St Petersburg beats Moscow in fight for tsar's bones

Years of ecclesiastical debate, secular wrangling and general soul-searching about the fate of the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family drew towards a close yesterday after a Russian government commission recommended that they should be buried in St Petersburg, the former imperial capital.

It said that the burial should take place on 17 July, the 80th anniversary of the family's murder by a Bolshevik firing squad. Although the final decision rests with Boris Yeltsin, he is considered unlikely to overturn the commission's findings, which follow a ferocious tug-of-war over the bones between the leadership of three cities, Moscow, St Petersburg and Yekaterinburg.

St Petersburg has long argued that it has the right to the remains as it is the resting place of most of the tsars, including Peter the Great, who built the city, and Catherine II. Nicholas, his wife, Alexandra, and three daughters are expected to be buried in a lady chapel at the entrance to the Peter and Paul Cathedral on an island in the River Neva. Work has been under way preparing their tomb for some months.

The decision by the commission, which was appointed by Boris Yeltsin, is a defeat for Moscow's pugnacious and powerful mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who was keen to acquire prestigious relics for the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which was levelled by Stalin but whose sparkling dome has risen anew on the banks of the Moscow River. Nor will it be welcomed by Yekaterinburg - Boris Yeltsin's former stamping ground, 1,000 miles east of Moscow - which was gunning hard to keep the bones, in the hope of attracting large numbers of Orthodox pilgrims and other sightseers.

The city's case was put by another political heavyweight, the regional governor, Eduard Rossel, who now claims to have found the bones of Nicholas's son, Alexei, and one of his daughters, Maria - remains that were not found when the rest of the acid-decayed Romanov remains were exhumed in 1991. The Yeltsin administration hopes that the burial will help to clarify post-Soviet Russia's relationship to its former monarchy - an ambiguity matched only by their view of Lenin, whose embalmed corpse still lies in Red Square, but whom - to the ire of Communists - President Boris Yeltsin has always wanted to bury.

As Russia struggles to find a new identity, opinions of the Romanovs vary from contempt, to indifference, to reverential awe. Showing little heed for his disastrously inept rule which ended in abdication, the Russian Orthodox Church is discussing canonising Nicholas, but it has said the burial can go ahead before it reaches a decision. The commission, under the reformer Boris Nemtsov, rejected proposals to bury the Romanovs on 1 March, although some regarded the date as apt: it is Orthodoxy's Forgiveness Sunday.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own