Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 137

In a surprise announcement, President Boris Yeltsin yesterday said he will attend today’s funeral in St. Petersburg of the remains of Russia’s last tsar and his family. Yeltsin, who will attend in his official capacity, had earlier said he would not attend. (RTR, July 16) Today is the eightieth anniversary of the shooting of Tsar Nicholas II and his family by the Bolsheviks in 1918 in the Siberian city of Yekaterinburg. The arrangements for their funeral, which begins at midday today in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg, have been dogged by controversy. Originally, the Kremlin saw the funeral as an occasion to unite the nation in an act of public repentance for its Communist past. (Yeltsin himself was regional Party boss in Yekaterinburg when, in 1977, the house in which the killings took place was razed in order to prevent its becoming a place of pilgrimage.) At one time last year, the Kremlin even toyed with the idea of copying Spain’s example and healing the wounds of history by moving Russia to a constitutional monarchy. The idea aroused so much controversy that it was quickly abandoned. Bitter arguments between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church in Exile have resulted in both branches of the church refusing to accept the authenticity of the royal remains. Today’s ceremony is not, therefore, being attended by leading church hierarchs. Also refusing to attend are the leaders of the upper and lower houses of the Russian parliament. The Federation Council is being represented by the governor of St. Petersburg, but the State Duma is not being officially represented at all. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov yesterday called the funeral “a shameful farce.” (RTR, July 16)

Yeltsin’s decision to attend was so unexpected that he made a special TV announcement himself yesterday. “I have decided,” he said, “that I must go to St. Petersburg tomorrow. This truth was hidden for eighty years. Tomorrow, it will be necessary to tell this truth and for me to be there. This will be the humane, the just thing to do.” Yeltsin’s press service called the ceremony “an act of humane justice” and said that, “in committing the remains of the innocent to the soil, the present generation of Russians will be seeking to atone for the sins of their ancestors.” (RTR, July 16)