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
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.
Riabov persuaded Avdonin
to help him in his attempt to recover the Romanovs remains and the two men started
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 This document was then an unpublished essay on the execution and the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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
Alexei and Maria
Alexei and Anastasia
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.
Romanov burial on July, 17 of 1998
Boris Yeltsin and his wife during the
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
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!