Romanov Remains ReexaminedThe Russian Orthodox Church has called for the latest round of DNA tests on the remains of the Russian royal family.
The remains of five members of the Romanov family were first discovered in a forest outside Yekaterinburgin 1976, but the find was kept secret until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The remains were exhumed, and in 1994 DNA tests confirmed that the remains were those of Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, three of their daughters (Anastasia, Tatiana, and Olga), and four household servants. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence presented by an international panel of forensic experts, the Russian Orthodox Church rejected the findings.
Many believed that the matter had been settled when the remains were given a state funeral and reinterred in the crypt of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul in St. Petersburg in 1998.
In 2007 the remains of Maria, the tsar’s second youngest daughter, and Alexis, his only son and heir, were found a short distance from the first burial site. DNA tests confirmed the authenticity of the remains the following year, but doubts persisted, particularly within the Russian Orthodox Church.
In September 2015, at the urging of the church, the criminal investigation into the murder of the Romanovs was officially reopened, and a fresh round of scientific testing was initiated. At stake was the status of the remains of Maria and Alexis and whether the church would allow them to be reburied in the family crypt in St. Petersburg.
The repeated exhumation of the royal remains for identification purposes divided the surviving branches of the Romanov line, whose members had achieved increased political prominence within a Russia attempting to reconnect with an era of imperial glory.
The renewed interest in the Romanovs led some Russian lawmakers to suggest that special legal status should be extended to members of the family who returned to Russia. As a further enticement, it was proposed that returning members of the family would be given official residence in Romanov palaces, including one in Crimea, the Ukrainian autonomous republic forcibly annexed by Moscow in 2014.
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