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In search of lost Romanovs

Amid recent discoveries, authorities will re-examine the deaths of Russia's last czar and his family.

Published August 25, 2007


MOSCOW - Prosecutors said Friday that they have reopened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the last Russian czar and his family nearly 90 years ago after an archaeologist said the remains of Nicholas II's son and heir to the throne may have been found.

The announcement of the investigation, while a routine matter, signaled that the government may be taking seriously the claims announced Thursday by Yekaterinburg researcher Sergei Pogorelov.

Pogorelov said bones found in a burned area of ground near Yekaterinburg belong to a boy and a young woman roughly the ages of Nicholas' 13-year-old hemophiliac son, Alexei, and a daughter whose remains also never were found.

Yekaterinburg is the Urals Mountain city where Nicholas, his wife, Alexandra, and their five children were held prisoner and then shot in 1918.

If confirmed, the find would fill in a missing chapter in the story of the doomed Romanovs, whose reign was ended by the violent 1917 Bolshevik Revolution that ushered in more than 70 years of communist rule.

The find comes almost a decade after remains identified as those of Nicholas and Alexandra and three of their daughters were reburied in a ceremony in the imperial-era capital of St. Petersburg. The ceremony, however, was shadowed by doubt about their authenticity.

The spot where the remains were found appears to correspond to a site in a written description by Yakov Yurovsky, the leader of the family's killers, according to Pogorelov, an archaeologist.

"An anthropologist has determined that the bones belong to two young individuals - a young male he found was aged roughly 10 to 13 and a young woman about 18 to 23," he told a television station.

Testing, which is expected to include DNA matching, will probably not settle the matter. The leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church has never fully acknowledged that the remains of the czar were discovered in 1991, even though extensive DNA tests appeared to prove their authenticity.

And church leadership expressed skepticism about the new find on Friday.

Historians say guards lined up and shot the royal family and four attendants in the basement of a nobleman's house. The bodies were loaded onto a truck and initially dumped in a mine shaft but were later moved, according to most accounts.

The Bolsheviks mutilated and hid the bodies because they did not want the remains - especially Alexei's - to become a shrine or rallying point for anti-Bolshevik forces.

The Russian Orthodox Church canonized Nicholas, Alexandra, Alexei and his four sisters as martyrs in 2000.

Information from the New York Times was used in this report.

[Last modified August 24, 2007, 23:11:49]

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