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Reburial Of A Russian Empress

Almost 90 years after the Communist revolution that sent her into exile, and decades after her death, Russian Empress Maria Fedorovna has finally been laid to rest, in Russian soil.

To the sound of cannons and choirs, the empress was entombed Thursday alongside her husband, and the rest of Russia's royal Romanov family, in St. Petersburg's Peter and Paul Fortress.

Alexii II, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, led a service for the Empress, as the contemporary relatives of the Romanovs looked on.

"She loved the Russian people deeply, and devoted a great deal of effort to the benefit of the Motherland," said the patriarch.

Maria Fedorovna was born the Danish princess Dagmar. Her ambitious father arranged for her sister to be married to the future British King, and for Dagmar to be married off to the Russian Crown Prince. Her husband later became Tsar Alexander III.

Dagmar changed her name to Maria Fedorovna when she got married, and adopted the Russian Orthodox faith.

Her first son became the last Russian monarch, Nicholas II. He was driven off the thrown by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution in 1917, and executed a year later.

Maria Fedorovna managed to escape from the Soviet Union after the revolution and return to her native Denmark, where she lived until her death in 1928.

The Empress was originally laid to rest in Copenhagen, because of contempt for the monarchy among the new Soviet leadership preventing her burial in St. Petersburg. But historians say Maria Fedorovna's dying wish was to be reburied, someday, with her family.

Biographers say that Maria Fedorovna made her two daughters promise that they would do everything possible to make Russia their mother's final resting place.

Members of the Romanov family lobbied for years for a reburial, and, finally, Russian president Vladimir Putin made it happen. He personally asked Denmark's Queen Margrethe to allow Maria Fedorovna's remains to be moved to Russia.

Denmark agreed, as a sign of its respect for the many changes in Russia since the Soviet Union fell apart 15 years ago.

Danish and British royals, all relatives of the late Empress, took part in the ceremony — including Danish Crown Prince Frederik, his wife Mary, and British Prince Michael of Kent.

All over Russia and Denmark, exhibits are being held about the life and times of Maria Fedorovna.

Russia may be a democracy now, but the reburial is one of those rare occasions when the country has a chance to honor its imperial past.

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