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16 Jul, 2008 20:55

DNA confirms Tsar’s family remains

DNA results have confirmed that remains found near Ekaterinburg a year ago belong to Prince Aleksey and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna of the Romanov family. The announcement comes on the 90th anniversary of the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.

On Wednesday, church services are being held across Russia to remember the tragic event.

The last Tsar of Russia and his family were shot in the early hours of July 17 1918, less than two years after the abdication of Nicholas II, in the Urals city of Ekaterinburg.

The bodies of the Royal Family were stripped and burned. After a failed attempt to conceal them in a mineshaft, they were taken to a nearby field, drenched in acid and buried.

“This was one of the greatest crimes in the history of humanity. This was not just an attempt to kill a family, but destroy Russia itself, and Russia paid the price with its subsequent history, because the Bolsheviks had acted without legitimacy,” said historian Pyotr Multatuli.

This is the most common account of the death of Nicholas II and his wife and five children. But many facts in this story are contested.

The death of the Royal Family was the start of a 90-year mystery that has spawned hundreds of alleged survivors – only in Europe 147 people claimed to be survived ‘children’ of Nicholas II. There were dozens of archaeological digs and many theories, some well researched, others wildly speculative.

Within a year after the death, those claiming to be the slain Tsar's children cropped up. The most famous is Anna Anderson, who spent her life in a legal battle to prove she was in fact Princess Anastasia.

The Soviet authorities covered up the executioners accounts. The house where the family was killed was pulled down.

Amateur archaeologist and historian Aleksandr Avdonin, who’s been piecing together information with his team, claims they recovered the bodies of Nicholas II and others in 1979. But they would be arrested if anyone found out, and they then reburied them.

When the USSR collapsed in 1991, the team returned to the site, and this time the remains were submitted for DNA testing. While most experts said the bones belong to the royals, the Russian Orthodox Church and many historians remained unconvinced.

A year ago further remains supposedly belonging to Crown Prince Aleksey and his sister were recovered just yards from the first site. But the now solved mystery of their authenticity is not the most important thing.

“We must recognise and accept what happened here. And the Russian authorities must make every effort to condemn this slaughter, if it sees itself not just as the heir to the USSR, but to the regimes before it,” believes Petr Multatuli.