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DNA identifies bones of last tsar's missing children

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://news.scotsman.com/latestnews/DNA-identifies-bones-of-last.4038316.jp DNA identifies bones of last tsar s missing children Published Date: 01 May 2008 By
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 30, 2008

      DNA identifies bones of last tsar's missing children

      Published Date: 01 May 2008
      By Catrina Stewart
      in Moscow

      SCIENTISTS have confirmed that the remains of two
      bodies dug up in Russia last year belong to two
      children of Tsar Nicholas II, who was
      assassinated along with his family in 1918,
      bringing to a close one of the most intriguing
      chapters in 20th-century Russian history.
      Until last year, the bodies of Crown Prince
      Alexei, the tsarevich, and Grand Duchess Maria
      were the only two remaining members of the
      Russian royal family still to be discovered.

      "We received full confirmation that (the remains]
      do belong to the tsar's children," Eduard Rossel,
      the governor of the Sverdlovsk region, said at a press briefing on Wednesday.

      "We have now found the whole family," he said,
      adding that the forensic tests on their DNA were
      carried out in the United States.

      The bodies of Alexei, who was 13 at the time of
      his death, and his sister Maria, 19, were
      recovered at a site near Yekaterinburg, the
      regional capital of Sverdlovsk, last summer.

      Regional officials said at the time that the
      remains consisted of 44 fragments, lending
      credibility to the theory that they were the two
      missing Romanov children, murdered by the
      Bolsheviks along with the rest of their family in 1918.

      Archaeologists also found seven teeth, three
      bullets and a fragment of clothing.

      The Bolsheviks seized power in 1917 during the
      Russian Revolution and imprisoned the Imperial Family.

      The following July, Bolshevik guards shot Tsar
      Nicholas, Empress Alexandra Fedorovna and their
      five children in Yekaterinburg on Lenin's orders.

      For decades, the remains of the Romanovs were
      undiscovered. It was not until 1991 that a mass
      grave was uncovered near Yekaterinburg,
      containing nine bodies, five of which were
      believed to be the remains of the Romanov family.
      The other four were said to be servants and the family doctor.

      DNA testing later confirmed that the remains were
      those of the Romanovs, although some scientists
      have questioned the conclusions.

      The bodies of the tsar, the tsarina and three of
      their children – Anastasia, Olga and Tatiana –
      were given a state burial in the imperial crypt
      of the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in 1998.

      But the absence of two of the family members led
      to speculation that they may have survived the executions.

      One of the most intriguing mysteries surrounding
      the Romanov family was the fate of Anastasia, the
      tsar's youngest daughter. Rumours that she might
      have escaped in 1918 were further fuelled by
      eyewitness reports that secret police had made
      house and train searches for an Anastasia Romanov after the murders.

      Decades later, the rumour gained currency after
      reports that two sets of remains were missing from the first mass grave.

      Several people have come forward claiming to be
      Anastasia, including the late Anna Anderson, who
      asserted until her death in 1984 that she was the
      daughter of the last tsar. Subsequent DNA testing
      on Ms Anderson's tissue proved her claims to be false.

      But experts warned that it was premature to
      accept the scientists' results as definitive. The
      US and Russian researchers have yet to make their
      final report, while parallel studies are being
      carried out in Innsbruck, Austria, and in a military institute in the US.

      "There has been a lot of difficulty with these
      bones," said Peter Sarandaniki, the president and
      founder of Search, a US-based foundation
      dedicated to investigating the fates of the
      Romanov children. "Some of them were burnt… and work is still being done."

      "We can't confirm (these results] until all the
      independent labs have completed testing," Mr Sarandaniki said.

      The final results are expected to be made public late this month or early June.

      "If positive, we will have determined that we
      have the remains of the royal family… and
      hopefully close a very sad chapter in Russian history," said Mr Sarandaniki.

      The Russian Orthodox Church, which played down
      its role in the 1998 state burials, has refrained
      from recognising the findings as long as scientists are divided on the issue.

      The discoveries last summer refuelled the debate
      among scientists and the Church over whether the
      bones found earlier are the genuine remains of
      the Romanov family. The Church has been cautious
      in accepting the latest findings, the preliminary
      conclusions of which were first made public in
      January. "I hope the Church will participate in
      the process (of confirming the identities] and
      give them the honourable burial they deserve," Mr Sarandaniki added.

      A representative for Grand Duchess Maria
      Vladimirovna, the self-declared heir to Russia's
      throne, said she would not make a judgment on the
      authenticity of the new remains until the Church made its position clear.

      Orthodox clerics in Yekaterinburg said they were
      not ready to make a decision on the remains. "The
      position of the head of… Grand Duchess Maria
      Vladimirovna is that the last word must be with
      the head of the Russian Orthodox Church," said
      Alexander Zakatov, the head of the chancellery of
      Russia's self-styled Imperial House.

      He added: "It is essential to be very careful so
      that the results are understandable to the whole of society."


      THE Tsarevich – the heir apparent – of Russia,
      Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov, was one of the more
      tragic figures of Russian history.

      The youngest child and only son of Tsar Nicholas
      II, Alexei suffered from haemophilia, the genetic
      condition that impairs the body's ability to control blood clotting.

      The disorder was widespread among European
      royalty descended from Queen Victoria – Alexei's great-grandmother.

      In desperation to treat his illness, his mother
      turned to the religious mystic Grigori Rasputin,
      a move which some historians contend helped bring
      about the end of the Russian royal house.

      In 1905, Alexei sustained a bruise after falling
      off a horse and suffered internal bleeding for
      days. Rasputin was summoned to help.

      His prayers and advice seemed to work and
      Rasputin became a powerful influence over the
      Romanovs, to the extent that he regulated access to the Tsar himself.

      Rasputin's influence over the royal family was
      used against him and the Romanovs by politicians
      and journalists who wanted to weaken the dynasty.


      Case closed: Last of Romanovs died at Yekaterinburg

      By Shaun Walker in Moscow
      Thursday, 1 May 2008

      DNA tests have confirmed that remains found last
      year are those of two of the last Tsar's
      children, executed by a firing squad in 1918.

      The announcement by the Russian authorities puts
      an end to decades of speculation about the
      possible escape of one or more of Nicholas II's
      children, and should close the final chapter of
      the Romanov dynasty, which ruled Russia from 1613
      until the February Revolution of 1917.

      Eduard Rossel, the governor of Sverdlovsk region,
      where the royal family was killed, said that bone
      fragments found in the region last summer had
      been examined by a US-based laboratory, and the
      results gave "full confirmation" that the remains
      came from Prince Alexei and the Grand Duchess
      Maria. "Now we have the whole family," he told
      journalists in the city of Yekaterinburg.

      The Tsar and his family were held under house
      arrest after the Bolshevik Revolution, and were
      executed on 17 July 1918, as the Russian Civil
      War raged and the Bolshevik forces feared that a
      living tsar gave the counter-revolutionary Whites
      a rallying point. The bodies were doused in acid and buried in a pit.

      The family was demonised and then forgotten
      during the Soviet period, but interest rekindled
      after the Soviet Union fell. In 1991, excavations
      uncovered the bodies of Nicholas II, the last
      tsar, his wife Alexandra, and three of their four
      daughters. They were buried in a ceremony at the
      Peter and Paul Fortress in St Petersburg in 1998,
      80 years after their execution.

      At that time, the bodies of Alexei, the Tsar's
      haemophiliac son and the heir to the Russian
      throne, and his sister Maria were not found,
      leading to further theories about one or more of
      the Tsar's children managing to escape.

      Several women came forward in the 20th century
      claiming to be the Tsar's daughter, Grand Duchess
      Anastasia Nikolaevna, who has now been confirmed
      among the dead family members. But now that all
      the bodies have been found, it seems that the
      only debate left is over the historical legacy of
      the tsarist regime. Many historians have claimed
      that Nicholas's ineffective leadership and the
      bizarre personality of his wife contributed to the downfall of his dynasty.

      The Empress Alexandra was born in Germany and was
      a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She became
      unpopular among the Russian people, partly
      because of her German origins and her closeness
      to the notorious "mad monk", Grigory Rasputin.

      But the tsarist system has undergone a partial
      rehabilitation in recent years, with the Russian
      Orthodox Church canonising Nicholas II and his
      family in 2000. Building work has started on the
      first church to be named after Prince Alexei, in
      the southern Russian town of Gorodovikovsk. The
      local archbishop said at the blessing of new
      church's foundation stone, that the young prince
      had been killed "godlessly and mercilessly".

      A ceremony will be held in Russia to mark the 90th anniversary of the deaths.
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