Jews May Have Killed Russia's Last Czar Nicholas II In Ritual Murder, Investigators Claim

Prince Nicolas Romanov of Russia stands in front of a enlarged photograph showing his ancestor Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra Fedorovna and four of their children. Reuters

The head of Russia's Orthodox Church is launching an investigation into whether the last Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his family were victims of a ritual murder carried out by angry Jews in 1918, Church leaders revealed in a statement Tuesday.

"A large share of the church commission members have no doubts that the murder was ritual," Father Tikhon Shevkunov, the Orthodox bishop heading the panel, told The Associated Press.

Russia's top investigative agency has also said it will conduct an independent probe into the theory.

Nicholas II, his wife, and their five children were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad on July 17, 1918, less than a year after a communist revolution unseated the monarchy and launched a civil war in Russia. The Russian Orthodox Church made the Czar and his family saints in 2000.

Controversial film #Matilda tells the story of future czar #Nicholas II's infatuation with a half-Polish ballet dancer. Russian #Orthodox believers and nationalists see it as blasphemous and threatened movie theaters of arson attacks.

— Sergio PAINI (@sergiopaini) November 14, 2017

Historical consensus says the czar was killed by Bolsheviks, but the conspiracy theory that he was actually killed by Jews has been promoted for years among far-right, anti-Semitic groups that often conflate Jews with communists. Conspiracy theories blaming Jews for the communist revolution were also popular among post-revolution Russian emigres and Russian Orthodox Church members abroad.

In reality, some important Bolshevik leaders were Jews, but the majority of Russia's Jewish population did not support the Bolsheviks.

Jews in Russia expressed concern that these anti-Semitic myths are now being peddled by religious leaders, and experts say the investigation shows anti-Semitism remains a persistent problem in Russia.

"There is a big old tradition of anti-Semitism in Russia, a forgery in the Czarist period outlining a fictitious Jewish plan for world domination. So the attempt to identify the Bolsheviks as Jewish started quite early, during the Civil War after the [1917] Revolution, but didn't have any real basis," Gerard Livingstone, a history and philosophy professor at the Open University in the United Kingdom, told Newsweek.

"Anti-Semitism persisted in the Communist era. And of course the characterization of the Bolsheviks as Jews was taken up by the Nazis, and after them by the Far Right ever since," he said.

November 1917 - Former Czar Nicholas II and his family, in exile in Tobolsk, Siberia, gets little news from the outside #100yearsago

— Patrick Chovanec (@prchovanec) November 25, 2017

Bishop Tikhon, an influential religious figure with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has specifically singled out Yakov Yurovsky, a Bolshevik organizer of the czar's execution who happened to be Jewish, to support his theories of a ritual killing. Tikhon claims Yurovsky took special pleasure in the killings as an act of revenge.

Yakov Sverdlov, another Bolshevik involved in the killing of the last czar, was also Jewish, conspiracy theorists point out. Previously, the young pro-Putin parliamentarian Natalia Poklonskaya also claimed the Czar's execution had "evil" religious motives.