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DNA Tests ID Russian Czar's Children


DNA tests have positively identified the remains of two children of the last Russian czar, settling a mystery that had long surrounded their fate. VOA Moscow Correspondent Peter Fedynsky reports the memory of the murdered czarist family is still honored by many in Russia.

The Russian General Prosecutor's office says remains found last year in the city of Yekaterinburg have been identified through DNA testing as those of Grand Duchess Maria and Prince Alexei - two of Czar Nicholas II's five children.

Investigator Vladimir Solovyov explains three laboratories helped identify Maria and Alexei.

Solovyov says each group worked independently and there was even an element of competition among them. He says they compared genetic material of the czarist family found in 1991 with the genetic samples of the children found last year to make a positive identification.

The announcement comes just one day ahead the 90th anniversary of the czarist executions carried out by Bolshevik agents early on July 17, 1918.

A written account left by one of the killers, Yakov Yurovsky, indicated the royal bodies had been soaked in acid and thrown down a mineshaft. He said two of the victims were burned and buried nearby. Those are the ones identified Tuesday. The remains of Czar Nicholas, his wife and three daughters were buried in 1998 in Saint Petersburg.

Nicholas II is leading an Internet poll conducted by the Rossiya television network and the Russian Academy of Sciences to name the greatest Russian. Some see that as an indication of renewed interest in the country's royal past. The Orthodox Church, which canonized the czar, is holding memorial services Wednesday and Thursday to commemorate him and his family.

But Nikolai Lukyanov, the director of the Russian Royal Family Museum in Moscow, told VOA it is not enough to merely pray for the Czar.

At a minimum, says Lukyanov, monuments to communists who toppled the czar should be removed and street names should be changed. He says there are streets in Yekaterinburg within blocks of the place where the czarist family was killed that still bear the names of their executioners.

Lukyanov notes, however, that Russian communists continue to oppose the removal of monuments to their former leaders.

In an indication of continued reverence for Russia's Soviet past, Communist dictator Joseph Stalin holds second place in the Internet poll behind the Czar Nicholas among 50 of the country's leading historical figures.


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