YEKATERINBURG, Russia (Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday that charred remains found in a pit belonged to Tsar Nicholas II’s only son and his daughter, exactly 90 years after the Bolsheviks shocked the world by murdering the last Tsar.
Moscow’s confirmation that the remains included those of Tsar Nicholas’s 13-year-old heir, Prince Alexei, came as hundreds of Russians flocked to a church built on the site where the family was gunned down by Bolshevik executioners.
Nicholas II, lampooned by the Soviets as a failure, is considered by many Russians today as a martyr and presented as a symbol of the imperial glory which many now seek to recapture.
In a sign of renewed interest, the last Tsar is in first place in an Internet poll to select the greatest Russians, having overtaken Soviet dictator Josef Stalin this week.
“He is a symbol of a great and powerful Russia who also did great things for the country,” 18-year-old Yevgeny Chindyasky said at the Church on the Blood where Russian Orthodox believers gathered to mark the 90th anniversary of the Tsar’s execution.
The Bolsheviks shot the Tsar and his family on the night of July 16-17, 1918 in the basement of a merchant’s house in the city of Yekaterinburg, 1,450 km (900 miles) east of Moscow. Their bodies were burnt, doused in acid and dumped in pits.
Remains believed to belong to the Tsar, his wife and three of his daughters were exhumed after the collapse of the Soviet Union. They were reburied in 1998 in the imperial crypt of the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg.
But Prince Alexei Nikolayevich and 19-year-old Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna were not among those remains.
Last year bone fragments and teeth belonging to two young people were found about 70 meters (77 yards) away from the site where Russia’s imperial rulers had been buried.
Forensic scientists said molar teeth and amalgam fillings found with the new remains matched those found among the remains of the other members of the royal family.
Scull fragments showed injuries consistent with bullet wounds. Numerous genetic tests showed the remains of both groups belonged to one family group.
“The overall scientific results, which were based on DNA tests using three genetic systems, agrees with the hypothesis that in the second burial site the remains of Grand Duchess Maria and Tsarevich Alexei have been found,” the Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Kremlin and many Russians have sought to reconnect with their pre-revolutionary past.
President Dmitry Medvedev has said he admires Nicholas II, whom many historians blame for being too weak and setting Russia on a path to civil war and dictatorship.
Grigory Shabalin, a clean shaven 63-year-old Russian who had traveled from his home in Riga to the Yekaterinburg church, gave his explanation for the widely differing views.
“As a person he had a very kind, good heart but as tsar and a leader he was weak,” he said. “But of course Russians want the image of a strong leader, that’s what people need.”
The Russian Orthodox church has canonized the Tsar and his family as martyrs. “His life ended in tragedy but then it began again. That’s what we’re celebrating today,” Nadia Basharova, 50, said as she listened to a priest sing.
By the afternoon about 1,000 people had gathered at the Church on the Blood, which is just a 20-minute walk away from a statue of Vladimir Lenin, the architect of the Soviet Union who is blamed by many for the murder of the Tsar and his family.
Writing by Guy Faulconbridge and James Kilner, editing by Philippa Fletcher