Yeltsin to Attend Last Czar's Burial

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Boris Yeltsin finally got his memory back. After years of pushing for a ceremonial burial of the bones of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II, and his family as an important act of closure for the communist era, the Russian president was going to skip the funeral. Now, suddenly, he’s planning on attending. "The truth [about the executions] was concealed for 80 years," Yeltsin said Thursday as the bones were prepared for burial in a church ceremony in Yekaterinburg, a day before the official interment in St. Petersburg. "I was told nothing. And tomorrow, the truth should be told, and I should take part."

As a Communist Party Politburo member in the 1980s, Yeltsin knew enough of "the truth" to supervise the razing of the infamous house where the Romanovs were shot. Until yesterday, he was going to skip the funeral on the wishes of the Russian Orthodox Church, which refuses to believe in the DNA tests that have confirmed the identity of the remains -- one reason being that the church plans to canonize Nicholas, which, according to Russian Orthodox tradition, would preclude his burial. Now Yeltsin is repenting again for his Communist sins –- but the real truth is that Nicholas II hardly deserves all this controversy. "Nikolai was a remarkably mediocre monarch who left little if any positive mark on this country," says TIME Moscow bureau chief Paul Quinn-Judge. "But Russia is always looking for a hero," and the last czar will have to do. Maybe Yeltsin is angling for the same royal treatment when he gets buried. After bucking the church Friday, though, sainthood looks to be out of the question.