Russian investigators started examining the grave of Tsar Alexander III on Tuesday ahead of his exhumation in a probe looking to identify the remains of the last Tsar Nicholas II and his family.
They hope that DNA samples will verify the identities of two body remains that are believed to belong to the ill-fated Nicholas II’s family.
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The Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg where Tsar Alexander III is buried was closed to visitors as the state commission examined the 121-year-old grave.
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The full exhumation is expected to take place later in November.
Press TV reports: The last Russian emperor, Nicholas II, was shot dead along with his wife, Alexandra, and five of his children by revolutionary Bolsheviks in 1918, and in a bid to hide the crime, the perpetrators reportedly burnt their bodies, doused them in acid and hurriedly buried them in an unknown place in the vicinity of the provincial city of Yekaterinburg, in the Urals region, located 1,430 kilometers (889 miles) east of Moscow.
For over 70 years no one knew the burial site of the royal Romanov family. However, in 1991, the remains of Nicholas II, his wife and three of their daughters were discovered in a mass grave, and after DNA tests authenticated the remains in 1998, they were reburied in the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg when Boris Yeltsin was in power.
No trace of the remaining children, Tsarevich Alexei, who was heir to the throne, and Grand Duchess Maria were found until 2007, when remains of two bodies were discovered in a separate grave in the Urals widely believed to belong to Alexei and Maria. Since then, the bodies have been kept in limbo in the state archive.
After eight years on September 11, it was announced that the two bodies were to be buried alongside their family on October 15. However, the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, which has previously canonized the late emperor, his wife and three of their daughters, has doubts about the identity of the last two bodies and says that it must be reassured of their identity since believers will revere them as holy relics. The church, thus, insists on further DNA testing by Russian experts..
Russian investigators have also exhumed the remains of the last tsar and his wife, as they re-examine their 1918 murders. Samples were taken from Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra.
The bloodstained unifrom of Nicholas II’s grandfather, Alexander II, who was assassinated in 1881, will also undergo DNA testing.