On July 17th 1998, the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and their four faithful retainers Dr. Eugene Botkin, Ivan Kharitonov, Alexei Trupp and Anna Demidova were interred in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Not only was I both privileged and honoured to attend this historic event, I was also hopeful that the burial would bring some closure to what is considered one of the greatest tragedies of 20th century Russian history. Sadly, this was not to be.
The questions raised by the murders of the Russian Imperial family, including the discovery of their remains in the vicinity of Ekaterinburg, as well as the recognition or non-recognition of their authenticity, have been unsettling both Russian and Western society for the last 25 years. Recently, many people have been looking to the Russian Orthodox Church for its verdict on the matter. But expressing an objective view requires the Church to conduct a thorough examination of the historical records as well as the investigation materials and the results of scientific enquiries.
In September of 2015, I published an article on my Royal Russia News blog announcing that the investigation into the Ekaterinburg remains had been reopened. The investigation would include a new series of genetic studies, and a comprehensive review of the evidence accumulated since 1918 into the murders of the last Russian Imperial family. With the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill and at his request to the Investigative Committee a new team of experts was formed. A complex examination would be carried out for the first time – a historical, anthropological and genetic one - one in which the ROC would be involved in all aspects of the investigation. Russian President Vladimir Putin consented to an a new open-ended inquiry by the Church.
More than 20 years of scientific testing, extensive theological debates, and the enormous public outcry for resolution on the issue has failed to deter the Moscow Patriarchate’s decision to resolve the issue any time soon. In early January 2016, Bishop Tikhon of Yegoryevsk noted that the “examination of the Ekaterinburg remains may take several years.” This statement was confirmed the following month during the bishops’ council of the Russian Orthodox Church, when Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia announced at the opening ceremony that “the inquiry will last as long as is necessary in order establish the truth”.
In the last six months, I have published more than 30 news stories and articles on the subject, mainly translated from Russian media sources. During that time, I have received numerous emails and telephone calls from readers frustrated by the ROC's position on the Ekaterinburg remains. The idea that the Church wanted to launch a new investigation from scratch provoked further exasperation.
With a lack of reliable information published in the Western media and social forums on the subject, much of what has been written has caused a wave of indignation towards the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian Imperial House. Many Westerners felt that the ROC should have taken the findings of the original DNA and forensic tests carried out years prior at face value, simply because a team of "experts" found the remains to be authentic. As Archpriest Oleg Mitrov points out in his recent essay The Investigation Into the Deaths of the Russian Royal Family and Persons of Their Entourage (published in Royal Russia No. 9 Winter 2016, pg. 31-44), in the early 1990s, the Moscow Patriarchate suggested "a temporary burial, then completing the investigation which, once it produced indisputable results, could stop all discord that this question created in society.” Their request fell on deaf ears, "the voice of our church wasn't heard at the time,” added Mitrov.
Non Orthodox Christians must understand the position of the ROC on the matter of both relics and canonization. The Legitimist web site notes: “Any remains of the murdered Imperial Family are ipso facto religious relics, and therefore the internal procedures of the Russian Orthodox Church in completely satisfying itself of their genuineness must be followed. The Russian Orthodox Church wants to address any remaining doubts about the remains, given the fact that, once accepted by the Church as the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, they will become relics venerated by the faithful.”
Given the weight of evidence accumulated by experts in their respective fields since the early 1990s, it is highly unlikely that the Moscow Patriarchate will dispute the remains recovered from the two burial sites in Ekaterinburg between 1979 and 2007 any further. Recent statements made in the Russian media offer some hope that they are moving in that direction:
"The re-examination of the criminal case is not an attempt to reconsider the evidence received earlier and established facts, but rather represents the necessity of additionally investigating the new facts, which was requested by the Russian Orthodox Church," Russian Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin told the TASS News Agency (24 September, 2015).
Markin went on to say, "an interdepartmental working group for the study and burial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria gave its consent to conducting additional identification studies of the objects previously inaccessible for investigators." To this end, the investigators exhumed the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Blood samples of Emperor Alexander II, Nicholas II’s grandfather who died in a terrorist act in 1881 and whose blood stains are found on his full-dress uniform, kept in the State Hermitage Museum, have also been taken. Additional DNA samples were extracted from Emperor Alexander III in November 2015, in a bid to conclusively answer questions about the fates of Nicholas II and his family.
Markin’s statements would suggest that the Moscow Patriarchate have accepted the Ekaterinburg remains as authentic, although no official statement has yet been issued by the Church.
The Russian Orthodox Church also believe that it is necessary to continue the search for the remains of Nicholas II's children. Presumably, only a small part of the remains of Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria have been found, therefore, the search must be continued, said a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church. The investigation into the criminal case of the murder of the royal family should also include an examination of the remains found by Nikolai Sokolov in the 1920s and later transferred to St. Job’s Church in Brussels.
In the meantime, as the world awaits the final results of the new DNA and forensic studies on the Ekaterinburg remains, and the conclusion of the investigation headed by the Russian Orthodox Church into the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, further new questions are sure to arise about the fate of the remains.
Here are some further points to ponder on the fate of the Ekaterinburg remains:
in the summer of 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate canonized the Holy Royal Martyrs as Royal Passion-Bearers. The ROC’s official recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains would result in their glorification as saints to be venerated by Orthodox Christians. This will result in an elaborate glorification ceremony headed by Kirill Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. It could also mean imposing new funeral rites, in that that the relics of saints must be preserved above ground
many people are expecting that the remains of the Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister, Grand Duchess Maria will be interred with those of their family in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral. The ROC’s recognition of these remains would make this highly unlikely. Both the Saint Catherine Chapel and the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral are museums under the administration of the State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, in which visitors must pay an admission to gain entry. This is something that the Church would vehemently oppose, and rightly so
it seems highly likely that the remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, Tsesarevich Alexei, and their four faithful retainers would be reinterred in another church. It is very likely that a new church would be constructed in their honour, one which would allow Orthodox Christians to enter freely to venerate the Holy relics. During the past few months, there has been some speculation in the Russian media that such a church would be constructed in Ekaterinburg, which many now consider the center of Orthodox Russia in the Urals
despite the ROC’s earlier statements that the examination and investigation may take years, it seems highly likely that the canonization and veneration of the remains of the Holy Royal Martyrs will take place around the date marking the 100th anniversary of the murder of Russia’s last Imperial family on 17 July 2018
I am very optimistic that both the examination and investigation will conclude before the 2018 centenary. At long last, the remains of all members of the last Russian Imperial family will be laid to rest together. Not only will their holy relics be venerated by the faithful, they will receive the honour which they truly deserve. Their glorification will continue to help Russia heal the wounds of the Bolshevik regicide which has haunted the nation for more than 70 years.
To review nearly 70 articles on the Ekaterinburg remains and the Holy Royal Martyrs, please click on the link below:
The Abbot of Moscow's Sretensky Monastery Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) of Egorievsk, has announced that the Russian Orthodox Church will soon know the results of the investigation into the criminal case of the deaths of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Bishop Tikhon, who is a member of the church investigation commission, made the announcement during the annual Diocesan Assembly of Moscow held on 22 December 2016.
"We hope that, as the work is quite voluminous and the report will be very large, that we will be able to present the results at the upcoming Synod of Bishops, sometime before June of this year’ - Bishop Tikhon said during an interview this week.
With regard to the recognition or non-recognition of the remains of the holy relics, Bishop Tikhon said that "the final conclusions will be made by the Council of Bishops, once the investigation is completed."
"The investigation has involved intense work carried out by a new team of "very professional" expert, which includes forensic scientists, criminologists, anthropologists, leading historians, and archivists," - he noted.
"The team of experts have made a number of new discoveries, fundamentally important to the overall investigation into the deaths of the Holy Royal Martyrs and the Ekaterinburg remains. Since the case is not yet closed, we are not at liberty to disclose the details of the investigation at this time," - Bishop Tikhon concluded.
Since March 2012, I have published nearly 70 articles on this blog about the Holy Royal Martyrs and the Ekaterinburg remains. Click on the link below to review:
Monument of Last Imperial Family to be Established in Russian Convent Topic: Holy Royal Martyrs
Artist concept of the proposed monument to Russia's last Imperial family at the Holy Trinity-St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent
This article has been translated from Russian by Dmitry Lapa
On November 17 representatives of the St. Basil the Great Charitable Fund and the Nizhny Novgorod Metropolia announced the beginning of collecting donations for installing a monument to the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II. The monument, which will also be dedicated to the family of the Russian tsar, is to appear at the Holy Trinity-St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent as early as 2017.
Founder of the St. Basil the Great Charitable Fund Konstantin Malofeyev; Metropolitan George of Nizhny Novgorod and Arzamas; Abbess Sergiya of Diveyevo; representatives of the business community and public organizations that honor the history and hope for the resurgence of the former glory of Russia were present at the event, reports Tsargrad TV.
According to Konstantin Malofeyev, “the Russian people are beginning to realize the gravity of the crime of apostasy and betrayal of the tsar.” He also stressed that they have also now come to realize the significance of the martyrdom of the Holy Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
The date of unveiling of the monument was not chosen at random—2017 will mark the 100th anniversary since the tragic events of 1917. The location was chosen intentionally as well. The St. Seraphim-Diveyevo Convent and the family of Nicholas II are inseparably interconnected. It is much to the credit of St. Nicholas II that the holy elder Seraphim of Sarov, the patron of Diveyevo for many years, was canonized. The emperor insisted on his glorification in spite of the opposition of almost all the members of the Holy Synod. “The ceremony of the Church canonization of Venerable Seraphim took place on July 19 (August 1 according to the new calendar), 1903. The imperial family along with thousands of people from all corners of Russia took part in it,” representatives of the metropolia noted.
The examination of the remains of Emperor Nicholas's II's children Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria will soon be over, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia said during a recent press conference in Sergiev Posad.
"We agreed with the Russian government on the necessity of new, full expert examinations because, in our view, the examinations carried out in the 1990s were done with abuses. The whole process of the expert examination must be irreproachable so that the Church can accept its results. Nobody should have any doubts or suspicions. Today these examinations are coming to an end, they are being carried out in several laboratories abroad by respected and trusted scientists," the head of the ROC explained.
According to the Patriarch during the Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church held in February 2016, that a new three-level examination of the Ekaterinburg remains: the historical, anthropological and genetic, would be conducted, and that the investigation will continue as long as it is necessary.
"Patriarch Kirill's recent announcement in Sergiev Posad suggest that the Russian Orthodox Church is ready to resolve the issue with the Ekaterinburg remains in the near future” - says the head of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society of the Institute of Europe RAS, Roman Alekseevich Lunkin - “By making such statements, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church is preparing the ground for the promulgation of the ROC’s final decision on this issue, which will be based on scientific findings made under ROC control." According to him, "most likely, it will be done before the 100th anniversary of the death of Emperor Nicholas II and his family in 2018."
During an interview with RIA Novosti on 6th October, the Head of the State Archive of the Russian Federation Larissa Rogovaya, also noted that she anticipates that the burial of the remains of the August children will take place sometime in 2018.
Click on the link below to read more articles about the Ekaterinburg remains, please refer to the Holy Royal Martyrs section of this blog:
In 2018, Russia will mark the 100th anniversary of the murders of Emperor Nicholas II and his family in Ekaterinburg on the night of 16/17 July, 1918.
In anticipation of the centenary of the Ekaterinburg tragedy, the State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF) in Moscow has made available online the documents on the history of this tragic event. In addition to documents from the collection of the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), are documents from collections of the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI), the Russian State Archive of Contemporary History (RGANI), Russian Federation President Archives (AP RF), Perm State Archive of Contemporary History, the State Archives of Sverdlovsk (JI-AP), and the Center for Documentation of Public Organizations of Sverdlovsk Region (TSDOOSO).
A total of 281 files containing nearly 1,000 documents are now available to read on GARF’s website. The documents are divided into 11 sections: renunciation, arrest, trial preparation, transfer to Ekaterinburg and others. They clarify the circumstances of the arrest of Nicholas II, his transfer to Tobolsk, and the circumstances of the death of the last Russian emperor's family.
The project is headed by GARF Director Sergei Mironenko, who was assisted by archival staff. The project, which took six months to complete now offers complete disclosure to everyone who is interested in the documents relating to the final period of the life of Emperor Nicholas II, from the time of his abdication, to his murder in the Ipatiev house. These documents were sealed during the Soviet years, completely off limits even to historians, and only become accessible after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Many of the documents were identified as a result of painstaking research in Russia’s state and departmental archives, as well as private archival collections abroad. The bulk of the material, however, was collected during the first investigation into the murder of the royal family in 1919, conducted on behalf of Kolchak investigator Omsk district court Nikolai Sokolov.
In addition, are documents from the investigations carried out after the discovery of the Ekaterinburg remains in 1993-1997. But there are more recent documents as well. For example, you can read the autobiography of Yakov Yurovsky, which he signed "chief executioner of the Romanov family”, discovered only a few months ago.
Among the documents are the encrypted telegram sent to Moscow, which informed Lenin and Sverdlov of the murder of all members of the royal family, the act of abdication signed in pencil by Nicholas II, and an important document relating to the assassination attempt on the Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (the future Emperor Nicholas II) during his visit to Japan in 1891.
Mironenko notes that the discovery of any additional documents relating to this subject, will be added to the digital collection, as they become available. In addition, GARF will supplement the project with documents pertaining to the murder of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich in Perm, and the murder Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and other members of the Romanov family in Alapaevsk.
To review the documents (in Russian only), please refer to the following link:
The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Kirill intends to visit Yekaterinburg in 2018 to participate in the commemorative events marking the 100th anniversary of the deaths of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
The Governor of Sverdlovsk region Yevgeny Kuyvashev and Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye, have announced that a special committee has been established to organize the centenary Royal Days event.
The traditional Royal Days attract tens of thousands of pilgrims and pious visitors to Ekaterinburg each year. Organizers are expecting more than 100,000 from across Russia and around the world to participate in the Royal Days marking the 100th anniversary in 2018. Patriarch Kirill will celebrate the Divine Liturgy held on the night of 16/17 July at the Church on the Blood.
Many believe that Patriarch Kirill’s attendance is significant. The fact that His Holiness’ visit is announced two years prior is an indication that the centenary will not only be marked on a grand scale, but one which will be a landmark event for the whole Orthodox world.
For one, it fuels speculation that the Church may be preparing to officially recognize the Ekaterinburg remains. This would pave the way for the long awaited burial of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria with the rest of their family. The remains of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and four retainers were interred in the Saint Catherine Chapel of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg on 17th July, 1998.
It is highly unlikely, however, that the Imperial family’s remains would remain in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral. The Church’s official recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains would more than likely mean that the remains of the entire family and their four retainers would be moved to another church, where they would be venerated as Holy Relics by Orthodox Christians. There is some speculation that the remains would be reinterred in the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg, or a new church to be constructed at Porosyonkov Log.
The following full-length articles by Paul Gilbert may also be of interest:
The Russian Orthodox Church could possibly canonize the servants of Russia's last Tsar Nicholas II who were killed at the Ipatiev house at Yekaterinburg. If the initiative by the Yekaterinburg eparchy of the Russian Orthodox Church is adopted, Latvian footman Alexei Yegorovich Trupp would rank among the newly canonized orthodox saints.
Alexei Yegorovich Trupp - was born in Vitebsk Governorate, Russian Empire (now Madona Municipality, Latvia). He was reportedly picked as a servant by Empress Maria Feodorovna who spotted Trupp while he was doing military service.
The decision on the canonization will be made by the Holy Synod Commission on the Canonization of Saints. The commission was handed materials collected by the nuns at the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg, concerning the canonization of three servants of Tsar Nicholas II - Ivan Kharitonov, Alexei Trupp, and Anna Demidova. The family-physician of the last Russian tsar and his family Dr. Eugene Botkin was canonized by the Moscow Patriarchate in February 2016.
"A lot of material has been collected about [the servants'] lives and their deaths. The materials testify not only about the high quality of these people's lives, but also that they lived good, righteous Christian lives," said Archimandrite Yegveni, the bishop of the Yekaterinburg eparchy.
According to Archimandrite Yevgeni, as Nicholas II was forced to abdicate as Tsar and go to exile in Tobolsk after the Bolshevik uprising, these three servants were the ones that followed him.
While testimony by Bolshevik guards says that family members of Nicholas II had on several occasions opened the door and told them that they're free to go. However there had been no treachery, and they paid for it with their lives, said the archimandrite.
While Trupp had been able to leave the Ipatiev house as one of the Latvian Red Riflemen that were guarding the Ipatiev house was his nephew.
However he stayed with the Tsar and died together with his family.
The remains of Trupp and the other three servants were buried at the Peter and Paul Cathedral in July 1998, alongside the remains of Nicholas II, his wife, and three of their five children. The remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria were transferred to the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow in December 2015.
Chairman of the Patriarchal Council for Culture, Bishop Tikhon Egoryevsky announced in Moscow this week that the results of the study of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II’s children Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria will soon be completed.
"When the investigation is complete, we will explain (and I think that the arguments are very convincing), why more time is necessary to review both the results of previous studies and to further carry out historical and anthropological examination of the remains. When that is, I can not say"- he said in an interview with the TASS News Agency.
Bishop Tikhon noted that the results of the investigation will be presented to the Council of Bishops. "The conclusions of the Investigative Committee and the Churches' Commission, and (very important for us), notes and recommendations by experts and historians will be presented to the Council of Bishops, we will then await their decision," - he said.
On 29 July, 2007 during archaeological excavations for the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, human remains were discovered near the original grave at Porosyonkov Log, near Ganina Yama. Fragments of bones and teeth of two persons were found with signs of exposure to high temperature. A preliminary investigation was reopened to clarify additional circumstances of the death and burial of the Imperial family.
In its course, expert studies have been conducted. According to their results, as well as other materials of the investigation, it was found that the remains found in the grave were the children Emperor Nicholas II - Alexei and Maria. On 23 September, 2015 the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation resumed the criminal investigation into the deaths of members of the Russian Imperial House, as well as those of their entourage.
In October 2015 His Holiness Patriarch Kirill appealed to the government to carry out comparative genetic studies of the remains of Nicholas II and his father Emperor Alexander III. The ROC Investigative Committee believe that positive results of such an examination will be the indisputable proof of the authenticity of the remains of Nicholas II and his family that the Church has been seeking all these years.
In 2000, the Moscow Patriarchate canonized Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, Tsesarevich Alexei, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia accepted a martyr's death. The Church, however, still questioned the authenticity of the remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Maria, discovered in 2007.
For more articles and news about the Ekaterinburg remains and the Holy Royal Martyrs, please refer to the following link:
On the night of 16/17 July, 2016, marking the 98th anniversary of the murder of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family, the traditional Royal procession from the Church on the Blood in Ekaterinburg to the Holy Royal Monastery at Ganina Yama took place.
An all night vigil was held in the Church on the Blood, which included a Divine Liturgy by Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye.
The procession follows the route taken on that fateful day in July 1918, from the Ipatiev House to the abandoned Four Brothers mine, where the remains of Russia’s last Imperial family and four faithful retainers were initially disposed of by their murderers.
According to a press release issued by the Ekaterinburg Diocese, Metropolitan Kirill of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye headed the procession of more than 60,000 people who took part in this year’s procession.
The procession began about 2:30 am, and was accompanied by 25 mobile teams of the Orthodox Mercy Service along the entire route. The group included priests, nuns and volunteers, as well as representatives of the Holy Dormition brotherhood of the Ekaterinburg Diocese. They assisted pilgrims with places to rest, provided bottles of drinking water, while nurses provided first aid.
The 20 kilometre procession took the faithful about 5 hours to complete. Upon arrival at Ganina Yama, they were met by the clergy and the sound of the monastery church bells. A public prayer for the Holy Royal Martyrs took place around the large Orthodox cross which marks the spot where the remains of the Imperial family and their retainers were burned and then thrown into the abandoned mine shaft on 17th July, 1918. A Divine Liturgy was also held in main church of the monastery.
Large tents were erected which provided tired pilgrims with a place to rest and enjoy a free breakfast. Twelve shuttle buses also provided free transport back to Ekaterinburg.
The Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko stated this week that his government is waiting for the results of the investigation by the Russian Orthodox Church on the authenticity of the remains of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.
In February 2016, Patriarch Kirill announced during a meeting of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church, that a new three-level investigation and examination of the remains. The new ROC commission would review the historical, anthropological and genetic aspects of the murders and the remains currently buried in the side chapel of St. Catherine in the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The remains of Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister Grand Duchess Maria were transferred to the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow in December 2015.
"Timing depends on the church. We are in regular dialogue and contact with the ROC commission and waiting for their conclusions", - Prikhodko said. Church officials had previously stated that they will not be rushed in this matter, noting that no specific deadlines for the examination of the remains had been established.
"I have received the highest-level reassurances that there will be no hurry and no tying down of the end of the inquiry to any particular date. The inquiry will last as long as is necessary in order establish the truth," the patriarch told delegates at the Bishops' Council in Moscow.
Unlike the situation in the 1990s, the state has given representatives of the Church - archbishops, clerics and invited scientists - "the possibility to participate directly in the inquiry," the patriarch said.
For more information on the ROC’s position on the Ekaterinburg remains, please refer to the following article:
Since 2012, Royal Russia has published more than 50 articles on the Holy Royal Martyrs and the Ekaterinburg remains. Click on the link below to review full-length articles, news stories, views and photos from Russian media sources: