Russia Launches Investigation into Whether Nicholas II and Family Were Killed as part of Jewish Ritual Murder
Father Tikhon Shevkunov, the Orthodox bishop heading an investigatory panel, is among members of the church who claim the final Russian emperor was murdered in a Jewish ritual.
Tsar Nicholas was shot with his wife and five children by Communist Bolsheviks in 1918 after Vladimir Lenin came to power, and rumours about the circumstances surrounding his death have circulated ever since.
Boruch Gorin, a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities, Russia's largest Jewish group, expressed a strong concern about the claims, which he described as a 'throwback to the darkest ages'.
Some Christians in medieval Europe believed Jews murdered Christians to use their blood for ritual purposes.
The tsar and his family were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad on July 17, 1918, in a basement room of a merchant's house where they were held in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg. The Russian Orthodox Church made them saints in 2000.
Mr Gorin said his group was shocked and angered by the statements from both the bishop and the Investigative Committee, which he said sounded like a revival of the century-old 'anti-Semitic myth' about the killing of the imperial family.
Discussing the Tsar's murder, Father Shevkunov claimed the 'Bolsheviks and their allies engaged in the most unexpected and diverse ritual symbolism'.
He claimed that 'quite a few people involved in the execution - in Moscow or Yekaterinburg - saw the killing of the deposed Russian emperor as a special ritual of revenge'.
And he alleged that Yakov Yurovsky, the organizer of the execution, who was Jewish, later boasted about his 'sacral historic mission.'
He put forward as evidence the claim that a bullet was assigned to each royal, but the majority of the bullets hit the tsar because 'everybody wanted to be part of the regicide' and 'it was a special ritual for many'.
The 'ritual' claims were dismissed by the Prosecutor General's Office in the 1990s but will be explored again as part of a new criminal investigation into the killing.
But Bishop Tikhon's said his panel were taking the claims 'very seriously'.
His claims carry particular weight given his reported close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and influence within the church.
An investigative committee has now launched a 'psychological and historical evaluation' into the matter as part of the on-going criminal case into the slaying of the Romanovs.
Marina Molodtsova, a senior Investigative Committee official, said the probe would 'resolve issues of whether the Romanov family murder had a possible ritual component'.
Key members of a church commission linked to the criminal investigation 'do not have any doubts' the shooting was 'ritualistic', he said.
A staunchly pro-Putin MP, Natalia Poklonskaya, 37, has also claimed the tsar's killing had 'evil' religious motives.
'They murdered the entire royal family, they killed the children in front of their father, they killed the mother in front of the children,' said the politician, formerly the chief prosecutor in Crimea. This is a crime, a frightening ritual murder.'
'Many people are afraid to talk about it - but everyone understands that it happened. It is evil.'
Top Bolshevik Yakov Sverdlov -- who specifically ordered the killing of the last tsar -- was also Jewish.
Alexander Boroda, president of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia, said the accusations were plainly aimed at Jews, and risked stirring up hatred.
'Accusing Jews of a ritual murder is one of the most ancient anti-Semitist slanders,' he said.
'It repeatedly causes persecutions resulting in deaths of hundreds and thousands of people.
'But each time those accusations were considered by people free of anti-Semitic prejudices, it emerged that this slander is false.'
'It's regrettable that it is being advanced again, presenting libelous slander as a theory worthy of an inquiry,' he said.
Judaism was the first religion to abolish human sacrifices and does not know the concept of a 'ritual murder', he said.
Tikhon is widely seen as Putin's personal confessor and spiritual adviser.
The ultra-conservative churchman once said: 'You can believe those rumours if you want, but they certainly are not spread by me.'
The pair were introduced to one another by exiled Russian banker Sergei Pugachev.