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Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Family
An official portrait of the Romanov family in 1913.
Royal Martyrs, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Family (ROCOR)
Royal Passion-Bearers, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and Family (ROC)
Born various dates, Peterhof, Russia
Died July 17, 1918, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Venerated in Eastern Orthodoxy
Canonized 1981 and 2000, United States and Russia by Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Russian Orthodox Church
Major shrine Church on Blood, Ekaterinburg, Russia
Feast July 17

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, his wife Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei are saints of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and passion bearers of the Russian Orthodox Church. The family was murdered on July 17, 1918 in Ekaterinburg, Russia by the Bolsheviks (see Shooting of the Romanov family).

The family was canonized in 1981 as new martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. They were canonized along with their servants, who had been killed along with them. The canonized servants were their court physician, Yevgeny Botkin; their footman Alexei Trupp; their cook, Ivan Kharitonov; and Alexandra's maid, Anna Demidova. Also canonized were two servants killed in September 1918, lady in waiting Anastasia Hendrikova and tutor Catherine Adolphovna Schneider. All were canonized as victims of oppression by the Soviet Union.

Alexandra's sister, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, who was murdered by the Bolsheviks on July 18, 1918, was canonized as New-Martyr Elizabeth by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, along with Prince Ioann Konstantinovich of Russia, Prince Igor Konstantinovich of Russia, Prince Konstantine Konstantinovich of Russia, Grand Duke Sergey Mikhaylovich of Russia, and Prince Vladimir Pavlovich Paley, Fyodor Remez, Grand Duke Sergei's personal secretary, and Elizabeth's faithful companion, Sister Varvara Yakovleva, who were all killed with her. They were declared martyrs of oppression by the Soviet Union.

In 1992, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna and Varvara Yakovleva were canonized as New-Martyr Elizabeth and New-Martyr Barbara by the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia. The princes and others killed with them were not canonized.

In 2000, after much debate, the Romanov family was canonized as passion bearers by the Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church did not canonize the servants, two of whom were not Russian Orthodox: Alexei Trupp was Roman Catholic and Catherine Adolphovna Schneider was Lutheran.


The canonizations were controversial for both churches. In 1981, opponents noted Nicholas II's perceived weaknesses as a ruler and felt his actions led to the resulting Bolshevik Revolution. One priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad noted that martyrdom in the Russian Orthodox Church has nothing to do with the martyr's personal actions but is instead related to why he or she was killed.[1] Other critics noted that the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia appeared to be blaming Jewish revolutionaries for the deaths and equating the political assassination with a ritual murder.[2]

There were those who rejected the family's classification as martyrs because they were not killed because of their religious faith. There was no proof that the execution was a ritual murder. Religious leaders in both churches also had objections to canonizing the Tsar's family because they perceived him as a weak emperor whose incompetence led to the revolution, the suffering of his people and made him at least partially responsible for his own murder and the murders of his wife and children. For these opponents, the fact that the Tsar was, in private life, a kind man and a good husband and father did not override his poor governance of Russia.[1]

Yekaterinburg's "Church on the Blood," built on the spot where Nicholas II and his family were murdered in 1918.

The Russian Orthodox Church inside Russia ultimately canonized the family as "passion bearers," or people who met their deaths with Christian humility. Proponents cited previous Tsars and Tsareviches who had been canonized as passion bearers, such as Tsarevich Dimitri, murdered at the end of the sixteenth century, as setting a precedent for the canonization of the Romanov family. They noted the piety of the family and reports that the Tsarina and her eldest daughter Olga prayed and attempted to make the sign of the cross immediately before they died. It should be noted, however that despite their official designation as "passion-bearers" by the August 2000 Council, they are nevertheless spoken of as "martyrs" in Church publications, icons, and in popular veneration by the people.[3][4]

The bodies of Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, and three of their daughters were finally interred at St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg on July 17, 1998, eighty years after they were murdered. The bodies of Alexei and one of his sisters were at the time missing.[5] On August 23, 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at a bonfire site near Yekaterinburg that appeared to match the site described in assassin Yakov Yurovsky's memoirs. The archaeologists said the bones are from a boy who was roughly between the ages of ten and thirteen years at the time of his death and of a young woman who was roughly between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three years old. Anastasia was seventeen years, one month old at the time of the assassination, while her sister Maria was nineteen years, one month old and her brother Alexei was two weeks shy of his fourteenth birthday. Anastasia's elder sisters Olga and Tatiana were twenty-two and twenty-one years old at the time of the assassination. Along with the remains of the two bodies, archaeologists found "shards of a container of sulfuric acid, nails, metal strips from a wooden box, and bullets of various caliber." The bones were found using metal detectors and metal rods as probes.[6]

Preliminary testing indicated a "high degree of probability" that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and to one of his sisters, Russian forensic scientists announced on January 22, 2008.[7] The Yekaterinburg region's chief forensic expert Nikolai Nevolin indicated the results would be compared against those obtained by foreign experts.[8] On April 30, 2008, Russian forensic scientists announced that DNA testing proves that the remains belong to the Tsarevich Alexei and to one of his sisters.[9] With this result, all of the Tsar's family are accounted for.

Since the late 20th century, believers have attributed healing from illnesses or conversion to the Orthodox Church to their prayers to Maria and Alexei, as well as to the rest of the family.[10][11]


  1. ^ a b Massie, Robert K., The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, Random House, ISBN 394-58048-6, 1995, pp. 134-135
  2. ^ King, Greg, and Wilson, Penny, The Fate of the Romanovs, John Wiley and Sons, Inc., p. 495
  3. ^ Patriarch Aleksy Visited the Place Where the Remains of the Royal Martyrs had been Burned, Yekaterinburg, September 23, 2000,
  5. ^ Shevchenko, Maxim (2000). ""The Glorification of the Royal Family"". Nezavisemaya Gazeta. Retrieved December 10, 2006. 
  6. ^ Gutterman, Steve (2007). ""Remains of czar heir may have been found"". "Associated Press". Retrieved August 24, 2007. 
  7. ^ Interfax (2008). ""Suspected remains of tsar's children still being studied"". "Interfax". Retrieved January 23, 2008. 
  8. ^ RIA Novosti (2008). ""Remains found in Urals likely belong to Tsar's children"". "RIA Novosti". Retrieved January 23, 2008. 
  9. ^ Eckel, Mike (2008). "" DNA confirms IDs of czar's children"". Retrieved April 30, 2008. 
  10. ^ Serfes, Demetrios (2000). "Miracle of the Child Martyr Grand Duchess Maria". The Royal Martyrs of Russia. Retrieved February 25, 2007. 
  11. ^ Serfes, Demetrios (2000). ""A Miracle Through the Prayers of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarevich Alexis"". The Royal Martyrs of Russia. Retrieved February 25, 2007. 

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