The age of the Romanovs abruptly ended with the brutal slaughter of the Imperial family. Shortly after this massacre, many impostors emerged pretending to be various family members due to the mystery surrounding their disappearance. The Romanov dynasty was in power in Russia from 1613 to 1917. Michael Feodorovich Romanov was the first Romanov Tsar, coming to the throne after a period of civil war following the death of Ivan the Terrible.
|Victoria Alix Helena Louise Beatrix (1872-1918), who later took the name Alexandra Feodorovna Romanov after joining the Russian Church, married Nicholas II. Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra had five children.|
|Tatiana, the second daughter, was born May 29, 1897.|
|All the daughters were given the title of Grand Duchess. Olga, the eldest daughter, was born November 3, 1895.|
|Marie, the third daughter, was born in 1899 and given the nickname of "big bow wow." ("My name is") Even before she was born , the fourth daughter, Anastasia, was causing surprise to those around her. After having three daughters the Tsar and the Empress were hoping for a boy.|
According to Radzinsky:
On June 5, 1901 the Empress gave birth to a fourth daughter, Anastasia Nicholovna. It was declared that this was a special sign: the birth of a daughter instead of a son, which the stars had promised, only proved the girl's unusual destiny. (Radzinsky 64)
|On August 12, 1904 the Tsar and the Empress finally got their wish with the arrival of their son Alexis, the heir to the Russian throne. Being born with hemophilia, Alexis’ immunity was forever weakened. Rasputin, an honorary member of the family, took on the role of care-taker, nurturer, and supplier of pain easing medications for the young heir. Empress Alexandra greatly admired Rasputin for his efforts to comfort her son.|
Olga, the eldest daughter, spent most of her time reading whatever she could find, whether it was entertaining or informative. She was quiet and spent a lot of time with her father. She enjoyed solitude and had a quick temper. Tatiana, seen as the prettiest of the four and the slimmest, roomed with Olga, resulting in their closeness. (“My name is”)
Marie was Anastasia’s roommate and tennis partner. She was the most boy-crazy and accident prone out of all the sisters. Anastasia didn’t like school, and did everything she could to avoid going. She was seen as the family comedian , always playing practical jokes. Her family called her “shvibzik,” Russian for imp. She was really close to her father, brother, and grandma Empress Marie. Her childhood was the only time Anastasia had to be herself since her teenage years were filled with her family’s political problems. (“Anastasia”)
After Nicholas II had been ruling for eight years. civil unrest began appearing throughout the Russian Empire. Nicholas II was an autocratic ruler. Nicholas II denied the working class better wages, shorter hours, and a constitution, in spite of their numerous strikes. Paul Miliukov led a group called the Liberals, who opposed Nicholas II and wanted:
Russia to establish constitutional monarchy (to take away power from the Tsar), a parliament that would be elected by everyone, a cabinet responsible to the parliament, freedom of speech and association, and for the peasantry to receive land. (Schapiro 455)The Liberals were not successful in gaining governmental acceptance of their ideals. However, when the Revolution was reignited in 1917, the Revolutionaries had more support and the determination to accomplish their goals. During this time, because of World War I, there was hardly any food or fuel, and hard winters made for hard times. On March 8, 1917 a group of women and boys were waiting in line for bread. After waiting all day they were told there wasn’t any bread. The people in line began shouting things such as “we want bread,” “down with the Tsar,” and kill the German.” (The German referred to Empress Alexandra, who came from Germany.) People after this began looting and taking the food they needed. (Cowles 273) This time the Revolution forced Nicholas II to step down as Tsar of Russia. There was a lot of animosity built up against the Romanovs at this time. Paul Miliukov summed this feeling up when he said, "History does not know of another government so stupid, so dishonest, so cowardly, so treacherous as the government now overthrown.? (qtd. in Schapiro 760)
After Nicholas II resigned as Tsar, the Imperial family was moved to Tsarskoye Selo and put under house arrest while the Bolsheviks (a division of the Communists) were gaining power. Fearing for the lives of the Romanovs, Kerensky moved the family to Tobolsk (Siberia). In November of 1917, the Bolsheviks attained complete power in most of Russia. In the spring of 1918, the Bolsheviks moved the Imperial family to the Impatiev House in Ekaterinburg, the last place they lived together.
On the night of July 17, 1918 the Romanovs were told to dress and were lead from their rooms to a small room in the basement . They were told to wait for the motorcars, which would be taking them to a safer place because the White Army was approaching. As they entered the basement they were told to gather for a picture by Yurovsky, who, unbeknownst to them, was the head executioner. This was to dissolve the rumors of the family’s death. Lenin, the leader of the Bolsheviks, gave the order for the execution of the Imperial family. This order was carried out by Yurovsky and eleven armed men. As recounted by Massie:
Yurovsky said to the Romanov family, “In view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Soviet Russia, the Ural Executive Committee has decided to execute you.” Nicholas turned quickly to look at his family, then turned back to face Yurovsky and said, “What? What?” Yurovsky quickly repeated what he had said, then jerked the Colt (a gun) out of his pocket and shot the Tsar, point-blank. (5)Each of the eleven men were previously assigned who they were to kill, for the sake of efficiency. As firing began, some members of the family fell dead in an instant, while others attempted to avoid the gunfire. Alexis, clinging to his late father’s shirt, was approached by Yurovsky and shot twice in the ear. (Massie 6) The murderers loaded the family of corpses, wrapped in bed sheets, onto a waiting truck. The ordeal took all of twenty minutes.
The loaded truck left Ekaterinburg heading north to the location Yurovsky had previously scouted out to be the final resting place of the Romanovs. After traveling for twelve miles, the truck arrived at Four Brothers, in the forest of Koptiaki (Alexandrov 58). Four Brothers consists of several mine shafts, several feet deep, and is surrounded by swampy, forested land. The mine shaft especially selected for the grave was Ganin’s Pit. The executioners stripped the bodies, taking anything of value from them including the gold from their teeth. The women’s corsets were lined with diamonds. During the execution these corsets served as a sort of shield against the gunfire, which had amazed the murderers, because the bullets seemed to bounce off the women. While stripping the Imperial family, the twelve men collected eighteen pounds of diamonds. Each daughter wore a charm, containing a picture of Rasputin, which was confiscated from them. While the bodies were still warm, an executioner stated, “Now I can die in peace because I has squeezed the empress’s .” (qtd. in Massie 8) The bodies were heaved into Ganin’s Pit, and the opening was covered with dirt. Upon reentering town, Yurovsky heard the recent fabrications about the whereabouts of the Romanov remains. Yurovsky decided to move the bodies twenty miles away, down the Moscow highway. The bodies were retrieved, and taken to their new resting place. This location consisted of several mines that were filled with water (Harcave 475). The bodies were burned, deposited in a mine, and doused with sulfuric acid. The opening to the mine was boarded up, covered with dirt, and driven over several times to leave no evidence of a catacomb.
Rasputin had foreshadowed the death of the Romanov family in the following letter:
I write and leave behind me this letter at St. Petersburg. I feel that I shall leave life before January 1...If I am killed by common assassins, and especially by my brothers the Russian peasants, you Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear, remain on your throne of govern, and you, Russian Tsar, will have nothing to fear for your children, they will reign for hundreds of years in Russia...if it was 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...You must reflect and act prudently. Think of your safety and tell your relations that I have paid for them with my blood. I shall be killed. I am no longer among the living.Rasputin’s killer was a member of the Romanov family, which gives an eerie validity to his letter.
Pray, pray, be strong, think of your blessed family. Grigory (“Clicking Anastasia”)
After the mysterious disappearance of the Imperial family, people decided to come out portraying different family members primarily for personal gain. Anastasia and Alexis were the most popular Romanovs to be impersonated. Anna Anderson was the most popular and convincing Anastasia.
A little over a year after the Romanov disappearance, an unknown girl was pulled out of a river, after attempting suicide. She was placed under psychiatric observation at the Dalldorf Asylum in Berlin. After seeing a picture of the Imperial family, this young women claimed to be Tatiana. Later seeing the resemblance between her and Anastasia the young woman decided to state that she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia, and at this time she took on the name of Anna Anderson. Anna Anderson was similar to Anastasia through the structure of her ears, her eyes, her hair, and her handwriting. As quoted by Tatiana Botkin, a visitor to Anna Anderson:
When I first saw her face close up, and especially her eyes, so blue and so full of light, I immediately recognized Grand Duchess Anastasia....I had known Anastasia when she was an adolescent, lively, rough, mischievous, a real tomboy....I found myself now before a wraithlike young women, sickly, very sad, much more mature and much more feminine....And when we were strolling along together...which lasted barely ten minutes, I noticed more and more the resemblance to what she had been before all the tragedies and all the experiences....The height, the form, the color of the hair are exactly hers. In her face I discovered signs from before...the eyes, the eyebrows, and the ears are fully the same. Her unforgettable eyes and the look in them have remained exactly the same as in the days of her youth. (qtd. in Lovell 144)However, Anna Anderson was not able to speak Russian. Some thought that this was some type of mental wall she put up to protect herself from horrid memories. However, she could not even pronounce basic phonetics of the Russian language. For many years Anna Anderson was believed by most of the world, including some who knew the Romanov family and knew Anastasia fairly well, to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. This was proved to be false in 1994, after DNA testing became available. DNA technologists compared Anna Anderson’s “DNA with that of Anastasia’s grand nephew, Prince Phillip of England, the husband of Queen Elizabeth. This DNA test proved conclusively that Anna Anderson really was a Polish peasant girl and was not Anastasia.”(“Anastasia: The Movie”)
Numerous sightings of Alexis began appearing also. These sightings ranged from lady-crazy polo players, to leukemia sufferers, as well as one who was supposedly murdered by the Russian Secret Police. One of the impersonators served in the Red Air Force. It seems very unlikely that someone suffering from hemophilia would be accepted into the Red Air Force. People with hemophilia normally live shorter lives and are forced to be more reserved in their actions.
The massacre of the Romanovs shouldn’t be focused mainly on any one member of the family, but the world views it as if it was. An entire family was killed due to opposing political views. Anastasia was a member of this family and surrounded with controversy, but one can’t lose the whole family within her turmoil.
Eighty years after the slaughter of the Romanovs, the controversies were laid aside long enough for the family to be laid to rest. On July 17, 1998, “The Tsar’s family members tossed white sand, representing the Earth, onto the coffins before the crypt was covered. On the riverbank, cannons boomed in a 19-gun salute, two shy of the customary 21 because the Tsar had abdicated.” (“Russia finally buries”) President Boris Yeltsin attended this ceremony, in which he stated, “We must tell the truth--the massacre has become one of the most shameful pages of our history.” (qtd. in “Russia finally buries”)
Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress of Russia, 1872-1918
Olga Nicholovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, 1895-1918
Tatiana Nicholovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, 1897-1918
Marie Nicholovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, 1899-1918
Anastasia Nicholovna, Grand Duchess of Russia, 1901-1918
Alexis Nicolaievich, Tsarevich, 1904-1918
This page was created by A.A. and K.D., 3/23/99, for History & Thought of Western Man, Rich East High School.