Orthodox Faithful Remember Execution of the Tsar's Family

ReutersOrthodox believers crawling under an icon of Tsar Nicholas II at a procession Wednesday in Yekaterinburg to commemorate his execution. Story, Page 2.
A descendant of Tsar Nicholas II called for formal recognition that his slain family were victims of Communist-era oppression Wednesday as church ceremonies commemorated 90 years since their murder.

Russian Orthodox churches nationwide were holding services and processions Wednesday and Thursday to commemorate the canonized tsar and his wife and children.

Nicholas II abdicated in 1917 as revolutionary fervor swept Russia, and he and his family were detained. They were shot by a Bolshevik firing squad early on July 17, 1918, in the basement of the house where they were being held in Yekaterinburg.

Prince Dmitry Romanov, a descendant of the former ruling family, told Ekho Moskvy radio that he and other relatives were hoping for the family's rehabilitation.

"I think this must be done," Romanov said.

Russia's courts have thwarted efforts for such recognition in rulings that human rights activists say fit in with the Kremlin's reluctance to confront the crimes of Russia's Soviet past.

Investigators marked the anniversary by repeating their confirmation that bone and tooth fragments found in a shallow grave in Yekaterinburg a year ago are those of the tsar's 13-year-old heir, Crown Prince Alexei, and one of his daughters, Grand Duchess Maria.

The Russian Orthodox Church has expressed doubts about the accuracy of the scientific findings identifying the remains as those of the royal family.

"The remains that were found belong to Alexei and Maria. We can say that with certainty," Vladimir Solovyov, a senior investigator with the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, told a news conference in Yekaterinburg.

The remains of Nicholas, his wife Empress Alexandra and three daughters including the youngest, Anastasia, were unearthed in Yekaterinburg in 1991 — the year the Soviet Union collapsed — and later reburied in St. Petersburg.