MOSCOW (Jul. 19)
The burial of Russia’s last imperial family – – intended to be a moment of national reconciliation — instead has fueled a national controversy that included some familiar anti-Jewish canards.
President Boris Yeltsin made a surprise, last-minute decision to attend Friday’s burial of the remains of Czar Nicholas II, who along with his wife Alexandra, their children and servants, was secretly shot by a Bolshevik firing squad in the summer of 1918.
But the Russian Orthodox Church, which does not acknowledge the veracity of DNA tests which established that remains found seven years ago in the city of Yekaterinburg are indeed those of Nicholas and his family, boycotted the event.
Shortly after the fate of the family became known, a rumor spread that Jews were responsible for the death of the czar. Supporters of the conspiracy theory rely on the fact that many of the early Bolsheviks were of Jewish origin – – including the head of the firing squad that shot the royal family.
The burial rekindled these theories once again.
“Regardless of the fuss made by the government and the Jew Nemtsov, for Orthodox people the funeral will virtually not exist,” Alexander Rakov, editor of a Russian Orthodox newspaper in St. Petersburg, said in an interview on the eve of Friday’s ceremony.
Rakov was referring to Boris Nemtsov, the Russian deputy prime minister who headed a government commission that used historical and forensic arguments to dispel the version of the deaths that holds Jews responsible.
A placard at a hard-line monarchist and Christian rally held two days before the remains were buried read “Satanic Regime — Satanic Rituals,” a thinly veiled attack on an imagined Jewish plot against the czar and church.
And in a recent interview, Sergei Khazanov-Pashkovsky, an activist with St. Petersburg’s leading monarchist group, the Russian Imperial Union-Order, echoed the traditional cry of many Russian anti-Semites when he claimed that both the 1905 and 1917 Russian revolutions were financed with Jewish money.
With security tight, Friday’s burial passed without incident.
Jewish leaders, who welcomed the burial, have generally kept a low profile on the controversy, but the Jewish significance of the event was not forgotten.
The czar was killed like the murders of “thousands of families in the Jewish pogroms of 1905 — which were encouraged by the czarist police,” Leonid Radzikhovsky, a columnist for the Segodnya newspaper, wrote on Thursday.
“This does not make the fate of the czar’s family less tragic, but we should not forget that this controversial man, who later became a victim himself, looked approvingly” on anti-Jewish violence, said Tovy Norkin, a retired history teacher who lives in Moscow.
Zinovy Kogan, leader of the Moscow Reform congregation Hineini, said July 17, the day of the burial, should become a memorial day for all victims of the pogroms and civil war that followed the 1917 revolution.