Manmohan’s family goes on trip down Russia’s tsarist past (Lead)

June 16th, 2009 - 6:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh By Manish Chand
Yekaterinburg (Russia), June 16 (IANS) A trip to the site where Russia’s last tsar and his family were killed over nine decades ago and the story of the brutality of their massacre left Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s wife Gursharan Kaur and her daughter very moved.

Gursharan Kaur, who has accompanied the prime minister to this Russian industrial city, and her daughter Upinder, a historian who teaches at New Delhi’s St. Stephen’s College, visited the Church of Spilt Blood Tuesday that has now turned into a centre of pilgrimage.

A Russian guide told the visitors of the events on that dark night of Jan 17, 1918, when the Bolshevik Guards called the tsar and his family to the cellar and shot them. Kaur and her daughter Upinder appeared quite moved by the narration, those who accompanied them said.

Legend has it that the bloodthirsty executioners had a tough time eliminating the tsar’s wife and her four daughters and a son as they were wearing heavy jewellery in their corsets. “Bullets bounced off them and they had to finally bludgeon them to death,” narrated Elena, a Russian guide.

Archbishop Vikenty of the Russian Orthodox Church, dressed in priestly robes studded with precious stones and sporting a long beard, shepherded the prime minister’s family around the elegant interiors of the church and showed them the place where the organised massacre took place in a cellar.

Tsar Nicholas II and his close family have been canonized and are now revered as saints. Hordes of Russians and tourists visit the Church of Spilt Blood that stands as a testimony to the dark past of revolutionary purges and Russia’s turn to reconciliation and spirituality in the post-glasnost era.

They light candles, say their prayers quietly and bow their heads in an act of atonement at the cellar-turned-church.

Early this month, the Russian Prosecutor General’s office rehabilitated six other members of the former Russian royal family, Romanovs, by declaring them victims of repression.

Manmohan Singh is here to attend two international summits.

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