Alexander Avdonin
Alexander Avdonin was the first known person, in 1979, to begin to exhume grave of the seven murdered Romanovs and four members of their household. He was born in 1930 in the city of Sverdlovsk
Yekaterinburg is a major city in the central part of Russia, the administrative center of Sverdlovsk Oblast. Situated on the eastern side of the Ural mountain range, it is the main industrial and cultural center of the Urals Federal District with a population of 1,350,136 , making it Russia's...

 in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....


Legend of the Romanovs' execution

The imperial Romanov family (former Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, their children Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia, and Alexei, and their loyal retainers Dr. Evgeny Botkin, Anna Demidova, Ivan Kharitonov and Alexei Trupp) were executed en masse in a ground-floor room of their final place of imprisonment, Yekaterinburg’s Ipatiev House, by Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....

 gunfire, bayonets, and blows in July 1918, and their bodies (some of their bodies) allegedly buried in the Siberian Koptyaki forest, a few miles from Yekaterinburg, near a spot historically known as the Four Brothers, that night. This was the legend, known to many local residents, including the young Avdonin, who has vivid childhood memories of one of the assassins, Pyotr Ermakov, roaming the environs of his hometown and bragging of the deed. Ermakov was famous both for his drinking and for his stirring addresses at schools and Pioneer gatherings about how he and his Bolshevik comrades had so bravely struck down the Tsar whom the revolutionaries had named "Nicholas the Bloody". Various members (Yurovsky, Ermakov, Medvedev) of the squad of assassins—who by one account outnumbered the eleven victims—vied for years for the honor of having personally shot the Tsar; documents, filmed interviews, and some of the murder weapons themselves, complete with signed statements, were proudly donated to state museums and archives. Gradually, however, as the Stalin regime systematically persecuted and killed so many of the original revolutionaries, as well as so many millions of other Russians, this sort of discourse became unthinkable. Sverdlovsk itself was a city basically off-limits to foreigners.

Interest in graves' location

Avdonin, a geologist by trade in the Soviet years, was also personally interested in local history and folklore, which in Sverdlovsk had to include the murder of the Romanovs. Indeed, the Ipatiev House
Ipatiev House
Ipatiev House was a merchant's house in Yekaterinburg where the former Emperor Nicholas II of Russia, his family and members of his household were executed following the Bolshevik Revolution...

, at 49 Voznesensky Prospekt—the leafy end of the town’s main street—where the family was imprisoned and murdered, was called at the time the House of Special Purpose and maintained for some years afterward as the Museum of the Peoples’ Vengeance. Avdonin gathered information informally for years, and, in 1976, met Soviet writer and filmmaker Geli Ryabov, who was given information by the son of one of the killers that led them to identify a precise location and to begin informal exhumations. According to the “Yurovsky Note,” a primary historical document authored by the commandant of the Ipatiev House and chief executioner Yakov Yurovsky, the bodies (nine of the eleven) were buried at the place where the truck broke down on the second night following the murders, near Grade Crossing 184 on the Koptyaki Road. Pots of acid had been smashed into the pit to consume the naked remains, and railroad ties had been placed over the pit before a layer of earth.

Exhumation of Romanovs' graves

In the spring of 1979, Avdonin and Ryabov began an exhumation of the site, struck the rotted wood of the ties at what they judged a reasonable depth, and dug on. Their methods, though clumsy and potentially destructive to later, professional archaeological efforts, resulted in the recovery of several skulls. They refilled the pit, kept the skulls briefly, and reburied them with icons and prayers.

Due to the generally repressive Soviet climate, neither Avdonin nor Ryabov said a word about this until ten years later, when Ryabov, in 1989, released the story into the media, causing a rift between the two men.

The site HAS have been treated and explored according to the standards of either professional archaeology and careful law-enforcement investigative technique. The official government re-opening in 1991 featured bulldozers, not ultrasound or hand tools. The professional observer stood by in anguish as non-professionals sloshed through the pit, grabbing at bits of ceramic or bone. Evidence indicates that the pit was opened at least once between the re-burial efforts and the “official” opening.
  • See Nicholas II article, Legends section for an update on the missing bodies of the Tsarevich and one of his sisters

In September/October 1998 and June 1999 the First Search and Second Searches were carried out at Ganina Yama
Ganina Yama
Ganina Yama was a 9' deep pit in the Four Brothers mine near the village of Koptyaki, 15 km north from Yekaterinburg...

 using Archeological techniques, Seimic Profiling and Electromagnetic studies as well as hand tools.
In July 2004 the Third Search was carried out in the Northern part of the Pig's Meadow, where Alexander Avdonin originally found the nine sets of remains. We used Ground Penetrating radar, hand tools and well as scraped the top 8 cm of the soil with a machine in order to bring the soil level down to 1918 era. See www.searchfoundationinc.orgIn July 2007, the remains of two young people were found in the Southern part of the Pig's Meadow approximately 70 meters from the Grave Nbr 1.
44 pieces of bone where found.
Captain Peter Sarandinaki brought onboard Forensic anthropologist Dr. Anthony Falsetty and the U.S.Army DNA Laboratory to examine and test the purported remains of the Tsarevich Alexis and those of his sister Grand Duchess Maria.
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