YEKATERINBURG, RUSSIA (AFP) - Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill on Tuesday (July 17) led some 100,000 people in a nightime procession marking 100 years since the Bolsheviks shot dead tsar Nicholas II and his family after he abdicated, authorities said on Tuesday (July 17).
The powerful church leader led the procession that began in the early hours of Tuesday from the murder site to a monastery commemorating the victims outside the city of Yekaterinburg just east of the Ural mountains.
Another 20,000 people joined the commemorations when the procession arrived at the monastery in Ganina Yama after covering the distance of 21km.
The monastery was built to honour the site where the burnt bodies of the last Russian tsar and his family were thrown after their execution in the aftermath of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, regional authorities said.
The Bolsheviks shot the abdicated tsar, his German-born wife and their five children along with their servants and doctor on the night from 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," he said in a thinly veiled dig at the opposition to President Vladimir Putin.
The state planned no official commemorations.
But 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.
The Russian Orthodox Church is still divided over the authenticity of the remains of the family, whose members were all sainted in 2000.
The bones of Nicholas, his wife and three of their children were interred in Saint Petersburg in 1998 but the Orthodox Church refused to give them a full burial service.
The bones of the tsar's only son Alexei and his daughter Maria were found separately in 2007 and have never been buried.