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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 July, 2003, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Church marks killing of Russian tsar
Church on the Blood
The church stands on the site where the Romanovs were shot
The Russian Orthodox Church has consecrated a golden-domed church on the site where Russia's last tsar and his family were killed by Bolshevik revolutionaries 85 years ago.

The ceremony in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg was attended by hundreds of people, including cellist Mstislav Rostropovich and the Grand Duchess of the Romanov dynasty, Maria Vladimirovna.

Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and his five children were shot dead in 1918 after the Bolshevik revolution overthrew the Tsarist system and installed communism.

The Church on the Blood was built at a cost of 328 million roubles (about US$1m), much of it donated by large companies, according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

It stands on the site of the house of an engineer named Ipatyev, where the Bolsheviks guarded the tsar and his family for 78 days before executing them in the cellar. The house was demolished in 1977.

A wife of one of Nicholas's relatives, Olga Kulikovskaya-Romanova, dedicated an icon called The Virgin Mary with Three Hands to the church. It was found at Ipatyev's home following the killing of the Romanovs.

Years of controversy

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II was too ill to travel to Yekaterinburg, 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) east of Moscow.

But in a message to the faithful who attended the consecration, he said it was "a possible historic turn" for Russia and called for unity between the Russian Orthodox church, the state and the Russian people.

Tsar Nicholas II and his family
The tsar was believed by the church to have a divine right to rule
The patriarch said it was important "that at the place where the blood of the holy regal martyrs was spilled, where an attempt to destroy Russia was undertaken, should begin a revival of the glorious traditions under which both the authorities and ordinary citizens try to co-ordinate their affairs with God's precepts... to build the kind of fatherland that would correspond to the ideal of holy Russia".

The remains of Nicholas II, his wife and three of their five children, Tatiana, Olga and Anastasia, were unearthed from a mining pit near Yekaterinburg in 1991.

They were buried at the Peter and Paul Fortress in Saint Petersburg in 1998 after years of argument about their authenticity and several genetic tests.

The remains of two of the children have never been found.

Russians mark tsar's execution
17 Jul 02  |  Media reports
Romanovs laid to rest
17 Jul 98  |  Europe

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