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Casualty of the Russian Revolution: "The Lost Grand Duchess Anastasia"

Casualty of the Russian Revolution:

"The Lost Grand Duchess Anastasia"

Written 1/2000

War broke out all over Russia. Tsar Nicholas II Romanov had the power of Russia in his hands and later paid the ultimate price because of it. The rising Communist Party, the Bolsheviks, took control of the starving country and killed the monarchy for power. The Imperial Family was murdered because of hate, greed, and power for a Communist country. However, one child, the Grand Duchess Anastasia was said to live through all this, even though her entire family all shared the same fate. A young woman named Anna Anderson years later announced her identity of being the Grand Duchess. Anna Anderson was an imposter who claimed to be Anastasia.

The Romanov reign formally began March 1613 ruling Russia. Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Fedorovana began their rule over Russia on May 26, 1896. They bore five children: Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia, and Alexis. Anastasia Nicolaievna Romanov was born June 18, 1901 at the Peterhof Palace. Anastasia had light brown hair and blue eyes. She, as well as the other children could speak Russian, French, and English fluently. Because she was the youngest girl in the family, she often only received attention by pulling tricks and pranks, which earned her the name of "Clown." She had just turned seventeen when her family was murdered.

The Russian Revolution was festering in the country for years before it happened. The Tsar was sending troops in an ill-fated war to their deaths. There was no money and the country was going through a Depression. On March 8, 1917, workers in St. Petersburg went on strike. Soldiers joined them in demonstrations against the government. Nicholas was ignorant; he tried to continue to press the people with his troops, but they lost their faith in him. On March 15, 1917 Nicholas went to the Front for personal command of the soldiers he had left. He hoped to rally his forces and regain their trust and faith. It was then that he realized his obligation to abdicate the throne. In a last effort for Monarchy, he asked his brother, Grand Duke Michael to assume the throne. The Grand Duke declined and thus ended the Romanov Monarchy since 1613.

In that same month, the Imperial Family and their servants and doctor went under house arrest at Tsarkoye Selo. It was because of the Bolsheviks and the Red Army (who were the Russian radicals in their civil war), that the family needed to be "protected" at the palace. The Imperial Family was now prisoners. They were confined to their beds and the palace taken over by soldiers. By July 1917, the family was moved to Siberia so that they would be safe from violent hands. At this time, they could still write letters to the outside world and do a lot of their normal routines under supervision. It wasn't until November 1917 that new guards came into their camp bringing revolution and their hatred of the royal family with them. The family's lives were then stripped; they could only go outside a few minutes each day, and all the doors were taken off to prevent any privacy. The family moved again in April 1918, to Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, in the eastern slope of the Urals. They were now under the control of Admiral A.V. Kolchak, who had established a counterrevolutionary government at Omsk. The Imperial Family would now be used to rally the opposition to the Communist regime.

On a hot July 16, 1918 the family was awakened at 1:30am by the head jailer, Yurovsky. The family, their servants and doctor were taken to a cellar that had plastered walls (so bullets would not ricochet off the walls). They were told they would be leaving soon and to wait for the transportation. Two chairs were brought into the room for Nicholas and Alexandra. Nicholas held Alexis and the four daughters stood behind their mother. After a few minutes of waiting, Yurovsky returned with ten Lettish soldiers. Each soldier already knew which person they were to shoot. Nicholas II was shot and died instantly by Yurovsky and thus the sign for the other soldiers to fire. Nicholas' last act was to step forward to shield his wife. Alexandra died next, giving as her last gesture a Sign of the Cross. Olga also died at once, as did Dr. Botkin and the two servants. Bullets bounced off Anastasia, Tatiana, and Marie and ricocheted around the room. Unbeknownst to the men, the girls had sewn diamonds into their clothing in attempt to smuggle them from place to place. Eventually Tatiana and Marie died. Tsarevich Alexis was still alive after the initial fire. Yurovsky noticed him groaning, but alive on the cellar floor, so he fired two shots into his ear. Anastasia, whom had only fainted, regained consciousness and screamed just as Alexis was killed. With bayonets and rifle butts, the entire band turned on her. In a moment, she too lay still. The Imperial Family lived at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg for seventy-eight days. It was now ended.

The bodies were tossed into a mineshaft and burned. Sulfuric acid was poured on them, and hand grenades were thrown in to get rid of the evidence. What remains were left were put into a shallow grave. To insure that neighboring Russians wouldn't be upset about the murder or their last Tsar, guards were still stationed at the house for a few more days, and until the "cleaning up" was completed. Eight days after the murder of the Imperial Family, the White army (the Russian moderates in the civil war) finally reached Ekaterinburg only to realize they were too late.

In 1920, one year before the Revolution was over, a twenty-four year old factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska (also known as Anna Anderson), whom had been in two mental hospitals before, disappeared. After a suicide attempt, she was sent to the Dalldorf Asylum and refused to tell authorities her identity until eighteen months later. Being a lost Grand Duchess was suggested that by another mental patient named Clara Peuthert during her incarceration at the asylum that suggested Anderson was Tatiana. At first, Anderson accepted the identity until she realized she was much shorter in height, which caused her to switch to Anastasia. Anderson announced that she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia. She began her claming her identity in fall of 1921, after the Revolution. Her psychiatric problems may have been caused or exacerbated by head injuries in 1916 from a hand grenade explosion at a factory where she worked. Some Anderson supporters tried to pass off her physical injuries due to the physical evidence of Bolshevik brutality during the execution.

Eventually, Anderson explained her escape from the Imperial Family's assassins. She had been bayoneted, she said, but survived because the soldiers' weapons were blunt. After the murders, a soldier named Tschaikovsky saw that she was still moving. During the chaos of that night he rescued her. Anderson said Tschaikovsky took her to Romania. Her story was confused, but it seems that at some point she may have married Tschaikovsky. After he was killed in a street fight she gave birth to his son, who was placed in an orphanage.

Gleb Botkin, the son of the court doctor who had died with the family, had intimate knowledge of court life, having spent much of his youth close to the Imperial Family. When he met Anderson, he found it impossible to be fooled by her. Anderson recalled games they played together as children in Russian palaces and secret stories around characters that he painted was evidence of his putting words in her mouth. Anderson's repertoires of "memories" were always at their most impressive when they were relied on verification from associates and supporters. The supporters either didn't want to believe the truth or didn't know Anastasia enough before the revolution to verify Anderson's truthfulness. When questioned by secondary and impartial parties on specific events about her past, she frequently would change subjects to those she'd been coached on or pretend to not understand the questions. On a few occasions, she could have an emotional or physical "breakdown" so that she wouldn't have to answer a question incorrectly. She also couldn't speak Russian fluently. Whenever someone would ask why she wouldn't speak Russian because it was her native language, she would give the excuse that it was the language of the people who killed her family. Anderson couldn't remember defining events of "her" life as well, but could rattle off mundane, yet specific details of the family bank accounts after a revolution, execution, and passage of more than a decade.

There were rumors that the Tsar transferred vast amounts of Russian gold out of the country before and during the Revolution in order to sustain a government in exile or act as collateral for British war aid. The likelihood that the Imperial Family kept personal wealth in foreign accounts attracted the attention and speculation of impoverished émigré communities. This intensified all the more when one of the Tsarina Alexandra's friends, Lili Dehn (an Anderson supporter) claimed the Empress told her they had millions of dollars in gold awaiting them in England. The Grand Duke Ernst of Hesse, Anastasia's uncle, and Lord Mountbatten could then use Anderson as a pawn. The Imperial Court fed her information in an attempt to claim lost imperial assets and profit from the murder. In a prevailing myth, Grand Duchesses Olga and Xenia, Anastasia's aunts tried to bribe Anderson because of their precarious financial situation. The two aunts planned to claim the money from the bank that Anderson revealed. Since Anderson would be the primary beneficiary of the money, she then would have to be removed as a claimant for it. The Romanov family remained silent about the identity of Anderson until the death of the Dowager Empress Marie Fyodorovna in October 1928. Olga and Xenia denounced Anna Anderson as a fraud within twenty-four hours of the Empress' death. Ten other close relatives also signed the statement. The family did this to prevent any inheritance going to Anderson. The family knew that they had to act quickly because of the ten-year waiting period to claim the money in the English bank had expired on July 17 of that same year. They could only receive it if Anna Anderson were safely out of contention. Prince Sigismund, a childhood playmate, Grand Duke Andrew, Princess Cecilie, Grand Duke Alexander, and Princess Xenia all supported Anderson. A great deal of speculation occurred for the supporters, which may have had to do with the inheritance Anderson would receive if proven to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Prince Louis Ferdinand, Princess Kyra, Grand Duchess Olga, Pierre Gilliard, Anastasia's tutor, and Gleb Botkin all denied her being Anastasia. Anderson made a good living as Anastasia, much better than if she had stayed a mentally ill factory worker. Anna Anderson spent her life living at other people's expense. In the last fifteen years of her life, Anderson married American John Manahan. She died of pneumonia in 1984 and was cremated.

In 1992, the mass grave of the Imperial Romanov Family was finally found. Every skeleton had signs of monstrous trauma. The family wasn't merely murdered; they were annihilated. Broken and shattered bones, pathologists literally had to glue fragments back together to make recognizable skeletal forms. The evidence of violence cited by Dr. William Maples was used as proof of any survival hypothesis, declaring "No one could survive such a systematic and sustained murderous attack." After Russian archaeologists had finally excavated the pit near Ekaterinburg and found the bodies, there was a small problem. There should have been eleven bodies, but there were only nine. Missing were the Tsarevich Alexis and Anastasia, though there were vague references to "two skeletons found outside the pit." However, a year later, DNA testing proved beyond reasonable doubt that the skeletons were indeed Romanov remains. Two skeletons were still missing. Russian historian Edvard Radzinsky came up with a simple explanation:

The children were wearing diamond-studded underwear so that the bullets "bounced off for some reason and ricocheted, jumping around the room like hail" whereupon the killers had resorted to bayonets. Even so, they had difficulty in penetrating "a solid mass of large diamonds", probably not helped by the fact that most of them where blind drunk. At least two of them, incidentally, refused to kill the children, and some may have pretended to do so to save their own skins. Yurovsky is quite specific: "When they tried to stab one of the girls, the bayonet just would not go through the corset." There could have been survivors.

DNA analysis in 1994 was done at the Martha Jefferson Hospital of hair and tissue samples from Anna Anderson proved that she was not Anastasia, but Franziska Schanzkowska. Contrary to misconceptions, there were numerous independent tests performed on her DNA, not just one. Their findings were unanimous. Anna Anderson was not related in any way to the Romanov dynasty, she could not have been the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Science succeeded where evidence and logic failed. The DNA findings also proved an elaborate fraud by those with inside knowledge of the Imperial Court of Nicholas.

Even after the DNA testing and the graves were finally located, people would say, "how could she have known this, that or the other thing if not the Grand Duchess Anastasia?" It is not difficult for them to say these things when the opposing perspectives aren't allowed equal time or attention, if paid any at all. All anyone can ask now is, who masterminded the deception and when? Who instigated and controlled it? Where did she get her information? And lastly, what really happened to the Grand Duchess Anastasia? If she died with her family, where are her remains? If she did live, how did she escape and where is she now? These questions are still to be answered, and may well never be. Nevertheless, one thing is clear. Even the most famous of imposters, Anna Anderson could not have been Anastasia Nicolaievna Romanov.

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