Rumours persist about the possible escape of the Gand Duchss Anastasia Nikolavna Romanov from execution by firing squad in an extrajudicial killing by members of th Bolshvik Sect Police. The lovely Anastasia, was the youngst daughter (although not the youngest child) of Russian Tsar Nicholas II, the last soverign of Imperial Russia, and his wife, Tsaina Alxanda Fyodoovna. One reason that rumors have persisted that the Grand Duchess had escaped the family’s fate is that the burial plot was unknown. Here’s another creepy reason: the mass grave which held the remains of the Tsar, his wife, and three of their daughters was revealed in 1991, and the bodies of Alexei Nikolaevich and the remaining daughter, either Anastasia or her older sister Maria, were discovered in 2007. This suggests one daughter was missing from the grave.
Ironically when little Anastasia was born, her parents were disappointed that she was a girl. They hoped for a son who would be heir to the Romanov throne. Ironic, considering the family’s fate. After her birth, Nicholas II went for a long walk to compose himself before going to visit his wife and the newborn baby for the first time. Such a lovely welcome to the family. Just to rub it in
one meaning of her name is “the breaker of chains” or “the prison opener.” It has been suggested that she was named Anastasia because, in honor of her birth, her father pardoned and reinstated students who had been imprisoned for participating in riots in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Square. Yeah sure, let’s go with that one. Another meaning of the name is “of the resurrection.” Naturally this added to the belief that Anastasia had survived th family’s execution. Anastasia’s title is best translated as “Grand Princess”. The title suggested that her rank was higher than other princesses in Europe who were merely “Royal Highnesses“. So suck on that. That didn’t make Anastasia the most popular girl at the ball, I’m sure.
The Tsar’s children were raised as simply as possible. They slept on hard camp cots without pillows, except when they were ill, took cold baths in the morning, and were expected to tidy their rooms and do needlework to be sold at various charity events, when they were not otherwise occupied. Anastasia grew into a vivacious and energetic child, described as short and inclined to be chubby, with blue eyes and strawberry-blonde hair. A distant cousin, Princess Nina Georgievna, recalled that “Anastasia was nasty to the point of being evil”, and would kick and scratch her playmates during games – my kind of kid.
The Mad Monk
The royal family didn’t win over many of their not-so-loyal subjects with their association with the notorious Gigoi Rasputin, a wandering peasant (homeless dude) and self-proclaimed mystic. This added to the public’s false belief that he was endowed with the healing power of the Holy Spirit. In fact Rasputin himself disputed this rumour. By coincidence he happened to “heal” the tsavich Alxei, Nicholas’s son, who had sustained an injury. Doctors told the family that Alexei would die but Rasputin assured the parents and the boy that he would not. Alexei improved the following day. Thereafter Rasputin was welcome within the palace to counsel Alexandria. He was often left alone with Alexandria’s four daughters, causing great scandal within the palace.
Rasputin provided counsel to the Tsar and his government although the degree of influence he supposedly exerted over the Tsar is disputed. Most likely his influence has been somewhat exaggerated, based as it is on dubious memoirs and legend . Historians do agree that his involvement with the Romanovs played a significant part in the increasing unpopularity of the Tsar and the Russian Empire. The ruling class of St Petersburg became highly jealous of Rasputin and enlisted the press in a campaign to turn the public tide against him. Rasputin was accused of sexual affairs with girls and women, and it was alleged that he was Alexandria’s clandestine lover. For his part, th Tsar stated “I know Rasputin too well to believe all the tittle-tattle about him.” Nicholas’ support of Rasputin wasn’t well-received and contributed to the ruling class’ dislike of the Romanov family. The Tsar’s trust was well placed. Documents discovered in the late 20th century proved that the rumours about Rasputin’s conduct as Alexandria’s lover was false.
In spite of his public support of his friend, increasing rumors against Rasputin worried Nicholas with the threat of a scandal against his government, and he asked Rasputin to leave for Siberia. Nice there that time of year. Nicholas also accepted investigations on Rasputin being a Khlyst, a Christian group that had split from the Russian Orthodox Church. The Khlysts practiced abstinence from worldly pleasures, yet they worked themselves into a spiritual and sexual frenzy during ceremonial worship, engaging in group sex. Right. Rasputin became one of the most hated people in Russia. Eventually Rasputin was believed to b a major influence in Russia’s perilous position during WWI.
Let’s see now: sex orgies, the queen’s lover, a mystic who used controversial means to heal people’s bodies and spirits, and a man well-favoured by the King of Russia, in spite of the contempt of the ruling class. Quite a colorful character, this Rasputin. I rather like him.
Assassination of Rasputin
Rasputin counselled Nicholas not to participate in WWI. “If Russia goes to war, it will be the end of the monarchy, of the Romanovs and of Russian institutions.” Ignoring advice, th Tsar declared war on Germany and by the following year more than 1.5 million Russian soldiers had die. Russia was forced to retreat and Tsar Nicholas II took supreme command of the Russian armies on 23 August 1915 (O.S.), hoping this would lift morale. He was undoubtedly led to this fateful decision by the insistence of the Tsarina and of Rasputin. Legend has it that Rasputin’s influence over the Tsarina became so great that he ordered the destinies of Imperial Russia, while Alexandria compelled Nicholas to fulfill them. Rasputin was considered “evil” and had anyone who dared to interfere with his theories executed. After several other controversial developments, Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov invited Rasputin to dinner at his palace, where he poisoned his wine. He assassinated Rasputin with a revolver on December 30, 1916.
In February 1917, Anastasia and her family were placed under house arrest at in Tsarskoye Selo during theRussian Revolution. Nicholas II abdicated the throne on March 2/15, 1917. The stress and uncertainty of captivity took their toll on Anastasia as well as her family. “Goodbye,” she wrote to a friend in the winter of 1917. “Don’t forget us.” At Tobolsk, she wrote a melancholy theme for her English tutor, filled with spelling mistakes, about “Evelyn Hope“, a poem by Robert Browning about a young girl: “When she died she was only sixteen years old,” Anastasia wrote. “Ther(e) was a man who loved her without having seen her but (k)new her very well. And she he(a)rd of him also. He never could tell her that he loved her, and now she was dead.”
Anasastia and her sisters sewed jewels into their clothing in hopes of hiding them from their captors, since Alexandria had written to warn them that she, Nicholas and Maria had been searched upon arriving in Yekaterinburg, and had several items confiscated. On the night of the deaths the family was awakened and told to dress. Once dressed, the family and the small circle of servants who had remained with them were herded into a small room in the house’s sub-basement and told to wait. After several minutes, the guards entered the room and shot and killed the Tsar. Thick smoke had filled the room from so many weapons being fired at close quarters, as well as from plaster dust released from the walls by bullets. To allow the haze to clear, the soldiers left the room for some minutes, leaving all the victims behind. This too contributed to the rumour that somehow Anastasia had a chance to escape. At first the soldiers were alarmed when their attempts to stab and shoot the children failed; it was as though supernatural forces protected them. Then, realizing the children had gems sewn into their clothes that had caused the bullets to ricochet, they shot each child in the head.
Anastasia’s supposed survival was one of the intriguing mysteries of the 20th century. Several women claimed to be her, with different stories as to how they survived the killings. Anna Anderson was the most notorious of Anastasia’s imposters. Her story was a good one: she stated that she had feigned death and was able to escape with the help of a guard who rescued her among the corpses after noticing that she was still alive. In 1920, Anderson was institutionalized in a mental hospital after a suicide attempt, so that gives you an idea of her mental whereabouts. Her legal battle from 1938 to 1970 was the longest case ever heard by the German courts. After her death, Anderson’s mitochondrial DNA was compared with both Nicholas and Alexandria’s and it was determined that she could not be related to any of the Romanovs. Good try, though. Idiot.
Smith wrote an autobiography of her life as Anastasia Romanov up to the time she supposedly escaped the massacre. Smith provided a lengthy but unverifiable explanation of how she survived the execution: she regained consciousness in the cellar of the Ipatiev House after the execution, and was rescued by an unidentified woman who moved her to a dugout below a nearby house, and then nursed her back to health. In later interviews, Smith claimed that she married Marijan Smetisko, a Croatian Catholic, in October 1918, and they subsequently had a daughter who died in infancy. She further claimed that her husband had given her permission to travel to the United States in 1922 and that the marriage was dissolved a few years later. In 1963, however, an American journalist tracked down Mr. Smetisko in Yugoslavia and reported: “The man was found living in a poor hut with his wife; he said he’d never known anybody named Eugenia, or anybody from Chicago, or had ever been married before. He wanted only to be left alone with his cows“. In her later years, Smith distanced herself from earlier claims of Imperial origins. In 1984, Associated Press reported that she had refused to discuss her claims with them. A decade later, when she was asked if she would like to provide a blood sample for DNA analysis, she also refused.
Two young women claiming to be Anastasia and her sister Maria were taken in by a priest in the Ural Mountains in 1919 where they lived as nuns until their deaths in 1964. They were buried under the names Anastasia and Maria Nikolaevna. In the late 20th century, her possible survival was irrevocably and conclusively disproved. Forensic analysis and DNA testing confirmed that the remains are those of the entire the imperial family. All four grand duchesses were killed in 1918. A shame. Personally, I prefer the fairytale.