YEKATERINBURG: Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill led some 100,000 people in a nightime procession Tuesday to mark 100 years since the Bolsheviks murdered tsar Nicholas II and his family, amid a simmering conflict between the state and the Church over their remains.
The procession began in the early hours of Tuesday from the murder site in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg to a monastery commemorating the slain tsar, his German-born wife and five children, regional authorities said.
Many of the fervent believers came from across Russia and abroad to take part in the colourful ceremony during which many carried icons.
Another 20,000 people joined the commemorations when the procession arrived at the monastery in Ganina Yama after covering the distance of 21 kilometres (13 miles), regional authorities said.
The monastery was built at one of the sites where the burnt bodies of the last Russian tsar and his family were taken after their execution in the aftermath of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, although they were later moved.
The Bolsheviks shot the abdicated tsar, his wife and their five children along with their servants and doctor on the night of July 16 to 17, 1918 as they were living under guard in the Urals city of Sverdlovsk, now Yekaterinburg.
Addressing the pilgrims, Patriarch Kirill said Russia should draw lessons “from this difficult and bitter experience.”
“We truly should have lasting immunity against any ideas and any leaders who call on us to embrace some new, unknown happy future through the destruction of our life, our traditions and our faith,” the 71-year-old powerful Church leader said in a possible dig at the opposition to President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin planned no official commemorations although officials from culture and defence ministries were scheduled to take part in a memorial event in Moscow.
The regional authorities said the popularity of the annual event has grown steadily over the past years, adding that just 2,000 people took part in a similar procession in 2002.