DNA Tests Confirm Recovery of Czar Nicholas II's Two Missing Children

May 01, 2008 02:20 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Almost 90 years since Czar Nicolas II, his wife and their children were killed, the final mystery surrounding their death appears solved.

30-Second Summary

Early in the morning of July 17, 1918, the former Czar Nicolas II and his family were woken by their Bolshevik captors and told to descend to the basement.

Once the 11 Romanovs were assembled beneath the house, in Yekaterinburg, Russia, they were shot by firing squad.

By gruesome misfortune, the suffering of the girls and their mother was prolonged by the many jewels hidden in their corsets, which deflected the bullets and protracted their death.

The family’s final resting place was unknown, until investigators discovered 9 of the 11 bodies in 1979. Under Soviet rule, this was sensitive information, and it was not until 1991 that the graves were opened and DNA analysis identified the remains as the Romanovs.

This summer, two more bodies, thought to be Crown Prince Alexei and one daughter—possibly the much mythologized Anastasia, impersonated by no fewer than 10 pretenders since her death—were recovered nearby the first grave. DNA tests completed in the United States confirmed April 30 that the fragments belong to Alexei and his sister Maria, not Anastasia.

By hiding the family's bodies, the Bolsheviks sought to prevent the remains being revered by counterrevolutionaries. In that they have finally failed. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Czar Nicolas and his family, who became “passion bearers,” the lowest rank of saint. And, in 2003, a church dedicated to their memory was consecrated on the ground where they were murdered.

Coinciding with the discovery of the second grave in November 2007, the importance of the Romanovs’ fate was stressed before the Russian Supreme Court in a legal action that tried, and failed, to win judicial exoneration for the hapless royals.

To some Russians, that ruling is emblematic of their modern government’s reluctance to distance itself from the Communist past.

Headline Links: The Romanov grave and the Supreme Court

Background: The Romanovs’ posthumous history and their execution

Historical Context: Russia

Key Players: Nicolas, Anastasia and Rasputin

Czar Nicolas II (1868–1918)
Grand Duchess Anastasia (1901–1918)

Of all the czar’s family, none has exercised such a hold on the popular imagination as his 17-year-old daughter Anastasia, who has been impersonated more times than any of her relatives. No fewer than 10 claimants have declared themselves to be Anastasia since her family were murdered in 1918.
The Pretenders
Grigory Rasputin (1872–1916)

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines