Vsevolod Chaplin: ''In case of the tsarist family’s murder, all versions should be checked''

Understatement and lack of evidence. Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin’s column about ‘ritual murder’ of the tsarist family and Jews

Vsevolod Chaplin: ''In case of the tsarist family’s murder, all versions should be checked'' Photo: Boasson and Eggler / Wikimedia Commons

Debates around Yegoryevsk Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov's statement about 'ritual murder' of Tsar Nikolay II and his family where some people saw a hint to the Jews don't settle down. Even if the very Orthodox priest has already explained his position separately, society wasn't satisfied with such an answer. In a column written for Realnoe Vremya, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin finds why our His Grace Tikhon's words caused an 'allergic reactions' among some Jews. The columnist of our newspaper also tries to reply whether the execution of the last Russian emperor and his family in the Urals was really ritual murder.

Holocaust's echo

The information upsurge caused by Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) that some people in the Church consider the murder of Emperor Nikolay II and his family as ritual still hasn't calmed down. After a talk of His Grace with President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia Rabbi Aleksandr Boroda, the sides stated the bishop's statements didn't have anti-Semitic motifs. However, there are still 'circles on the water surface' and they will remain for long – not only in Russia but also in Western Europe, America, Israel. At least the foreign media still call me to talk on this topic.

The interest in the topic isn't accidental, of course. After many massacres, after the Holocaust when the innocent destruction of people was justified by including blood libel, the Jewish community will extremely painfully react to any statements of ritual murders for ever. And one should understand it, one should listen to it, including Russian patriots and conservatives. We fairly become indignant when somebody in recent Soviet republic remembers Nazi 'arguments' about 'red Moscow barbarians' and 'undermen'. These arguments fed the Russian holocaust – not only Nazi but western or inspired by the western idea, including Bolshevist. I think one should express mutual understanding in the context of very difficult centuries-old Russian-Jewish relations – at least when the memory of victims is the point.

The information upsurge caused by Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov) that some people in the Church consider the murder of Emperor Nikolay II and his family as ritual still hasn't calmed down. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

However, some liberals, including Orthodox, created hysteria that is usual in such cases: 'it's terrible', 'rubbish', 'it's terrible, terrible, terrible'. It is what nice professor Andrey Zubov who taught me History of Religions at the spiritual academy writes: ''The current position of the country that humours obscurantists who look for Judeo-Masonic conspiracy everywhere and the position of the Russian Orthodox Church that obscurantistically denies a positive scientific analysis will be a burning shame soon.'' In fact, Mr Zubov isn't a liberal, though he ran for the Duma from People's Freedom Party. He supports the comeback of pre-revolutionary traditionalism. But this comeback is impossible without the truth about crimes of the Bolsheviks, especially early ones and about occulted, quasi-religious roots of these crimes. By the way, one shouldn't forget that Lunacharsky and Bazarov's God-Building, quasi-religious symbols like a monument to Judas or pentagram, including reverse, were present in the rational Bolshevist culture.

Phenomenon of murder as a ritual

I don't think that mystic roots of the Bolshevist ideology should be looked for in Judaism. The ongoing exhibition 'Freedom for All? The History of One People in the Years of Revolution' very convincingly shows how the Bolshevists with quite many people of Jewish origin among them fought against the Jewish religion, Zionism, learning Hebrew. It's known that some Old Testament texts – and late Jewish texts – had severe statements and orders addressed to peoples of other religions (both Christianity and Islam have such texts). But as far as it's known now, nobody has found any excuse for ritual murders and orders to commit them. Different, mildly speaking, non-authentic publications of the 20 th century don't count. In addition, there isn't any proved case of religious and ritual murders by the Jews, and the outcome of the Beilis affair demonstrated it very well.

However, the phenomenon of murder as a ritual – secret or public – certainly exists as well as the phenomenon of murder on religious (or quasi-religious) grounds. Aren't ceremonial massacres 'on camera' carried out by terrorist groups banned in Russia a ritual act? What about public executions in China? What about satanic acts including the murder of monks of Optina Monastery with knives and 666? What about the mass suicide of members of Jim Jones's sect in Guyana in 1978? We can leave the term a 'ritual murder' like Aleksandr Boroda offers, of course. But the concept of 'sacral victim' that was proposed by him doesn't cover all specifics of the phenomenon we're talking about. A victim can be sometimes very usual, and the method of killing is linked with 'unusual' quasi-religious views.

''There isn't any proved case of religious and ritual murders by the Jews, and the outcome of the Beilis affair demonstrated it very well.'' Photo: wikipedia.org

In case of the tsarist family's murder that has accumulated many understatements, rumours, mystifications around itself for 100 years, all versions should be checked. From miraculous liquidation to complete destruction of bodies because right understatement and lack of evidence fuel suspicion and mistrust in 'official' conclusions among many people, especially Orthodox Christian who think that the tsar and his family are holy people whose icons we pray to and whose relics we will respect if there is no suspicion of their authenticity (by the way, our Soviet colleagues forget that in this case not the 'burial with an orchestra' by the ritual created by Georgy Vilinbakh but a festive placement of the relics to the church with Orthodox prayers is the point).

Head on plate

By the way, there was only one Jew among the participants in the murder of the tsarist family – Yakov Yurovsky. But one shouldn't consider all plotters and participants of the massacre as stupid people and 'low-level performers' because somebody engraved Heine's wisely modified lines on the wall of Ipatyev's house: '' Belsatzar ward aber in selbiger Nacht Von seinen Knechten umgebracht'' (Belsatzar was, that night, killed by his own knights; and the name of the ancient ruler was changed, so that it included the word 'tsar'). Although this note could be made much later – because many people, in the era of both the Reds and Whites, had access to the sadly famous house until 14 August 1918. One should also check quite personal but still not confirmed by documents rumours about the emperor's decapitation and delivery of his head to Moscow, to the Kremlin. By the way, a similar act was carried out before – but not by the Jews but quite Russian Orthodox tsarist authorities: Hadji Murad's head was brought to Petersburg in the middle of the 19th century, what many residents of North Caucasus still remember with displeasure.

The versions about falsification of the burial should be carefully treated – for instance, to check whether Nikolay II's skeleton wasn't substituted by his brother great Prince Mikhail Aleksandrovich's remains that are still officially considered unfound. In this case, the genetic picture will coincide but anthropological characteristics – not necessarily (there are debates about the coincidence of the skill attributed to Nikolay II and his photos).

''In brief, many questions still remain. And I don't see any sensible reason to deny them, announce 'undiscussable' or include in a secret stop list.'' Photo: wikipedia.ru (Ipatyev's house where the tsarist family was killed)

The most important thing is not to be shamed to find those who are guilty of the tsar's murder not only at the level of persons but at the level of institutions. What is Ural Regional Soviet's fault? Is it true that a telephone connection between Lenin and head of the Executive Committee of the Ural Regional Soviet Beloborodov was established to deliberately solve the problem of the tsarist family's fate? If it's true, was it recorded what they talked about? Is there any evidence to consider the Council of People's Commissars and the Bolshevist party also guilty?

In brief, many questions still remain. And I don't see any sensible reason to deny them, announce 'undiscussable' or include in a secret stop list.

By Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin