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Russian Church says will not impede decision regarding presumable Romanov family remains

The Russian 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 Royal family, 1915  TASS
The Russian Royal family, 1915

MOSCOW, January 22. /TASS/. Russian Orthodox Church is holding maximally open discussions on whether or not the human remains found in Yekaterinburg in the Urals are those of members of the slain family of Czar Nicholas II and no one is going to impede the decision-making process artificially, Dr. Vladimir Legoida, the chief spokesman for the Moscow Patriarch’s Office told TASS on Monday.

"I’d like to stress the absence of any goal to slow down the process or, vice versa, to speed it up," he said. "The numerous expert studies are drawing to a close. We’re doing them along several lines - the genetic, anthropological, historical, and criminalist."

"Some questions are still unresolved today," Dr. Legoida said. "When all the studies are over and the Investigations Committee closes the criminal case [over the murder of the Czarist family - TASS], then the Church will pass its decision on the basis of full information it gets."

"The degree of openness on the part of this Church has been unprecedented this time," he said. "Just look at the nine-hours-long conference at Moscow’s Sretentsky Monastery where the Patriarch Kirill I took part. It was broadcast live and it’s available to anyone willing to watch it."

"There wasn’t even one situation regarding church life - and public life, too - where there would be transparency of the kind and readiness to speak about everything, which had happened," Dr. Legoida said.

He recalled the decisions regarding the recognition of identity of the remains would be taken by the Council of Bishops of the Russian Church. The Church convenes these councils once in every four years.

"Whether this Church convenes a separate council or whether it puts the matter for discussion at a regular council will depend on when it gets the conclusive results," Dr. Legoida said.

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 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, beginning with the 1920’s certain groups of experts on criminalistics, monarchists, historians, and clergy believed 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, the 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 accompanied them.

After several genetic studies in the UK, the US and Russia, the state commission in charge of investigation said the remains with a high degree of probability 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, their three daughters, and four assistants.

The Russian 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 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 on July 29, 2007, during archeological excavations 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.