Saturday, March 10, 2018
The Last Czar
I came across a news article…actually, it was a couple of years ago…about the Russian government's desire to reunite the remains of their last imperial family in one place—the czar, czarina, and their five children. However, the mission was not without roadblocks, namely the need to satisfy skeptics about the validity of all the remains.
On September 23, 2015, Russian investigators exhumed the body of Czar Nicholas Romanov II and his wife, Alexandra, as part of an investigation into the family's death one hundred years ago—in 1918. It's part of the ongoing attempt to confirm the remains really belong to Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children. Some of the family's remains were tested in the early 1990s (the early days of DNA testing) with the results being that the scientists were pretty confident that it's really them. The remains exhumed at that time included the czar, his wife, three of their children, and several servants. Two of the children, Alexei and Maria, were unaccounted for at that time. But the officials weren't able to convince the Russian Orthodox Church about the authenticity of the remains.
The church officials have not come out with their exact reasons for doubt. There had been some discussion about the Romanov family having been canonized in 2000 which made the remains holy relics which required a different way of treating them. In general, church leaders say they just aren't convinced. The church's approval is important for bringing the family's remains together.
The church did, somewhat reluctantly, allow the family's remains to be interred in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg where most of Russia's other czars are buried. But the church still had not accepted the family's identities in spite of the fact that several rounds of DNA testing had occurred.
In 2007 another burial site was located containing the remains of a young man and a young woman. More DNA testing confirmed they were Alexei and Maria. Those remains, however, were left sitting on a shelf because the Russian Orthodox Church balked at the idea of adding them to the family tomb. The church says it believes the family's remains were destroyed and won't change their position until they are 100 percent sure in spite of the DNA confirmation.
In February 2016 the church once again blocked the reuniting of the remains. Currently, the most prevalent explanation is that the church hierarchy wants to avoid the decision because either choice would alienate key factions. Rejecting the bones will anger some Orthodox adherents, particularly those outside Russia, while accepting them will incense a conservative domestic faction that believes the Soviet government somehow faked the original burial at the time they died and those aren't the real remains of Czar Nicholas II and his family.
And the entire effort remains in limbo.