Conspiracy theories on death of czar, family are revived Russian church leaders seek probe of 1918 murders

December 02, 1997|By HEARST NEWS SERVICE

PARIS -- Russian church authorities have called on the Moscow government to examine claims that Czar Nicholas II and his family were murdered in 1918 on the orders of an international Jewish conspiracy.

The Holy Synod, the Russian Orthodox Church's ruling body, announced that it was making the request in order to demonstrate the falsehood of such an allegation.

But, noting the close ties between some Orthodox clergy and extreme nationalist groups known for their anti-Semitism, French historian Georges Minc said it was "inconceivable that, after so many years, the church leadership should revive charges of this nature unless the intention was to stir up a fresh wave of anti-Jewish feeling among many Russians who now look on the murdered imperial family as martyrs."

President Boris N. Yeltsin's government earlier this year set up a commission to investigate the exact circumstances surrounding the killings in Yekaterinburg. During the Soviet era, the official line was that the czar and his family were executed by a squad of the secret police without the knowledge of Communist leader Vladimir Lenin.

Western historians, always dubious of this version of events, were vindicated when Kremlin archives, opened after the Soviet Union's collapse in 1991, furnished evidence that Lenin personally gave the execution order, fearful that the advancing White forces might capture the town and free the czar.

Boris Velitov, a professor of European history at Paris University, said that the false charge had long since been forgotten except by a few die-hard anti-Semites.

"Now, the Holy Synod's action has served to revive it at the very moment that the imperial family's slaughter has again become an emotional issue for many Russians," he said. "I doubt the timing is accidental."

Pub Date: 12/02/97

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