Ivan Sekretarev  /  AP
Russian and Danish officials load a coffin containing the remains of Czarina Maria Feodorovna into a hearse outside the St. Isaak Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Thursday, as honor guards stand at right.
updated 9/28/2006 9:31:59 AM ET 2006-09-28T13:31:59

Russian Orthodox Patriarch Alexy II on Thursday led pomp-filled burial ceremonies for Czarina Maria Feodorovna, the Danish-born empress whose remains are to be interred in her adopted land 78 years after her death.

Maria Feodorovna was the mother of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II, who was executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918. She went into exile in Denmark in 1919 and died in 1928.

She was born as Princess Dagmar in Denmark, but came to Russia in 1866 to marry the future Czar Alexander III.

Several hundred officials, guests and foreign dignitaries, including members of the British and Danish royal families, attended the ceremony in St. Isaac’s Cathedral, the principal church of the Romanov dynasty. The remains were to be interred later Thursday in the royal crypt at the cathedral of the Peter and Paul Fortress, on an island in the Neva River.

Alexy praised Maria Feodorovna as a true daughter of Russia.

“Having fallen deeply in love with the Russian people, the empress devoted a great deal of effort for the benefit of the Russian fatherland,” Alexy said. “Her soul ached for Russia.”

Reunited with family
Many Russians felt the return of the czarina’s remains was a significant step in restoring their appreciation of their country’s complicated and tormented history.

“It’s a very important event for our country,” said Alevtina Batalova, a 64-year-old former teacher who came to catch a glimpse of the ceremony. “I am very glad that Empress Maria Fyodorovna will now again be with her husband and her children ... it’s great that they fulfilled the wish of Maria Feodorovna to be buried next to her family.”

Maria Feodorovna’s remains were returned to Russia on Tuesday.

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