The curation of recovered posts from our original and doomed blog, continues with the Princess Anastasia mystery. Like all great conspiracy theories, the fate of Princess Anastasia still has us gripped to this day. Like our earlier child carers post this one still remains popular.
It’s one the most notorious assassinations in modern history; the murder of the Romanovs, Russia’s ruling family. Their deaths would inspire myths and legends that still remain unanswered nearly a century later. At the height of his power, Tsar Nicholas II ruled Russia with an iron grip.
His position seemed unassailable. However, the Russian Revolution of 1917 overthrew the old order. And to this day, the Princess Anastasia mystery continues to question the facts surrounding the missing Romanov Princess.
Tsar Nicholas II
The eminent Tsar Nicholas II had been the richest, most powerful man in the world, controlling one tenth of the earth’s surface and a fortune worth 15 billion pounds.
Greg King who is the author of “The Fate of the Romanovs” offers an explanation. “Until the revolution, the people thought the Tsar was the annointed of God. He controlled the Government and was the supreme head of the Orthodox Church. His worhippers thought him a demigod and his word was law in every aspect of life.
By marrying Alexandra, a German princess and granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Tsar Nicholas became an influential figure throughout the courts of Europe. The Tsar and his family lived in opulence, their St Petersburg palace boasted a thousand rooms and hundreds of servants attended their every whim.
Behind the public smiles, the Romanovs were harbouring an explosive secret. Alexei was thirteen years old and heir to the Romanoc throne. Haemophilia, a hereditary bleeding disorder, threatened the life of the boy.
The slightest injury could cause fatal blood-loss. John Kier, author of The Quest for Anastasia tells us: “The empress, who’d had a series of very difficult pregnancies, finally has an heir only to find he has haemophilia.
At the time, almost no-one who had haemophilia lived to adulthood”. The Romanov succession depended on keeping the young prince alive; a 24 hour job.
Frances Welch authoress of A Romanov Fantasy, continues: “They had to put pillows on trees in the palace gardens to protect him at all times. If he cut himself, he bled terribly or his bruises led to internal bleeding”.
A desperate quest led the empress to a mystic healer named Rasputin. His methods seemed to stabilise the boy and he quickly became one of the Tsarina’s closest advisors. But, the Russian people didn’t trust him and their mistrust would soon be turned toward the Tsarina herself.
Rasputin the Mystic
The Tsar’s reputation was also coming under fire. He earned the nickname Bloody Nicholas when, in 1905, his soldiers gunned down thousands of striking factory workers.
And, the massacre caused outrage and violent clashes. But, 10 years later, when World War I erupted along Russia’s Western Front, the country united against a new enemy.
By 1917, discontent turned to open rebellion. The rebellion spread radical new politics like wildfire. The overthrow of the Tsarist government resulted.
But, in a series of bloody battles, the Red Army defeated the White Army. The White Arny had been the troops still loyal to the Tsar. While the Red Army were the Bolshevik rebels.
On the 15th March 1917, Nicholas was forced to abdicate his throne and was held under house-arrest before being sent into exile to Siberia.
Ipatiev House, Yekaterinburg
The Romanov family were put into the drab Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg near the Siberian border. The people of Yekaterinburg were known as the Wild Siberian Comrades.
They now had Nicholas The Bloody and they could hardly wait to get rid of him. With the White Army advancing to rescue the Tsar and his family from Yekaterinburg. A reaction from the Siberians was inevitable. They made a momentous and bloody decision; the Romanovs must die.
Commandant Jacob Yurovsky and the guards, ordered the Romanovs and several of their servants into the cellar of the house. Eleven gunmen came into the room. Each gunman had a single person alloted to them for killing. But, in the heat of the moment they all shot the Tsar. The gunmen had to return to finish the job.
The deaths of the Romanovs would end any pro-monarchy resistance, Lenin believed. He quickly claimed responsibility for the Tsar’s execution but, denied killing the German-born Tsarina and her children, fearing that their deaths would inflame relations with Germany. Instead, he insisted the rest of the family were being kept alive in a secret location.T
The case became an international scandal, outraging monarchists and the extended Romanov family. In defiance of the Soviet authorities, the Romanovs commissioned an independent enquiry. They chose judicial investigator Nicholas Sokolov to lead it. When Sokolov’s findings were published, in 1924, they sent shockwaves around the world.
The Tsar and all of his family had been the victims of assassination. The deaths had been the result of stabbing and bludgeoning. He believed that Yurovsky planned to hide the bodies in an abandoned mineshaft, deep in the wood. The murderers had dismembered the bodies Then burnt with fire and acid until nothing remained. This was the conclusion that Sokolov had reached.
Sokolov’s findings fuelled speculation of the royal family’s fate. Could their executioners actually have destroyed eleven bodies, half a ton of flesh, in just a few hours? Or, given the lack of ready evidence, could some of the family still be alive waiting to reclaim the Tsar’s fortune and his throne?
Of the many rumours, some claimed that the guards, young men of similar age to the Tsar’s daughters, had formed relationships with the girls and allowed them to escape. Of the four young women, none captured the public’s imagination quite like Princess Anastasia, the Tsar’s seventeen year old daughter. People believed that if anyone could survive the events of Ipatiev House, it would be the spirited Princess Anastasia. Decades after her presumed death, Princess Anastasia continued to inspire tales of escape.
Books and films that promoted the idea she had been rescued and re-emerged to take her place among the royal families of Europe. But, the truth would be stranger than fiction! In 1920, a young woman who had attempted suicide by throwing herself off a bridge in Berlin, was admitted to a mental hospital. She couldn’t remember her name and had no ID, so became Miss Unknown.
Frances Welch gives her opinion: “They had no idea who she was until a fellow inmate suddenly turned to her, she’d got hold of a magazine with pictures of the Romanovs in it, ‘You’re Tatiana’. For a while Anna Anderson, as she had chosen to be called, was heralded as Princess Tatiana.
News that one of the Romanov girls had reappeared, travelled fast; friends of the family rushed to see her. They realised that the woman lying before them was not nearly tall enough to be Tatiana. There were believers that she might be Princess Anastasia. Others were convinced she was an impostor trying to inherit the 30 billion dollar fortune as estimated in the New York Times of the 1920s.
There was plenty of evidence to suggest that she was indeed the missing Princess Anastasia. She had a regal manner about her and an apparent insider knowledge about the family and the Russian courts.
Furthermore, there was strong physical evidence. Anna had a large bunion on her big toe. She shared the shape of the ears, a physical signature often used to identify bodies before the discovery of DNA.
Many people believed that the scars covering the body of Anderson, were eveidence of her incarceration in Ipatiev House. Sidney Gibbs, Anastasia’s English teacher from before the revolution, visited Anderson and cast a vote for the doubters when he stated that she bore no resemblance to Anastasia.
Anderson received another blow, when her Romanov opponents presented new evidence unearthed by a private detective. Franziska Schanzowska was a Polish factory worker who had gone missing at the time Anderson appeared. This was, claimed the opponents, the real identity of Anderson.
The opponents presented this evidence to the court. who the Romanovs hoped would finally declare the Tsar and his family dead so that the estate could be settled.
However, the deliberations of the court would drag on for nearly four decades. The final conclusion of the court satisfied nobody. The identity of Anderson would remain unproven.
Five decades on, Ipatiev House has been razed to the ground. The Russian government had long since closed the book on the assassinations, but some people still wanted answers.
Alexander Avdonin & Geli Ryabov
Two amateur historians felt that many questions still remained unanswered. In 1978, Avdonin and Ryabov located the eldest son of Jacob Yurovsky, the man who’d been in charge of the Romanov executions sixty years before.
They were stunned when he handed them a top-secret report detailing his father’s eye-witness account. Yurovsky claimed that he had not destroyed the bodies as previously suggested by Sokolov, they had simply been moved.
After discovering that some of his soldiers had betrayed the secret location of the grave, Yurovsky and his men collected the bodies and set off for another nearby mine.
But, on the way, the truck broke down and they were forced to bury the bodies in a shallow grave, covered with planks, in the woods. On this occasion they did douse the bodies with sulphuric acid.
In the spring of 1979, armed with this knowledge, Avdonin and Ryabov headed for the Siberian woods where they hoped to find the Romanovs final resting place. This was a highly dangerous venture.
In cold war Russia of the 60s and 70s dissent was forbidden. Protecting the image of a unified Soviet Superpower was all-important to the communist regime. Anyone who dared question the official version of the Romanov murders risked the attention of the KGB.
After many weeks of searching they found the Romanov remains. The skulls were bullet ridden and one of the jaws had gold teeth. The men knew that if news of their discovery was leaked, they would be jailed, or worse.
They removed three of the skulls and began a discreet search for a forensic expert to help them. The skulls remained in their possession for over a year until, frustrated and fearful, the men went back to Siberia and returned them to the grave.
Ten years later, President Mikhail Gorbachev ushered in a new era of openness; Glasnost. The Soviet Union was dissolved and, finally, Ryabov decided he could go public with his momentous discovery.
In 1991, Boris Yeltsin despatched a team of archaeologists to exhume the skeletal remains from the mass grave in Siberia. After 73 years, the fate of the Russian Royal Family might finally be resolved. At a nearby laboratory, hundreds of bones were examined; the results were stark. Eleven people were thought to have died in the murders, but only nine skeletons were unearthed. Alexei the young heir was missing as was one of the princesses. The question was which one? Forensic anthropologist, Sergei Abramov began the painstaking process of identifying the skeletons.
It seemed that one of the shattered corpses found in the Romanov grave did belong to Princess Anastasia. Maria and Alexei were not in the grave. For those who hoped Anastasia had escaped the massacre, this was a huge blow. But, the Anastasia story was far from over.
Just weeks later, a rival American team began their own enquiry and questioned the validity of Abramov’s tests. The American experts weren’t convinced that the skulls had been reliably reconstructed.
Instead, they took a different approach. They chose to age the bones and claimed it was the body of Princess Anastasia that was missing, not Maria’s. They concluded that none of the skeletons recovered from Yekaterinburg could possibly be seventeen years old, the age at which Anastasia had disappeared.
Establishing the Evidence
This evidence renewed many people’s beliefs in Anna Anderson and now new technology was emerging that would reveal Anna’s true identity.
DNA testing would finally prove, with samples from surviving Romanovs including Prince Philip, that the bones really were the ill-fated Romanov family. It would also prove that Anna Anderson was Franziska Schanzowska as originally suspected. The bodies of Anastasia and Alexei have still never been found.
Princess Anastasia, Grand Duchess Anastasia – Wikipedia Page
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