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Romanovs wax poetic on Russia


But among Russians, their public image still suffers

December 3, 1996
Web posted at: 11:20 p.m. EST (0420 GMT)

From Correspondent Peter Arnett

YEKATERINBURG, Russia (CNN) -- The Romanovs rule Russia again, at least in a wax museum in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg. The museum is a block away from the spot where the last ruling family was murdered in 1918.

In the museum exhibit, the bearded Czar Nicholas, Empress Alexandra, their sickly heir Alexei and their four beautiful daughters are all portrayed in a pleasant family pose.

The entire family was slaughtered and their bodies thrown into a pit, where they would be discovered more than 70 years later.

For the school children who regularly troop through the wax museum, the first reaction when they see the former ruling family is remorse. One student said, "It's sad they were shot down; a pity they were killed."

Another youth blamed the Communists, who, he said, destroyed the royal family and much else of value during the Bolshevik revolution.


Beyond the wax museum, however, fans of the Romanovs are making slow progress in their efforts to rehabilitate the family. The Russian Orthodox Church had planned to build a proper memorial to the Czar, who was the spiritual leader of the church, but financing fell through.

And at the murder scene, now identified with a stone marker, volunteers are trying to complete a small wooden chapel to commemorate the family, but with difficulty. One volunteer said the chapel had been burned down twice by people who don't want Russia to revive its royal past.

The Orthodox Church says it wants to confer sainthood on Czar Nicholas. But it is stumped in that effort as it tries to overcome a lack of public support for religion itself.

An Orthodox Church priest told CNN that the resurgence of interest in religion, so apparent after Communism was overthrown in Russia, has abated. People found little value in church-going, he said, because the roots of their faith had been withered by 70 years of political repression.

religious scene

The Communist legacy persevered in Yekaterinburg in many other aspects. The city voted last year to keep Communist street names around the city squares, which are dominated by statues of Communist leaders.

But even here, people are beginning to show moral revulsion against the crimes of the Communists. The city recently dedicated a memorial to the millions of innocents killed in the Soviet gulag prison camps.

This Urals capital is desperate to restructure its Soviet-style economy and fashion a better future for its people. The museum display is one sign that the city is ready to acknowledge crimes of its past as it seeks a brighter future.


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