by Paul Gilbert

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The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill I met with Chinese officials this month to discuss the finding
of the remains of members of the Russian Imperial family buried in Beijing (formerly Peking) in the 1920s

The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill I, has just completed an historic visit to China, the first by the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church. During his weeklong visit, His Holiness met with Chinese officials to discuss the need to locate the grave site of members of the Romanov dynasty buried in Peking (modern day Beijing) in the 1920s.

These include the members of the Imperial family who were murdered at Alapaevsk on July 18, 1918: Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, the three sons of the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich: Princes Ioann, Constantine and Igor Konstantinovich and the son of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich, Prince Vladimir Paley. The remains of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and her assistant, the Nun Varvara were recovered and buried at the Russian monastery in Jerusalem.

The bodies were recovered from the mine by the White Army in 1918, who arrived too late to rescue them. The coffins with the bodies of the Alapaevsk martyrs were moved around Russia during struggles between the Whites and the opposing Red Army. Eventually they were taken to the Holy Protection of the Mother of God nunnery at Chita. Then in 1920 the coffins were taken out of Russia through Harbin all the way to Beijing, where they were interred in St. Seraphim Church, which in those days was located at the Russian Orthodox cemetery, just outside the city wall.

In 1938 the remains were exhumed from St Seraphim Church and transferred to the crypt of the Church of All Holy Martyrs located on the grounds of the Russian Mission. After the property of the Mission was transferred over to the Soviet Embassy, the Church of All Holy Martyrs was destroyed along with the rest of the mission property in 1957 by the Soviets closing the three hundred year old Russian Orthodox Mission in China.

According to some information, the remains were once again removed from the grounds of the Russian Mission and reburied in the Russian Orthodox cemetery. Since the government of the USSR didn't show any interest in the preservation of the Russian cemetery in Beijing, the Chinese authorities destroyed it in the 1980s.

Therefore the exact location of their graves is not exactly know, however, according to the Chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion, the two possible locations are either the grounds of the Russian Embassy where the former Russian Mission once stood, or the grounds of the former Russian cemetery, which was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and is now a city park.

On May 12th, His Holiness visited the site of the Church of All Holy Martyrs where a white cross has been erected in memory of the Alapaevsk victims and Holy Royal Martyrs. Chinese officials have agreed to assist the Russian Orthodox Church with locating the Romanov remains, thanks to the efforts of the Patriarch Kirill.

Metropolitan Innokenty in front of the Church of All Holy Martyrs in March 1931

Tombs of Prince Ioann Konstantinovich, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, and Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich, in the crypt of All Holy Martyrs Church.

Source & Copyright: Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
22 May, 2013