Russia’s Supreme Court ordered the country’s last czar, Nicholas II, to be seen as a victim of Soviet repression, and was killed unlawfully, 90 years after the czar and his family were executed.
The ruling comes as a victory to monarchists and descendants of the Romanov dynasty. It also symbolizes the changes Russia is going through, as it embraces its czarist past and condemns Soviet rule.
“This is first and foremost a symbolic decision,” Alexander Zakatov, head of the chancellery of Russia’s self-styled Imperial House, told Reuters.
“It was very important for our society that the crime committed 90 years ago was condemned, and that unfair accusations against the Tsar and members of his family, that they were enemies of the people … should be removed.”
“We have achieved victory,” said Zakatov. “The law has been carried out and now we can draw a line under this with great satisfaction and happiness.”
Czar Nicholas II was called “Bloody Nicholas” during the years after his death. He was blamed for thousands of murders, famines and immense poverty in Russia during the early years of the 20th century.
When he abdicated the throne in 1917, his wife and five children were sent into exile in Siberia. In July 1918, they were all shot to death by Bolsheviks. Their bodies were buried in the Siberian forest, and were discovered in July 1991, just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The family’s remains, with the exception of Maria and Alexei, were buried in St Petersburg in 1998. Maria’s and Alexei’s remains were recently discovered, and DNA tests proved their authenticity.
Nicholas and his family were canonized as saints by the Russian Orthodox church in 2000.
This past July, thousands of Russians took part in events to mark the 90th anniversary of the family’s execution, and calls for the restoration of the monarchy can be heard despite today’s Kremlin-managed political landscape.
It is still unclear why the Russian government took so long to rehabilitate the czar. The Supreme Court originally rejected rehabilitating the czar’s image back in November of last year.
However, past decisions — including the earlier rehabilitation of those responsible for organizing the family’s execution — are less important than what comes next, said Edvard Radzinsky, a Russian historian and the author of “The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II.”
“We have two graves that symbolize the revolution: the dirty hole into which the Romanovs were thrown, and the mausoleum of the one who ordered this,” he said, referring to the red pyramid on Red Square that houses Lenin’s preserved body.
“The closing of the first grave,” he said, “should lead to the closing of the second.”