(AFP) – Oct 1, 2008
MOSCOW (AFP) — Russia's Supreme Court on Wednesday formally rehabilitated the country's last tsar, Nicholas II, declaring that he and his family were unlawfully killed by Soviet authorities.
The ruling negates the Romanov's culpability in crimes the Bolsheviks used to justify the 1917 revolution and the slaying of the tsar and his royal family the following year.
"The presidium declared as groundless the repression of Tsar Nicholas II and his family and rehabilitated them," said Supreme Court spokesman Pavel Odintsov.
The decision overturns a ruling by the same court in November 2007 that the killings did not qualify as political repression, but premeditated murder.
It was welcomed by the Russian Orthodox Church and descendants of Nicholas II including Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, who spearheaded the campaign to rehabilitate the imperial Romanov family.
"The grand duchess expressed her joy and satisfaction after the decision," her spokesman Alexander Zakatov told AFP, adding the decision "proves the rule of law in Russia."
Her lawyer, German Lukyanov, described it as "a final decision that cannot be challenged," adding the duchess did not intend to claim any royal property seized by the Bolsheviks.
Other Romanovs have been rehabilitated as victims of Soviet political repression, but a similar measure was refused in February for the last tsar and his immediate family, whose remains are buried in Saint Petersburg.
A spokesman for the Orthodox Church said the "decision can only be welcomed," in a statement reported by Interfax news agency.
"It strengthens the rule of law, restores historical continuity and 1,000 years of state tradition," the spokesman Georgy Ryabykh was quoted as saying.
Another branch of the Romanov's descendants also praised the ruling.
"The fact that the Russian state took responsibility for that murder is a step towards repentance ... and the rehabilitation of all innocent (Bolshevik) victims," said their spokesman Ivan Artsishevsky.
Tsar Nicholas II, his German-born wife Alexandra and their five children were shot by Bolshevik police in the cellars of a house in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, where they were being held prisoner, on July 17, 1918, eight months after the Russian revolution.
The fate of the tsar and his family has been a political football in Russia since their remains were found in a forest near Yekaterinburg in the closing years of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
They were canonised by the Russian Orthodox Church as martyrs in 2000 despite abundant evidence that "bloody Nicholas," as the Bolsheviks branded him, had been a leading contributor to the misfortunes that befell the country.
In late 2002, the duchess appealed to a Kremlin commission under President Vladimir Putin to rehabilitate and declare null and void the "crimes" of Romanovs.
Putin's successor, Dmitry Medvedev, who became Russia's youngest leader since Nicholas II when inaugurated as president in May at the age of 42, is reported to be something of an admirer of the late tsar.
The Russian authorities have played along with moves to rehabilitate the Romanovs perhaps, observers believe, because the memory of their execution serves to tarnish the reputation of the Communist Party, still the leading opposition group in Russian politics.
The rehabilitation was later denounced by Communists, who said it was "cynical" but would "sooner or later be corrected."
"It was not the Bolsheviks" who took out the tsar, but "all the working people," said Communist Party deputy leader Ivan Melnikov.
The anniversary of the tsar's execution has become the occasion for religious processions throughout Russia.
This year on July 17, hundreds of monarchists turned out in Moscow to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the slaying of Nicholas II and his family.
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