Metropolitan Hilarion hopeful ROC will recognize authenticity of Ekaterinburg remains

PHOTO: Metropolitan Hilarion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 2021

The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains

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

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

Bones of Contention

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

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

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

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

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

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His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk

New Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Members of the new ROC investigation inspect the Ekaterinburg remains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should the ROC recognize the remains of the Imperial Family as Holy Relics, they cannot be returned to their tomb in St. Catherine’s Chapel, as relics cannot be returned to the earth. They must be placed in reliquaries above ground which allows the faithful to venerate them. This would be one very important reason why their remains would be interred in a new cathedral named in their honour.

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

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Ganina Yama

Will the Imperial Family be reinterred in Ekaterinburg?

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

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

It is interesting to note that in March 2016, the Ministry of Culture of the Sverdlovsk Region reported that if the ROC requests the transfer of the territory in and around Porosyonkov Log (added to the cultural heritage list in 2014), would be designated as sacred land and transferred to the ROC, where a memorial and monastery, similar to that at Ganina Yama would be constructed. This in itself suggests that perhaps the ROC has already come to a decision on the authenticity of the remains, and were making preparations.

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

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

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

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Aerial view of Ekaterinburg

“Ekaterinburg was the last capital of the Russian Empire”

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

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

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

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

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

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

The world awaits closure by the ROC

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 18 June 2021

Holy Synod meet to discuss results of Ekaterinburg Remains investigation

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

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

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

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

Reference:

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

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

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

IT WAS RESOLVED AS FOLLOWS:

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

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

What happens next?

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 17 June 2021

Russia’s second equestrian monument to Nicholas II to open on 17th July

At long last, Russian sculptor Irina Makarova’s magnificent equestrian monument to Emperor Nicholas II is to be erected on 17th July, on the grounds of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) in Kulebaki of the Nizhny Novgorod region.

Russian media continually note that this is Russia’s first equestrian monument to Nicholas II, however, this is incorrect, Russia’s first equestrian monument to the Tsar was erected in Moscow in December 2014.

“The Russian people are entirely guilty for the death of the tsar,” said Archpriest Nikolai Boldyrev, who considers the monument a step of repentance “for the sins of the fathers.” He draws parallels between the last tsar and Christ, believing that a curse hangs over Russia, and calls for repentance.

The erection of the monument is timed to the date of the murders of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg by the Ural Soviet on the night of 16/17 July 1918. The opening and consecration of the monument will take place at the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev). Deputies from the State Duma, Monarchist General Leonid Reshetnikov from the Double-Headed Eagle Society, the leader of the Nizhny Novgorod branch of the Russian Noble Assembly Olga Polyanskaya and other guests have been invited.

The rector of the Church of the Holy Martyr Mikhail (Gusev) Father Nikolai Boldyrev, speaking about the erection of the monument, draws parallels between the sacrifice of Christ and the death of Nicholas II:

“Our goal is to return historical memory, to reveal the true image of Tsar Nicholas, so that the Russian people may know who he was for us. He knew throughout his life that he would have to suffer. Three saints told him about that he would be a martyr and that his family would perish, and that all his nobles, military leaders would betray him” said Father Nikolai – “He died for us, for the Russian people, who betrayed him, to the Russian Golgotha. He forgave everyone who slandered him.”

PHOTO: Father Nikolai Boldyrev

Archpriest Nikolai Boldyrev also said that a curse lies on the Russian people and that they must repent for betraying the oath given to the Romanov dynasty at the Zemsky Sobor in 1613.

“The elders said that until you realize who Nicholas II was, Russia will not rise from its knees,” says Father Nikolai – “Sin hangs over us, we have become perjurers. If you have read the Bible, you know that children suffer for the sins of their parents until the third generation. All this is a curse. Grandfathers, perhaps, demolished churches, participated in persecutions. Saint John of Shanghai wrote that the Russian people were entirely guilty for the death of the tsar.”

A year ago, Father Nikolai Boldyrev gained fame because he was temporarily suspended for refusing to close churches during the COVID pandemic and wipe the communion spoons with alcohol.

Initially, the equestrian monument to Nicholas II was planned to be erected in 2020, however, a lack of funds delayed it by one year, Donations for the construction of the monument have been collected for several years. The cost of the monument is 5 million rubles [$70,000 USD].

The monument’s sculptor Irina Makarova, also created monuments to the Holy Royal Martyrs at the St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent in July 2017; the meeting of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in Alushta, Crimea; and a monument to the Holy Royal Martyrs in Tyumen.

Click HERE to read my article Nicholas II Equestrian Monument Planned for the Russian city of Kulebaki + PHOTOS, originally published on 13th December 2019.

© Paul Gilbert. 15 June 2021

Historic link between Nicholas II and St. Nicholas Cathedral in New York

PHOTO: St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral was built in the Moscow Baroque style in 1902

This month marks the 120th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone for St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. The cathedral serves as the administrative center of the Russian Orthodox Church in North America, and houses the representation of the Moscow Patriarchate in the United States.

On 25th August 1899, a plot of land of about 700 m² was purchased on 97th Street, between Madison and 5th Avenue, on which it was planned to build a cathedral that could accommodate 900 worshipers, as well as premises for a Sunday school, festive meetings and an apartment for clergy.

The cathedral was constructed in the Moscow Baroque style by the architect Ivan Viktorovich Bergezen. In 1900, permission to raise funds for the construction of the church was issued by Emperor Nicholas II, who on his own behalf donated 7,500 gold rubles to the project.

PHOTO: the iconostasis of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Cathedral

The foundation stone of the church was laid by Bishop Tikhon, the head of the Russian Church in the Aleutian Islands and North America – the future Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Tikhon (1865-1925) on 22nd May 1901.

On 23rd November 1902, a consecration service, the first to be held in the completed church, was led by Bishop Tikhon. Bishop Charles Chapman Grafton, representing the Episcopal Church, participated in the service. The Russian Holy Synod elevated St. Nicholas Church to Cathedral status in December 1903, and the Diocesan Seat of North America was transferred from San Francisco to New York in 1905. Restoration work was carried out on the Cathedral between 1954 and 1960.

Today St. Nicholas Cathedral continues to serve the needs of the Russian Orthodox Church in this country as it has since its founding.

© Paul Gilbert. 4 May 2021

New documentary series defends the reign of Nicholas II

A new Russian language documentary is “important for historical parallels”, experts say, by dispelling the myth that Russia was a backward nation during the reign of Nicholas II – 1894 to 1917.

More than a hundred years have passed since the catastrophic events of the February 1917 Revolution in Petrograd, but their significance has not diminished during the last 100+ years.

The February Revolution left behind a lot of questions. With all the chronological clarity of those events, their interpretations to this day contradict each other. What was the Russian Empire like on the eve of the February Revolution? What was the position of the peasants and workers? What was the state of the economy and events of the First World War? For decades (especially during the Soviet period) it was believed that life in Russia at that time was characterized by poverty, backwardness, military devastation. oppression by the autocracy, etc. So, what is the truth?

In his new Russian language documentary series Гибель империи. Российский урок / Death of the Empire. Russian Lesson [18 episodes, each one a duration of 15 to 20 minutes] Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov Tikhon (Shevkunov), analyzes the economy of the Russian Empire, its domestic and foreign policy, the activities of the tsar, military, political elites, but most importantly, the state of Russian society during that period.

Metropolitan Tikhon clearly notes that during the First World War, the Russian Empire was neither economically nor militarily in any worse state than that of other countries. On the eve of the First World War, the Russian economy was developing rapidly, the standard of living rose significantly, the population during the reign of Nicholas II increased by 50 million people.

By 1917, Russia had increased the production of cast iron 4 times, copper 5 times, coal 5 times, and from 1911 to 1914 the machine-building industry increased 2 times. Before World War I, Russia produced 9.4% of world GDP and was ranked 4-5 in the world in terms of its volume. Most importantly, the land issue was not a decisive factor in the revolution. So, by 1916, in the European part of Russia, 90% of arable land was in the hands of the peasantry, and100% in the Asian part of the empire.

A key factor in the tragedy of 1917 was played out by Russia’s so-called “allies” – Great Britain and France, who directly indulged the conspirators. The British delegation led by Lord Alfred Milner (1854-1925) presented an ultimatum to the Emperor on the eve of the revolution, in which he demanded, a change in the state system in Russia with the introduction of the concept of “responsible” (before the Duma) government. An outrageous demand by a foreign power, especially during war with Germany. In the aftermath of the Tsar’s abdication in 1917, the “allies” abandoned the Russian Sovereign, who in the end, was the only true ally who honoured his commitment to the war.

PHOTO: Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov Tikhon (Shevkunov)

The betrayal of the elites was even more tragic. At the beginning of 1917, Russia was on the verge of winning the war – during the planned spring-summer offensive. The Russian Imperial Army would surely have broken through the German positions, which would have resulted in the enemy being forced to cede all the territories to Russia, promised under the Sykes-Picot Agreement and enormous reparations. The commander-in-chief of the German army General Erich Ludendorff (1865-1937), even admitted: “Our defeat seemed inevitable.” But then the February Revolution broke out in Russia.

One of the main problems of pre-revolutionary Russia was its “enlightened” society, who literally dreamed of a revolution. Many prominent writers, scientists and publicists supported the underground movements in one way or another, some even through financing and campaigning.

Russia’s “enlightened” society created, in fact, a parallel state. It had almost all the attributes of statehood – its own army (terrorist), its own mass media, its own informal budget, its own “courts” and governing bodies. As a result, by 1917, public opinion in Russia was prepared for a conspiracy and a change of power. however, in the end, many of those who were so thirsty for revolution then perished during the civil war and the subsequent Bolshevik repressions.

The key problem of the Russian people, according to the testimonies of eyewitnesses of the events cited by Father Tikhon, was the colossal impatience of the people and their pliability to the provocative speeches of revolutionary agitators. It is simply amazing how in 1917 a significant number of people fell so easily for the fables about “freedom, equality and brotherhood” – who in the end received any such promises.

Malicious gossip and revolutionary propaganda, helped to turn the people against their Tsar. Lies spread like wildfire during the war years. References were made to the “bloody tsarist regime”. Emperor Nicholas II was referred to as “an alcoholic”, and his wife as “a German spy”, as well as the “destructive influence of Grigory Rasputin”. References to the “bloody tsarist regime”, were published daily by the liberal press, often prompted by Western propaganda. German planes dropped leaflets with cynical cartoons of Nikolashka in the trenches of Russian soldiers.

“Russia was ruined by gossip,” Vladyka Tikhon quotes the outstanding Russian writer Ivan Lukyanovich Solonevich (1891-1953), a devout monarchist, who believed that “monarchy was the only viable and historically justified political system for Russia”.

© Paul Gilbert. 21 April 2021

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Dear Reader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 6 April 2021

ROC Metropolitan blames Nicholas II for February 1917 Revolution

PHOTO: Revolutionaries burning a portrait of Nicholas II on 5th March 1917
Artist: Ivan Alekseevich Vladimirov (1869-1947)

On 23rd February (O.S.) 1917, workers unrest and mass demonstrations began in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd. Thus began the February Revolution, which brought an end to the monarchy and lead the country into chaos.

On 2nd March (O.S.) 1917, Russia’s last emperor Nicholas II, betrayed by the elites, members of his inner circle, generals and even members of his own family abdicated the throne. Although historians continue to argue about the authenticity of the renunciation manifesto, it was then, at the Pskov railway station, that the Imperial Family’s journey to Golgotha ​​began.

On the recent 104th anniversary of the events which proved fatal for Russia, Metropolitan of Pskov Tikhon (Shevkunov)¹ talked about the drama and lies of the Russian Revolution during a discussion on the YouTube channel “Seraphim”.

Metropolitan Tikhon said that the last Russian emperor Nicholas II was responsible for the February Revolution of 1917, since he was the supreme ruler of the country and failed to discern the impending threat.

“The first person is always to blame for the troubles that befall the country. Always!” – said Tikhon. He explained that Nicholas II was glorified in the person of the saints in a special way – as a passion-bearer², in connection with the tragic circumstances of the deaths of the Imperial family.

At the same time, Tikhon recalled an article by Winston Churchill (1874-1965) in the Illustrated Sunday Herald about the revolutionary events in Russia, where the British politician spoke positively about Nicholas II and emphasized the inevitability of the victory of the Russian Empire in World War I, if not for the revolutionary events.

PHOTO: Metropolitan of Pskov Tikhon (Shevkunov)

“Nicholas II was one of the most successful and yet one of the most tragic leaders of our state,” said Metropolitan Tikhon, referring to the rapid growth of the empire’s population, the economic and industrial boom during the reign of the last emperor. “This is evidence of his caring for the Russian people and the ever-increasing standard of living,” he added.

According to Metropolitan Tikhon, during his 22 year reign, although he was a decent and even selfless person, Nicholas II “bored” Russian society, and “could not see the terrible situation which was developing”. He went on to say that “the aristocratic and noble monarchy,” played a fatal role in the fate of the Russian Empire.

NOTES

¹ Tikhon is the Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhov and Bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church. He is often referred as the personal confessor of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

² Nicholas II was glorified as a saint by the ROCOR in 1981, and as a passion-bearer by the Moscow Patriarchate in 2000

© Paul Gilbert. 23 March 2021

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Dear Reader

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

First iconostasis in Russia dedicated to the Tsar’s family

PHOTO: Russia’s first iconostasis to the Holy Royal Martyrs
© Вести / Vesti News Agency

The first iconostasis in Russia dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyrs is being erected in the church of the St. Elisabeth Convent in the village of Priozerye, situated 120 km from Kaliningrad.

Within the walls of the church of the convent, preparations are underway for the installation of an icon depicting Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. A prayer is said as the image takes its place in the iconostasis.

The convent is dedicated to the Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, but Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II and his family are especially revered in the convent.

PHOTO: Entrance to St. Elisabeth Convent ;
monument to Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Nun Anastasia, Sister of the St. Elizabeth Convent, spoke to the Vesti News Agency this week, and stated the following:

“The iconostasis that is installed in our convent is dedicated to the Imperial Family and all the royal martyrs. It is unique in its kind for the whole of Russia. There is no such iconostasis anywhere else in Russia, only in our church.

“Once completed, the iconostasis will be in the shape of a cross. The images are distinguished by a special subtlety of writing. The colours of the elements: red, blue and gold stand out. The works were specially made for the convent by an artist from Kaliningrad.

“The top of the iconostasis will feature an icon of the Archangel Michael, then the icon of the Alapaevsk Martyrs, then Job the Long-Suffering. In the center are Tsarina Alexandra, Tsesarevich Alexei, and Tsar Nicholas II.

Once assembled, this unique iconostasis will stand as tall as a three-story building. It will become one of the main decorations of the convent cathedral.

At the base of the royal iconostasis will be an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos Theodorova, patroness of the Romanov family.”

© Paul Gilbert. 14 February 2021

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

PHOTO: Bishop Evgeny of Ekaterinburg and Verkhotursky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 13 December 2020