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Russian Church unlikely to pass final decision on Romanov family remains on July 14

Nicholas II abdicated the throne in mid-February 1917

MOSCOW, July 9. /TASS/. Problem of genuineness of the ‘Yekaterinburg remains’ - the presumed remains of members of the slain family of Russia’s last Czar Nicholas II will unlikely get the final solution at a session of the Russian Orthodox Church Synod scheduled for July 14, a top-rank hierarch told TASS on Monday.

"I think this forthcoming session of the Synod will not take up the issue although we get the details of the agenda only a day before the session," said Metropolitan Hilarion, the chief of Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external Church relations.

"If a discussion of the issue was planned for this session, they would inform us about it in advance," he said.

Metropolitan Hilarion said along with it that the problem of authenticity of the Czarist family relics remained high on the Church’s general agenda. "But frankly, I don’t think the Synod will resolve the issue finally at this session," he said.

The Reverend Alexander Volkov, the press secretary of Patriarch Kirill I told TASS the Synod meets in session on July 14 in Yekaterinburg, two days before the Russian Orthodox Church marks the centenary anniversary since the execution of Czar Nicholas II, his spouse Czarina Alexandra, their five children, and their attendants by the Bolshevik revolutionaries.

Overnight to July 17, Patriarch Kirill I will head a vigil Cross-bearing procession from Yekaterinburg to the Monastery of the Holy Martyrs for Faith at the former rural common o Ganina Yama. During the remembrance days, he will lead the most significant prayers devoted to the people, whom the Russian Church venerates as the Regal Martyrs.

Nicholas II abdicated the throne in mid-February 1917. He and members of the Imperial Family were taken to Siberia forcibly soon after that.

Overnight to July 17, 1918, a squad of revolutionary Bolsheviks executed the Czarist family by shooting in the basement floor of a mansion that had previously belonged to mining engineer Nikolai Ipatyev.

The list of individuals they put to death included Czar Nicholas II, Czarina Alexandra, Crown Prince Alexis, Grand Princesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, the family physician Eugene Botkin, the Czarina’s chambermaid Anna Demidova, the court chef Ivan Kharitonov, and the Czar’s footman Alexei [Aloise] Trupp.

Investigator Nikolai Sokolov, who worked for Admiral Kolchak’s interim government and who investigated the case from 1919 through to 1924, when he died a highly mysterious death, established that the masterminds of the heinous crime had destroyed the bodies of members of the Imperial Family by burning. He also found that the technological process involved the dry rectified oil of vitriol.

However, as of the 1920’s certain groups of experts on criminalistics, monarchists, historians, and clergy began to come up occasionally with the conclusions that either the executed members of the family had been buried or else some of the Romanovs - most typically, Anastasia or Alexis - had survived the ordeal.

On June 1, 1979, detective and scriptwriter Geliy Ryabov and geologist Alexander Avdonin discovered a grave containing the remains of several people in the marshy area known as Piglet’s Meadow near Sverdlovsk [the Soviet-era name of Yekaterinburg - TASS]. Proceeding from the data available to them, they made a supposition that this was the mass grave of the Imperial Family.

The officially authorized breakup of the grave took place only in 1991 and the remains of nine people were found inside.

In August 1993, the Prosecutor General’s Office instituted a criminal case over the death of the Romanovs and the assistants who had accompanied them.

After several genetic studies in the UK, the US and Russia, the state commission in charge of investigation said that, with a high degree of probability, the remains were those of Czar Nicholas’s family.

The problem, however, was that the remains of Crown Prince Alexis and Grand Princess Anastasia [Grand Princess Maria in the US version] were never found.

The burial of the identified remains took place in the St Peter and Paul’s cathedral in St Petersburg. The organizers of the event said that placed to final rest there were Nicholas II, Czarina Alexandra, three of their four daughters, and four assistants.

The Church expressed strong doubts regarding the identity of bodily fragments found near Yekaterinburg and abstained from any ceremonies related to the burial procedures.

The Russian Orthodox Church canonized the Czar, the Czarina and their five children in 2000 as the new holy martyrs who had accepted torturous death for confessing Jesus Christ.

Fragments of bones and teeth of a woman and a child were unearthed at Porosyonkov Log [Piglet’s Ravine] area near Yekaterinburg on July 29, 2007. It is located to the south of the site where the remains of the Romanovs and their assistants had been found previously. The new finds had the signs of exposure to super-high temperatures.

To establish the supplementary circumstances of the Romanovs’ death, the authorities resumed preliminary investigation. They sent the samples of the remains to Russian and foreign laboratories. The Investigative Committee received the results of the studies but the Russian Church once again voiced its doubts over whether the bodily fragments were those of the Czar’s daughter and son.

The new forensic studies went as far as exhuming the remains of Czar Alexander III, Nicholas II’s father, in the St Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in St Petersburg in October 2015. Expert assessment of the findings is still in progress.