Eighty years after Russia’s last czar was gunned down by a Bolshevik firing squad, his remains appear likely to return to the imperial capital he left in disgrace.
Czar Nicholas II and his family should be buried alongside their royal forebears in St. Petersburg’s Peter and Paul Cathedral, a government commission recommended Friday. The panel also recommended a date - July 17, the 80th anniversary of their deaths.
Nicholas, who abdicated in 1917, was forced into Siberian exile and eventually killed, along with his family and servants.
“This has colossal historical significance,” said Sergei Krasavchenko, a presidential adviser and commission member. “To bury the czar … would be the end of an epoch.”
Peter and Paul Cathedral, part of a picturesque fortress on an island in the Neva River, is the traditional burial site for Romanov czars, who ruled Russia for more than 300 years. It was the top choice of Romanov descendants now living in exile.
“We took the news with great delight,” Prince Nicholas Romanov told the ITAR-Tass news agency from Copenhagen, Denmark.
While the final decision is up to President Boris Yeltsin, he appointed the commission and is expected to follow its advice.
The panel, headed by Yeltsin’s powerful deputy Boris Nemtsov, rejected proposals to bury the royal family in Moscow or in Yekaterinburg, the city where they were killed.
The nine skeletons were unearthed from a damp roadway outside Yekaterinburg in 1991. Batteries of DNA tests both in Russia and the West have identified them as belonging to Nicholas, his wife, three daughters and four servants.
The bodies of his son and heir, Alexei, and a fourth daughter - either Maria or Anastasia - remain missing. Those who disposed of the corpses said they burned two of them, then scattered the ashes in nearby woods.
Russians have been divided over how to bury the czar. Many feel Nicholas II’s death was unnecessary and brutal and believe he deserves a solemn and ceremonious funeral. Others have argued that he was a despot who deserved to be overthrown and should be laid to rest quietly.