For nine decades after Bolshevik executioners cut down czar Nicholas II and his family, there were no traces of the remains of Alexei, the hemophiliac heir to Russia?? throne.
Some said the delicate 13-year-old had escaped; a few men even appeared over the decades claiming to be him.
But an official said on Wednesday that DNA tests have solved the mystery by identifying bone shards found in a forest as those of Alexei and his sister, the grand duchess Maria.
The remains of their parents ??Nicholas II and empress Alexandra ??and three siblings were unearthed in 1991 and reburied in the imperial resting place in St. Petersburg. The Russian Orthodox Church made all seven of them saints in 2000.
Despite the earlier discoveries, the absence of Alexei?? and Maria?? remains gnawed at descendants of the Romanov dynasty and history buffs. Even if Wednesday?? announcement is accepted, many descendants are unlikely to be fully assuaged as they seek government ??ehabilitation.??br />
??he tragedy of the czar?? family will only end when the family is declared victims of political repression,??said German Lukyanov, a lawyer for royal descendants.
Researchers last summer unearthed bone shards in a forest near Yekaterinburg, where the royal family was killed.
Nicholas abdicated in 1917 as revolutionary fervor swept Russia and he and his family were detained. The czar, his wife and their son and four daughters were shot by a firing squad on July 17, 1918.
Rumors persisted that some of the family had survived. Claims by women to be Alexei?? sister Anastasia were particularly prominent, although there were also pretenders to Alexei?? and Maria?? identities.
Alexei was one of the more compelling of the victims, exciting sympathy because of his hemophilia. His mother?? terror of the disease and fear that he would not live to succeed to the throne were key to her falling under the thrall of the hypnotic and sexually ravenous self-declared holy man Rasputin.
The next step in what happens to the remains will likely be up to the Russian Orthodox Church and whether it accepts the test results.