Just where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were buried after their execution by Bolshevik revolutionaries in 1918 — and whether all were killed — has been a long-standing mystery, one that Russian investigators hope to finally put to rest using DNA testing and exhumation of an emperor, NPR reports.
Skeletal remains found near Yekaterinberg in the early 1990s are thought to belong to Tsar Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and three of their daughters, and a second set of remains uncovered nearby in 2007 are thought to those of Nicholas's younger children, Crown Prince Alexei and the Grand Duchess Maria. Previous DNA testing that compared samples from these remains to samples from relatives suggested that all these remains belonged to the Romanovs.
This new test, NPR says, would compare the sets of Yekaterinberg remains to samples from Tsar Alexander III, Nicholas's father — Russian researchers have opened his tomb to obtain samples. But some say that goes too far.
"Opening the tomb of Alexander III is, I would say, inappropriate," historian Yevgeny Pchelov tells NPR. "It's a cultural monument, it's the grave of an emperor, and to disturb the burial just to make sure, I think, is not quite justified."