SOME EXPLANATORY REMARKS-1
28 January 2004
With considerable jubilation we welcome the publication of the article “Molecular Forensic and Haplotypic Inconsistencies Regarding the Identity of the Ekaterinburg Remains” by Alec Knight, Lev A. Zhivotovsky, David H. Kass, Daryl E Litwin, Lance D.Green, P.Scott White and Joanna L. Mountain in the current issue of Annals of Human Biology and simultaneously a news article on the same subject in the current Science magazine, both of which indicate the correctness of the stand our Commission has expressed for over a decade, which is that the remains found in Ekaterinburg, Russia, have not been proven to belong to Czar Nicholas II and his family.
As a result of our many years of research and investigation, we have pointed out to multitude of irregularities, inconsistencies, violations of basic forensic requirements, flawed and contradictory reports, all of which the Commission has made public in our three Memorandums to the Government Commission of Russia, all Royal families throughout the world, church hierarchs, news media, scholars, and many other interested personalities informing them all of flawed and improper decisions made by the state Commission in Moscow.
The Commission was brought into being when several persons stemming from the old Imperial Russia and their descendants formed in 1989 a group of interested parties in response to the alleged finding by Gelii Ryabov et al of what was purported to be a mass grave of the Russian Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, Russia. From the beginning, there were numerous inconsistencies between what was known about the murder of the Imperial Family and what were the alleged findings. To keep abreast of the developments, originally an unofficial, entirely private and primarily self-financing organization was formed.
The official Russian Governmental Commission on the identification and reburial of the alleged Imperial remains had been formed in 1993. Our Commission corresponded and had other contact with it. In September, 1995, the members of the Commission, comprising Mr. Peter Koltypin-Wallovskoy, Dr. Eugene L. Magerovsky and the late Prince Alexis Scherbatow, were officially invited by the Russian government to participate in the plenary session of the State Commission, in Moscow, at Russian government expense. In Moscow, our Commission had posed to the Governmental Commission a series of questions, among which were the following:
1) How exactly, based on what exact words, where and by whom, was the burial site discovered?
2) What exactly was found? Who prepared the “chain of custody” document? Was it ever prepared?
3) Were the bones intact in skeletons or disjointed, lying “helter-skelter”?
4) How do you explain the fact that on the skull of the alleged Emperor there was no scar from the Japanese 1891 assassination attempt? Why was DNA testing not done on the skull of the alleged Emperor?
5) If the burial site was allegedly found on the basis of the “Yurovsky Note,” what was its provenance and who was its author? When was it written? Why was it unsigned? Who is the author of the handwritten portions on some copies? How do you explain the stylistical discrepancies between the Note and the language of the day?
6) How do you explain the significant differences of fact stated in the Sokolov Report of 1919-1925 and the “Yurovsky Note?”
7) Why is there such a divergence between the events described by another Bolshevik participant in the disposal of the bodies, Yermakov, and the “Yurovsky Note”?
8) Why should we believe it and not Yermakov or Commissar Beloborodov?
9) Was there an attempt made to establish the presence of “Hemophilia” in the remains of the alleged Empress?
10) We repeated our offer to test for DNA a sample of the remains of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, the sister of Empress Alexandra, but it was ignored.
Unfortunately, the Russian Governmental Commission failed to respond to any of our Commission’s queries.
However, the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church declared, in November, 1995, based on the strength of our Commission’s findings, that it refused to recognize the unearthed remains as authentic and reburied them in 1998 as “persons unknown”.
ARTICLE IN 1994 NATURE GENETICS
Following its return from Moscow, the Commission sought to find a scientific basis to overturn the 1994 finding of a group of Anglo-Russian scientists at a laboratory at Aldermaston, England, which our Commission believes was in error. The group included Dr. Peter Gill of Aldermaston and P.L.Ivanov of Moscow, its finding was published in Nature Genetics, vol.6 (February, 1994), pp.130ff, and it found that “the DNA evidence supports the hypothesis that the remains are those of the Romanov family.”
There were many shortcomings in this work, both scientific and factual. We will let the scientists speak to the scientific side, but will concern ourselves with the factual. Nowhere does Nicholas Sokolov, the principal 1919 investigator of the murder for the “Whites”, say that after the killing and before their transportation, “the bodies were stripped”. Nowhere does he state that the destination of the bodies had been a “mine-shaft”. Nowhere does he say, as is claimed by the authors, ”that the truck developed mechanical fault during the journey”. Nowhere does he say that “a truck was driven backwards and forwards over the site to flatten the area”. Assertions made to that effect are plainly wrong.
Evidently the factual side of the article is based on the “Yurovsky Note”, allegedly a recently “discovered” narration of “Commissar Yakov Yurovsky”, the illiterate head of the execution squad, some four pages in length, unsigned, prepared at an unknown time, purportedly dealing with the murder, transportation and burial of the Romanovs. It is variously attributed to 1920, 1922 and 1934. It is full of inconsistencies with the quasi-official Sokolov Reports, published in Paris in 1924-1925 and their fuller version edited by Nicholas Ross in Frankfurt a/M in 1980. Yet the article asserts that the events, as described, agree with the Sokolov Reports. In reality, they do not agree on a number of key points.
Archivist Dr. A.Iu.Buranov, former director of the Russian national archives, stated in a conference in 1992 in Ekaterinburg, Russia, that the author of the “Yurovsky Note” was not the illiterate Yurovsky but possibly Soviet historian and archivist M.N.Pokrovsky. The question how he came to possess the knowledge of the events apparently remains also open. His authorship, however, is more than uncertain since no graphological analysis had been done on the handwritten additions to some copies of the document, which was typewritten. In short, the provenance of the “Yurovsky Note”, on the basis of which the burial site of the Romanovs had been “discovered”, had been called into some question. And, therefore, if the document on the basis of which the burial site was discovered is false, so is the grave site and all of its contents.
“CHAIN OF CUSTODY” OF THE REMAINS
To clarify the murky chain of custody of the remains that were brought for analysis, our Commission wrote both to Dr. Peter Gill of the English DNA laboratory at Aldermaston, England, and Lt.Col.Victor Weedn, commander of the U.S.Army DNA facility in Rockville, MD. In the summer of 1995 an analysis was made in that facility of what was represented as a bone of Grand Duke Georgii Alexandrovich, brother of Nicholas II, and a thigh bone allegedly of Nicholas II, where the purported “heteroplasmy” was found. It was requested that the laboratories provide the chain of custody document for the samples as well as some of their “raw” data, as is a customary procedure in the scientific community, especially when dealing with matters of such scholarly interest. Dr. Gill failed to respond, while Lt.Col. Weedn provided an issue of The New Yorker magazine with a journalistic rendition of the event.
It was important, however, because with the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) the identification is made of the maternal lineage. Thus persons of the same maternal descent will have the same DNA, but this will only signify the same maternal lineage, not identity. Thus the brother of Emperor Nicholas II, Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich could thus stand-in for him, since he was a son of the same mother. He was killed within several days of the murder of the Family in Perm, Russia. What happened to his body was unknown, but a bone from him would have the same mtDNA characteristics as a bone of Nicholas II.
Tangential investigations have been conducted in such places as the Ogata Institute in Tokyo and Kitasato University, Kanagawa, Japan, the Russian Academy of Sciences and Stanford University in the U.S.A. In 1996 Dr.E.I.Rogaev of Moscow and Toronto analyzed the stored blood of Tihon Kulikovsky-Romanov, the morganatic nephew (son of sister) of Nicholas II, and found no heteroplasmy in his HVR I, position 16169.
At the end of 1998, professor Lev Zhivotovsky of the Russian Academy of Sciences wrote in Annals of Human Biology, 1999, vol.26, no.6, pp.569ff, an article entitled “Recognition of the remains of Tsar Nicholas II and his family: a case of premature identification?” in which he impugned both the scientific and the statistical aspects of the Romanov study by Gill, Ivanov et al. in Nature Genetics.
In a 1999 study of the hair samples of Grand Duke Georgii Aleksandrovich, brother of Nicholas II, by Tatsuo Nagai and Vjacheslav L. Popov et al, published in Medicine and Biology, vol. 139, no. 6, pp. 247ff, the investigators found no heteroplasmy at position 16169 in HVR I, as Ivanov claims and attaches great importance to in his identification test.
Furthermore, the same investigators in a report “No heteroplasmy at base
position 16169 of Tsar Nikolai II’s mitochondrial DNA” at the Nineteenth International
Congress of the International Society for Forensic Genetics in Muenster, Germany,
in August, 2001, that based on the DNA findings of hair/nail/bone samples of Grand
Duke Georgii Aleksandrovich, the stored blood of Tihon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky-Romanov,
the morganatic blood-nephew of Nicholas II, and the sweat-stain on Nicholas II’s
uniform, found that the “Tsar’s mtDNA has no heteroplasmy (C/T) in position 16169
and does have a homoplasmic cytosine.” Dr. Nagai’s finding seems to support that
made by Dr. Rogaev about Tihon Kulikovsky-Romanov three years earlier. Since both
Gill and Ivanov relied on heteroplasmy as a sure identifier, the identification
is now in question, says scientist Nagai.
In September, 2001, Dr. Nagai presented a paper “Mitochondrial DNA Sequence of Romanoff Family” at the Seventh Indo-Pacific Congress on Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences in Melbourne, Australia, and again stated that “Tsar’s Nicholas II mtDNA had homoplasmic C at position 16169, but no heteroplasmy (C/T)”. Nagai also says that no one related by blood to the Romanovs seems to have had heteroplasmy in that position. Dr. Nagai went on to say that he wonders who has been buried with such pomp and circumstance in 1998 in the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in St.Petersburg, Russia?
Recently a team of Russian scientists comprising Makeev, O.G., Izmailov, I.Kh., Tarasevich, A.A. et al from the Ural State Academy of Medicine and the Middle-Ural Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, in an article entitled “A View on History through the Prism of Genetic Investigation”, have calculated the general odds of the presence of Nicholas II in the “Ekaterinburg grave” as being 70:1, a “figure too low for any sort of legal proof of identity”. Furthermore, the mutation at position 16169 could be associated with the regional south Ural contamination of 1957 at the “Mayak” facility, in which case the odds would be even lower than 70:1.
Also a team of scientists, comprising Alec Knight, Lev Zhivotovsky, David Kass. Daryl Litwin et al, from Stanford University, CA, and the Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM, has analyzed a relic of St. Elizaveta Feodorovna, a sister of Empress Alexandra, and found that her mtDNA does not match the DNA obtained for the putative Alexandra in the burial, which is very significant as sisters should have the same DNA. Thus the DNAs of both the “Emperor” and the “Empress” have cast an appreciable doubt on their announced identities.
It is interesting to note that the author of an editorial in Nature Genetics, «Romanovs find closure in DNA», vol.12, no.4 (April, 1996), p.340, stated that Dr. Gill's and Ivanov's findings hitherto «have never been challenged, in print or orally, by another DNA scientist».
Equally interesting is why at the end of the same article on the manipulations with the alleged bones of Grand Duke Georgii Aleksandrovich and Nicholas II, “Mitochondrial DNA sequence heteroplasmy in the Grand Duke of Russia Georgij Romanov establishes the authenticity of the remains of Tsar Nicholas II”, made at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Rockville, MD, by Ivanov, Wadhams, Weedn et al, and published in the same issue of Nature Genetics, there is a disclaimer that “the opinions and assertions contained herein are solely those of the authors and are not to be construed as official or as views of the U.S. Department of Defense or as U.S. Department of the Army”, p. 420?
Let us hope that the present challenge will find its mark.
PRECIS OF THE ARTICLE
Remains Attributed to Tsar's Family Misidentified PRESS RELEASE
An international team of scientists has cast doubt on the authenticity of the remains attributed to the Romanov Imperial family of Russia. Using the latest molecular technology, and reevaluation of the total evidence, a group of scientists from the U.S. and Russia have cast doubt on earlier conclusions, re-opening an 85-year-old controversy over the whereabouts of the royal family's remains.
Since the 1994 publication of results of DNA tests of nine skeletons unearthed near Ekaterinburg, Siberia, the Russian government has considered the case of the Emperor Nicholas II Romanov and his family to be settled. The Ekaterinburg remains were officially declared to be those of the Romanovs and their servants, and were buried in 1998 in an elaborate ceremony in St. Petersburg; this despite numerous archaeological, anthropological, and factual inconsistencies that surrounded the case. DNA tests were assumed to be conclusive, and the results were widely accepted at face value in the mass media. Yet doubts remained and the Russian Orthodox Churches in Russia and Abroad, The Russian Expert Commission Abroad, along with scholars and other interested parties, found the evidence too weak and contradictory for conclusions to be drawn, and never recognized the identity of the remains as those of the Romanovs.
Now, a decade later, a team of scientists from Stanford University in California, The Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, Eastern Michigan University, and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has reevaluated the case and report their findings in today's Annals of Human Biology. They report critical flaws in the 1994 DNA tests, violations of standard forensic practices, and factual inconsistencies that discredit the original investigation.
DNA technology has improved in the decade since the original tests were done. In particular, a great deal has been learned in the field of analysis of degraded samples. DNA is a long chain-like molecule, composed of segments called bases. The original 1994 results, published in the journal Nature Genetics, claimed to have amplified the mitochondrial DNA of the nine individuals by the process known as polymerase chain reaction (or PCR) in large segments 1223 bases in length. It is now known that DNA degrades rapidly after death into small segments less than 250 bases in length. A consensus has recently been reached among scientists that PCR amplification of long chains such as the 1223 bases claimed for the remains from Ekaterinburg are certain evidence of contamination with non-degraded, "fresh" DNA rather than the actual DNA of the deteriorated bones. The published findings of the original 1994 report actually invalidate that report in light of present knowledge.
Considering the many discrepancies of the case, the U.S.-Russian team attempted to replicate the original published DNA study by conducting tests of the mitochondrial DNA of the relic of Grand Duchess Elisabeth, the sister of Empress Alexandra Romanov. Sisters and their children have identical mitochondrial DNA, but the results of the tests of Grand Duchess Elisabeth did not match the results reported for the remains from Ekaterinburg. The analysis of the flaws in the 1994 DNA tests, the major violations of established standard forensic practices, factual inconsistencies, and the inability to replicate the original DNA findings led the scientific team to conclude that the evidence does not support the claim that the Ekaterinburg remains are those of the Romanov family. Rather, based on present knowledge, the skeletons are likely those of unknown victims of the Russian Civil War, many of whom are as yet buried in unmarked mass graves in the vicinity of Ekaterinburg.
THE FULL TEXT OF THE ARTICLE CAN BE OBTAINED ON THE PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE, ANNALS OF HUMAN BIOLOGY: http://taylorandfrancis.metapress.com/app/home/issue.asp?wasp=agxyuwvqul3kjf