Program for Royal Days 2020 in Ekaterinburg

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The Church on the Blood, built on the site of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg

The Moscow Patriarchate and the Ekaterinburg Diocese have confirmed that the Royal Days [aka Tsar’s or Imperial Days] will be held from July 12 to 20, 2020.

A series of memorable ceremonial events symbolizing the unity of the Russian people in their understanding of the history of the Fatherland, the ongoing rehabilitation of the good names of the emperor and his family, and the unification of the Church of Christ and traditional values. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, all events will be held in compliance with all necessary safety and sanitary measures.

The main event will be held on the night of 16/17 July, when a Divine Liturgy will be performed at the Church on the Blood, where the lives of Emperor Nicholas II along with his family and four faithful servants tragically ended. The Divine Liturgy will be followed by a 21-km Cross procession to the Monastery of the Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama.

On July 12th, the day marking the Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the XIX Royal Days Festival of Orthodox Culture will begin.

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Pilgrims gather outside the Church on the Blood on 16th July 2018

XIX Royal Days Festival of Orthodox Culture

The XIX Royal Days Festival of Orthodox Culture in the Ural capital, will feature several dozen religious and secular events of various formats honouring the memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs.

A cultural program has been planned, which includes cultural, historical, musical and educational events, museum and library exhibitions, concerts, lectures and meetings with Russian historians and writers.

The festival will be held in the conference hall and the Tsarsky Spiritual and Educational Center, located in of the Patriarchal Compound on the grounds of the Church on the Blood.

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Pilgrim holds a portrait of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II

The bell ringing festival “Evangelize, the Land of the Urals!” also opens on July 12th. A bell ringing concert will he held in the square in front of the Great Zlatoust Church, which features a magnificent bell tower. The concert will be attended by the ringer of the Ekaterinburg Metropolis, the choir of the Great Zlatoust Church; and poetry readings by priest Victor Yavich.

On the same day, July 12, an Open Gymnastics Championship will be held on the embankment of the city pond facing the Church on the Blood. The event is dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II – the founder of the Olympic movement in Russia.

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Thousands gather outside the Church on the Blood on the night of 16/17 July

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Thousands gather outside the Church on the Blood on the night of 16/17 July

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Thousands gather outside the Church on the Blood on the night of 16/17 July

The main events of the Royal Days

The main events of the Royal Days will begin on July 15 when a Divine Liturgy will be performed in the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama.

Then culminating events will be held on July 16 and 17.

On July 16, at 13:00, a small daytime procession will be held along the Ekaterinburg Way of Sorrow to mark the arrival of the Royal Martyrs in Ekaterinburg from Shartash Station (149 Kuybyshev St.) to the Church on the Blood (built on the site of the Ipatiev House) on 30th April 1918 [Nicholas II, Alexandra and their daughter Maria arrived, Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and Alexei arrived several weeks later].

Then, at 15:00, Vespers will be held with the Akathist to the Holy Royal Martyrs in the Lower Church of the Church on the Blood,

At 16:30, an all-night vigil will begin on Ulitsa Tsarskaya, in front of the Church on the Blood.

At 17:00 there will be an all-night vigil in the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama.

At 23:30 the main service of the Tsarist days – the night Divine Liturgy will commence in front of the Church on the Blood on  Ulitsa Tsarskaya. The service will end in the early hours of July 17, after which at 02:30 Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye will lead the Cross Procession from the Church on the Blood to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs – a journey of 21 km. This year’s procession is expected to attract tens of thousands of pilgrims from across Russia [As Russia’s borders are currently closed to foreigners, this year’s Tsar’s Days events will only be attended by Russian citizens]. Upon the arrival of the procession at Ganina Yama, a prayer service will be held for the Holy Royal Martyrs. 

The first Tsar’s Days was held in Ekaterinburg in 2001. In 2018, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the regicide in the Ural capital, attracted more than 100,000 Orthodox pilgrims, monarchists, among others from across Russia and around the world. In 2019, some 60,000 pilgrims took part.

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Святы Царственные мученики, молите Бога о нас!

Royal days in Alapaevsk

The Royal Days will continue with the Remembrance Days of the Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova and the *Alapaevsk Martyrs, which will be held in Alapaevsk – 148 km northeast of Ekaterinburg.

On July 17 at 17:00 an all-night vigil will begin in the Monastery of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church in the city of Alapaevsk.

On July 18, at 00:00, the Divine Liturgy will be celebrated in the Holy Trinity Bishop’s Metochion of Alapaevsk, and at 02:30 a prayer service will be held with the singing of an Akathist to the Holy Martyrs Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Nun Varvara.

At 03:30 at the end of the Liturgy, a procession will begin from the Holy Trinity Bishop’s Compound in Alapaevsk to the School and further to the Monastery of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of the Russian Church, built on the site where the bodies of the *Alapaevsk Martyrs were dumped into the mine alive on the night of July 18, 1918.  At 05:30 and 09:00, two Divine Liturgies will be performed there.

*The Alapaevsk victims included: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, Princes of the Imperial Blood Ioann, Konstantine and Igor Konstantinovich, Prince Vladimir Paley (son of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich), and two faithful servants:sister of the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent Varvara (Yakovleva), and Fyodor Semyonovich (Mikhailovich) Remez, secretary of the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich.

SOURCE: Ekaterinburg Diocese Press Release

© Paul Gilbert. 3 July 2020

Faithful to the End: Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev 

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Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny (left). and Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev (right)

Today – 28th June 2020, marks the 102nd anniversary of the death and martyrdom of two faithful servants to Emperor Nicholas II and his family – Klimenty Grigorievich Nagorny and Ivan Dmitriyevich Sednev. 

Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev selflessly served the Tsar’s children. Nagorny in particular, lay the great responsibility of protecting the Tsesarevich, even the slightest injury could put the heir to the Russian throne in danger, due to his hemophilia. Alexei was very fond of Nagorny, who in turn showed complete devotion to the Tsesarevich, faithfully sharing with him all the joys and sorrows.

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Nagorny and Tsesarevich Alexei in Tsarskoe Selo, 1907

Klimenty Nagorny and Ivan Sednev voluntarily stayed with the Tsar’s family during their house arrest in Tsarskoe Selo, and then followed them to Tobolsk, where Nagorny shared a room with the Tsesarevich, serving him day and night. Together with the Imperial family, Nagorny also attended all the divine services, and the only member of the family’s retinue who was a member of the choir organized by the Empress: he sang and read for the Imperial family during services held in the house church.

In the spring of 1918 Nagorny and Sednev once again, voluntarily followed the Imperial family to Ekaterinburg. They spent only a few days in the Ipatiev House, and then were separated from the Imperial prisoners. They were arrested and imprisoned, their sole crime had been their inability to hide their indignation on seeing the Bolshevik commissaries seize the little gold chain from which the holy images hung over the sick bed of the Tsesarevich.

On 28th June 1918, they were shot in the back by the Bolsheviks, in a small wooded area behind the Yekaterinburg-2 railway station (modern name – Shartash). Nagorny and Sednev were “killed for betraying the cause of the revolution” – as indicated in the resolution on their execution. The murderers left their bodies unburied.

When Ekaterinburg was occupied by the Whites, the the half-decayed bodies of Nagorny and Sednev, were found and solemnly buried near the Church of All the Afflicted (demolished). Witnesses at the funeral recall that the graves of the former sailors of the Imperial Yacht Standart were strewn with white flowers. Their graves were not preserved – they were destroyed when the Soviet authorities built a city park on the site of the cemetery.

Both Nagorny and Sednev were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) on 14 November 1981, and both rehabilitated by the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation on 16 October 2009. They have yet to be canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate. 

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

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Sednev and Alexeei Nikolaevich, in the Finnish skerries, 1914 

Nagorny, Klementy Grigorovich (1887—1918) – from 1909, he served on the Imperial yacht Standart and appointed as a footman to the imperial children. He received the Court title Garderobshik (wardrobe keeper) in 1909 and accompanied the Imperial family on every tour. In November 1913, he was appointed assistant dyadka to guard the Imperial children. He travelled with the Tsesarevich Alexei to Mogilev during 1914-16. After the Tsar’s abdication, he lived under detention with the Imperial family in Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg.

Sednev, Ivan Dmitrievich (1881—1918) – was recruited into the Russian Imperial Navy in 1911, where he began as a machinist on the Imperial Yacht Polyarnaya Zvezda (Polar Star) then transferred onto the Imperial yacht Standart. By invitation he became a Lakei (liveried footman) to the Grand Duchesses, and subsequently to the Tsesarevich. Ivan lived under detention with the Imperial family in Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 June 2020

Divine Liturgy for Tatishchev and Dolgorukov Performed in Ekaterinburg

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From left to right: Catherine Schneider, Ilya Tatishchev, Pierre Gilliard,
Anastasia Hendrikova and Vasily Dolgorukov

Wednesday 10th June 2020, marked the 102nd anniversary of the death and martyrdom of two faithful servants to Emperor Nicholas II – General Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev (left) and Prince Vasili Alexandrovich Dolgorukov (right).

A Divine Liturgy was performed in the Saint Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, situated in the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg.

General Tatishchev and Prince Dolgorukov, faithfully and selflessly served Emperor Nicholas II, for many years. With Christian courage and nobility, they remained faithful to the sovereign, voluntarily followed the Emperor and his family to Tobolsk, and then to Ekaterinburg.

It was on 10th June 1918, that they together took a martyr’s death at the hands of the Bolsheviks and were buried in the cemetery of the Novo-Tikhvin Convent.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

Ilya Leonidovich Tatishchev (1859 – 1918) – Adjutant-General of Emperor Nicholas II. The son of General Leonid Aleksandrovich Tatishchev (1827-1881) and Catherine Ilinishna (1835-1915), Ilya Tatishchev is one of the descendants of the founder of Ekaterinburg. He graduated from the Corps des Pages in St Petersburg, and later entered the service of the His Majesty’s Life Guard Hussar Regiment. He later served as adjutant to the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847-1909). On 6th December 1895, he was promoted to colonel. From 1905 he served as Major-General of the Retinue of His Imperial Majesty. In 1910 he was promoted to Adjutant General. He was a member of the Holy Prince Vladimir Brotherhood. He faithfully followed Emperor Nicholas II and his family into exile. He was murdered by the Bolsheviks on 10th June 1918. Ilya Tatishchev is buried in the cemetery (*lost during the Soviet years) of the Novo Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg.

Prince Vasily Alexandrovich Dolgorukov ( 1868 – 1918) – Major-General, marshal of the Ministry of the Imperial Court and lands. The son of Prince Alexander Vasilyevich Dolgorukov (1839-1876) and Princess Mary Sergeyevna (1846-1936). He graduated from the Corps des Pages in St Petersburg, and then entered the service of the Life-Guards Horse-Grenadier Regiment. In 1907, he was promoted adjutant to His Imperial Majesty Emperor Nicholas II. From 1912-1914, he served as Regimental Commander of the Life-Guards Horse-Grenadier Regiment. During the First World War, he served at General Headquaters in Mogilev. Dolgorukov faithfully and selflessly served Emperor Nicholas II for 22 years. In March 1917, he voluntarily stayed with the Emperor during his house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. In August 1917, he then followed the Emperor and his family into exile to Tobolsk.

After his arrival in Ekaterinburg on 30th April 1918, Prince Dolgorukov was arrested “in order to protect public safety.” He was placed in the political department of the Ekaterinburg prison. The Chekists tried to accuse him of planning the escape of the Imperial family. Historians call these accusations groundless. On 10th June 1918, he was shot in a wooded area near the city’s Ivanovskoe Cemetery,. His body was later discovered by a unit of the White Army, and buried in the autumn of 1918 in the cemetery (*lost during the Soviet years) of the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg.

Tatishchev and Dolgorukov were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) in October 1981.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 June 2020

Tsar’s Days in Ekaterinburg 2020

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A Divine Liturgy is held on the night of 16/17 July at the Church on the Blood

Despite the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Tsar’s Days events will go ahead as planned in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg. Russia has been hard hit by the coronavirus, reported more than 371,000 cases to date.

A press release from the Ekaterinburg City Hall has confirmed that in 2020, Tsar’s Days will be held from 12 to 21 July. Tsar’s Days is the annual festival of Orthodox culture in Ekaterinburg and the Sverdlovsk Region, marking the deaths and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in the Ipatiev House on 17th July 1918. The festival includes divine services, religious processions, exhibitions, concerts and other events.

The main event, for which thousands of Orthodox pilgrims come to Ekaterinburg, is the solemn liturgy, which takes place on the night of the murder of the Holy Royal Martyrs – 16/17 July, in the Church on the Blood. At the end of the Liturgy, tens of thousands of pilgrims take part in the 21 km Cross procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama.

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Pilgrims take part in the 21 km Cross procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg
to the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs in Ganina Yama

In addition, several exhibitions will be held in Ekaterinburg, including From Repentance to the Resurrection of Russia, which will be held from 12-19 July. Representatives of the largest Orthodox churches from across Russia, Ukraine, Greece and other countries will take part.

The first Tsar’s Days was held in Ekaterinburg in 2001. In 2018, the year marking the 100th anniversary of the regicide in the Ural capital, attracted more than 100,000 Orthodox pilgrims, monarchists, among others from across Russia and around the world.

© Paul Gilbert. 27 May 2020

78 nightly Divine Liturgies in the Church on the Blood for the Holy Royal Martyrs

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An icon of the Holy Royal Martyrs set against the backdrop of the entrance to the so-called
Royal (aka Imperial) Room, in the lower church of the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg

On 30th April, an evening Divine Liturgy was served in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. A Divine Liturgy will be held every night from 30th April to 17th July – marking the 78 days in which Emperor Nicholas II along with his family and faithful retainers were held under arrest in the Ipatiev House.

Night liturgies are traditionally held in the so-called Royal (aka Imperial) Room, situated in the lower church of the Church on the Blood. An altar was erected on the site of the murder of the Imperial family in the early morning hours of 17th July 1918. In 2018 the room and the altar were decorated with the blessing of the Metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky Cyril to the 100th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of the Imperial family.

The tradition of holding 78 nightly Divine Liturgies in the Church on the Blood from 30th April to 17th July was established with the blessing of the ruling bishop in 2018.

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

Click HERE to read my article The Imperial Room in the Church on the Blood, Ekaterinburg + 17 PHOTOS and 2 VIDEOS

© Paul Gilbert. 5 May 2020

NEW BOOK! Bones of Contention: The Russian Orthodox Church and the Ekaterinburg Remains

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CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Full-colour covers, 156 pages + 55 black & white photographs
Author: Paul Gilbert                     Price: $20 + postage

The reopening of the investigation into the death of Nicholas II and his family in 2015, caused a wave of indignation against the Russian Orthodox Church. This book presents the position of both the Moscow Patriarchate and the Investigation Committee.

This is the first English language title to explore the position of the Orthodox Church in Russia with regard to the Ekaterinburg remains. The author’s research for this book is based exclusively on documents from Russian media and archival sources.

This unique title features an introduction by the author, plus three essays and three interviews, on such topics as the grounds for the canonization of Nicholas II and his family by the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000; comparative details of the Sokolov investigation in 1919, and the investigations carried out in the 1990s to the present; reluctance of the Moscow Patriarchate to officially recognize the remains as authentic; interesting findings of Russian journalist, producer and screenwriter Elena Chavchavadze in her documentary Regicide. A Century of Investigation; and the author’s own attempt to provide some answers to this ongoing and long drawn-out investigation for example: “Will Alexei and Maria be buried with the rest of their family?” and “Will the Imperial Family remains be reinterred in a new cathedral in Ekaterinburg?”.

Interviews with Vladimir Soloviev, Chief Major Crimes Investigator for the Central Investigate Department of the Public Prosecution Office of the Russian Federation and Archpriest Oleg Mitrov, a member of the Synodal Commission for the Canonization of Saints – BOTH key players in the Ekaterinburg remains case, reveal the political undertones of this to this ongoing and long drawn-out investigation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Independent researcher Paul Gilbert has spent more than 25+ years researching and writing about the Russian Imperial Family. His primary research is focused on the life, reign and era of Nicholas II. On 17th July 1998, he attended the tsar’s interment ceremony at the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Twenty years later, he attended the Patriarchal Liturgy on the night of 16/17 July 2018, held at the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg. Since his first visit to the Urals in 2012, he has brought prayers and flowers to both Ganina Yama and Porosenkov Log on numerous occasions.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 May 2020

Holy Royal Martyrs, pray to God for us!

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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.

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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?

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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’ ”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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, 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”.

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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, 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.

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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. [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.

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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 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.

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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 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.”

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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.

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© Paul Gilbert. 7 March 2020

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

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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.

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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