She’s everyone’s favorite Romanov. In fact, she’s usually the only Romanov people know by name. If you’ve been reading the other posts in this blog tour, you already know that the animated Anastasia movie is basically all lies. Why?
Because she’s the one who supposedly escaped and survived the executions.
Before I go on, I have to tell you something— this blog post is going to get kind of dark. So, to help, I’m going to put some photos of kittens here and there. If things are getting too dark for you, look at the kittens, okay?
Okay. Here we go.
Who was Anastasia?
Anastasia was the youngest of the Romanov sisters— her brother, Alexei, was the youngest over all. She was a pretty delightful and mischievous kid— one of the family doctors said she “held the record for punishable deeds in the family”. She played outdoors, liked acting, and was especially close to the other younger sister, Maria, who she shared a room with. When she grew older, she would visit the Red Cross hospital and play checkers with wounded soldiers and occasionally write poetry. Simply put, she was pretty cool. I think you would have liked her.
(Anastasia and her siblings)
What happened to her?
The entire Romanov family was executed in Ekaterinberg by a group of Reds who’d had them under various forms of house arrest for over a year. The execution was brutal— I won’t go into detail, but know that I cried over it several times while researching TSARINA. Actually, if I think about it too hard, I still cry over it.
Why do so many people think she survived the execution?
When the bodies of the Romanov family were excavated in 1991, they’d been exposed to the elements so long they were skeletonized. Through DNA and skeletal analysis, they were able to sort out who the Tsar and Tsarina were, as well as the handful of servants that had been executed with them. They also were able to identify Olga and Tatiana, the oldest two Romanov sisters, and then a third skeleton, which they believed to be Maria.
And then they were out of skeletons. Anastasia and Alexei weren’t there.
(Actually, it could have been Maria and Alexei that were missing— the Russian scientists said that Anastasia was the third found skeleton, and it was Maria who was unaccounted for, while the American scientists working the case said the third found skeleton was Maria and Anastasia was the missing daughter. Maria and Anastasia were similar in size and would have the same mitochondrial DNA since they had the same parents, so it was impossible to tell for sure. For the sake of this post, let’s assume Anastasia was the missing daughter.)
So, doesn’t that mean it’s possible she and Alexei survived?
It never was particularly likely, seeing as how the soldiers who were there that night insisted that they saw every family member get killed. Plus, why kill the servants and the dogs (seriously— they killed the family’s dogs) if you’re just going to let a legitimate heir to the throne survive?
But, the whole matter was put to bed in 2007, when two final skeletons were found in the forest near Ekaterinberg. These skeletons were in really bad shape. While the other skeletons had been burned and buried, these had been cut up, smashed, and appeared to have acid damage. The theory is that the Reds didn’t want anyone to know that the royal family was dead— at least not right away— so they wanted to do a really, really good job of hiding the bodies. Because Anastasia and Alexei were the smallest…
(you’re going to need a kitten for this)
…the Reds used their bodies to test out various disposal techniques— like dissolving them in acid, burning them, throwing them down a well, etc. When that didn’t work, they decided it was easiest to just bury the rest of the family and leave Anastasia and Alexei’s bodies elsewhere. They were hoping that anyone who found the bodies would assume these were just regular-old-graves, since the number of bodies wouldn’t match the number of missing Romanovs.
I heard some lady says she’s the real Anastasia.
Yeah, that lady is lying. Or maybe she’s just confused. I don’t know. Over the years, dozens of people have claimed to be Anastasia. Some have even claimed to be Maria, Tatiana, or Olga, and a few men have insisted that they’re Alexei. I would love it if that were true, but it’s not. DNA proves that the entire Romanov family is accounted for, now. Even if we can’t be totally sure whether it was Maria or Anastasia temporarily lost with Alexei, we now have seven bodies to match with seven family members.
Where is Anastasia now?
Before Anastasia and Alexei’s bodies were found, Russia held a state funeral for the other Romanovs, and interred them in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. You can see video from the funeral services here:
When Anastasia and Alexei were found, their bodies were interred alongside the rest of their family. They’re all together now in the St. Catherine chapel of the Cathedral.
Here is something that I think you should remember though: The most interesting thing about Anastasia isn’t the theory that she might have survived. The most interesting thing about Anastasia is that, really, she wasn’t that interesting. She was just like you, or me, or any other teenager. She happened to be royalty, sure, but she also loved her siblings, was a bad speller, ate too much chocolate, and had a purple bedroom with butterflies on the walls.
So, instead of remembering what didn’t happen— her escape— maybe we can remember the things that did happen, and the Romanov family as they really were: People.
People with kittens, in fact: