Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
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Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Gueli Riabov
     During many years, Romanov execution was a taboo subject in USSR. In 1976, Gueli Riabov, a Moscovit producer passing through Sverdlovsk visited Ipatiev house some months before its destruction. From that moment, he became obsessed with finding out the location where the Czar and his family had been buried.

     To this end, he met a local ethnographer named Alexander Avdonin known to be also interested in Romanov subject. Avdonin was born in the city and during his childwood, had the opportunity to meet Piotr Ermakov, one of Romanov executor, as well as several other people involved in the Romanov family's execution.
    

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Alexander Avdonin
     Riabov persuaded Avdonin to help him in his attempt to recover the Romanovs remains and the two men started working.

     Having his communist party card and working in a ministry, Riabov had an easy access to archives. So, he was in charge of collecting information and, as for Riabov, he explorated Iekaterinburg woods and made geological search to find out the grave.

     During their search, thanks to Riabov's relations, the two men succeded in meeting one son of Yakov Yurovsky, the main bolshevick executor. Alexander Yurovsky gave them a document known from that moment as 'Yurovsky's note'. This document was then an unpublished essay on the execution and the destruction of the bodies. This essay had been read by his father, on February, 1934 during a meeting of former locals bolshevicks.

     In this 4 page text, Yakov Yurovsky told that on july 19, 1918, 2 days after the execution, their truck, with the Romanovs' bodies had stalled near a level crossing. So they had decided to bury the bodies here, under wood pieces given by the gate-keeper to take their truck out of the mud.

     However, Riabov had read judge Sokolov's book in which the stalled truck incident was mentioned with the gate-keeper's testimony. (You can read it in chapter 20 of the French edition of the book). So, Riabov wondered whether the Romanovs' bodies could have been buried here.

     With maps, Avdonin, Riabov and friends localized first the pit mine where Yurovsky's men had first throw the Romanov's bodies. The wood fence raised around the pit mine by Sokolov investigators in 1919 was still there. Nothing had moved and they even recovered on ground a lot of pieces of clothes and objects remains of this period.
    Near the level-crossing then, drilling samples in earth allowed them to localise the wood pieces Yurovsky's note was talking about.

     On May 30, 1979, they removed earth and the wood pieces, and, to a depth of 0,8 m, found skeletons. Quickly, they dug up 3 skulls and stopped the hole. But, fearing they could be discovered, they decided, after taking photos of the skulls, to bury them again in the same place.

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Draft of skeletons position in the grave :
(1: Demidova - 2: Dr Botkin - 3: Olga -
4: Nkolai - 5: Maria - 6: Tatiana -
7: Aleksandra - 8: Kharitonov - 9: Trupp)

     Riabov, Avdonin and their friends kept their discovery secret during 10 years. They said they had expected until political context of USSR would allow them to reveal their discovery.
     In April 1989, after political changes of Perestroika by Gorbatchev, Riabov decided, against Avdonin opinion who thought it was still to early, to reveal their discovery.
Riabov made it first through an interview published in a Muskovite newspaper, then in an article in "Rodina" magazine saying he knew where the Romanov's bodies were buried. But, in the draft of the place published, he didn't mention the precise burial place but moved it about 500 meters so that people could not find it.

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Skeletons exhumation

     It was a wise precaution because a few days after the release of the articles, mechanical diggers and trucks dug four enormous holes at the place he had mentioned in his article and carried away earth to an unknown place...
     In spite of the "earthquake" caused first by the   revelations of Riabov, Gorbatchev and Russian authorities of that time, seemed not to be very interested by the discovery.
    Avdonin which did not agree with Riabov's revelation ended his collaboration with him and each of the two men created his own association in order to finance the bodies exhumation and the survey of Romanov's remains.

 

   A first investigation of the skulls was made by Sergueï Abramov, a Muscovit medical expert who concluded that the skulls were those of Nikolai II, Alexei and Anastasia.

    In March 1991, Riabov succeeded in getting Boris Yeltsin's support and finding money to finance the bodies exhumation from the communist governor of Kouzbass region; AG Touléiev.
  A team of archaeologists, jurists and scientists started working on the burial site on July 11 of 1991 and discovered about 1000 bone fragments but only 9 skulls whereas 11 people had been murdered.

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Romanov's remains

 

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
photographic
superimposition

 

      In fact, according to Yurosky's note, 2 bodies had been burned separately but in spite of numerous investigations made to find them, they are still missing, which feeds theories that two children could have survived.
      These remains were first stored in the shooting stall of Verkh-Issetsk in order to be studied.
      Few day after, on 18 July, of 1991, Romanovs' remains discovery was announced all over the world.
     Using photographic superimposition, Russian scientists started skeletons identification and first concluded that Alexei's and Maria's bodies were missing.
     Then, another American forensic team led by William Maples, of the University of Florida, arrived at Yekaterinburg on July 25, 1992. By analysing the dental and bone specimens, they concluded that the missing daughter was Anastasia.
Skeleton # Sex Age Size Abramov conclusion Mapple conclusion
1 F 40-50 161-168 Demidova
2 M 50-60 171-177 Botkin
3 F 20-24 158-165 Olga
4 M 45-55 165-170 Nikolai
5 F ~20 166-171 Tatiana Maria
6 F ~20 162-171 Anastasia Tatiana
7 F 45-50 163-168 Aleksandra
8 M? 40-50 ? Kharitonov
9 M +60 172-181 Trupp
Missing bodies -> Alexei and Maria Alexei and Anastasia

Identifications results comparison
of Abramov and Mapple teams

     The following summer, a Russian expert on DNA tests, Pavel Ivanov, announced that DNA tests on the bones would be conducted in collaboration with Peter Gill, at the British Forensic Science Service. They performed nuclear and mitochondrial (mt) DNA tests on nine bone samples.
     These tests made it possible to identify the filiation between skeletons of the Czarina and the daughters. The English gathered also DNA samples from living relatives of the Czar and Czarina (including Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh). When the team compared DNA samples from the bones thought to be those of Nikolai with DNA from two living relatives they discovered an unusual mismatch.
     The Russian government and the Russian Orthodox Church required further evidence at this point, so investigators exhumed the body of Georgiy Romanov, a younger brother of Nikolai's who had died of tuberculosis in 1899. Georgij's DNA indicated the same feature – heteroplasmy – as the last Czar. Experts hailed the discovery as proof of the identity of the bones, saying the disease probably died out in later generations of the family.

     In July 1993, Gill and Ivanovs estimated the probability of the remains belonging to the Romanov as being 98.5%.

 
     Once the commission, headed by Boris Nemtsov, had accepted the bones as authentic (But the patriarch of the Orthodox church of Russia still denies the authenticity of the bones), the next step was to determine where the Romanovs' remains could be burried.


     Yekaterinburg claimed the right as the city where the execution took place, Moscow based its claim on its status of capital of the new Russian Federation. Eventually, it was the former Czarist capital, St. Petersburg, which was chosen.

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Romanov burial on July, 17 of 1998

 

Ipatiev House - Romanov Memorial - The tragic end of the last Czar of Russia
Boris Yeltsin and his wife during the ceremony

 

     Exactly 80 years after their execution by bolshevicks in Ipatiev house, on July 17 of 1998, the last Czar of Russia and his family were buried in the crypt of St Petersburg's St Peter and Paul Cathedral.

     Addressing the burial ceremony, President Boris Yeltsin described the murder of Romanov as one of the most shameful pages in Russian history and urged Russians to close a "bloody century" with repentance.

     11 years after having been in charge of the destruction of the place of their death, Russian president welcomed Romanov family in their last home…

     The discovery of the Romanov family and relatives supposed bodies, in 1991, their DNA identification and burial allowed to invalidate many survivalist theories.
     However, the missing bodies of Alexei and Maria continued to feed numerous theories regarding their possible rescue.
     It could be also supposed, that the missing bodies, which, according to the Yurovsky note, have been buried away from the other body existed and could eventually be found in the future.

    
Then in 1991, the SEARCH foundation (for Scientific Expedition to Account for the Romanov Children) was created by Captain Peter Sarandinaki to find the two missing bodies and performed since 1998 several excavations around the first pit mine to find them.

     It was in July 2007, 29th, that a new excavation campaign initiated by members of another Iekaterinburg local association allowed to find 44 fragments of bone and teeth, buried 70 meters from the first grave near the Koptyaki road.
 


Map of the two graves location near the Koptyaki road.
 

     In December 2008, their DNA testing allowed to certify they belonged to the two missing bodies of Tsarevich Alexei and his sister Maria. Of course, despite these ultimate finding and identification, many people continue to doubt about these results and believe that one or more people has survived the cellar room killing and was able to escape. So, the most fanciful survivalists theories seem to have still good times ahead!

 

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