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Russian Orthodox Church says will recognize ‘Yekaterinburg remains’ if given proof

The senior hierarch reminded of numerous versions of the Romanovs murder and burial of their remains

MOSCOW, December 2. /TASS/. Russian Orthodox Church assumes that the remains unearthed near the Russian city of Yekaterinburg and thought to belong to the Romanov royal family might be genuine and if the investigators provide irrefutable proof, the Church is ready to recognize them as such, Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the Church’s External Relations Department, said on the Rossiya’24 television on Saturday.

The Bishops’ Council, held in Moscow on November 29 through December 2, abstained from taking a decision on identification of the ‘Yekaterinburg remains’ since the investigation had not yet completed additional forensic testing.

"The conclusions made today [conclusions of the current investigation - TASS] will have a totally different quality and will have different persuasive power on the Church," Metropolitan Hilarion said. "If it is proved the remains belong to the members of the royal family, the Church will accept this fact."

Speaking about a previous report of the governmental commission looking into the remains, he explained that "the Church neither has recognized nor has rejected outcomes of the previous probe since none of the church representatives had been allowed to join in the research."

"Now, the situation is quite opposite," Metropolitan Hilarion said.

"The Church can follow each particle that is researched now," he said. "The Church’s representatives directly take part in lab research."

The senior hierarch reminded of numerous versions of the Romanovs murder and burial of their remains. According to one of them, the bodies of Czar Nicholas II and members of his family were buried in Ganina Yama, whereas another says that the burial place was located in Porosenkov Log near Yekaterinburg. The second line of inquiry was turned down by the investigator Nikolai Sokolov, who investigated the murder of the Imperial Family from 1919 through 1922 and worked for the White Guard counterrevolutionaries under head of the anti-Bolshevik fight Alexander Kolchak.

"Firstly, investigator Sokolov was restricted in his possibilities during the investigation. Secondly, he was short of time as he used the White Guard’s provisional stay in those places but soon the Bolsheviks came bringing his searches to an end," the metropolitan said.

"It means that the detective did not make up and could not make up a coherent picture," he said. "The remains are likely to have been buried and destroyed in two stages."

History of the issue

Czar Nicholas II, Czarina Alexandra, Crown Prince Alexis, and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia were executed by firing in Yekaterinburg in the Urals on the night from July 16 to July 17, 1918. Investigator Nikolay Sokolov concluded that all the bodies had been incinerated.

In 1979, a team of investigators found the site of a presumable burial of the remains of Nicholas II’s family in the vicinity of an old road leading to the township of Koptyaki but the official breakup of the grave took place only in 1991. The investigators found the remains of nine people there and Russia’s Office of the Prosecutor General instituted a case in 1993 over the death of the Czarist Family.

After several major genetic studies done in the UK, the US and Russia, a specialized State Commission said the fragments found were those of the bodies of Nicholas’s family members with a big degree of probability. But the remains of Crown Prince Alexis and Grand Princess Anastasia were not identified among the initially found fragments.

Entombment of the relics of Czar Nicholas, Czarina Alexandra, and Grand Princess Olga, Tatiana, and Anastasia was held in the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg in 1998. The organizers of the action took account of the historical tradition and buried Nicholas II separately from other Russian Emperors, as he had abdicated the throne on his own free will.

The Russian Orthodox Church, however, voiced strong enough doubts over the identity of the remains found near Yekaterinburg and refused to take part the burial ceremony.

The Church canonized Nicholas II and all members of his family in 2000 when it undertook a sweeping canonization action, which embraced hundreds of clerics and the lay who had to go through ordeals and repressions in the first half of the 20th century because of their commitment to faith and commandments of Christianity.

In September 2015, the Russian Investigative Committee re-opened the criminal case on the Romanov royal family murders.