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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Petersburg Is Proper Place For Last Tsar




With a presidential commission's recommendation last week that the remains of Nicholas II, Russia's last tsar, and some of his family and servants be buried in St. Petersburg in July, the end to one of Russia's most tragic sagas may finally be in sight.


The commission, headed by First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, decided Friday to urge President Boris Yeltsin to order the burial of the remains of Nicholas, his wife, Alexandra, and three of their five children in St. Petersburg on July 17, the 80th anniversary of their murders by a Bolshevik firing squad in Yekaterinburg.


First, the commission's goal was to rule on whether the bones found in Yekaterinburg in 1991 were indeed those of the royal family and their servants. Confronted with three separate findings confirming with DNA evidence that the remains were those of the murdered Romanovs, the commission agreed, issuing a verdict that will hopefully be enough to convince skeptical clerics of the Orthodox Church, who will meet later this month to take up the issue, and the Russian public. To that end, the commission should publish the scientific findings and the minutes of its own deliberations.


The next issue was when and where to bury the remains. The commissioners made the right decision on both counts.


The "when" of burial was not so tough. The commission discussed two dates -- the Orthodox Christian Forgiveness Sunday, which falls on March 1, and July 17, the anniversary of the family's execution. Because any funeral is likely to involve elaborate preparations and the invitation of Europe's royal families, many of whom will need time to clear their schedules, the commission's endorsement of July 17 makes the most sense.


But the "where" has become the subject of a political tug-of-war between the federal government, which has always leaned toward interring the remains in the family's ancestral burial place at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg regional Governor Eduard Rossel,w ho wants to build a cathedral on the site of the execution and bury the family there, and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov who is pushing his hometown. In voting overwhelmingly for a St. Petersburg burial, the commissioners have endorsed the idea of restoring dignity to the family.


The burial will have no effect on several side issues that have sometimes clouded the debate. Whether the Orthodox Church decides to canonize the family does not have to be settled before the burial and should not be used to slow the royal remains' interment.