It’s been 20 years since Russia’s last imperial family, the Romanovs, were canonized for martyrdom at the hands of Bolsheviks in 1918. Clergy and pilgrims paid tribute to the sainthood with a solemn procession near Moscow.
The traditional event, called the Elisabeth Procession, set out earlier on Sunday on the outskirts of the Russian capital, spanning between the ancient villages of Usovo and Ilyinskoye. Both hamlets were part of the only imperial estate outside Moscow and belonged to Empress Maria Alexandrovna, the first wife of Tsar Alexander II, as well as one of the founders of the Russian Red Cross.
The procession started with twin church services in Ilyinskoye and Usovo, with clerics and pilgrims walking several kilometers on foot towards the Moskva river, which they crossed using a pontoon bridge.
Some were bearing icons depicting the Romanov family – Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children – who were executed by Bolshevik revolutionaries in the Urals city of Ekaterinburg back in 1918.
The Orthodox Church said this year’s procession was to mark 20 years since the imperial family were elevated to the status of saints for their martyrdom. The church sees them as revered figures and “passion-bearers.” The choice of the venue for Sunday’s procession is no coincidence: Nicholas II visited the Ilyinskoye estate more than once in the late 1890s.
The solemn action comes as an investigation into the imperial family’s assassination is producing new revelations. This summer, Russia’s Investigative Committee said detectives came closer to identify some members of the execution squad that shot and bayonetted to death the last Russian royals almost 100 years ago.
Investigators re-enacted the executions in a room the same size as the basement where the Romanovs were killed. They managed to “refute some researchers’ arguments that 11 victims and participants in the execution could not fit into such a small room,” a senior investigator told the media.
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