Remains of Russia's Last Tsar Exhumed to Reopen Murder Probe

Investigators will exhume the remains of Russia's last tsar and his wife, as they reexamine the 1918 Romanov family murders in order to verify the identities of two of the slain family members who were buried separately from the rest of the clan.

The royal family—Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, their four daughters Anastasia, Maria, Olga, and Tatiana and their son, the Tsarevich Alexei—were killed by Bolsheviks in the Urals region, at the start of Russia's revolution shortly after they had been ousted from power in 1917.

The remains of the royal couple and three daughters were found in a mass grave in 1993 and were reburied at St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral in St. Petersburg. However the remains of Alexei and Maria, found in 2007 at a different location, are kept at the Russian State Archive.

Russia plans to rebury Alexei and Maria, alongside the rest of the family, but before the reburial goes ahead, the Russian Orthodox Church wants to verify the remains. The Church currently doubts their authenticity and has pressed for the investigation to be reopened. As part of that investigation, the bodies of the tsar and Empress Alexandra will have to be exhumed.

The Russian Orthodox Church canonized the Romanov family in 2000. The Church wants to canonize Alexei and Maria too, before the 100th anniversary of the murders in 2018, but as the remains will be treated as relics for worshippers, they insist the investigation is thorough.

The Investigative Committee, a powerful state body, will take samples from Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and from the bloodstained uniform of Alexander II, Nicholas's grandfather, who was assassinated in 1881, reports the BBC.

"The leadership of the Investigative Committee has decided to resume the preliminary investigation to conduct additional studies and investigative steps," Vladimir Markin, a spokesperson for the committee, told the Russian news service Interfax on Wednesday night.

The committee will also compare the remains of Alexei and Maria to that of their aunt, Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Fyodorovna, and will study newly discovered materials from a 1918-1924 investigation into the murder by the White Guards who fought the Bolsheviks, according to The Guardian newspaper.