MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s Supreme Court ordered on Wednesday that Czar Nicholas II be recognized as a victim of Soviet repression, a symbolic victory for monarchists who said it would help draw a line under Russia’s blood-stained past.
The last Czar, his wife and five children were killed by a Bolshevik revolutionary firing squad in 1918, but unlike many of the tens of millions of others who suffered Soviet persecution, they have never been officially recognized as victims.
Last year the Supreme Court ruled that a legal technicality prevented the royal family from being granted the status of victims of repression: they had never been accused of any crime, so it was impossible to rescind the accusation.
But Wednesday the Supreme Court, hearing an appeal lodged by a lawyer acting for descendants of Russia’s Romanov imperial line, overturned its ruling, said Pavel Odintsov, a spokesman for the court.
“The presidium of the Supreme Court determined that … (Czar Nicholas and his family) be recognized as groundlessly repressed and that they are to be rehabilitated,” said Odintsov. “This decision is final.”
A representative of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, a descendant of the royal family who styles herself as the heir to the imperial throne, said he telephoned her at her home in Madrid to tell her of the court’s decision.
“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 Czar 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.”
He said Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna would soon be sent an official document recognizing the Czar and his family as victims of Soviet repression.
She planned to place the document alongside other historical artifacts in the imperial archive in Madrid, Zakatov said.
Russia is this year commemorating the 90th anniversary of the murder of the imperial family in the cellar of a merchant’s house in the Ural mountains city of Yekaterinburg, 1,450 km (900 miles) east of Moscow.
The last Czar, lampooned as a weak and venal leader during Soviet rule, is now revered by many Russians as a martyr.
But a member of parliament with Russia’s Communists, direct heirs to the party that ran the Soviet Union, said the last Czar and his family were victims of a criminal act, not a state campaign of repression.
“I do not deny it: a monstrous crime was committed,” Viktor Ilyukhin told Reuters. “But in my view to treat what was committed there as a political crime is absolutely wrong.
“In order to rehabilitate someone you have to establish who was carrying out the repression. At the time there was no court system, there was no firm rule in the Russian empire,” he said. “Bolshevik rule had not yet been established.”
After the Soviet Union collapsed, remains believed to belong to the Czar, his wife and three of his children were recovered from a pit where they had been buried in secret by the Bolsheviks.
They were reburied in the imperial crypt of the St Peter and Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg. Officials said earlier this year they had identified the missing remains of Nicholas II’s 13-year-old heir Prince Alexei and daughter Maria.