Last Tsar killed on orders of Lenin, say Romanov family

Nicholas II's self-styled descendants claim they have proof and open way to stake claim on vast fortune

Descendants of the Romanov dynasty say papers in the archives of the modern-day Russian government show that the killing deserves to be classed as an act of "political repression", and that Nicholas should therefore be officially rehabilitated.

The Tsar, who stepped down in 1917 as revolution swept Russia, was executed by a Bolshevik firing squad with his family in the basement of a merchant's house in the city of Yekaterinburg on 17 July 1918. His purported remains and those of his wife and three of his five children, were found in 1991 and laid to rest in St Petersburg's Peter and Paul Fortress in 1998.

Whether there were clear orders for the execution, and who might have given them, has long been a matter of dispute. But next week a Moscow court is due to rule on the issue in a suit brought against the government by one of the most active pretenders to the Romanov mantle, the self-styled Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia.

The 52-year-old resident of Spain and her aides say the documentary evidence they have turned up includes a telegram from a Bolshevik committee in Yekaterinburg confirming it had carried out the execution, as well as minutes of a meeting of the government in St Petersburg, showing that it discussed the matter on the day of the killings at the initiative of Yakov Sverdlov, the head of the government, in the presence of Vladimir Lenin.

There is also an extract from Leon Trotsky's memoirs, in which he says Sverdlov told him: "Ilyich Lenin thought we shouldn't leave them [the imperial family] a living banner in such hard times."

The Russian legal system has never conceded that a crime was committed in 1918, effectively acquiescing in the view that the Romanovs deserved their bloody fate. The Tsar's self-styled heirs argue that it is time for "historical justice" to be restored.

Sceptics believe there is more to their claim than meets the eye: a ruling in the Tsar's favour could give anyone successfully claiming to be his heir the chance to gain at least a portion of the family's one-time wealth. Alexander Zakatov, an aide to "Grand Duchess Maria", denied the Romanovs wanted to reclaim their property. But, he told the IoS, it would be nice if the government gave them "a building" in Moscow "as a sign of respect to a dynasty that ruled Russia for 300 years".

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