On this day in 1919: Nikolai Sokolov launched his investigation into the deaths of the Imperial Family

PHOTO: Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1882-1924)

On this day – 7th February 1919 – Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1882-1924) launched his investigation into the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg.

Sokolov was a lawyer, and investigator for important cases of the Omsk District Court. It was the Supreme Ruler Admiral Alexander Kolchak (1874-1920), who appointed Sokolov with the task of investigating the murder of members of the Russian Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg and Alapaevsk.

Sokolov loved Russia and would not accept the changes brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. As a staunch Orthodox monarchist, he accepted his appointment with a deep sense of reverence and responsibility.

Between May and July of 1919, working without rest from morning until late at night, Sokolov managed to collect a vast amount of material evidence, conducted dozens of examinations and interviewed hundreds of witnesses, including several members of the Romanov entourage in February 1919, notably the Swiss tutor, Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962), his wife and nanny to Grand Duchess Anastasia, Alexandra Tegleva (1884-1955) and the English tutor to the Tsesarevich Alexei, Charles Sydney Gibbes (1876-1963).

Sokolov discovered a large number of the Imperial Family’s’ belongings and valuables that were overlooked by the chief executioner of the Imperial Family Yakov Yurovsky (1878-1938) and his men in and around the mineshaft where the bodies were initially disposed of in the Four Brothers Mine, at what is today known as Ganina Yama.

The impending return of Bolshevik forces on 15th July 1919, forced Sokolov to abandon his investigation, thus failing to find the concealed second burial site on the Koptyaki Road. He evacuated Ekaterinburg, bringing with him the box containing the relics he recovered. Today, the box is stored in the Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Job in Uccle, Brussels.

PHOTO: French edition of Sokolov’s investigation, published in 1924

Sokolov fled from Russia to Harbin, China, where in 1920, with the help of the head of the Commander of the Czechoslovak Legion, the French General Maurice Janin (1862-1946), Sokolov left Harbin for France, taking with him the material evidence and documents, which consisted of eight volumes of photographic and eyewitness accounts. Sokolov continued his work on interviewing witnesses and examining materials in exile, until his death.

The French edition of his investigation Enquête judiciaire sur l’assassinat de la famille impériale russe [Judicial investigation into the assassination of the Russian imperial family], was published by Payot (Paris) in 1924, and reissued in 1926 and 1929. It was published in Russian in 1998. No full English translation of Sokolov’s investigation has yet been published.

Sadly, Nikolai Sokolov did not live to bring his investigation to an end – he was found dead in the garden of his house on 23 November 1924, having suffered a heart attack at the age of 42. He died leaving a widow aged 23 and two young children, a daughter Nathalie (1920-2002) and a son Alexis (1923-1980). He is buried in the cemetery of Salbris, France.

PHOTO: Sokolov’s grave in the cemetery of Salbris, France

To this day, the Russian Orthodox Church still officially adheres to Sokolov’s theory that the bodies of the Imperial Family were completely destroyed at the Four Brothers Mine. A century later, we now know that this was not so.

Sokolov was a man who made an enormous contribution in gathering evidence about the last days of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, and no one should belittle the significance of his works for history.

PHOTO: memorial plaque to Nikolai Sokolov in Mokshan, 2018

On 25th December 2018, a memorial plaque honouring Nikolai Sokolov was unveiled in Mokshan, the town where he was born on 21st May 1882.

The plaque was mounted on the wall of the Mokshan Administration Building. It was here – from 1908 to 1910 – that Sokolov worked as an investigator at the Mokshan District Court.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 February 2021

“There are still many conjectures surrounding the death of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna”

0300b

The Alapaevsk Martyrs painted in 1997 by the contemporary Russian artist Vera Glazunova

WARNING: please be aware that this post includes graphic images of the dead bodies of the Alapaevsk victims, which some readers may find disturbing.

They include: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, Princes of the Imperial Blood Ioann, Konstantin and Igor Konstantinovich, Prince Vladimir Paley (son of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich), and two faithful servants: sister of the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent Varvara Alekseevna (Yakovleva), and Fyodor Semyonovich (Mikhailovich) Remez, secretary of the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich – PG

***

In 2019, a new book «Крестный путь преподобномученицы Великой княгини Елисаветы Феодоровны на Алапаевскую Голгофу / The Way of the Cross of the Holy Martyr Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna to the Alapaevsk Golgotha» was published in Russia.

The Russian language book by Ludmila Kulikova, features 728 pages!, with photographs, and copies of original documents. It presents a new account of the life and death of the Grand Duchess, revealing many new details.

Kulikova challenges the findings presented by Lubov Miller in her book Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia: New Martyr of the Communist Yoke, published in 2009. The Russian author disputes Miller’s popular held belief, that that the Grand Duchess and the other Alapaevsk martyrs were thrown into the mine alive. Kulikova also disputes Millers’ claims that the victims could be heard singing an Orthodox hymn from the mine shaft, that Elizabeth Feodorovna bandaged the head wound of Prince Ioann Konstantinovich in the dark, and more. According to Kulikova: “they are all myths!”

Kulikova points out that the findings of Lubov Miller are not confirmed by any documents of the original investigation and forensic medical examination. In order that readers can see for themselves, she decided to publish all the documents of the preliminary investigation on the murder of the Grand Duchess and members of the House of Romanov, which was conducted in 1918, by the investigator Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1882-1924)..

There are a lot of documents in the file: protocols of the inspection of the mine, the bodies and personal items found, the results of the forensic medical examination, the interrogation of witnesses. These materials have not been published in full in Russia, only excerpts.

0300c

Receipt signed by Grand Duchess Elizabeth and other members of the Imperial family
with regard to their transfer from Ekaterinburg to Alapaevsk, dated 19th May 1918

There was no singing of an Orthodox hymn from the mine

– With regard to the belief that after being pushed into the mine, the victims began to sing an Orthodox hymn, they are referring to the testimony of one of the witnesses, a local resident Alexander Samsonov. Samsonov brewed moonshine in the forest not far from Alapaevsk, but still far from the mine where the murder took place.

Acquaintances came to to warn him that he had been denounced for making moonshine (it was against the law). Samsonov hid the bottles and the still and returned home in the evening. The murder of the Alapaevsk martyrs was committed that night.

The version could also have come from the memories of one of the participants in the murder –  Vasily Ryabov (his memoirs were written later, but Kulikova gives an excerpt from them in my book). Ryabov tells how Elizabeth Feodorovna was first pushed into the mine, then Varvara, and suddenly everyone heard them floundering in the water, trying to save each other.

It was in these “memories” that he mentions the victims singing an Orthodox hymn “Save Lord, Your people” from the bottom of the mine. But none of this is supported by facts: the water was at the very bottom of the mine, but had been filled with debris. None of the bodies made it to the water. 

0300l

The bodies of the Alapaevsk Martyrs were brought to the morgue in the
cemetery of the Church of St. Catherine. Alapaevsk. October 1918

First they were killed, then thrown into the mine

– After Alapaevsk was liberated from the Bolsheviks in September 1918 and occupied by the Siberian government troops, the search for the bodies of the members of the Imperial family began. The bodies were recovered and buried on 18th October, but the crypt was opened on 26th October, to exhume the bodies.

Materials of the forensic medical examination and autopsy show that all eight Alapaevsk martyrs were first inflicted with fatal blows, and then the bodies were thrown into the mine. The grenades the killers threw into the mine did not explode. More precisely, only one exploded, at the very top.

The conclusion of the examination and autopsy of the bodies was as follows: the death of seven of the *eight victims was due to blows with a blunt object on the head (one of them was also hit in the region of the heart) or as a result of falling into a mine. (* Only Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich showed a bullet hole in the crown of his head.)

The modern forensic experts to whom I passed the case file say that if these injuries were the result of falling into the mine, they would not be the same for all the victims.

The specialists with whom I spoke, consider the traces of injuries to be the result of a strong blow, and the murder weapon, presumably, could have been an ax with a wide blade and a short hatchet – exactly what they found in the mine. The killers most likely hit their victims with the side of the ax, resulting in cerebral edema and death.

Perhaps it was a method of murder that had already been repeatedly tested: the trauma left little (if any) chance of survival. 

Only one of the victims of the massacre was still alive after the blow – Fyodor Semyonovich Remez, secretary of the Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich. Fyodor Remez. Having gathered his last strength, he managed to crawl along the track which transported the coal to the engine room. This is where his body was found.

Perhaps, for a short time, a glimmer of life still glowed in Varvara Alekseevna Yakovleva,  judging by the fact that her fingers were “set in the formation of the blessing of the Cross”, as recorded in the file.

I believe that this was the fate of Remez and Varvara, because the killers treated the servants differently: they struck a blow, and pushed their bodies into the mine shaft. The main goal of the murderers was to kill the Romanovs.

The fact that Elizabeth Feodorovna was already dead when she fell into the mine is indicated by the position in which her body was found. Her body lay vertical, her arms folded over her body. If a living person falls down a depth of 15 metres (50 ft.), it would be impossible to fold ones arms so evenly.

It should also be noted that both hands of Elizabeth Feodorovna were tightly clenched, fingers bent, her nails sunk into the skin – this happens when a person is in severe pain.

In one hand, she clutched two laced bags containing some small items. Her head, eyes and nose were tied with a handkerchief folded in four layers. So, even if she remained alive in the mine, her position and the scarf on her face and head, from which she did not free herself, do not correspond to the version about bandaging the wounded grand duke.

All this speculation came about because Lubov Miller, who lived in Australia, came to Russia to work in the archives, but many archives were still closed at that time. The first edition of her book was published in 1988, therefore, she had no way of checking all the facts.

0300m

Malshikov and his team at the mine where the Alapaevsk Martyrs bodies were thrown

Facts show that there was no monastic tonsure

– There is a version that Elizabeth Feodorovna also took monastic vows with the name Alexia – in honor of Saint Alexei of Moscow, whom she especially venerated.

There are no documents confirming the tonsure of the martyrs, but that is not the point, because the tonsure would be secret. Proof of this absence, Kulikova cites the following:

The materials of the investigation describe in detail all the clothes in which the Grand Duchess and sister Varvara wore at the time of their death. Everything! And nowhere is the obligatory part of the monastic vestment mentioned – the paraman, which is worn under the clothes mentioned. Neither on Elizabeth Feodorovna or Varvara Alekseevna.

Monks wear Paraman constantly as a sign of their accepted vows. The Alapaevsk prisoners lived in anticipation of death, so it is difficult to imagine that Elizabeth Feodorovna and Varvara Alekseevna, for some reason, removed them. Icons, crosses, a belt were found on the Alapaevsk martyrs, as well as small personal items, including documents and some money. But there was no paraman.

Of course, those who described the items removed from the murdered victims might not have known the correct term for this item – after all, the commission was secular, civil. But a description of some sort would have been noted in the documents anyway, along with the descriptions in which they note a cape (for Elizabeth Feodorovna ), and a hood (for Varvara Alekseevna) .

Based on this, it can be assumed that Elizabeth Feodorovna did not receive monastic tonsure. And it is wrong to call Varvara Alekseevna a *nun, she was a *sister. [*Nuns take solemn vows and are cloistered, that is, they reside, pray and work within the confines of a monastery. Sisters take simple vows and live a life governed by the particular mission, vision, and charism – PG.]

Kulikova notes that her book contains a rare photograph in which we see Varvara Alekseevna Yakovleva. This photograph is from the English archives, from the Collection of Princess Victoria. The photograph, taken in 1914, shows the Grand Duchess among the wounded soldiers in the hospital at the Martha-Mariinsky Convent. Next to her are two sisters, and one of whom is Varvara Alekseevna. Kulikova adds that she is completely different from the photos we have seen to date, which leads the author to suspect that perhaps we have been looking at photos of another person for the past century?

0300n

The Holy Protection Cathedral on the grounds of the Marfo-Mariinski Convent in Moscow

Where did the Grand Duchess bequeath to be buried?

– Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and sister Varvara were buried in the Church of Mary Magdalene at Gethsemane in Jerusalem. Many historians write that she bequeathed to be buried there. In fact, she mentioned this when in 1888 she visited Jerusalem with her husband and was at the consecration of the church, noting “how good it was here” and how she would “like to be buried here”. But let us not forget that she was then only 23 years old!

In her last spiritual will and testament, written in 1914, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna specifically expressed:

“I ask you to bury me in a crypt under the church I have now built in the name of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos in my possession on Bolshaya Ordynka in Moscow at my *convent of mercy. <…>

If I am tonsured, live in a skete and die there, then I will still be buried in my *convent in Moscow, at the place indicated above <…>. If I die abroad or outside Moscow, I ask you to put it in a coffin, close it completely, transport it to Moscow and bury (without opening the coffin) where I have indicated above.”

[The convent in Moscow which she is referring to in her last spiritual will and testament is of course the Marfo-Mariinsky (Martha and Mary) Convent, which has survived to this day – PG]

It is clear that in 1921, when the bodies of Elizabeth Feodorovna and Varvara Alekseevna were taken out of China, it was easier to transport them to the Holy Land than anywhere else: Jerusalem was under the British mandate, and Elizabeth Feodorovna ‘s sister , Princess Victoria, turned to the government with a request for assistance.

But even then Princess Victoria wrote to her brother Ernst: “I hope that I will find a crypt there under the church where they can stay until they can be taken to Moscow.”

This did not happen, but now times have changed. The Martha-Mariinsky Convent was revived, the tomb, which Elizabeth Feodorovna arranged for herself and painted by Pavel Korin, has been restored. We will pray that the testament of the Holy Martyr Elizabeth will be fulfilled and that she will finally return to her native home.

0300a

Martyrs of Alapaevsk, painted in 2018 by contemporary Russian artist I. Tokarev

***

0300o

About the author:

Lyudmila Kulikova is a member of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, and laureate of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Prize. She specializes in research of the history of the Russian Orthodox Church, and materials for the glorification of her fellow countryman.

She is currently writing a book about the life of Valentina Sergeevna Gordeeva (1863-1931), who originally served as a maid of honour at the Russian Court. After the arrest of the Grand Duchess in 1917, she became the abbess of the Marfo-Mariinski Convent until its closure in the first half of the 20th century. She died in 1931 in exile in Turkestan (Kyrgyzstan).

***

Dear Reader: I am always pleased to present first English translations of new articles from Russian media sources on my Nicholas II blog and Facebook pages. It is these articles and topics which seldom (if ever) attract the attention of the Western media. I personally translate the articles, and complement them further with additional materials, photographs, videos and links.

If you found this article interesting, 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 GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 16 August 2020

Documentary – The Murder of the Romanovs: Facts and Myths

Daria Strizhova talks with Elena Chavchavadze about her new documentary. Please note that this video is only available in Russian (click on the image above to watch)

On July 19, the television channel Russia-1 showed the second film of “The Murder of the Romanovs” documentary project. This new Russian-language documentary sheds light on one of the most tragic pages in the history of the Russian state.

The first film, “Regicide: A Century-long Investigation” tells about the origins of the investigation into the murder of the Imperial Family. The second part, “Murder of the Romanovs: Facts and Myths” is the result of the painstaking research work by E. N. Chavchavadze and G. I. Ogurnaya—who together, introduce the viewer to unique archival documents.

—Elena Nikolaevna, tell us about the background of making these films dedicated to the Imperial Family. How did it all begin?

—Part of the code of honor for me and my family is to always seek the truth in everything. By the time we started working on the films on the murder of the Romanov Dynasty for the TV channel Russia, we had already filmed five episodes of the series, “Romanovs: A Royal Matter,” “War and Peace of Alexander I,” “Alexander III: Strong, Powerful.” The material itself showed us which direction to go next. And it was impossible to avoid the topic of regicide.

I was worried, realizing that the topic is too big. Let’s recall the words of Voykov who said: “The world will never find out what we did to them.” This poses a challenge to researchers. Is it possible to unravel this tragic mystery? But you know how it is: Fear has big eyes. As far as I know, a number of fundamental studies by anthropologists, criminologists, geneticists, graphologists, and other scientists are nearing completion. And we hope that the next film in the cycle will be dedicated to the results of this long-term work.

—Your film is called, “Murder of the Romanovs: Facts and Myths.” I’d like to dwell on this in more detail. What is a fact and what is a deliberately created myth? The film quotes Lenin’s words: “We don’t need to tell Joffe the truth (about the murder), so it will be easier for him to lie later.”

—We tried to clearly show the mechanism by which a myth turns into fact, and a fact becomes a myth and dissolves with time.

I must say that the plan of “blurring” the truth worked on a global level. All the Bolsheviks’ negotiations and diplomatic correspondence was constructed so as to divert suspicion away from the top of the Soviet leadership. This is a very thoughtful, masterly calculation. Only such a position would have allowed them to remain in power, as at that time they were entirely dependent upon Germany.

And how “interesting” the newspaper articles were! How well they were edited—again with an understanding of the colossal power of influence on the public consciousness! It’s in the papers, so it must be true.

When the investigator Sokolov managed, with much difficulty, through Prince Orlov’s agency in Russia, to get an agitation pamphlet talking about the murder of the Imperial Family while he was in France, he included it to the case. But this primitive article, intended for the proletariat, had been carefully edited by someone by then. We don’t know who the editor was, but probably it was Pokrovsky, a famous falsifier of history. But he was certainly a very astute man. But unfortunately, Sokolov took it all at face value. And today many people adhere to the theory that was presented in his book, because it was the only work on the topic of regicide at the time. And given that the book was created under certain conditions, under the pressure of the circumstances, and on the basis of such obviously unreliable documents, who will figure out the truth? The investigator Sokolov did a great job, and no one belittles the significance of his works for history. But, you know, the details settle everything.

—Unfortunately, the majority form their personal opinion not based on documents, not on the materials of the investigation, but on articles in the press and online. How many books have been written justifying this or that theory!

—And therefore, I think it’s necessary to dive into the archival material, to compare facts. Who was familiar with whom and when; where could this or that declaration have come from? Beginning my work on the film, the director G. Ogurnaya and I decided not to stick to any of the previously voiced theories. We simply did our work, during which connections and details started to emerge. Our films feature previously unknown documents that have only now become available—in particular, the note of Colonel Baftalovsky, which is of great interest. It is the testimony of the officers who were the first to arrive at Ganina Yama.

—There is an opinion, including from experts, that they could in no way have destroyed their bodies at Ganina Yama; and there are opposite statements as well. This is difficult to understand…

—Clothing and personal items were burned. Baftalovsky’s note is a very important testimony. Undoubtedly, the interest around this topic is so great that various people sprout up like mushrooms in the information space, clearly and colorfully expounding various theories. And amateur trackers—they are innumerable—sometimes write appalling nonsense. But people believe them, revere them, and look up to them. But there is another position, which was voiced by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, and for us it is the only true and possible one: it is the path of painstaking work and conscientious scientific methods. I believe the truth will be voiced by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The first film—“Regicide: A Century-long Investigation”—is dedicated exclusively to the murder that was committed in the Ipatiev House. The second film—“Murder of the Romanovs: Facts and Myths,” which was aired thanks to the channel Russia-1 and the History of the Fatherland Foundation—covers a short period of time in the summer of 1918 and reveals a certain connection between three crimes. At first we had the idea of focusing more on each of the events and making an individual film for each—on Perm, Alapaevsk, and Ekaterinburg—and we could have gathered enough material for this. But, unfortunately, we were limited by screen time. So we tried to isolate the main points.

Even now you can find opinions among the researchers dealing with the Romanovs that, for example, Alapaevsk (the murder of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth) and Perm (the murder of Grand Duke Michael) were both the decision of the local Council of People’s Commissars. Gabriel Myasnikov, for example, wrote an entire book about this. But when we went to Perm and started talking with people who work in the archives with the originals, we were presented a completely different picture. We were fortunate enough to meet some wonderful archivists.

—You managed to convey their very conscientious attitude to the work: It’s not just an academic interest, but a deep personal experience.

—People work for decades with great love for their inconspicuous but extremely important work, not expecting any encouragement or reward. They know their topic incredibly well. As you have correctly noted, they perceive what happened as if it happened yesterday in front of their eyes. Just like us, they perceive these events very deeply, and I’m glad that our joint work on the film expands our circle of not only professional acquaintances, but also personal ones.

—The film provides a unique archival audio recording. How did you manage to get it?

—It’s a restored archival audio recording that was preserved as “top secret.” It just recently became available to researchers, and, indeed, it sheds light on many facts. Other materials are stored in the Russian state archive of socio-political history. Many storylines from this story were not included in the film. We would be happy to continue this work, but not before all the appointed examinations are finished. This is science, not the pursuit of spectacular sensations. Even if the resolution of the investigation doesn’t suit someone, or disappoints someone, or someone says: “No, it can’t be,” because some materials came from people who aren’t very religious, for example—it’s still an insufficient argument.

—How much only the information trail from Geliy Ryabov is worth…

—Geliy Ryabov became a believer in much thanks to what happened. He spoke with Archpriest Alexander Shargunov and passed on some of his findings to him. We filmed Fr. Alexander for “Regicide: A Century-long Investigation.” Ryabov’s second wife told us a lot. All the circumstances of his story turned out to be simpler and more logical, and in the end, everything really falls into place, like pieces of a puzzle.¹

The murder of Tsar Nicholas II is spoken of as a ritual act, but it would be more correct to speak of it as sacred; and I, as a researcher, cannot completely deny this. But to be fair, it should be said that when we were in New York, working with newspapers published before the revolutionary events of 1917, we came across cartoons in articles about Russia where the head of Emperor Nicholas II was drawn separately. Can be this be considered an argument for the theory about his decapitation? I don’t think so. Why would they have carried his head to Moscow, thus taking a completely unjustified risk, since random people could have witnessed it? And as you’ve probably already realized from the documents presented in our film, the last thing in the world Lenin and his cohorts wanted was to be connected with the murder of Emperor Nicholas—for political gain, of course. And these people knew how to appreciate benefits.

—In other words, the expression “sacred murder” has a symbolic meaning?

—The expression “sacred murder” is just not only in relation to the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich, but first of all to Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, who in fact was the main contender for the Russian throne.

The reception of power was postponed until the Constituent Assembly was called. And if Kolchak had managed to win, no doubt the Constituent or National Assembly would have been called first. It’s quite likely that it would have called Michael Alexandrovich to head the state, because the dynasty was not interrupted. The Pavlovian Laws (the Act of Succession of 1797) provided that if someone leaves, then another member of the dynasty is placed on the throne by force of law, “so the state wouldn’t be without heirs, so the heir would be appointed by the law itself, so there wouldn’t be even the slightest doubt as to who is to inherit, so as to preserve the right of birth in the inheritance, without violating the rights of the natural heir, and to avoid difficulties in the transition from generation to generation.”

That’s why the murder of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich was first. The Bolsheviks weren’t sure of their position; they had to hurry. According to the documentary evidence, the greatest amount of disinformation was aimed at concealing the murder of Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich.

As bitter as it is to realize, investigator Sokolov and other researchers paid very little attention to the investigation in Perm. The official story is that it was a disappearance. A man disappeared. He was there, and then he suddenly disappeared. There was a lot of evidence that he was seen here and there, then in Harbin, then somewhere else. The officers swore they caught a glimpse of him in the crowd—a mass psychosis, an unwillingness to accept the reality. If Michael Alexandrovich is alive—no matter where—it means they have hope. And Russia has hope. Do you get it? This is a very deep motive. And it is this motive that can cast doubt on all such evidence taken together.

When we put the three murders in a line, a lot of things became obvious. At that time, the English Consul Preston—who reported in London on what was happening—was in Ekaterinburg, along with a mass of representatives of international organizations, including the American, Finnish, and Swedish Red Cross. It was full of outside observers. The Brest Peace, which was treasonous to Russia, had already been concluded. The Germans were sitting in the Council of People’s Commissars—just like the Americans sat in our government under Chubais² a few decades later.

—There is the view that a “ticking time bomb” was placed under the edifice of the Russian state at this time. What do you think about this?

—I agree with this hypothesis. It’s no accident that the name “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” doesn’t have the word “Russia” in it. An interesting fact: In August 1916 in Switzerland, there was a meeting of bankers from warring powers, including Germany, to which Russia was not invited.

Russia was to be divided into spheres of influence according to the principle of divide and conquer. This would have been impossible to do under the existing monarchy. Lenin was entrusted with ensuring that Russia lose the war. The plan was to have Russia leave the war through the revolution and, as a result, violate the agreements with its allies about how no one warring party should conclude a separate peace treaty. This would automatically exclude Russia from the list of future winners, which is what happened. A massive information attack to discredit Tsar Nicholas II was carried out throughout the entire world. When we were dealing with this historical period for the film “Revolution: A Trap for Russia” and were communicating with English researchers, they said that in England society was even more certain than in Russia that revolution was coming in Russia, that the Tsaritsa was a German spy, and that everything was controlled by Gregory Rasputin, and so on. That’s how the propaganda worked.

0291a

—One of the conclusions of your film is that the facts of the history are very malleable, and to establish the truth, we still have to reexamine and reevaluate our past. The question for modern man is: If this was done on such a scale and with such success, is it possible that the mechanism turning myths into facts is still active today?

—Of course. We see this in the example of our brothers in Ukraine, or if we look at what is happening in the United States right now. If we replace the word “proletariat” with “black,” we’ll get a traced copy of the events of a century ago in Russia. The scenery changes, but the rhetoric remains the same: “oppressors and the oppressed”—it’s nothing new.

There’s an expression: You have to accept your past, your successes, and your failures. It seems to me this is happening in Russia now. The best thing we can do is to accept the historical truth. It’s my Russia, and I accept its history as God gave it to us, to paraphrase Pushkin.

***

1. Together with Alexander Avdonin, in 1979, Ryabov discovered the remains that are believed to belong to the Royal Martyrs.—Trans.

2. A Russian politician and businessman who was responsible for privatization in Russia as an influential member of Boris Yeltsin’s administration in the early 1990s—Trans.

© Daria Strizhova / Pravoslavie.ru. Translated by Jesse Dominick. 27 July 2020

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

0289a

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

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

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

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

0289c

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

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

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

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

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

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

0289b

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

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

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

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

0289f

Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich in Nagasaki, Japan. 1891

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

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

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

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

0289d

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

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

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

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

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

0289g

Investigator Nikolai Sokolov

But what about the documents of the investigator Nikolai Sokolov:

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

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

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

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

0289e

The remains of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, 1997

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

© Paul Gilbert. 19 July 2020

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

240b

The skull of Emperor Nicholas II

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

– The case was classified immediately after you were dismissed?

– Yes.

– And how common is this practice – classified?

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

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

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

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

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

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

240f

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

– For what purpose was this examination carried out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Why?

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

– Were the results ready when you were dismissed?

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

– Did the church also ask you about them?

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

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

240d

Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin (1968-2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Do you regret intervening?

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

240h

Exhumation of the remains of Emperor Alexander III

– What led to your removal from the case?

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

– For what reason?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

240e

Tikhon Shevkunov (Metropolitan of Pskov and Porkhovsky

– But this was not the only conflict?

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

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

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

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

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

240g

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

240

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

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

– Yes, I believe that it was his idea.

– But why exactly on October 18?

– This is the name day of Tsesarevich Alexei.

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

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

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

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

Is that all?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– What is so terrible in these religious processions?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

240a

Vladimir Solovyov in the State Archive of the Russian Federation

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

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

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

© Andrei Kamakin / Paul Gilbert. 14 March 2020

Exhibition dedicated to Nicholas Sokolov opens in the Urals

070a

On 8th June 2019, the Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye opened the exhibition Penza – Paris. The Way of the Tsar’s Investigator N.A. Sokolov, in the Museum and Exhibition Center in Ganina Yama.

The exhibition, is timed to the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the work of the investigator Nikolai Alekseevich Sokolov (1882-1924)  in Ekaterinburg and at the Four Brothers mine in 1919.

Metropolitan Kirill reminded guests that the name of N.A. Sokolov is inextricably linked with the Imperial family, since Sokolov was a monarchist, he loved Russia and would not accept the changes brought about by the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. 

“Nikolai Alekseevich crossed the front line to reach the troops commanded by General Vasilyevich Kolchak (1874-1920), who was recognised as the “Supreme Leader and Commander-in-Chief of All Russian Land and Sea Forces” by the other leaders of the White movement from 1918 to 1920. Sokolov became one of the closest assistants to the Supreme Commander, who entrusted him with the investigation into the case of the regicide. This year also marks 95 years since the death of investigator Sokolov, a man who made an enormous contribution in gathering evidence about the last days of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg,” noted Kirill.

The ruling bishop said that it was NA Sokolov who was the first to follow the path of the cross from the Ipatiev House to Ganina Yama, and it was he who conducted most of the research at the site of the murder and burial of the Holy Royal Passion-bearers.

“We value his sincere work no less than the work of those who remained faithful to the Tsar, his family and and their faithful retainers – Dr. Botkin, cook Kharitonov, maid Demidova and the tsar’s valet Troupe, and all those who wanted to remain with them, but who were separated from the Imperial Family, at Tsarskoye Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg,” he added.

In conclusion, Metropolitan Kirill thanked the staff of the museum who preserve the memory of the Imperial family.

Visitors to the exhibit can see unique archival materials that give an idea of ​​the difficult task of the investigator. Also presented are rare family photos of N. Sokolov, which are kept by his descendants in France and in Russia. Many of them are displayed for the first time.

The exhibition will be open to visitors until the end of 2019, admission is free.

Click HERE to read Memorial Plaque to Nikolai Sokolov Unveiled in Mokshan, published on Royal Russia News 27th December 2018;

and HERE to read Nikolai Sokolov: The man who revealed the story of the Romanov killings by Alla Astanina, published on 18 April 2015 on Russia Beyond the Headlines.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 June 2019