Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Controversy over Burial of Czar Divides Russians Friday Event for Royal Family Reveals a Nation's Struggle for Reconciliation

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Controversy over Burial of Czar Divides Russians Friday Event for Royal Family Reveals a Nation's Struggle for Reconciliation

Article excerpt

It was meant to serve as a glorious reconciliation in a country still fractured by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Instead, it has descended into cheap political bickering.

The burial of the remains of Russia's last czar, Nicholas II, and his family tomorrow - exactly 80 years after their execution - was meant to close with style a cold-blooded chapter in history that still makes Russians uncomfortable.

More than six years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russians are still struggling to come to grips with their history. The newfound ability to publicly discuss issues and the opening of Soviet archives have encouraged Russians to debate its meaning.

Indeed, an upsurge of interest in Russia's recent history has been evident by its considerable coverage in movies, television, and books. The Bolshevik Revolution and the death of Nicholas II mark an important transition from Russia's czarist era to its communist one.

For a large number of citizens, decades of terrifying repression began the day Bolshevik executioners shot Nicholas, his family, and servants without a trial in a cellar in Yekaterinburg. The Russian Orthodox Church considers him a martyr of the 1917 Revolution.

For others, especially Communists, the czar was a decadent leader who plunged the country into needless war and does not deserve to be buried with dignity.

But political wrangling and petty jealousies mean that instead of pomp and ceremony worthy of an emperor, the burial intended to unite church and state will be a low-key affair boycotted by practically anybody who's anyone.

"We should have done it properly or not at all," says Stanislav Tyutyukin, director of the Revolutionary History Project at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

"Instead of a quiet and decent termination of this issue, games are being played around the funeral. This has transformed the whole thing into an indecent farce," he says.

Perhaps most insulting to organizers is the litany of personalities who are boycotting the event. They include the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, President Boris Yeltsin, and a leading Romanov descendant.

Church Patriarch Alexei II says he will not attend because it has not been proven that the bones are 100 percent authentic - despite DNA tests that scientists insist are trustworthy. …

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