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Sunday, December 2, 2012


What happened to Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, the youngest daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II? Did she survive the execution of her family? For almost a century, the truth could not be confirmed.
Anastasia was an energetic and vivacious young woman of 17 in 1918. World War I was winding down across Europe. Too young to serve as a nurse, Anastasia and her sister Maria volunteered to visit military hospitals to raise the spirits of the injured soldiers.
Things were not going well for Anastasia’s father, the Tsar. Years of injustice in Russia gave rise to the Bolshevik movement among the lower classes. Most people in Russia were split between the “Whites”, supporting the crown and the “Reds” supporting the Bolsheviks. Tsar Nicholas was forced to abdicate his throne in March of 1917. He and his wife, Alexandra, son Tsarevich, and three daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, were moved east of the Ural Mountains to a safe location by sympathetic factions. Seven months later, the Bolsheviks seized power and imprisoned the Romanov family.
On July 17, 1918, in the town of Ekaterinburg, the royal family was awakened in the middle of the night and ushered down to the basement. Fearing that the White Army, loyal to Nicholas, would soon take the city, the Bolsheviks executed the family and their servants.
A rumor persisted that some of the children, including Anastasia, were indeed alive. The rumor may have been started by the Bolsheviks themselves to cover up the execution. The safety of the Tsar’s family, who was German, was of importance to the German government. Telegrams were sent to Russia by Germany insisting that no harm was to befall the family. The telegrams arrived several days after the executions. The Russians had just signed a peace treaty with Germany and did not want to acknowledge the murders. Eventually, all of the bodies were uncovered except for two of the children.
Over the next 50 years, many women came forward and claimed to be Anastasia. The most notable was Anna Anderson who fought for recognition from 1938 to 1970. Late in her life, DNA samples were obtained and compared with that of Prince Philip, the spouse of Queen Elizabeth II, who was related to the Royal Russian family. Results proved that Anna Anderson was not the “missing” Anastasia.
In the 1980’s, the graves of the family were found but kept secret by the Soviets. When they announced it a decade later, they admitted that two bodies were missing. This aroused interest in the mystery once again. Just four years ago (2007), a Russian archaeologist discovered two burned skeletons at a site near the original graves. One was a boy, probably Tsarevich, and one a girl. DNA later confirmed that they were in fact children of the Romanov family, even though it could not be said for certain whether the girl was Anastasia or Maria.
After almost a century, all of the family’s bodies have been recovered and confirmed. All of the women who claimed to be Anastasia could now be dismissed due to modern day DNA techniques. A sad story of course, but now it can be told with some closure.

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