In an “absurd” continuation of age-old blood libels, the Russian Orthodox Church is pushing forward a claim that Nicholas Romanov II, the last tsar of Russia, and his family were killed in 1918 as part of a Jewish ritual murder.
On Monday, a conference was held in Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery presenting the initial findings of an investigation into the execution of the royal Romanov family almost one hundred years ago. According to Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, many church leaders have no doubt the murders were part of a Jewish ritual. Bishop Shevkunov claimed that the “Bolsheviks and their allies engaged in the most unexpected and diverse ritual symbolism.”
“Quite a few people involved in the execution, in Moscow or Yekaterinburg (where the execution of the royal family took place), saw the killing of the deposed Russian emperor as a special ritual of revenge,” Bishop Shevkunov said. The Bishop is Russian President Vladmir Putin’s personal confessor and wields significant political influence.
Much mystery surrounds the death of the Romanovs. On the night of July 17, 1918, the entire Romanov family was executed by a Bolshevik firing squad, and the bodies of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his family were secretly transported to a mine and buried in a pit. The remains were later exhumed and entombed in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg.
The Bishop’s accusation was implicitly aimed at Jews. Yakov Sverdlov, the leader in the Bolshevik movement who specifically ordered the killing, and Yakov Yurovsky, the organizer of the execution, were both Jewish. The execution of the tsar led to three years of anti-Jewish pogroms throughout Russia and the emigration of 2.5 million Jews from the country.
The claims perpetuate the worst and most primitive forms of anti-Semitism. Fueled by the prominence of Jews in the beginnings of the Communist movement, a popular anti-Semitic Russian conspiracy theory claimed that Jews used communism as an attempt to dominate Russia and ultimately the world.
This Jewish plot was chronicled in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an anti-Semitic manifesto published in Russia in 1903 purporting to describe a Jewish plan for global domination. These claims of Jewish aspirations to world domination have been used for centuries to justify persecution of Jews.
In addition, the claim of a “ritual” aspect to the murders has absolutely no basis in Judaism but rather echoes the extremely anti-Semitic rhetoric of medieval blood libel, the popular accusation that Jews kidnapped and murdered the children of Christians in order to use their blood as part of their religious rituals during Jewish holidays.
The earliest cases were based on Jews killing Christians as a reenactment of the killing of Jesus. The Russian Orthodox Church has played a role in perpetuating this anti-Semitic claim, canonizing an alleged child victim of this Jewish ritual and establishing a feast day in his honor that is still observed.
The new investigation was strongly condemned by the Russian Jewish community. “The allegation of ritual killings by Jews is one of the most ancient anti-Semitic slanders,” Aleksandr Boroda, the president of the Federation for Jewish communities of Russia, told Interfax.
“It has many times served as the reason for persecutions, which claimed hundreds, even thousands, of victims. But every time when these accusations have been examined by people who aren’t infected by anti-Semitic convictions, it has turned out that this slander is a lie.”
Borukh Gorin, a speaker for the Federation, told Interfax that the claims of a ritual murder were “absolutely wild.” He called the allegation “absurd,” as the Bolsheviks were avowed atheists and not guided by Jewish beliefs.
“It is absolutely terrifying 100 years later to hear the phrase ritual killing from the mouth of an investigator of the Investigative Committee and then from a high placed hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church,” he said.
The Russian Orthodox Church became interested in the investigation into the deaths of the Romanovs when it canonized the royal family in 1981. Church officials have stated their belief that the remains enshrined in the cathedral are not those of the Romanov family.
In 1995, the Russian Orthodox Church formally submitted questions to an investigating commission, including one seeking clarification as to whether the royals were victims of a Jewish plot. The official conclusion stated there was no basis for this claim. The commission used DNA testing to definitively identify the remains as belonging to the Romanovs. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized the entire family.
At the church’s urging, the investigation was reopened in September 2015. Despite the results of the DNA tests, the Church demanded a new investigation into whether the remains were indeed those of the royal family.
The investigative committee, headed by Colonel of Justice Marina Molodtsova, said on Monday that it would look into the claim of Jewish involvement. Molodtsova said a total of 34 forensic tests have been commissioned in order to identify the remains believed to be those of Nicholas Romanov and his family.
“The remains found in two gravesites in the Porosenkov ravine are being carefully examined. Experts are expected to clarify the reasons for their death, their gender and relations between them, as well as their injuries,” Molodtsova told Russia’s TASS News Service.
“Since the investigation was resumed, more than 20 witnesses have been questioned, and the places where the remains were found have been examined. In addition, a psychological and historical test will be conducted to find out if it could have been a ritual killing.”