National Geographic News
Two missing children of the last Russian monarchs were executed with their family in 1918, new evidence finds, closing a case that has captivated the world for almost a century.
Remains of a boy and girl, found in 2007 in a grave in Yekaterinburg, Russia, belong to Crown Prince Alexei and one of his sisters, according to "virtually irrefutable" evidence.
The children were buried together a few kilometers from a mass grave where the bones of their three sisters and parents, Tsar Nicholas II Romanov and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, were found in 1991.
Three lines of DNA analysis show that the likelihood that the remains are related to the Romanov family is about "4.3 trillion times more likely" than the possibility they are from a random family, said study lead author Michael Coble, research section chief for the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Rockville, Maryland.
After 300 years of rule, the Romanov reign ended in 1917 following the Bolshevik revolution, when Tsar Nicholas II gave up his crown.
The family was exiled to the city of Yekaterinburg and held captive by the Ural Soviets.
Fearing a rescue from the family's supporters, Bolshevik executioners killed the tsar, his family, and four of his staff via firing squad on July 17, 1918.
Though DNA testing confirmed the identities of the rest of the Romanov family in the mass grave, the mysterious second burial fueled speculation that the two bodies did not belong to the missing children.
The public had a "romantic idea that someone perhaps survived and made their way out of Russia," Coble said.
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