With the scent of incense hanging in the air, Russia buried its last czar Friday in a somber ceremony that President Boris Yeltsin called an atonement for "one of the most shameful pages of our history."
On the 80th anniversary of the executions of the Russian royal family, nine coffins with the bones of Czar Nicholas II, his wife, daughters and servants were lowered into one large crypt beneath the floor of the gilded, 18th-century St. Peter and Paul Cathedral."We have long been silent about this monstrous crime," Yeltsin said of the executions, carried out by Bolshevik revolutionaries at the dawn of the communist era. "Guilty are those who committed this heinous crime, and those who have been justifying it for decades, all of us."
Yeltsin said the burial should serve as a catalyst for national reconciliation in a country that has lurched from one upheaval to another during the 20th century - from revolution and civil war, to famine, political purges and the collapse of the Soviet empire.
"We must finish this century, which has become the century of blood and lawlessness for Russia, with repentance and reconciliation," Yeltsin said.
The burial was officiated by a dozen bearded priests in gold-and-white robes, with one gently swinging a censer that sent small puffs of burning incense wafting over the coffins.
Dozens of the czar's relatives, diplomats from 50 countries, and Prince Michael of Kent, a member of the British royal family, which is related to Russian royalty, stood holding candles at the cathedral on the banks of the Neva River.
The czar's family members tossed white sand, representing the earth, onto the coffins.