Are the Remains of Russian Imperial Family Still Missing? Sorting Out the Facts from the Fiction

By Helen Azar and Margarita Nelipa

Remains of the Romanov family discovered in Ekaterinburg.
Remains of the Romanov family discovered in Ekaterinburg.

Now that Russia’s investigative committee has reopened its case on the 1918 murder of the Romanov family after the Russian Orthodox church demanded further testing of their remains, it seems to be a good time to revisit this article we wrote back in 2005!

We live in an age when scientific analysis has become a reliable and accurate method by which to unravel the mysteries of both the present and the past. History can now be analyzed dispassionately and objectively in terms that we all can agree upon.

Recently, a team of Stanford University scientists re-examined the DNA evidence collected from the remains universally accepted to be those of the last Russian Emperor and his family now interred in a vault in the Cathedral of the Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul in St. Petersburg.(1)

Surprisingly, this team arrived at a different conclusion as to the identity of these remains.  Is it possible that the remains believed to be the Romanovs do not, after all, belong to Nicholas II, his wife and three of his children?  Could they have been misidentified?  What reasons are there to offer these new theories?

Historical curiosity and controversy continues to surround the last Russian Imperial Family, in death, as much as it had in life.  Much has been written about their lives and their final journey to Siberia.  Most historians today agree that members of the last Imperial Family, along with their retainers, were brutally murdered in July 1918, their bodies secreted in a shallow grave just outside of Ekaterinburg.  For decades, the Soviet government had literally, as well as figuratively, blocked the path leading to the location of their remains, preventing historians from bringing closure to the pages of Russian pre-revolutionary history.  It was not until the Soviet government itself was relegated to a footnote in history that they formally announced that the Imperial bones had been discovered and identified.  It all seemed so straightforward.

What is this all about?

We are two professionally educated scientists who, like many readers of this publication, happen to be Russian history buffs. Our goal is to evaluate the validity of the Stanford team’s assertions and to make conclusions based on our knowledge of both science and history.  In the following pages, we would like to guide the reader through some confusing and often misleading information by sharing and explaining what we discovered.  So let us begin.

 What are these startling new claims?

A paper published in the January 2004 issue of Annals of Human Biology by a team led by Dr. Alec Knight, an anthropological scientist, makes some astounding declarations.(2)  Knight announces that despite the apparently definitive conclusions made by Dr. Peter Gill a decade earlier,(3) the remains found in a shallow grave just outside the Siberian town of Ekaterinburg, may not after all be those of the Russian Imperial Family.

During their original 1994 investigation, Dr. Peter Gill and his team performed mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) analysis to compare sequences extracted from the remains believed to be Empress Alexandra and three of her daughters, to the mtDNA sequence of their maternal relative, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.  This comparison resulted in an exact match.(4)  MtDNA analysis was also performed in another laboratory on the remains believed to be Emperor Nicholas II.(5)  An exact match was established with the mtDNA of Nicholas’s brother, the Grand Duke George (deceased in 1899)(6), whose remains were exhumed expressly for this purpose.

On the basis of this DNA analysis, along with strong anthropological and historical evidence, it was concluded that five of the nine sets of remains found in Siberia, indeed belonged to the members of the last Russian Imperial Family.  Gill’s DNA results were consequently published in one of the most prestigious and authoritative scientific journals in the field.(7)

These conclusions were significant because they permitted the Russian government to officially announce that the missing remains of the last Emperor and most of his family had finally been discovered and could be put to rest.(8)

In their 2004 investigation, Dr. Knight and his team contend that they found two major inconsistencies that create doubt about the accuracy of the original DNA results.

First, Knight asserts that because of the inevitability of degradation in given conditions over time,(9) the length of the DNA segments recovered by Gill exceeded the typical ancient DNA product length.  In the Stanford University press release Knight stated that this result could only be explained by contamination with “fresh” DNA originating “from an individual who handled the samples.”(10)

Secondly, Knight refutes the positive identification of the remains as those of Alexandra and three of her daughters because Gill’s DNA profiles did not match the DNA sequence Knight extracted from a tissue sample believed to have come from Alexandra’s sister, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna.

What are our own scientific concerns?

Let us now consider how plausible Dr. Knight’s two theories are.  In order to better judge Knight’s allegations, we will first examine more thoroughly what was accomplished in Dr. Gill’s laboratory in 1994.  For this purpose, we will concentrate on five out of the nine sets of skeletal remains found in Ekaterinburg-the five believed to belong to the members of the Imperial Family.

Dr. Knight’s Theory # 1: Dr. Gill’s mtDNA sequence is a result of contamination with “fresh” DNA.

 At the very least, there are two problems with Knight’s analysis. First, a general issue: if samples in the Gill study were contaminated with extraneous DNA, this would not produce a result that matched a particular DNA sequence. The chances are virtually nonexistent that a random contamination would produce a sequence that would match Prince Philip’s mtDNA (after all, how many of Queen Victoria descendants are running around Russian or Western scientific labs touching the samples?). This theory therefore implies that contamination was deliberate, not accidental. This means that in order to get the exact DNA match, the samples would have to have been completely substituted with DNA identical to Prince Philip’s. Could this have happened? There are some very serious flaws with this theory and here is what we learned.

Using nuclear DNA tests, Gill’s team was able to confirm that five different samples belonging to five separate individuals were present.  Dr. Gill sex-typed the remains, and out of the five, he found that four were females and one was male.  Also according to the nuclear DNA test results, three of the females were biological children of one of the females and the male, revealing a family unit of five.

The same samples were used to conduct mtDNA analysis.  Unlike nuclear DNA, mtDNA sequence is passed intact through the maternal line, from a mother to a daughter to a daughter and so on.  It is also passed from mothers to sons, but males do not pass it to their own progeny.  As long as an unbroken chain of maternal descendants continues, mtDNA remains identical in all matrilineal relatives.  Prince Philip is a maternal descendant of Queen Victoria, as were Alexandra, her siblings, and her children, hence all of them would possess identical mtDNA.

Gill found that mtDNA extracted from all four female remains matched Prince Philip’s mtDNA profile, which confirmed that these remains indeed belonged to Queen Victoria’s descendants.  From this, they were able to deduce that the remains belonged to Alexandra and three of her daughters.  The mtDNA extracted from the male remains was compared to that of Nicholas’s brother, Grand Duke George, and also produced an exact match (including a single base mutation: heteroplasmy).(11)  This confirmed that the male remains belonged to a close matrilineal relative of the last Emperor’s brother, deduced to be Nicholas II himself.

If the samples were substituted, all of the following would have to be true:

(a) The “fresh” DNA would have to come from four different females – a mother and her three biological daughters, all descended from Queen Victoria.  To substantiate the “fresh DNA” claim, all four would have to have been alive or recently deceased at the time their DNA was collected.

(b) The three female “fresh” DNA donors would also have to be the biological children of a close maternal relative of the last Emperor’s brother, Grand Duke George (or of Nicholas II himself).

Where would one go about obtaining such DNA?

What further demonstrates the implausibility of the “contamination/substitution” theory is the fact that the Victorian (Philip’s) mtDNA sequence was obtained only after mtDNA extracted from the bones was sequenced.  This fact made it impossible for the researchers to know what DNA sequence to substitute with.

We will now move on to Dr. Knight’s second theory.

Dr. Knight’s Theory # 2: The Ekaterinburg remains do not belong to Alexandra and three of her daughters because their mtDNA profile did not match the sequence extracted from Dr. Knight’s reference sample.

Knight’s analysis here is based on his choice of reference DNA.  He used DNA extracted from a preserved finger, a relic presumed to belong to Alexandra’s sister, another Victorian descendant, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna.  The Grand Duchess was also murdered in 1918 in the Siberian town of Alapayevsk, and more than sixty years later was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church.(12)

Knight extracted mtDNA from the finger and compared the sequence to Gill’s mtDNA profile.  The sequences did not match.  Dr. Knight hence concluded that the four female remains cannot belong to Alexandra and her three daughters.

Let us now evaluate Knight’s sample and its origins more closely.  In October 1918, three months after their murders, the bodies of the Alapayevsk victims, including Elizabeth Feodorovna’s spiritual companion Sister Barbara, were discovered and retrieved from a mineshaft.  Elizabeth’s body was reportedly identified by an icon she wore around her neck.(13)  This identification was not confirmed scientifically when DNA technology became available.  All the remains were examined, photographed,(14) and placed inside sealed coffins.  For a year, the caskets rested in a crypt of the cathedral in Alapayevsk.  In 1919, due to changing political circumstances, the remains were conveyed further east, through civil war ravaged parts of Siberia, via Manchuria to Jerusalem.(15)  The remains did not rest permanently for almost two and half years after the murders.  It was not until they arrived in Jerusalem, in December of 1920, that they were interred in the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives.(16)  Around the time of Elizabeth Feodorovna’s canonization, several bone segments including a finger, were transported across the ocean, and for over two decades remained in New York in possession of Bishop Anthony Grabbe of the Russian Orthodox Church.(17)  A finger presumed to be that of Elizabeth Feodorovna was recently made available to Dr. Knight for the use in his investigation.(18)

While conducting his study, Dr. Knight failed to perform basic nuclear DNA tests on the sample he was using as his reference.  Likewise, Knight failed to scientifically verify the identity of the finger’s donor by performing comparative mtDNA analysis, which would establish that the finger indeed belonged to a Victorian descendant.  In fact, for some inexplicable reason, Dr. Knight completely avoided mentioning the official existence of a confirmed Victorian mtDNA profile, that of Prince Philip.

To put it simply, in his investigation Knight merely extracted an mtDNA sequence from a sample of an ambiguous origin.  Since it has been subsequently shown that the sequence produced in Knight’s laboratory does not match Prince Philip’s mtDNA sequence, we concluded that the finger could not have belonged to Grand Duchess Elizabeth-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and great aunt of Prince Philip, hence making it an inappropriate reference sample for a comparative DNA analysis of Ekaterinburg bones.

What are our other concerns?

The Russian Expert Commission Abroad

Who are they and what is their involvement in this case?

The Russian Expert Commission Abroad funded Alec Knight’s Stanford project.  The Commission was formed in 1993, and is comprised of a number of Russian émigrés or their descendants.  The members of this group first gained public attention when, according to the author Robert Massie, they confronted Alexander Avdonin (one of the persons who had originally located the Ekaterinburg remains) during the presentation of his findings at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in New York.(19)  The Commission expressed doubts about Avdonin’s integrity in the matter of the Imperial bones due to his past communist associations: “[Avdonin] … was lying.  He was a real old communist.”(20)  The Commission formalized their stance by sending a letter of warning to the Deputy Premier of Russia and Chairman of the Russian Commission, Yuri Yarov, involved in the evidentiary examination of the remains.(21)  They based their declaration from statements made in the Sokolov Report (22) that first described the Ekaterinburg and Alapayevsk deaths.  The Commission expanded their argument to include a claim made by General Michael Deterikhs, that the severed heads (rather than the bone fragments which Sokolov had actually found) of the Imperial Family were all sent to Moscow following the Sokolov investigation.(23)  It was General Deterikhs who had first commissioned the Sokolov Inquiry, and then re-assessed all the collected evidentiary material.  It is important to note that Sokolov’s bodyguard, Captain Paul Bulygin (24) in own personal record of the investigation was silent on this issue.  His account clearly stated that the only human body part that was found in the pits was a severed human female finger,(25) which Sokolov had also described in his original report.(26)

It was on this premise, combined with their belief that the Yurovsky note (27) which purported to describe the Ekaterinburg massacre was not itself authentic, that the Commission firmly believed that “someone put the bones there in 1979 so that it was possible to fake the recovery of the remains in July 1991.”(28)

The Russian Expert Commission was also directly involved in an earlier interpretive assessment conducted by the visiting Stanford study co-author, Dr. Lev Zhivotovsky.(29)  Zhivotovsky joined the Stanford team in order to expand upon his original notion that more proof was required to establish that the Romanov relics were authentic.  In Zhivotovsky’s 1999 inquiry, his and the Commission’s goal was to demonstrate that many scientific and forensic violations occurred during the original investigation of the Romanov bones, rendering Gill’s conclusions invalid.  The Commission maintained that the bones belong to a group of “unknown victims of the Russian Civil War,”(30) rather than to the Imperial Family.

At present, the Commission seems to continue to disregard scientific evidence presented by a number of professional DNA laboratories who, unlike Dr. Knight and his team, performed comparative analyses using the DNA of positively identified relatives, including living members of various European royal houses.  Immediately after the Stanford results were published, the Commission released a public statement expressing “jubilation” in welcoming Knight’s conclusions.(31)

Peer review of the Journal

Annals of Human Biology

The majority of scientific publications are subjected to scrutiny by a panel of independent experts in the field, referred to as “peer reviewers.”  This procedure is a practical form of evaluation, intended to improve the rigor and quality of published articles.  The rationale behind peer review is that often it may be difficult for a research team to identify particular flaws in their logic and the advice given by reviewers helps rectify inconsistencies and omissions before publication.  It is for this reason that peer reviewers should be independent.  We were surprised to learn that Dr. Lev Zhivotovsky happens to be a member of the Annals of Human Biology editorial advisory board,(32) apparently having performed the functions of both a peer reviewer and the author of the Stanford paper.

The use of discredited references

According to the Harvard System (also called the Author-Date System)(33) the fundamental purpose for providing references is to acknowledge other authors’ intellectual work and to place one’s own effort in the context of others working in the field.  This system permits the reader to refer back to original sources that were used to provide background to the report.  This is standard publication procedure.

It is quite acceptable for authors of scientific works to cite mainstream books that pertain directly to their project and not all such references need to have scientific basis.  However, we believe that a number of the Stanford group’s references are historically suspect.  These books are a compilation of hypotheses that attempted to claim that the Imperial Family had escaped the Ekaterinburg massacre.(34)  Many of these books were written before DNA profiling became standard scientific practice, or had been compiled with little understanding of molecular science, or even history.

One of the books (35) selected by the Stanford team has been scorned by Professor Richard Pipes, an eminent Russian historian, in his New York Times book review.(36)  Another of Knight’s selections-a more recent publication, was based on the original discredited book.(37)

The Stanford paper also includes an unpublished reference-a memorandum compiled by The Russian Expert Commission Abroad.(38)  Inclusion of a private citation such as this contradicts the purpose of providing references that should be accessible to all readers.(39)

For what reasons did the Stanford group decide to include this literature?  It would have been more effective to compare and contrast a broad sample of all available publications that reflect current viewpoints, and then explain scientifically why a particular claim fits in with their results.  But rather than incorporating accredited historical publications and arguing against them, Knight seems to have chosen selected references that support particular theories.  Was it because these references are in agreement with the historical perspective espoused by The Russian Expert Commission Abroad?  It appears that the Commission intended to bolster the notion that the remains now buried in St. Petersburg do not belong to the Imperial Family.

We feel that the use of baseless speculative literature is entirely inappropriate for a scientific publication and inconsistent with the academic tradition of open-minded inquiry.

Personal Communications


 On October 24, 2004, one of the authors (40) of this article took the opportunity of speaking with the historian Robert Massie, after his lecture at the Newark Museum in New Jersey.  During the conversation, Mr. Massie affirmed that he was aware of having been cited in the Stanford work but was unable to agree with the conclusions reached by Dr. Knight and his team.


In the course of researching this article, we developed a series of fair, reasonable, and direct questions that we hoped would shed more light on some of the more complicated issues involved in this case, and also effectively address the allegations proposed.  We wished to directly compare individual expert positions of both scientists, which would give us a more balanced view of their opposing arguments.  With this in mind we contacted both Peter Gill and Alec Knight, and offered them the opportunity to answer our questions and to clarify any issues they wished to advance.  As a result we were able to gather additional information to support the facts of this case.

Dr. Peter Gill and his associate, Dr. Erika Hagelberg (an ancient DNA expert and co-author of Gill’s 1994 investigation), answered all of our inquiries.  Regrettably, Dr. Alec Knight declined to answer any questions directed to him, on either September 16, 2004, or October 29, 2004.  Regardless of this setback, we decided to include all our questions below, for the reader’s information.

Questions presented to Peter Gill’s team (October 30, 2004, and November 4, 2004):

Authors: The Russian Expert Commission Abroad claims that they had requested to see your raw data and that you failed to respond. Is there any truth to this and what is your side of the story?

Peter Gill: A complete misrepresentation.  The raw data are published in the peer-reviewed article in Nature Genetics….Forensic labs are subject to rigorous external review and quality control standards–the Stanford group does not have accreditation, neither does it have sufficient experience or expertise to examine results.  The Stanford group has also demonstrated considerable bias with their assessment that I think is politically motivated.  They seem prepared to throw all scientific reasoning out of the window.  The best form of peer review is demonstration of reproducibility in independent laboratories.  We have done this.

Authors: The Russian Expert Commission Abroad has attempted to cast doubt on the identity of Nicholas II’s remains by maintaining that the DNA of Nicholas’s maternal nephew, Tikhon Kulikovsky, manifested no heteroplasmy.  They added that the tests done on the hair of Grand Duke George and Nicholas’s own sweat stain showed no heteroplasmy either.  Would you please explain this issue?

Peter Gill: Heteroplasmy is a transient event in genetic terms.  In the Tsar and his brother a C/T polymorphism was observed at position 16169-fixation (i.e. loss of one or the other bases) would be expected in a couple of generations (otherwise everyone would be heteroplasmic).  Recall that in our study we analysed the DNA from 2 modern day descendants of the Tsar, namely the Duke of Fife and Princess Xenia [sic].  Both of these individuals showed fixation (C) at position 16169.  Tikhon Kulikovski [sic] had an identical sequence except that fixation at 16169 was with base T i.e. exactly as we would expect from the original C/T heteroplasmy.  Note that this work was carried out independently of us by Rogaev, E, I, et al (Russ-J-Genet) 1996, 32, 1472-1474. They concluded [that] “these results indicate that there were independent mutations in the maternal line or a mutation causing a heteroplasmy in the lineage of Louise Hesse-Cassel.”  It is very problematic working on things like sweat or old blood stains because of contamination issues-if a museum attendant handles the material his DNA could easily be detected.  This is why such material is unreliable as a reference.  Bones are the best reference material.  Although the outer surface may be contaminated-the outer layers are removed by sandblasting or sand paper, to ensure that the DNA extracted could only have come from the inner bone matrix (which could not be contaminated).  The other issue is that the methods used to analyse the mitochondrial DNA are technically difficult and challenging.  Considerable expertise is required and the heteroplasmy could easily be missed [by] inexperienced hands-or if the wrong technique [is used](i.e. one which was insensitive to heteroplasmy).

Authors: Dr. Knight argues that your 1994 results were “too good” to be accurate, i.e. the DNA strands are unusually long–that this result is impossible to achieve with ancient DNA kept in less than ideal environmental conditions for over seventy years. As an ancient DNA expert, what are your thoughts on this matter?

Erika Hagelberg: I have amplified DNA from several hundred samples of archaeological human bones.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t….I can usually tell from visual examination of the bones if there is a good chance that they will yield DNA.  If the bones are solid and white, there is a good chance of getting DNA from them.  The Romanov bones certainly looked good to me.  At the time of the Romanov work, I had worked only on bone DNA, and not on modern DNA.  I had worked on human and animal bones ranging from a few tens to thousands [of] years, so I was used to highly degraded DNA.  Previous to the Romanov study, I worked on two forensic cases….[The first case was] the identification of the skeletal remains of a murder victim [Karen Price].  We did this work in 1990 [and] it was published in Nature in 1991.  We managed to identify the murder victim by means of minisatellite DNA markers, the first time this type of work had been done in a forensic context.  Even though we managed to amplify nuclear DNA from the bones, something considered a feat at that time, we considered the bone DNA to be “degraded,” compared to modern DNA…[but because] I was used to much older bones that were really degraded, [this] preservation was good compared to the archaeological samples I was used to working with.           We used the same approach [as above] to identify the skeletal remains alleged to be those of Joseph Mengele.  The “Mengele” bones yielded nuclear DNA, even though the remains had been buried in a tropical environment, in Brazil, and were considered “poorly preserved” by forensic experts….[P]reservation is an ambiguous statement…used in different ways by different experts.  What I can say from my own experience is that the Romanov [remains], [the] Mengele remains, and [the] Karen Price remains were easy to amplify in my hands, much easier than samples from archaeological contexts….In [the latter] two cases, there was no question that we had done shoddy work or contaminated the bones….[In the past] I have amplified pieces of about 800 bp [base pairs] in length from DNA extracted from medieval bones.  I don’t see any problem in amplifying 1 kb from “forensic” samples like those of the Romanovs.

Authors: Dr Knight believes that contamination with “fresh” DNA had probably occurred in your samples.  How would you respond to this?

Peter Gill: As a forensic lab we are very well aware [of] contamination issues and we make strenuous efforts to avoid it for obvious reasons.  This includes maintaining a database of staff against which all results are compared.  The likeliest source of contamination is from scientists working in the lab.  We had such a database of scientists working on the Romanov remains to compare.  In addition, we did not receive control samples until after we had obtained results from the bones.  Of course this means that:  a) The analysis we carried out was completely “blind” as we did not know the “answer” before we carried out analysis of the reference samples; b) Cross contamination cited by Alec Knight is impossible.  Knight also proposed that the bones were deliberately tampered [with] i.e. sprayed with DNA before they reached our laboratory.  However, our protocol (and I am sure this is true in all ancient DNA labs) includes the removal of the outer layer of bone by sandblasting or using another physical abrasion method.  This is because contaminants are likely to affect the outer surface-I do not know of any evidence to suggest that contamination can permeate the inner layers of the bone-even if deliberate.

Questions presented to Alec Knight’s team (September 16, 2004 and October 29, 2004):

  1. How would you justify the DNA contamination theory considering that the nuclear and the mtDNA from the four female samples established them to belong to four different Victorian descendants, three of whom were the biological children of the fourth female as well as the biological children of a close maternal male relative of the Grand Duke George (believed to be Nicholas II)?
  2. Why was the existence of Prince Philip’s mtDNA-an accepted published Victorian sequence, completely ignored in your investigation?
  3. The mtDNA you extracted from the finger purported to be the Grand Duchess Elizabeth’s did not match Prince Philip’s mtDNA. Would you please explain this fact?

At the time of this publication the above inquiries remain unanswered.

Our Conclusions

Having closely evaluated the evidence on both sides, we concluded that the assertions made by the Stanford team, in association with The Russian Expert Commission Abroad, are entirely unsubstantiated.

  1. Any possibility of sample contamination or sample substitution occurring in Peter Gill’s laboratory, or in any collaborative laboratories associated with Gill, was dismissed as impossible. The conjecture that the Ekaterinburg bones analyzed by Dr. Gill belong to random individuals is scientifically without merit.
  2. The mtDNA sequence extracted from the finger presumed to belong to Empress Alexandra’s sister and used as a DNA reference for comparative analysis of the Ekaterinburg remains has been shown to be unacceptable, rendering any conclusions based on this reference completely invalid.

We believe that the question about the identity of the Ekaterinburg remains has been answered a decade ago, but you, the reader, having been armed with all the relevant information can now judge for yourself.  Regrettably, the same cannot be said for the finger purported to belong to the Grand Duchess Elizabeth.  The identity of its donor still remains unclear…But this is a different story that calls for a separate investigation.


The authors would like to thank Christopher Warwick who first brought the Stanford study to our attention, and who kindly assisted us with information surrounding Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna’s death.  We are also grateful to Greg King for generously sharing a few photos from his collection for use in our article, and for providing the opportunity to express our concerns.

Source Notes

  1. Gendrikov and Sen’ko, 22.
  2. Knight, et al., 129-138.
  3. Gill, et al., 130-135.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ivanov, et al., 417-410.
  6. Chavchavadze, 219.
  7. Gill, et al., 130-135.
  8. Speech of the President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin during the funeral ceremony in the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul at the Fortress of St. Peter and St. Paul, in Gendrikov and Sen’ko, 1.
  9. Knight, et al., 129-138.
  10. Shwartz.
  11. Ivanov, in Ekaterinburgskaya Tragediya, 100-103.
  12. Kisilev.
  13. Knight, et al., see Materials and Methods.
  14. Sokolov, photo inserts after page 226, Image No. 137.
  15. Belyakova, 105.
  16. Serfes.
  17. Kisilev.
  18. Knight, et al., see Materials and Methods.
  19. Massie, 128.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Ibid.
  22. Sokolov.
  23. King and Wilson, 18, 392.
  24. Bulygin, 252.
  25. Sokolov, photo insert between pages 226-227, Image No. 120.
  26. Sokolov, 189.
  27. Bykov, 106-110.
  28. Massie, 129.
  29. Zhivotovsky, 569-577.
  30. Russian Expert Commission Abroad, Press Release with Explanatory Remarks, January 28, 2004.
  31. Ibid.
  32. Editorial Advisory Board for Annals of Human Biology.
  33. Harvard Referencing Guide.
  34. McNeal, 267; Summers and Mangold, 321.
  35. Summers and Mangold.
  36. Massie, 23.
  37. McNeal.
  38. Knight, et al., see reference: Koltypin-Wallovskoy, P., et al., Memorandum No. 3 (Open Letter to the Russian President, dated December 25, 1993).
  39. Knight, et al.
  40. Personal conversation between Helen Azar and Robert Massie, October 24, 2004, at The Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey.




Published Works:

Belyakova, Zoia. The Romanovs: The Way It Was.  St. Petersburg: Ego, 2000.

Bulygin, Paul, and Alexander Kerensky. The Murder of the Romanovs: The Authentic Account.  New York: Robert McBride & Co., Inc., 1935.

Bykov, Paul. Poslednii Dni Romanovih.  Sverdlovsk: Urali’skii Rabochii, 1990.

Chavchavadze, Prince David. The Grand Dukes.  New York: Atlantic International Publications, Inc., 1990.

Gendrikov, V., and S. Sen’ko. The Last Journey.  St. Petersburg: The State Museum of the History of St. Petersburg, 1999.

Ivanov, Pavel. L.  “Prospects of Genetic Analysis.”  In Ekaterinburgskaya Tragediya: Taina Tsarskih Ostankov [The Ekaterinburg Tragedy: Mystery of the Tsarist Remains].  Ekaterinburg: Sredneural’skoye Knizhnoe Izdatel’stvo, 1994.

King, Greg, and Penny Wilson. The Fate of the Romanovs.  New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2003.

Massie, Robert K. The Romanovs: The Final Chapter.  London: Arrow Books, 1996.

McNeal, Shay. The Secret Plot to Save the Tsar: The Truth Behind the Romanov Mystery.  New York: William Morrow, 2001.

Sokolov, Nicholas. The Sokolov Investigation.  Translated from the French by John O’Conor.  New York: Robert Speller & Sons, 1971.

Summers, Anthony, and Tom Mangold. The File on the Tsar.  New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Journals and Periodicals

Gill, Peter, et al.  “Identification of the Remains of the Romanov Family by DNA Analysis.”  In Nature Genetics.  No. 6, 1994.

Ivanov, Pavel, et al.  “Mitochondrial DNA Sequence Heteroplasmy in the Grand Duke of Russia Georgii Romanov Establishes the Authenticity of the Remains of Tsar Nicholas II.”  In Nature Genetics, No. 4, 1996.

Knight, Alec, et al.  “Molecular, Forensic, and Haplotypic Inconsistencies Regarding the Identity of the Ekaterinburg Remains.”  In Annals of Human Biology, No. 31, 2004.

Zhivotovsky, Lev.  “Recognition of the Remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his Family: A Case of Premature Identification?”  In Annals of Human Biology, No. 26, 1999.

Other Media

Editorial Advisory Board for Annals of Human Biology

Harvard Referencing Guide

Kisilev, A. “How the New Martyrs of Russia were Glorified.”  Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia Website:

Russian Expert Commission Abroad, Press Release (online version), with Explanatory Remarks, January 28, 2004, (no author credited):’04).htm

Serfes, N.  “Life of the Holy Royal Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth.”

Shwartz, M.  Stanford University Press Release.  “Stanford Study Questions Identity of Alleged Romanov Bones,” March 2, 2004.

Related article translated into Russian HERE






2 thoughts on “Are the Remains of Russian Imperial Family Still Missing? Sorting Out the Facts from the Fiction

  1. Nice article that is well reasoned and accurate. Actually, you have only scratched the surface of the sum of scientifially valid and forensically well-documented DNA evidence that conclusively has identified the Romanovs. Likewise, there are additional very persuasive considerations that invalidate the claimed doubts. Please feel fee to contact me if you would like additional insight into the technical aspects of the case.


  2. May I ask for the reference for why the finger used by the Stanford team was, as you put it, subsequently proved not to match Philip’s DNA? Thanks.


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