Holy Synod to discuss Ekaterinburg Remains next month

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Monument to Nicholas II and his family, Church on the Blood, Ekaterinburg

This article has been researched and written from Russian media sources by Royal Russia Founder Paul Gilbert © 2018

His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will hold a meeting of the Holy Synod in Ekaterinburg from July 14 to 17. 

Will the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) finally make an announcement on the Ekaterinburg remains? The visiting session of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will take place during the Tsar’s Days marking the 100th anniversary of the deaths and martyrdom of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. Alexander Volkov, a spokesperson for the Synodal Department for Church’s Relations with Society and Mass Media of the Moscow Patriarchate noted: “With a high degree of probability, we can say that the main topic of this meeting will be the issue of recognition of the royal remains that were discovered near Ekaterinburg.” See The Fate of the Ekaterinburg Remains by Paul Gilbert

Unrecognized remains

In 1979, on the north-western outskirts of Sverdlovsk (Ekaterinburg), the remains were found by a group headed by Ural geologist Alexander Avdonin. The find was hidden until 1991, and after the fall of the USSR the remains were excavated. In 2007, a group of archaeologists led by Sergei Pogorelov, representative of the Protection and Use of Historical and Cultural Monuments of the Sverdlovsk Region, discovered more remains near the original burial site. 

Bone fragments discovered at the so-called Porosenkov Log, according to the results of several examinations, were determined to be the remains of Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, three of their five children and four servants, who were all shot on the night of 16/17 July 1918. However, the ROC did not recognize them. The church claimed that the bodies of the Romanovs were destroyed by the Bolsheviks in the area of ​​the former mines of the Isetsky mine, which later became known as Ganina Yana. 

The distance between Porosenkov Log and Ganina Yama is only 3.8 kilometers. In 2000, the Bishops’ Council of the ROC founded the Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs, and virtually ignored the Porosenkov Log.

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Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) has great influence in the ROC

“The struggle to recognize the remains unfolded”

Scientists have confirmed the authenticity of the remains unequivocally, however, the issue of their recognition by the church has yet to be resolved. In the spring of this year, the spokesman for Patriarch Kirill noted that all visiting meetings of the Holy Synod in 2018 “will have a planned nature” and “no emergency solutions are planned.” 

However, back in October 2017, during the Dilettante Readings in Ekaterinburg, the editor-in-chief of a local radio station Alexei Venediktov, hinted at sources in the presidential administration that on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the murder of the Imperial family, “the church will recognize the Ekaterinburg remains”. The other day Venediktov wrote in his telegram channel: “The struggle for the recognition of the Imperial remains has unfolded. Kirill – against, Tikhon – for.” 

Venediktov is referring to Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov). The latter, being considered the confessor of President Vladimir Putin, is Head of the Patriarchal Council for Culture. It was under the authority of this body that the order for a new examination of the Ekaterinburg remains as a new criminal case, conducted under the supervision of the ROC was initiated. In 2015, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation was created to launch a new investigation into the deaths of the Imperial family. It should be noted that a criminal investigation had previously been carried out from 1993 to 2008, by the investigative division of the Prosecutor’s Office.

Dangerous for the patriarch

Earlier this week, the President of the Center for Political Technologies, Igor Bunin, noted a comment made by political analyst Alexei Makarkin who said: “The division of the ROC into supporters and opponents of the recognition of the Ekaterinburg remains as Holy relics is associated with specific interests.” 

“All the main public figures of the ROC understand that the remains are real. However, for Patriarch Kirill to take responsibility for such recognition – means to provoke sharp criticism in his address from the church’s extreme conservatives, who had already reacted negatively to his meeting with the pope. 

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Investigator-criminologist Vladimir Soloviev (left)

From the situation there is an end

Interlocutors note that the leadership of the country insists that the ROC recognize the Ekaterinburg remains. “[Vladimir] Putin really wants to resolve this issue and has made every effort to persuade the ROC, which continues to resist. This is not related to [presidential] elections, this is based on his idea of ​​bringing all parties to reconciliation,” stressed Igor Bunin, President of the Center for Political Technologies.  

Last year Chief Major Crimes investigator Vladimir Soloviev, who headed an investigation into the murder of the Imperial family from 1991 to 2015, explained why the ROC still resists in recognizing the Ekaterinburg remains. In his opinion, it is not so much about the disagreements on the issue that arose between the ROC and the investigation team appointed by the first president of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, but rather about the decisions taken by the hierarchs in the 1930s.  

“Since 1928, all the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR) believed that the Imperial family had been killed and their remains were burned.  Everyone was sure that the conclusions of Nikolai Sokolov, the investigator appointed by Admiral Alexander Kolchak, who was engaged in an investigation into the murder of the Tsar’s family in 1919, were correct. In the church there is a tradition: when all the hierarchs said “yes”, it is very difficult to say “no” to other hierarchs afterwards. Now, knowing the fighting nature of our patriarch, it seems that he wanted to finally understand the matter once and for all. That’s why there is a full investigation from the very beginning,” – said  Soloviev.

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The Monastery of the Holy Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama

Another question is what to do with the church complex at Ganina Yama, if the ROC admit that the remains of the Imperial family were still found elsewhere. Does this mean that all this time that the faithful prayed in the wrong place? The best possible solution will be the recognition of both places (Ganina Yama and Porosenkov Log), both sacred to believers. 

Soloviev noted: “Both these places are sacred in themselves. There lay members of the Imperial family, their murderers spilled these places in their blood. The bodies lay for a day in the Ganina Pit, and yet they lay for a long time at Porosenkov Log!”  According to the memoirs of the archaeologists who participated in 1991 in extracting the first part of the skeleton from the burial site, they failed to extract a large amount of fat from the earth that was released during the decomposition of the bodies. Thus, the soil in the area of ​​the Porosenkov Log is literally imbued with the remains of the Romanovs, ranked among the Orthodox saints by the Church. 

It can be said that in March 2016 the Russian Orthodox Church began preparations for such a development of events. At a meeting with the first vice-premier of the Sverdlovsk government Vladimir Vlasov, the metropolitan of Ekaterinburg and Verkhoturye Kirill voiced the position of believers that if the remains were nevertheless recognized as authentic, that a church would be constructed at Porosenkov Log, similar to that at Ganina Yama. See ROC Seeks Claim to Site of Royal Remains Grave Near Ekaterinburg 

Because of this position, the implementation of the project, which was then carried out by the regional authorities, was stalled. They had planned to transfer the lands of the Porosenkov Log (about 3.7 hectares) to the Sverdlovsk Regional Museum of Local Lore and create there a commemorative museum complex for the 100th anniversary of the shooting of the Romanovs. See Ekaterinburg Eparchy and Local Museum Argue Over Future of Porosenkov Log

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Porosenkov Log is 3.8 km from Ganina Yama

Murder of the Romanovs and the discovery of remains

The family of the Emperor Nicholas II who abdicated in 1917 from the Russian throne, along with his family the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, the Tsesarevich Alexei, the Grand Duchesses – Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and their four faithful retainers Dr. Eugene Botkin, the maid Anna Demidova, the cook Ivan Kharitonov, and the valet Aloysius Trupp were all shot on the night of 16/17 July 17 1918 in the house of engineer Ipatiev, situated in the area of ​​the Ascension Hill in the center of Ekaterinburg.

Their remains lay hidden in a forested area for more than 60 years before their initial discovery. It is believed that the first discoverer of this place in the Porosenkov Log on the Koptyakovskaya Road on the northwestern outskirts of Sverdlovsk (now Ekaterinburg) in the summer of 1979 was the Ural geologist Alexander Avdonin with M. Kochurov, G. Vasiliev, and G. Ryabov. However, the remains then had to be reburied. The political climate at the time did not allow them to be revealed to the world. It was not until the summer of 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union, that the remains were dug up. Only nine skeletons out of eleven were discovered. Not only did this give grounds for doubting the authenticity of the remains, it also led to conspiracy theories that perhaps two of the children had survived.

In July 1998, the remains found in the Porosenkov Log were buried in St Catherine’s Chapel of the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Despite a series of examinations, some of which were conducted in laboratories in the United States and England, the Moscow Patriarchate still did not recognize that the bodies found near the Koptyakovskaya Road were the Romanovs.

In 2007, thanks to the Ural specialists of local lore and archaeologists there in the Porosenkov Log area, a second grave was discovered near the original, which revealed the remains of the Tsesarevich Alexei and his sister the Grand Duchess Maria. The new examination confirmed their authenticity. However, the bones of the two children of Nicholas II are still not devoted to the earth. For some time they were kept in the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, then in the State Archives of the Russian Federation. They were then handed over to Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov) and transferred to the Novospassky Monastery in Moscow. See Remains of Tsesarevich Alexey, Grand Duchess Maria Transferred to Novospassky Monastery

It is expected that closure of this issue rests with the results of the new criminal case, announced by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation on 23 September 2015. At a meeting of the Bishops’ Council in Moscow, which took place at the end of November 2017, members voiced a large array of their conclusions, generally acknowledging the validity of the initial examinations, thanks to which the Ekaterinburg remains were recognized. Nevertheless, the final judgment on this issue must be made by the Holy Synod.

Click HERE to review more articles, news and photos of Ganina Yama

Click HERE to review more articles, news and photos about the Ekaterinburg Remains

Click HERE to review more articles, news and photos about the Holy Royal Martyrs

Click HERE to review more articles, news and photos about Ekaterinburg and the Romanovs

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 June 2018