the tomb had not been disturbed.

240e

Tikhon Shevkunov (Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhovsky

– But this was not the only conflict?

– Indeed, it was not the only one. I had a major disagreement with Tikhon Shevkunov during a meeting with Bastrykin. Everyone involved in this matter was invited to it, including Bishop Tikhon. And shortly before that, he held a press conference in which academician Veniamin Alekseev, the former director of the Ural Institute of History and Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, took part.

This was the first press conference of Tikhon Shevkunov in the rank of secretary of the church commission, which was to set the tone for work on the study of the remains. In theory, a specialist whom the church trusts the most should have been invited to it. And this specialist, academician Alekseev, was telling us that the Imperial Family, or part of it, may have been saved! There is supposedly a lot of documents confirming this version.

At the same meeting I, met Vladyka Tikhon. “Listen,” I said, “in 2000 the church canonized the Romanovs as martyrs, that is, acknowledging that the entire family died. They are saints precisely on the fact of their death. And you invite a “historian” who questions the decision of the church. Are you against the decision of the Council of Bishops? ” Tikhon then began to make excuses: they say, I misunderstood him. I did not.

Bastrykin intervened. He realized that any conflict could lead to unpredictable consequences. At the same meeting, I was ordered to transfer the case to Krasnov (at that time – the head of the Investigative Department of the Investigative Committee, since January 22, 2020 – the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. – AK).

From that moment I could no longer examine any documents of the investigation. Krasnov advised the members of the investigative team not to communicate with me.

240g

On 17th July 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill led a Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

– They say that the Patriarch himself insisted on your removal. He allegedly requested this from the chairman of the Investigative Committee?

– I can’t rule that out. He really wanted another investigator to get down to business. As Vsevolod Chaplin later told me, shortly after the resumption of the case, the patriarch demanded that he “solve the problem with Solovyov.” And when Father Vsevolod replied that he could not do this, he said that then another person would do it. And Chaplin in the church commission was replaced by Tikhon Shevkunov.

As for the transfer of the case itself, I have no grievance or complaint. This is a common scenario: today the matter is in the production of one investigator – tomorrow the other. But they could use me at least as a consultant! At that time, I was the only person on the committee who thoroughly knew the case of the Ekaterinburg Remains thoroughly. For some reason, apparently, Krasnov did not like me. 

– Be that as it may, the issue of identification has been resolved. On July 16, 2018, the Investigative Committee officially declared: “The findings of the commission of molecular genetic examinations confirmed that the Ekaterinburg Remains belong to the former Emperor Nicholas II, members of his family and their retainers.”

– I never had the slightest doubt that it would be so. The truth has triumphed, and I am completely satisfied.

– Nevertheless, the case is not closed, the investigation continues. What else, do your colleagues want to find out?

– Apparently, the emphasis is now the insistence of the church on historical expertise. This topic is voluminous, and can be infinitely long. But, as far as I know from the press, no new documents have been found during this time. 

– Two years ago at a conference organized by the church, the current head of the investigation on the Ekaterinburg Remains Marina Molodtsova expressed her intention to check all possible versions, including the theory of the ritual murder of the Imperial Family. Perhaps this is the reason it has taken so long?

– This theory was checked back in the 1990s. At that time, I had requested all the data on ritual killings from the archives and investigative units of Russia and prepared a comprehensive report on this subject, which I read to the government commission. There were no objections – including from the church commission, which included Metropolitan Juvenal and church archaeologist Belyaev.

The question, I believe, has long been closed: the murder was entirely for political reasons and did not involve any satanic rites. By the way, the church’s decision to canonize the Imperial Family in 2000, was based on their recognition as a political murder. For several years, the special commission of the patriarchy studied the issue of the “ritualism” of regicide and did not find any reasons for its recognition.

But the most important thing: the resolution on the rehabilitation of the Romanovs, adopted by the Presidium of the Supreme Court on October 1, 2008, states that members of the Imperial Family “were shot on behalf of the state” and “subjected to political repression.” And this is a judicial act of higher legal force. 

Only the Presidium of the Supreme Court itself can change this verdict. Not a single court, prosecutor’s office, or investigator can do anything contrary to this ruling. Even if you do not agree with it. Incidentally, I myself do not agree with the ruling regarding the motives of rehabilitation. But the law is the law.

– Yes, I know your position: having rehabilitated the Imperial Family, but at the same time, the regicide was also rehabilitated. And indeed a criminal case turned out: there are those who were killed, there are those who killed, but there are no perpetrators.

– That’s right. Prior to this, the organizers and participants in the execution appeared in the case as murderers, as persons who committed a criminal offense. But since the Supreme Court found that they were only following the decision of a “public authority vested with judicial functions”.

However, there was one benefit from this ruling, it put an end to all the impostors, those who claimed to be heirs of the “miraculously saved Romanovs.” I told them: “Unfortunately, we can’t do anything for you. According to the decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Court, the entire Imperial Family were shot.”

So, back to your question: I was very surprised when it was announced that the investigation was even going to check the claims of the impostors, as well as the ritual murder theory. Investigative bodies do not have the right to audit the decisions of the Presidium of the Supreme Court!

In fact, the only question that the investigation could fully deal with is the identification of the remains.

– It turns out that historical examination does not make sense at all?

– Whatever the results of the historical examination, the investigation must repeat the ruling by the Presidium of the Supreme Court. Even if it came to other conclusions. The only thing the Investigative Committee can do in this case is to turn to the Presidium of the Supreme Court with a request to review its decision of October 1, 2008.

– Despite all the vicissitudes of the past five years, you remain a member of the government working group. As I understand it, no one has removed you from this position.

– Yes, no one has told me that I have been removed from this group. I think that after the publication of this interview, I will immediately be removed, but for now I officially remain a member of it.

– When was the working group meeting for the last time?

– The last meeting took place on September 11, 2015.

– How did it come about?” What prompted the prime minister to create it?

– What prompted … probably, in March 2015, I turned to Lyudmila Borisovna Narusova (member of the Federation Council, widow of the mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. – AK). We have had a very long, good relationship with her. Her husband, Anatoly Sobchak, was the main engine of the first government commission created in 1993. He provided enormous assistance when all these studies were carried out.

I said: “Lyudmila Borisovna, Anatoly Alexandrovich was very sympathetic with regard to this topic. Is it possible to somehow end it humanly, to finally bring peace to the poor bones of the imperial children?” Narusova fully supported me. She turned to Putin and Medvedev. The President and the Prime Minister were both familiar with this problem and made the appropriate decisions.

240

The remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria found in 2007, consist
of 44 bone fragments, as well as seven teeth, three bullets and a fragment of clothing

– And who proposed October 18 as the date of the funeral? I heard that the idea belongs to Putin?

– Yes, I believe that it was his idea.

– But why exactly on October 18?

– This is the name day of Tsesarevich Alexei.

– Prior to the creation of the working group, did the church show any interest in the remains of Alexei and Maria?

– None, there was absolutely no interest. I will tell you a story. In March 2011, after the case was closed and the question arose of what to do with the remains of Alexei and Maria — they were then stored in my safe — I sent a letter to the patriarch.

He wrote back, that the government does not solve the issue of burial, relatives also need not apply. According to the law, the remains in such cases are transferred to the corresponding department responsible. That is, formally, we had to deal with them as unclaimed remains. Their graves with zinc tablets are buried in unmarked graves, situated in special sections of municipal cemeteries.

In a letter to the patriarch, I asked if the church would take upon itself the burdens of burial. The answer was very short: “The Russian Orthodox Church does not claim the right to bury the “Ekaterinburg remains ”mentioned in your letter.

Is that all?

– And that’s it. That is, look: the church was asked how it relates to the fact that the saints canonized by it, the heir to the throne and his sister can be buried like homeless people. And the primate replies: “Well, bury them!” There were many other appeals to the church leadership on this subject, but I received no answer other than this letter from the patriarch. And after that, Kirill has the conscience to declare that the church has repeatedly appealed to the investigation, but no one answered it! Cynicism, of course, is complete.

Even a person with a secondary school education, a conscientious person, after many studies, understands the importance that the remains discovered near Ekaterinburg in 1991 and 2007 respectively, belong to the Imperial Family. And that the church hierarchs have a responsibility.

Since the discovery of the Ekaterinburg remains and to this day in Russia about 60 million people have died. Many Orthodox Christians died without praying to the relics of the Holy Royal Martyrs. I think Patriarch Kirill should publicly apologize to the believers for this.

– The last, as far as I could trace, the public statement of the head of the working group Sergey Prikhodko dates from July 2016. Then he said the following: “We are waiting for the end of church examinations. Timing depends on the church.” Do you know anything about these studies? What phase are they in?

– I know that the church has done some genetic research. Most likely, they have long been finished. And the results, of course, are exactly the same as those of the investigation committee.

– As for church plans for the remains, the latest information on this topic is a statement by the spokesman for the patriarch made in July 2018: “We are waiting for the final conclusions, which will then be presented to the next bishops’ council.” The next meeting is due to take place this year. That is, in theory, the issue will soon be resolved. But I believe in this, frankly, with difficulty. Do you have any forebodings about this?

– Church hierarchs can, of course, bring this issue to the Council of Bishops. But that doesn’t mean anything. At the council, I am sure it will be said that there is still not enough data to make a final decision. What you need to research is something else. 

At one time, church representatives demanded from me a detailed, almost second-to-second report on what happened during and after the execution. As if there were five operators with video cameras! I worked in the investigating authorities for many years and I can say with confidence that only in the rarest cases do we have as much information as we have on the Ekaterinburg remains.

– Do you understand the purpose pursued by the church leadership?

– As the late Vsevolod Chaplin told me at one time, the patriarch, speaking with him, said that he would not want this issue to be resolved in his lifetime. It is clear that the patriarch does not want to take responsibility for the processions to Ganina Yama (an abandoned mine, where the murderers brought the Romanovs’ bodies right after the execution and made the first, unsuccessful attempt to hide them; in 2000, the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs was founded on this site – AK). 

– What is so terrible in these religious processions?

– The church still officially adheres to the version of investigator Sokolov (Nikolai Sokolov, the investigator who investigated the execution of the Imperial Family on behalf of Admiral Kolchak. – AK): the bodies of the Romanovs were completely destroyed at Ganina Yama. In 1919, Sokolov found several dozen bone fragments – chopped and burnt. And he suggested that these were the remains of the Imperial Family.

These fragments, were taken out of Russia by Sokolov, but lost during the Second World War. But in 1998, when archaeological excavations were carried out on Ganina Pit, another 73 bone fragments were found there. In the same place and, judging by the description, similar to what Sokolov discovered. Experts found that at first these bones were welded, and then burned in a low-temperature flame, which could be a fire. But the most important thing: these are not human bones, but domestic animals – cow, goat, and chicken.

Where they came from is understandable. According to the memoirs of Yurovsky (the head of the firing squad. – AK), his men were hungry, and he ordered them to bring food from the city. Apparently, the Chekists and Red Guards cooked a soup for themselves, and then they threw the bones into the fire.

In order for the church hierarchs to recognize the remains of the Imperial Family means for them to acknowledge that all these years they led religious processions not to relics, but to animal bones. They want to delay this shame as long as possible.

– In this case, the authorities are greatly mistaken, making the decision on the burial of Alexei and Mary dependent on the position of the church.

– Yes, the prospects for church burial are not yet visible. The Patriarchate has not decided on its position to the remains, although it had all the possibilities for such. But all reasonable deadlines have passed, it is impossible to drag it out any longer. In my opinion: the question of the burial of members of the Imperial Family, of the head of a great empire cannot even be left to the mercy of even the most respected religious denomination.

It is necessary to assemble a working group and once again consider the issue of identifying the remains – taking into account the results of the new genetic examinations. And decide on a civil burial. Whether the church will take part in this ceremony and in what form is no longer a problem of the government, but of the church.

240a

Vladimir Solovyov in the State Archive of the Russian Federation

– With what mood do you leave the Investigative Committee, Vladimir Nikolaevich? With a sense of accomplishment or unfinished business?

– My feelings are contradictory. I am glad that the conclusions made by me back in 1998 were confirmed. And it doesn’t matter who puts the last point in the matter. Maybe it’s even better that it’s not me. This will once again prove the objectivity of the investigation.

But the feeling of incompleteness, of course, is also there. And I feel this, not only as an investigator, but also as a citizen of Russia. The Bolshevik Revolution and the Civil War are not over until all of their victims are buried. Do not forget that Alexei and Maria are not just ordinary victims, they were the children of Russia’s last tsar. Let them be buried with the rest of their family in peace. 

© Andrei Kamakin / Paul Gilbert. 14 March 2020

The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains

222a

NOTE: This article was originally published on 17th March 2016, and updated on 4th January 2017. It has been expanded and further updated, 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 requires 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 more than 50 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.

222b

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, that this new investigation might not have been necessary. Many viewed the 1991 investigation as a propaganda tool by then president Boris Yeltsin, who was anxious to bring closure to the century-long mystery, thus gaining favour with Western nations.

When the first nine bodies were interred; that was partly because of their antipathy for the liberal government of the day, headed by Yeltsin, which organised the interment.

In the face of this skepticism, the late Patriarch Alexei II 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 Royal Russia No. 9 Winter 2016, pg. 31-44), 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 has 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”.

222c

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, 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. No 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.

222d

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. [NB: Nicholas II, his wife, and five children were canonized as saints 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 are expecting that the remains of the Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister, Grand Duchess Maria will be interred with those 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 year, 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 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 this 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, but as Holy Relics interred in a new cathedral named in their honour, where Orthodox Christians can come to venerate them.

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

222g

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 built 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 had already come to a conclusion 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 are 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.

222j

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 Peter 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.”

222f

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

Conclusion

In an unprecedented move, the Russian media reported in 2019, that President Vladimir Putin urged the ROC to “reach a verdict soon”. He further condemned Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin for “the murder of the tsar and his family”.

In the meantime, as the world awaits the final results of the ROC’s new DNA and forensic studies on the Ekaterinburg remains, and the conclusion of the investigation headed by the Russian Orthodox Church into the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, additional questions are sure to arise about the fate of the remains. According to Elena Nikolaevna Chavchavadze, in her recent Russian language documentary, Цареубийство. Следствие длиною в век / Regicide. A Century of Investigation “we will never know the entire truth”.

Despite the ROC’s earlier statements that the examination and investigation may take years, it seems highly likely that the Moscow Patriachate will soon make an official announcement recognizing the Ekaterinburg remains.

At long last, the remains of all members of the last Russian Imperial family will be laid to rest together. Not only will their holy relics be venerated by the faithful, but they will receive the honour which they truly deserve. Their glorification will continue to help Russia heal the wounds of the Bolshevik regicide which has haunted the nation for more much of the past century.

222i

© Paul Gilbert. 7 March 2020

Debt of Love . . . and devotion for Tsar Martyr Nicholas II and his family

230a

Paperback. 237 pages. 132 black and white photographs. Published 2019

“In order to understand Tsar Nicholas II, you have to be Orthodox . . . You have to be consistently Orthodox, consciously Orthodox, Orthodox in your essence, culture and world view”, writes Archpriest Andrew Phillips in his excellent article The Glimmer of Light on the Road Ahead: On Tsar Nicholas II and the Restoration of the Christian Imperium, published on his Orthodox England web site.

While there may be some truth to Father Andrew’s statement, Nicholas II is admired and respected by people of all faiths, who, together share one common belief, in that he has been unfairly judged by history. I myself, am living proof that one does not need to be Orthodox to understand Nicholas II. Born and baptized within the Church of England, I have worked tirelessly over the past 25+ years to clear the name of Russia’s much slandered tsar.

Having said that, it is the Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and his family, who are now leading me to Orthodoxy. My journey is far from complete, but after reading Debt of Love by Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro, I am now one step closer.

230b

Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II by Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro

Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro is a Serbian-American artist and author, who shares her private story in a unique personal way: her declaration of love and devotion for Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and his Royal Martyr Family. Ariane pays back a “Debt of Love” to them for their holy lives and their martyrdom on behalf of Orthodox Christians everywhere. This heartfelt book shows us all how great these Saints truly are!

Ariane presents a fresh account of the lives of Tsar Nicholas and his family, and their tragic murders in this touching, photo filled narrative. She sets the record straight by revealing the true spiritual beauty of this family. The author’s art depicting the Holy Royal Martyrs – which is represented in the book (and video below) – is not only beautiful, but adds so much to the effect of the story.

What I particularly liked about this book, is that while reading Debt of Love, I felt as if was sitting with the author, listening contently to her personal story. There are no fancy words or terms, she speaks from the depths of her soul, making it a wonderful read.

This book will appeal to Orthodox Christians, monarchists, but also the many adherents of Tsar Nicholas II and his family, who wish to pay homage to the much slandered Tsar-Martyr, regardless of their respective faith.

All the proceeds from the sales of this new devotional book go to support the Holy Trinity Seminary in Jordanville, New York.

You can purchase copies of Debt of Love by Ariane Trifunovic Montemuro, from Amazon, Book Depository or your favourite independent bookseller.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 March 2020

How Yeltsin justified the demolition of the Ipatiev House

226a

The Ipatiev House before 1917

On 22-23 September 1977, the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg where the Russian Imperial Family were held under house arrest for 78 days before being murdered, was razed to the ground. The decision of the Soviet authorities was perceived rather ambiguously, but what was the reason behind the destruction of this historic building, and could it have been saved?

226e

The Ipatiev House in 1918

A house with a tragic fate

The two-storey stone Ipatiev House was built in the 1880s by state adviser I.I. Redikortsev, on the western slope of the Ascension Hill – a notable hill in Ekaterinburg. It was located at No. 49/9 on the corner of Voznesensky Prospekt and Voznesensky Lane (renamed Karl Libnecht and Klara Zetkin respectively, after 1917). The eastern facade (facing Voznesensky Prospekt) was one-story, and the western (facing the garden) had two floors.

Redikortsev did not remain the owner of the house for long, he was accused of corruption, and in order to improve his shaky financial condition in 1898 he sold the house to the gold miner I. G. Sharaviev.

In 1908, the Ipatiev House was purchased by military civil engineer Nikolai Nikolaevich Ipatiev, who paid 6,000 rubles to the former owner. The Ipatiev family lived in the upper floor, while the the lower floor was used as Ipatiev’s office. The house had running water and sewer, electricity and telephone. The interiors were richly decorated with cast iron, stucco mouldings, and artistically painted ceilings.

On 27th April 1918, the Bolsheviks ordered Ipatiev to vacate the mansion within two days, for the maintenance of the Imperial family, who were to be transferred from Tobolsk. Due to the fact that Ipatiev was away, his personal belongings were locked in a basement pantry next to the room in which the Imperial family were later shot. Subsequently, the basement was sealed in the presence of the owner. It is believed that the choice of the house was due to the fact that Ipatiev was well acquainted with the members of the Ural Council and, in particular, Yakov Yurovsky who served as a prominent representative of the cadet party, and who, after the February Revolution, was appointed a member of the local public security committee.

Machine guns were installed in the attics of neighbouring buildings, the house itself was surrounded by a high wooden double fence, the height of which was higher than the windows of the second floor of the Ipatiev House, with a single wicket gate, which was  constantly guarded, two security posts were located inside, eight outside, thus completely prepared for the arrival of “Citizen Romanov” Nicholas II, his wife and their daughter Maria.

Immediately after the murder of the Romanovs, which occurred on the night of 16/17 July 1918, the house was returned to Ipatiev. Five days later, White Army units entered the city. Nikolai decided to emigrate, and sold the mansion to representatives of the White Army, and for a short time the mansion served as the headquarters of the Siberian Army, and representatives of the Russian government.  Their stay in the Ural capital was cut short, after the city was recaptured by the Bolsheviks.

From 1922, the Ipatiev House housed a dormitory for university students and apartments for Soviet employees. For some time there was even a kindergarten, and in the basement, where the Imperial family were murdered, a children’s shower was installed.

In 1927, it was decided to open the Museum of the Revolution in the building. The Museum of the Revolution was open daily except Monday and Thursday from 12 noon to 6 pm, the cost of tickets was 5 kopecks for tourists, 10 kopecks. for union members and 25 kopecks for every one else. The tour of the museum included a visit to the basement and the room where the Imperial Family were shot. To complete the exhibit, a decision was made to restore the bullet riddled wall in the murder room, since the retreating White Guards had  disassembled the genuine one and took it with them. [N.B. if there is any truth to this, the fate of the original wall from the “killing room” remains yet another mystery – PG] 

In 1938, the former mansion housed expositions of the Anti-Religious and Cultural-Educational Museum, as well as offices of various departments. If turning the Ipatiev House into an “Anti-Religious” Museum was not enough, in 1923, the Bolsheviks imposed one further indignity on the murdered tsar and his family, by issuing postcards of the house surrounded by the wooden fence, bearing the insulting and disrespectful caption “the last palace of the last tsar”.

From the beginning of the 1970s, a branch of the Chelyabinsk Institute of Culture was moved here: in the basement, students even staged performances, as evidenced by preserved photographs.

226f

Andropov’s “secret note No. 2004-A” on the Ipatiev House

The KGB and Politburo take action

The day of 26th July 1975 was a turning point in the fate of the Ipatiev House. On this day, a secret note No. 2004-A was issued.

“On the demolition of the Ipatiev mansion in the city of Sverdlovsk” was sent from the KGB to the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). The text of the document read:

“Anti-Soviet circles in the West periodically inspire various kinds of propaganda campaigns around the Romanov royal family, whereby the former mansion of the merchant Ipatiev in Sverdlovsk is often mentioned. Ipatiev’s house continues to stand in the center of the city. It houses the training center of the regional Department of Culture.

“The mansion is of no architectural or historic importance; only a small number of the townspeople and tourists are interested in it. Recently, foreigners began to visit Sverdlovsk. In the future, the number of foreigners is expected to increase significantly, and Ipatiev’s house will no doubt become an object of their curiosity and interest. In this regard, it seems appropriate to entrust the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU to resolve the issue of demolishing the mansion in the order of the planned reconstruction of the city. The draft resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU is attached. Please consider.”

The document was signed by the chairman of the State Security Committee, *Yuri Andropov (1914-1984). * Andropov later served as third General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, from November 1982 until his death in February 1984.

In the 1990s, Vladimir Solovyov, an investigator from the Prosecutor General’s Office, who investigated the murder of the tsar’s family, stated that the KGB had received information about how, every year, on the anniversary of the death of the Imperial Family, people came to the Ipatiev House, to light candles and offer prayers. The authorities referred to these annual visits “of painful interest” while declaring them as “anti-Soviet activity.” The Party bosses could not allow these pilgrimages to continue.

On 30th July 1975, Andropov’s proposal was unanimously adopted by the Politburo. Upon learning of the impending demolition of the Ipatiev House, the director of the museum, gave the order to save everything that could be carried away.

226i

Boris Yeltsin. First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU 1977

“It was impossible to resist”

The elimination of the Ipatiev House was entrusted to local authorities. The order was executed by Boris Yeltsin, First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Committee of the CPSU . “It was impossible to resist, not to fulfill the Politburo Resolution,” Yeltsin would later note in his memoirs. “They assembled the equipment and demolished it in one night. If I had refused, I would have been left without work, and the new secretary of the regional committee would have complied with the order anyway,” he concluded.

The unofficial reason behind the demolition of the Ipatiev House was the need for reconstruction of the entire block – therefore, according to the “reconstruction” plans, all houses located in the entire block were to be demolished. The fact that the houses and merchant buildings located in the quarter were of architectural and historical value of late 19th-early 20th century Ekaterinburg, was of no interest to the authorities.

Experts noted that having destroyed the entire block, the authorities made it difficult to find the exact place where the Ipatiev House was located.

After the construction of the Church on the Blood, some people claimed that the Imperial Room – built on the site of the basement room of the Ipatiev House, where the family were all murdered – located in the Lower Church of the Church on the Blood is inaccurate. Each year on the anniversary of the regicide, a small group of people gather and create a square on one of the marble stones on the territory of the Church on the Blood. Here, they lay flowers, light candles and offer up prayers. It is ironic that given that the experts could not determine the exact spot, that a group of amateurs could?! 

Prior to the demolition of the Ipatiev House, local historians removed many valuable interior elements, including a fireplace, door handles, tiles, stucco molding from walls, iron bars from windows, etc. These items can be seen today in local museums in Ekaterinburg and Ganina Yama. It is interesting to note, when opening the floor in the grand duchesses bedroom, a golden bracelet with precious stones and the monogram ‘T’ was found hidden under the baseboard and wrapped in a newspaper. The whereabouts of this bracelet is unknown to the author.

226h

A simple wooden cross marked the spot of the Ipatiev House after its demolition

Could the Ipatiev House have been saved?

As previously noted in his memoirs, Yeltsin claimed that the house was destroyed in one night, but in reality it took two days to raze the building to the ground. Perhaps he just forgot. Here’s what else is remarkable. The destruction of the mansion began on 22nd September 1977, that is, more than two years after the decision of the Politburo. 

The thing is that in 1975 the First Secretary of the Sverdlovsk Regional Party Committee was Yakov Petrovich Ryabov – Yeltsin replaced him in this post only on 2nd November  1976. Journalists later asked Ryabov why he was in no hurry to comply with the highest order? “And why should I be in a hurry? The house stood in a lowland, it was not bothering anyone,” the former head of Sverdlovsk replied. According to Ryabov, he told his subordinates that when the reconstruction plan for the entire micro-district was ready, then a demolition decision would be made. Rumor had it that Ryabov wanted to keep the house and that even Brezhnev had taken an interest in it. In any case, it is known that the demolition of the house was opposed by representatives of the All-Union Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture, and Ryabov helped them in every way. Many communists who were not members of the Politburo did not agree with the destruction of the historical building.

Perhaps such a confrontation contributed to the postponement of the demolition? It is also possible that those in Moscow would eventually have forgotten about their decision, however, the new secretary of the Sverdlovsk regional committee, Yeltsin, took the initiative and brought it to an end. Most historians agree that Boris Yeltsin was keen to improving his political position by transferring to Moscow and took advantage of an opportunity given to him.

* * *

In August 2000, Nicholas II and his family were canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate as Royal Martyrs. In 2000-2003, the Church on Blood in Honour of All Saints Resplendent in the Russian Land was built on the site of the former Ipatiev House. On the night of 16/17 July 2018, His Holiness Patriarch Kirill delivered a Divine Liturgy here. This was followed by a cross procession by an estimated 100,000 people from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama (21 km).

On 16 June 2003, 85 years after the murders of the former imperial family, the main church was consecrated by Metropolitan bishop Yuvenaly, delegated by Patriarch Alexy II who was too ill at the time to travel to Ekaterinburg, assisted by Russian Orthodox clergy from all over the Russian Federation.

Click HERE to read my article Doomed to Resurrection: Is it Possible to Reconstruct the Ipatiev House?, published on 2nd July 2018 and my article “What if” the Ipatiev House was reconstructed?, published on 29th November 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 25 February 2020

 

Nicholas II. The Tsarist Feat

book1

Illustration © V. Volynets

Николай II. Царский подвиг. Автор: Наталья Иртенина / Nicholas II. The Tsarist Feat. Author: Natalya Irtenina, with illustration by V. Volynets is a new book for children age 6+, published in Russia in February 2020. 60 pg. Illustrated. Available in Russian ONLY!

The book tells children about the life of the last Russian emperor, whose fate is inextricably linked with the tragic events which affected Russia.

For many people, Nicholas II was and remains a mystery. Some people still consider him weak-willed and heartless, a traitor to the Motherland, while other see him as a selfless and merciful ruler who hated bloodshed and did much to improve the life of his people.

This book tells in a lively, fascinating way what kind of person the emperor was. What he loved, how he passed his childhood, proving an exemplary father to his children, how he carried out his duties to both his subjects and to Russia, how he endured the trials that his whole family suffered, and what kind of feats, both royal and Christian, he accomplished in his life.

It is so important that children learn the truth about Nicholas II. This tiny book is yet one more in a growing list of titles aimed at children. This is a book in which the entire family can read together. The colourful illustrations by V. Volynets will no doubt arouse the curiosity of children, prompting many questions about the life of the Holy Royal Martyr Nicholas II and his family.

book13

Illustration © V. Volynets

© Paul Gilbert. 23 February 2022

Imperial Family seen through the eyes of children

219a

Metropolitan Demetrius of Tobolsk and Tyumen with the winners of the competition

In December 2019, The Holy Royal Martyrs in the History of Siberia was held in Tyumen, as part of the celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Tobolsk Metropolis. The events included a competition of paintings by children depicting Emperor Nicholas II and his family. 

More than 40 children participated in the competition. The ceremonial awarding of the finalists took place on 10th December as part of the Christmas holiday for students of the Tyumen Orthodox Gymnasium. Organizers noted that the children submitted “colourful, creative work”, distinguished by each child’s skill and dedication.

219b

“The Imperial family out for a walk”

219c

“The Imperial family out for a walk in Tobolsk”

219d

“From Tobolsk to Yekaterinburg”

219e

“In One Prayer”

Diplomas and gifts were presented to the best 10 colorful works, in addition to several other participants. The names of the paintings speak of the children’s involvement in the contest theme: “The Imperial family out for a walk”, “The Imperial family out for a walk in Tobolsk”, “From Tobolsk to Yekaterinburg”, “In One Prayer”. 

Metropolitan Demetrius of Tobolsk and Tyumen took part in the award ceremony and thanked the young people of Tyumen for their participation in the competition.

“It is gratifying that many participants reflected the most important essence, which is inherent in the title of the contest: the family of the last Emperor Nicholas II, the Royal Martyrs in the history of Siberia. Children approached the task responsibly, invested their souls, reflected the high moral and spiritual values ​​inherent in Nicholas II and his family,” noted Vladyka Dimitri.

© Paul Gilbert. 16 January 2020

Ekaterinburg diocese launches Telegram channel about Russian Imperial family

199a

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 15 February 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

This article has been edited and amended from its original by Paul Gilbert

The Ekaterinburg diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church has launched a Telegram channel devoted to Tsar Nicholas II’s family. The project precedes the centenary anniversary since the Tsarist Family’s brutal murder in the basement floor of a local mansion in July 1918.

Every day, the diocese will publish excerpts from the diaries of the Tsar and Tsarina Alexandra, which they kept during their exile in the West-Siberian city of Tobolsk and in Ekaterinburg.

“Upon the blessing by Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, the царская-семья.рф Telegram channel has come on stream,” a spokesman for the diocese said. “The project is timed for the centenary anniversary of the new regal holy martyrs’ act of martyrdom. The publication of diaries will be synchronized with the events of a hundred years ago.”

“This means, for instance, that today, on 14 February 2018, we’re publishing the entries [the Tsar and the Tsarina] made on 14 February 1918,” he said.

“The contents of the project don’t envision any evaluative judgments on the part of historians or writers living nowadays,” the spokesman said. “This is people’s direct discourse, diaries and letters.”

“By way of counterbalancing distorted information that spreads in society sometimes, we bring to spotlight the real individuals, their thoughts, hopes, aspirations, and love,” he said.

Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne on 15 March 1917. Soon after that, he himself, Tsarina Alexandra and their five children were interned. The provisional government that came to power in the wake of the revolutionary events of February and March 1917 sent them off to Tobolsk in August of the same year.

The Bolsheviks came to power as a result of a new revolution in November 1917. The new authorities ordered the transfer of the Imperial Family to Ekaterinburg in the Urals at the end of April 1918.

The climax of the tragedy came on the night 16/17 July 1918, in the basement floor of a mansion that formerly belonged to mining engineer Nikolai Ipatyev. On orders from Moscow – supposedly from Jacob Sverdlov, one of the top officials on the Bolshevik government – a team of members of the Ekaterinburg committee of workers deputies executed the entire family by shooting.

Executed together with them were their closest assistants – family doctor Eugene Botkin, the Tsar’s footman Alexei [Aloiz] Trupp, the Tsarina’s lady-in-waiting Anna Demidov, and chef Ivan Kharitonov.

The further plight of their bodies still gives rise to some questions. Historians and criminology experts proceeding from the findings done by the investigator Nikolai Sokolov, who worked for the anti-Bolshevik forces under the command of Admiral Kolchak from 1919 through 1921, say the bodies were destroyed by burning with the aid of the rectified oil of vitriol and no remains were left.

However, a crew of amateur detectives found the remains of several people near an old local road in 1979. Suggestions that these were the remains of members of the Czarist Family surfaced in the professional milieu. In 1989, the information was made public.

Excavations at the site were done in the early 1990’s and the investigators found more human bones. Sophisticated testing done in several countries proved these were the remains of bodies of Nicholas II’s family with the highest degree of probability.

Entombment of the remains took place in 1998 at the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul in St Petersburg but the Russian Orthodox Church did not take part in the ceremonies because it still questions the identity of the bones.

Supplementary excavation at the site near Ekaterinburg followed in 2007. It resulted in more material finds, the forensic scrutiny of which continues to this day.

On 20th August 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) canonized Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, Tsesarevich Alexis, and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia as new holy martyrs for faith.

Note: On 1st November 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) canonized the Russian Imperial family as new martyrs

© TASS News Agency / Paul Gilbert. 14 December 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 13 December 2019

Procession Marks 100th Anniversary of Nicholas II’s Arrival in Ekaterinburg

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 30 April 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

The above VIDEO is an announcement for the procession, which highlights the route known as the Path of Sorrow of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers immortalized by the Russian Orthodox Church with churches in Ekaterinburg.

In the early morning of 30th April 2018, a religious procession took place in Ekaterinburg marking the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Nicholas II and members of his family from Tobolsk. More than 1,500 people took park in the prayer procession, which passed from the Memorial Cross in the area of the Shartash Railway Station to the Church on the Blood – built on the site of the former Ipatiev House, where Nicholas II, his consort Alexandra, their five children, and four faithful retainers were all murdered on the night of 16/17 July 1918 by members of the Ural Soviet.

188a

Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and their daughter Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna were transferred from Tobolsk, and handed over to the Ural Soviet on 30th April 1918. They were accompanied by the Tsar’s aide Prince Vasily Dolgorukov, the family’s physician Dr. Eugene Botkin, and three servants. The rest of the family: Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and Tsesarevich Alexei were brought to Ekaterinburg in May 1918.

The procession was headed by the bishops of the Ekaterinburg Diocese: Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, Bishop of Kamensk and Alapaevsky Methodius, Bishop of Sredneuralsky Eugene, vicar of Ekaterinburg diocese, Bishop of Serov and Krasnoturinsky Alexy.

188b

The procession was attended by numerous clergy and monastics, Cossacks, monarchists, as well as students of the Ekaterinburg theological seminary, nurses and volunteers of the Orthodox Relief Service, representatives of Orthodox brotherhoods, employees and volunteers of the Nika Charity Fund, representatives of youth parish clubs, members of the Youth Cossack organization of the Sverdlovsk region, activists of the youth department of the diocese, as well as numerous parishioners of the churches of the Ekaterinburg diocese.

Crusaders dressed in red jackets carried banners, icons, as well as images of Emperor Nicholas II and the Holy Royal Family, thereby emphasizing the importance of the year of marking the 100th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers.

188c

The column of believers began its memorable procession, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Nicholas II and members of his family in Ekaterinburg from Tobolsk, from the Memorial Cross and the foundation stone, which are located near Shartash Railway Station (in 1918 – Yekaterinburg-II Station), on the future site of the Church in Honour of the Icon of the Mother of God “Valaam” – one of the three miraculous icons, revealed during the reign of Nicholas II.

The arrival and the route known as the “Path of Sorrow of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers” are immortalized by the Russian Orthodox Church with churches in Ekaterinburg.

188d

The procession passed through Ulitsas (streets) Kuibyshev, East, Chelyuskintsev, Sverdlov, Karl Liebknecht, Tsarskoy, stopping at the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Port Arthur and the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God “Derzhavnaya”.

The memorial procession ended at the Church on the Blood, where Metropolitan Kirill, delivered a Divine Liturgy.

The above VIDEO shows the cross procession and the episcopal Divine Liturgy held in memory of the arrival in Ekaterinburg from Tobolsk of Nicholas II and members of his family on 30th April 1918. The Divine Liturgy was performed in the Church on the Blood, by Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye and the bishops of the Ekaterinburg Diocese.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 December 2019

Monument to the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers in Godenovo

174a

PHOTO © Екатеринбургская Епархия

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 11 June 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

On 11th June 2018, a new monument of the Royal Passion-Bearer – Tsar Nicholas II and his August family, was established and consecrated in the courtyard of the Pereslavlskiy Nikolskiy Convent in the village of Godenovo – situated 140 km NE of Moscow.

The initiative to install monuments to Tsar Nicholas II in Russian cities and towns was made by the participants of the Forum for the Preservation of the Heritage of Emperor Nicholas II, which was held on 18th May in Ekaterinburg. Experts and forum participants supported the initiative, put forward by member of the Regional Public Chamber, chairman of the Ural branch of the Union of Russian Paratroopers Yevgeny Teterin. The initiative received the blessing of Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye.

174b

PHOTO © Екатеринбургская Епархия

The Monument to the Royal Passion-Bearers in the village of Godenovo, was established on the initiative of Abbess of Eustolia (Afonina) of the Pereslavlskiy Nikolskiy Convent, with the blessing of Bishop of Pereslavl and Uglich Theodore.

The monument represents a picture of Russian history in which the August family led by Nicholas II – the last Emperor and Tsar of the Russian Empire – ascended on a pedestal under a precious crown that embraced Russia, and his children, whose faces are designed to embody the best ideals of the Motherland during their times.

174c

PHOTO © Екатеринбургская Епархия

The Tsar’s Alley – situated behind the monument – of the Pereslavlskiy Nikolskiy Convent, was decorated with 26 banners depicting photographs and biographies of the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers.

© Paul Gilbert. 9 December 2019