One of the great mysteries of the 20th century has been solved after nearly 90 years.
The Romanovs were the most beautiful and privileged family on the globe.
In 1918, revolutionaries brutally murdered the last Russian czar and his family. But the remains of one daughter, thought to be Anastasia, and his only son, Aleksei, were never found. The mystery fed countless legends, impostors and Hollywood films.
End of a dynasty: The Russian imperial family, the Romanovs, in 1913; from left, Grand Duchess Maria, Tsarevich Alexei (front), Tsarina Alexandra, Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, Tsar Nicholas II, and Grand Duchess Anastasia Source: independent.ie Image: commons.wikimedia.org
The start of this glorious romp through the history of the Romanov family from 1613 until the fall of the dynasty just over 300 years later. The Romanovs rose to power by chance. With the Rurikid line of Moscow falling extinct, in 1613 the teenaged Michael Romanov was nominated to the throne as an “everyman” candidate, one who was more acceptable than characters such as the polarising Dmitri Trubetskoi or the King of Sweden who also had their eye on the throne.
Michael was chosen in the hope that he would “shine for the Russian Tsardom like the sun” – code for the expectation that he would be malleable and do the bidding of the powerful aristocrats eager to further their own interests. That he was not a domineering figure can be seen from his doctors’ diagnosis that he suffered from “a deluge of tears in his stomach”, so often was he found weeping.
The last Russian czar, Nicholas II, had been in power for more than 23 years. However, in 1917, Russia’s belief in a ruling czar was well on its way to oblivion. The Russian economy was in shambles, in part due to the country’s involvement in World War I, which began in 1914 and had already claimed more than 1 million lives. The Bolshevik revolution, led by Lenin, had created a Red Army that was marching to seize power, while loyalists to the czar, called the White Army, were trying to fend off the coup.
Then a curse was put upon the royal family by Grigori Rasputin, the peasant confidant, mystic, and advisor to the czar. Many Russian people blamed Rasputin for their miseries because of his ill advice to the czar, which included getting their country involved in a bloody world conflict. Sensing danger was near, a paranoid Rasputin prophesized to Nicholas II: “Czar of the land of Russia, if you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Grigori has been killed, you must know this: If it was one of your relations who have wrought my death, then no one in the family, that is to say, none of your children or relations, will remain alive for more than two years. They will be killed by the Russian people.”
Both of Rasputin’s premonitions came true. Two weeks after his warning, Rasputin was murdered by Prince Felix Yusupov, who was married to a niece of the czar, and therefore it was a family relation responsible for his death, as he had alluded to. And, 1½ years later, the entire Romanov family was executed after the Bolshevik rebels seized power of the country, which was within the time frame that Rasputin predicted the event would occur. But were they all wiped out?
ANASTASIA NIKOLAVENA ROMANOV
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. Source: thefamouspeople.com
Anastasia Romanov was born June 18, 1901. She already had three older sisters; Olga, born in 1895, Tatiana, born in 1897, and Maria, born in 1899. All of the sisters are exactly 2 years apart. Three years after Anastasia was born, her brother Alexei was born. Soon after Alexei was born, his mother, Alexandra, noticed big black bruises appearing on his legs and arms. She began to worry and took him to a doctor. She then learned that Alexei had hemophilia. Hemophilia is a disease in which your blood does not clot properly. Any fall, cut, or bump would leave Alexei in pain and cause internal bleeding. A monk named Rasputin was called whenever Alexei was injured. He was supposed to help heal Alexei. He was also a family friend.
In August of 1914, the tsar arrived at home with news that Russia was now at war with Germany and Austria. Anastasia’s mother was a German princess before she was married. In 1915, more than one million Russian soldiers had died at war. Anastasia’s father decided to take command of the army himself, so he was away most of the time. While Anastasia’s father was away, her mother, Alexandra, began to run the government. She trusted Rasputin and got many ideas from him during the rough times. Because Rasputin had such an impact on what the family did, Rasputin and the family made many enemies. This eventually caused the Tsar’s downfall.
Final months: The Romanovs pictured during their exile in Tobolsk which lasted until April 1918 Source: DailyMail
Tsar Nicolas (Anastasia’s father) had ruled for 23 years. He was the last tsar of Russia.
Some felt the burden acutely. The ill-fated Nicholas II lamented on his accession that “the Lord has given me a heavy cross to bear”. Not all his ancestors were prone to such reflection. “This is how you rule,” his great-grandfather Nicholas I once said: “Remember this: die on the steps of the throne, but don’t give up power!” The fear of being challenged was a constant source of concern for Romanov tsars, one that often grew into deep paranoia.
Nicholas, like so many of his predecessors, greatly mistrusted his ministers and those appointed to advise him. In his case, it was a motley collection of waifs, strays and mystics, most notorious of whom was Rasputin.
Others turned to lovers or trusted friends. Much of Russia’s fortunes hung on whether these advisers were incompetent or gifted, as Catherine the Great’s favourite Potemkin had been, and the enlightened Ivan Shuvalov before him.
In the end, it was all too much. By 1917, it was not just revolutionaries who were plotting against the tsar – so too were “Romanovs, generals and parliamentarians”. Nicholas II’s luck was poor, but so was his judgment – World War One was only made worse by his disastrous decisions.
He was asked to give up his throne. He did not complain and gave up his throne. The family was moved to Tobolsk,Siberia on August 14, 1917. One year after the family was moved, Anastasia’s father was told that he had to leave Siberia for his safety and that he may bring some of his family with him. In April of 1918, Tsar Nicolas, Alexandra, and Marie where all transported to Ekaterinburg. Anastasia, Olga, Tatiana,and Alexie had to stay in Siberia. A month later the family was reunited in Ekaterinburg.
His greatest mistake, according to some, was to give up and accept a terrible fate at Ekaterinburg in 1918. “I would never abdicate,” Vladimir Putin has been quoted as saying, unlike “the greatest criminals in [Russia’s] history”, those “weaklings who threw power on the floor”. Putin would have been right at home among the Romanovs.
Doomed: The Russian royals during their final months before being shot by revolutionaries in July 1918 Source: DailyMail
After midnight on July 16, 1918, the family was ordered to a basement room Ipatyev House in Yekaterinaburg. There had been shootings in town. Later a commandant came to the room followed by a soldier. The soldier read aloud that the family was to be executed. The room was immediately erupted in gunfire. Alexandra and Nicolas were killed instantly. The soldiers kept shooting until everyone was dead.
Their bodies were transported to a forest and were badly damaged in an attempt to eliminate evidence of this crime,” said Evgeny I. Rogaev, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UMass Medical School’s Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute and professor of genetics at the Russian Academic Institutions.
The entire royal family, along with their servants, were said to have been murdered and dumped in a mass grave. However, the grave wasn’t discovered until some 60 years later. It was always assumed that 11 bodies of the Romanov family and their entourage would be in the same grave. But the remains of only 9 bodies were discovered and Anastasia’s body couldn’t be confirmed. Whispers that Anastasia had been whisked away with a stash of the royal family’s jewels sewn into her clothes, before the Romanov family massacre occurred, ran rampant throughout Russia.
Did Anastasia Survive the Curse?
Did youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II and heir to the Russian monarchy, survive the massacre of the Romanov family during the Russian Revolution? This question has been the subject of more than one dozen movies and countless storybooks since it was pretty much the story of a real Disney princess.
The speculation began in the early 1920s when a woman named Anna Anderson claimed to be the Romanov princess, and that she had been living in exile. Her story drew a huge amount of publicity, and Anderson stuck by it until her death in 1984, at which point CSI was finally able to get close enough to determine that she wasn’t even Russian, let alone Queen of the Russians. Still, they didn’t take back the Academy Award that Ingrid Bergman won for playing Anderson in 1956.
In fact, at least 10 other women, and probably some men, have since come forward to claim the title of the real Romanov princess, and nobody ever seemed to find it fishy that most of them were suffering from mental illnesses.
Grand Duchess Anastasia with her father, Tsar Nicholas II Source: Daily Mail
Czar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children were assassinated as civil war broke out; numerous stories circulated over the years that Anastasia, then 17, somehow escaped. In 1991, five bodies were found and later identified as the Romanovs. Independent studies done in the US and England and later by Rogaev compared extracted DNA samples to those from descendents of the royal family.
Two bodies, however, were missing, leaving some question as to the fate of two of the czar’s children. Bone fragments were found in the summer of 2007, not far from the original discovery site, about 900 miles east of Moscow, but had been badly damaged by not only time and natural decomposition, but also by acid and fire, as the murderers apparently sought to fully destroy the bodies and evidence of the murder.
But on the other hand, only one claimant to the Russian throne has provided compelling evidence that she may be the real Anastasia, and that is a corpse who was found buried with the rest of the Romanov family in 2008.
The main reason why the mystery of Anastasia persisted for so long was because it took one hell of a long time for Anastasia’s body to be recovered. For most of the 20th century, researchers had that whole “Cold War” thing blocking their access to the Romanov gravesite, and even when they finally got to dig up the bodies in 1991, conspiracy theorists were tantalized by the fact that they still seemed to be missing a couple of stiffs, including that of the mysterious princess.
Then, almost two decades later, they went back and found them about 200-feet away.
In 2008, 21st century DNA technology confirmed that these were really the remains of Anastasia, proving that the long-lost princess was, in fact, very dead. But at least they got to make some decent movies.
Explosive new book claims fresh evidence shows the Russian princess really DID escape to the West
Now a respected Russian historian has now claimed that Anastasia Nikoleavna might not, as previously thought, have perished at all.
Murdered: The Romanov Grand Duchesses (from left) Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia Source: dailymail.co.uk
Instead, Veniamin Alekseyev believes that the Grand Duchess Anastasia did indeed flee to the West and says he has new evidence to prove it.
Since her death, women posing as the Russian princess have repeatedly come forward, among them Anna Anderson who first appeared in Berlin in 1920, two years after the Russian royals were executed.
Imposter: Anna Anderson claimed to be Anastasia although her claims are much disputed Source: dailymail.co.uk
Anderson, who also went by the names Tschaikovsky and Manahan, later moved to the USA and was portrayed for decades as the escaped daughter of the last Romanov emperor.
But in 1991, when the remains of the Russian royals were unearthed, DNA testing proved that the bodies were indeed those of the Tsar, Tsarina and their children.
Discovery: The Romanovs were discovered in 1991 and laid to rest at the Petropavlovskaya fortress
Testing also ‘conclusively’ proved that Anderson was not, as she claimed, the Grand Duchess Anastasia, and instead a mentally troubled Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska.
Alekseyev, however, is unconvinced and claims that Anderson really was the lost princess in an explosive new book.
‘On the basis of the archive documents discovered, and new Russian and foreign evidence I have seen since 1991, I have reason to think the royal family’s fate is not as certain as it has been believed for almost 100 years,’ he said.
The new documents from the Russian State Archive and elsewhere offer evidence from Imperial family confidantes and relatives, as well as doctors who treated Anderson, who believed it was ‘quite possible and even probable’ that she was Russian princess Anastasia.
His book entitled Who are you, Ms Tchaikovskaya? argues she was ‘labelled an imposter too easily’, The Siberian Times revealed.
Although DNA tests were carried out on bones purporting to be those of Anastasia and on a lock of Anderson’s hair after her death, Alekseyev argues the genetic analysis is not conclusive.
The book builds on the theory of eminent French historian Marc Ferro that the German-born empress Alexandra along with the imperial couple’s four daughters were saved.
‘I do not assume presumptuously she was executed by the Bolsheviks,’ said Alekseyev who served on a Russian government commission which concluded bones found near Yekaterinburg were the remains of Nicholas II.
‘This is for the reader to decide.’ He claims testimony from Bolsheviks and White Russians which states the entire family were killed in July 1918 is not trustworthy.
Childhood: Tsar Nicholas II and George V met during family holidays in Denmark and remained close friends Source: DailyMail
‘The former needed an image of an uncompromising new government determined to wipe out the old world without a trace, and the latter – a Great Russia without an emperor,’ said Alekseyev.
He expect still-secret papers documenting diplomatic negotiations between Germany and the Soviets, due for release in 2018, to throw new light on a possible secret exchange close to the end of the First World War.
He added: ‘All over the world this issue has been degraded for decades by unpretentious stage productions, garbage literature and films.
‘We need scientific clarity over this complicated issue. Therefore, I am only publishing the documents. Where the truth lies, is up to the readers to decide.’
Firm friends: Tsar Nicholas II and King George V were cousins and close friends thanks to their mothers Source: DailyMail
Officially, Russia believes it has found the genuine but incomplete bones of the royals, despite reservations by the Orthodox Church.
The Romanovs, who are buried in the former royal capital of St Petersburg, still have living relations – among them Prince Phillip, whose maternal grandmother was Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, the older sister of the doomed Tsarina.
THE END OF A DYNASTY: THE LAST MOMENTS OF THE ROMANOVS REVEALED
After Tsar Nicholas abdicated on 15th March 1917, he and his family were moved from house to house as the revolution and ensuing civil war raged around them.
By May 1918, they had been installed at the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg which was under Bolshevik control.
The house was owned by Yakov Yurovsky, a dedicated Marxist and Bolshevik with close links to the Cheka – the secret police force run by the revolutionaries.
At around 2.15am on the morning of the 17th July 1918, Yurovsky and a squad of Bolsheviks burst into the bedrooms of the Russian royals and ordered them into the cellar.
Minutes later, the soldiers, each armed with a revolver and led by Yurovsky, followed them into the room.
According to Yurovsky, he ordered them to stand. Characteristically, the Tsarina did so ‘with a flash of anger’.
‘Your relations have tried to save you,’ he is believed to have said next. ‘They have failed and we must now shoot you.’
The Tsar rose from his chair and only had time to utter ‘What…?’ before he was shot several times in the chest.
The Tsarina died next, killed by a single bullet fired by commissar Peter Ermakov that entered her head just above the left ear, followed by her haemophilliac son Alexei, who was just 13-years-old when he died.
The last to perish were Anastasia and her sisters, saved, initially by the valuable diamonds hidden in their bodices.
The girls were then bayoneted by the Bolshevik fighters before being finished off with a shot to the head.