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Cablegate: The Romanovs: The Final Chapter in Yekaterinburg

O 161216Z JUL 98
FM AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0690
INFO AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
AMCONSUL ST PETERSBURG
MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 YEKATERINBURG 0156


E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV RS
SUBJECT: THE ROMANOVS: THE FINAL CHAPTER IN YEKATERINBURG

1. ON A SUNNY JULY 16 MORNING, THOUSANDS OF
YEKATERINBURGERS WAITED IN LINE TO PAY THEIR FINAL
RESPECTS TO NICHOLAS AND ALEXANDRIA. EXACTLY EIGHTY
YEARS BEFORE, ON THE NIGHT OF JULY 16-17, 1918, THE
ROMANOVS HAD BEEN BRUTALLY MURDERED HERE. THEIR
REMAINS NOW LAID IN STATE AT YEKATERINBURG'S ASCENSION
CHURCH ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE SITE WHERE THE
EXECUTIONS HAD BEEN CARRIED OUT. THE COFFINS OF THE
TSAR AND TSARITSA WERE DRAPED WITH THE BRIGHT YELLOW
IMPERIAL STANDARD BEARING THE BLACK DOUBLE-HEADED
EAGLE CREST. BEHIND THEM LAID THE COFFINS OF THREE
GRAND DUCHESSES AND FOUR MEMBERS OF THE ROYAL
HOUSEHOLD STAFF.

2. AT MIDDAY, THE ASCENSION CHURCH'S SENIOR PRIEST
CONDUCTED A MEMORIAL SERVICE: 'WE PRAY FOR THE PEACE
OF SOULS INNOCENTLY SLAIN AND THEIR NAMES ARE KNOW TO
THEE, OUR LORD.' THE LITURGY WAS SOLEMN AND MODEST,
A WELCOME CHANGE AFTER YEARS OF UNSEEMLY POLITICAL
INFIGHTING OVER THE BONES. GOVERNOR ROSSEL AND THE
REST OF THE LOCAL POLITICAL ELITE ATTENDED THE
SERVICE. THEY WERE JOINED BY THE MINISTER OF CULTURE
FROM MOSCOW. THE ONLY CONSPICUOUS ABSENTEES WERE THE
PRESIDENTIAL REPRESENTATIVE TO SVERDLOVSK OBLAST AND
YEKATERINBURG'S ARCHBISHOP. NO ONE FROM THE ROYAL
FAMILY WAS PRESENT. THE MOST SATISFIED PERSON IN THE
CHURCH WAS ALEKSANDR AVDONIN, WHO WAS WITNESSING A
CEREMONY THAT HE HAD DREAMT ABOUT FOR YEARS. AVDONIN
HAD DISCOVERED THE ROMANOVS' GRAVESITE NEARLY TWENTY
YEARS AGO.

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3. AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE SERVICE, A MILITARY HONOR
GUARD CARRIED THE COFFINS FROM THE CHURCH SLOWLY PAST
THE CROWD TO WAITING VEHICLES. AS THE LEAD
PALLBEARERS EMERGED FROM THE CHURCH WITH THE TSAR'S
COFFIN, BLACK CLOUDS APPEARED AND A RAINSTORM BEGAN.
A FEW OLD WOMEN DROPPED TO THEIR KNEES AND CROSSED
THEMSELVES VIGOROUSLY. SHORTLY AFTER THE LAST
COFFIN WAS LOADED AND THE MOTORCADE DEPARTED FOR THE
AIRPORT, THE RAIN STOPPED. BY MID-AFTERNOON, THE
ROMANOVS HAD LEFT YEKATERINBURG FOR THE LAST TIME ON
THEIR WAY TO INTERMENT IN ST. PETERSBURG.

4. THE SHOW NOW MOVES TO RUSSIA'S NORTHERN CAPITAL,
BUT TWO QUESTIONS REMAIN IN YEKATERINBURG:

--WHERE ARE THE REMAINS OF THE OTHER TWO ROYAL FAMILY
MEMBERS, THE TSAREVICH AND GRAND DUCHESS MARIYA?

--AND HOW SHOULD YEKATERINBURG BEST COMMEMORATE THE
ROMANOVS' MEMORY HERE?

ON THE LATTER, THE YEKATERINBURG ARCHDIOCESE AND THE
OBLAST GOVERNMENT HAVE COMMISSIONED A DESIGN FOR A
'CHURCH ON THE BLOOD' TO BE BUILT ON THE SITE WHERE
THE ROYAL FAMILY WAS KILLED. THE FIVE-DOMED CHURCH'S
DESIGN IS SUPPOSED TO FOLLOW THE STYLE OF NOVGOROD'S
ELEVENTH CENTURY CHURCHES. CONSTRUCTION COSTS ARE
ESTIMATED AT USD 4 MILLION. UNFORTUNATELY, THE NEW
CHURCH'S COURTYARD WILL LIKELY BE MARRED BY A
TASTELESS SCULPTURE OF THE ROYAL FAMILY DESIGNED BY
YEKATERINBURG'S VERSION OF TSERETELI.

ON THE FORMER, AVDONIN CLAIMS THAT HE KNOWS WHERE THE
OTHER TWO CHILDREN WERE BURIED IN 1918. AT A JULY 15
PRESS CONFERENCE, GOVERNOR ROSSEL SAID THAT A SEARCH
FOR ALEKSEY AND MARIYA WILL BE MOUNTED. HE HASTENED
TO ADD THAT, IF THEIR REMAINS ARE FOUND, THEY WILL BE
BURIED TOGETHER WITH THE REST OF THE FAMILY IN ST.
PETERSBURG.


RUSSELL

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