The remains of Czar Nicholas II and his wife were exhumed yesterday in an effort to determine whether body parts unearthed eight years ago are truly those of two of their children. Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and their five children were executed in 1918 as White Army forces closed in on the Bolsheviks holding them prisoner. Remains identified as the parents and three children (Olga, Tatyana, and Anastasia) were interred in a St. Petersburg cathedral in 1998. Body parts identified as those of Alexei and his sister Maria were found in 2007 about 45 miles south of the first grave, reports Interfax. Those remains were never buried, and Russia had announced burial plans this month.
But the Russian Orthodox Church called for further investigation. The church has canonized the family, and it believes worshipping false relics would be sacrilege—and does not consider the other remains authentic, despite earlier DNA tests. And so yesterday "the samples were taken from the remains of Nicholas II and Alexandra at the Peter and Paul Fortress as well as the samples of [Nicolas' grandfather] Alexander II's clothes," a senior investigator with the Russian Investigative Committee tells Interfax. The remains of Alexandra's sister, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, ended up in Jerusalem after she was killed in Russia in 1918, and investigators will now be allowed to access them for the first time, the BBC reports.