Bodies of Grand Dukes Found
at Peter and Paul Fortress?

The bodies of 16 persons have been unearthed at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg.
Scientists speculate that 4 of them may be those of the grand dukes shot by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1919


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Representatives of the Russian Imperial House and the Russian Orthodox Church have called for a “full and honest” investigation into remains that were discovered this winter at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg. Experts believe that the remains are those of victims of the Red Terror, including the four Romanov grand dukes, who were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1919.

In late December 2009, a mass grave containing the remains of 16 people was discovered near the ramparts of the Golovkina Bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress. The grave was discovered during construction work in preparation for a parking lot for tourist buses of the famous St. Petersburg landmark.

Other items found with the remains include shells from at least two different types of guns, remnants of clothing, buttons and several well-preserved gold items, including, an Orthodox cross with enamels and a pilgrimage medal. A silver medal of St. Andrew was also found, these were usually given to naval officers at the dedication of a warship ceremony.

Vladimir Kyuldishevskogo, an archaeologist at the Institute of History of Cultural Sciences, said, "To say that the remains belong to the grand dukes, who, according to historical records, were executed is impossible at this stage."

"The finds and their characteristics prove that the victims were shot at the end of 19th to early 20th century. Judging by the nature of the grave and its relatively shallow depth, it is evident that the tomb was excavated in winter, in a very strong cold – he said.

A winter grave - is a very important piece of evidence, as the four grand dukes, who were shot in the Peter and Paul Fortress, died in January, and their remains had never been found.

The remains have been sent to a regional laboratory, where a group consisting of archaeologists, historians and criminologists will carry out a full investigation including forensic examinations. Each procedure is expected to cost 2 million roubles for each of the remains.

Opinion of the Russian Imperial House

During an interview with RIA Novosti, Alexander Zakatov, Director of the Office of the Russian Imperial House, said: "Part of the remains may belong to those of the Grand Dukes Paul Alexandrovich, Dmitry Konstantinovich, Georgy and Nikolai Mikhailovich Romanov, who were executed in the fortress during the Red Terror on the 24th of January 1919."

According to him, "this is still only a hypothesis, to say that something can be definite only after a comprehensive examination would be misleading. Today, science is changing rapidly, and research methods, too - those that have recently considered the latest, today might already be obsolete," - said Zakatov.

Moreover, he noted, it is not simply the identification of the remains, but also their recognition as "holy relics", since three of the aforementioned Grand Dukes (Pavel, Dmitri Konstantinovich and Georgi Mikhailovich), were canonized by the Russian Church Abroad, "and after its reunification with the Moscow Patriarchate are considered locally venerated saints in the very least."

"The Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna (Head of the Russian Imperial House), is watching closely what happens to the remains discovered, and calls for openness and honesty - to ensure that such matters do not result in a political show, and seeks to establish the truth, subject to honesty and openness" - said the head of the Office of the House of Romanov.

In the first place, he said, “all legal and procedural rules must be respected, and that when all the fine details of the remains are recorded, when all are photographed and logged - that no one has any doubts."

"In addition to genetic examination, you must still install all the historical circumstances, to avoid any possible falsification", - he emphasized.

About the Yekaterinburg Remains

He recalled that the Russian Imperial House does not recognize the remains as those belonging to Nicholas II and his family found near Yekaterinburg and previously buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg in July 1998.

"In relation to all human remains that were discovered near Yekaterinburg, the position of the Russian Imperial House coincides with the position of the Russian Orthodox Church - in that there are insufficient grounds to absolutely say that the remains are genuine," - said the head of the Office of the Imperial House.

He explained that "it was not given satisfactory answers to 10 questions posed by Patriarch Alexy II, and the decision to terminate a criminal investigation into the remains found near Yekaterinburg on January 15, 2009. Much of the investigation was considered ‘classified.’ "

"This made it impossible for even Maria Vladimirovna, the nearest relative, to read it. This suggests that the investigation was not as smooth as was trying to be presented", - he said.

"There is no legitimate reason not to allow the descendants of the tsar and his family to have full access to this information, there is, therefore, it is the tyranny of bureaucrats" - added the office.

On behalf of the Russian Imperial House, Zakatov disagreed with a statement of the Prosecutor General to dismiss a criminal case. "In this formulation,” he said, "we ignored the decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Court from 1 October 2008, which revealed that Emperor Nicholas II and his family were not victims of a criminal offense, and the political repression of the totalitarian regime."

"We believe that the legal position of the State Prosecutor's Office should not contradict the position of the Supreme Court" – he added.

The Russian Imperial House, he said, believes that "this case should be investigated to the end" and that further research into the Yekaterinburg remains is needed, because "neither the Romanov dynasty, nor the Church are convinced that the remains buried in the cathedral are those of the royal family."

"In 1998, the remains were buried in the ancestral shrine of the Romanovs in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in defiance of the Church and the Russian Imperial House. It is obvious that in 1998 that there was a hurry to establish the authenticity of the commission and to bury the remains of it by a specific date – the 80th anniversary of the regicide, as was the norm during Soviet times. None of the bishops of the ROC were present at the ceremony, and the priests commemorated the victims of terror, not by name, "- said Zakatov.

Views of the Russian Orthodox Church

Commenting on the rising controversy about the origin of the remains recently found in the Peter and Paul Fortress, the head of the Synodal Department on the Relationship of Church and Society, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin said that "undoubtedly, the issue needs further study.

"The course of the investigation and the results should be detailed and that the representatives of the Church should be informed," - he stressed.

"And because it is the victims of the unjust and, perhaps, about the people who left an important mark in Russia's history, the study of this issue, in my opinion, should be done honestly with the willingness to develop a broad public discussion of the results of this study," - he concluded.

Alexander Kolyakin, Director of the State Museum of History St. Petersburg, who oversee the Peter and Paul Fortress, said: "The discovery of a mass grave in the Peter and Paul Fortress, for me, quite frankly, is embarrassing. To build a parking lot for buses on what was a mass grave seems indecent; it will seem that we have desecrated the memory of the victims.”

Natalya Petrova, a leading researcher at the State Museum of History St. Petersburg said, "in our understanding, in general, this area was very convenient for executions. That is to say that from this side - the wall from this side - the wall on the other side, too, you see nothing. The fortress was a military installation, and there are no roads, like today.”

Ironically, a memorial plaque, dedicated to the four grand dukes was recently erected (see video above) in the Grand Ducal Burial Chapel of the Peter and Paul Cathedral. Scientists are almost certain that the discovery of the grave may at last reveal the secret.

Compiled by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
Source: NTV and RIA Novosti
22 February, 2010