It’s one of the most fascinating historical mysteries that has taken a whole century to find the truth. Many know the story as a charming movie, while others could recollect the imposters that took claims to the family name. It’s the case of the Imperial Romanov Family, and beneath the romanticized 1997 film adaptation lies the gruesome truth and gore. For almost a hundred years no one could fully account for what happened to the last tsar and his family on the 17th of July, 1918.
Through all the rumors, imposters, and multiple film adaptations, the world now knows that the Romanov family did in fact perish together in the basement of the Ipatiev House. The Romanov family began ruling in 1613, when Mikhail Feodorvich became the sovereign elect of all of Russia. When Nicholas Romanov became tsar after his father’s kidney failure, he confessed to a close friend, “I am not prepared to be a tsar. I never wanted to become one. I know nothing of the business of ruling. “(Nicholas the 2nd). Though Nicholas had the best education available, his father had failed to teach Nicholas the ways of a ruler before his passing.
On November 26th, 1894, Nicholas married the Princess Alix of Hesse-Dramstadt. Four daughters became the result of their marriage; Olga in 1885, Tatiana in 1897, Maria in 1899, and Anastasia in 1901. The couple dearly wanted a male heir, and in 1904 their only son Alexei was born. Unfortunately, their joy was short lived when they learned of his hemophilia. Alexei easily bruised, and cried at the slightest bump against his skin. Through the medical trauma, the family met Rasputin, a odd monk who was somehow able to stop Alexei’s bleeding.
He became a treasured member of the family until his assassination in 1916, a few years before the Russian Revolution. The Russian Revolution was the beginning of the Romanov family troubles. The first part of the revolution, known as the February Revolution, sprouted in February of 1917, when violent protests erupted in Petrograd, known as present day St. Petersburg. Russian citizens had lost their faith in Nicholas’s leadership, and the involvement in the First World War showed how unmatched imperial Russian was against Germany.
On March 12th, the revolution triumphed when regiment after regiment of the Petrograd Garrison defected to the cause of the demonstrators. The soldiers subsequently formed committees that elected deputies to the Petrograd Soviet. ” (history. com Staff) Soon afterwards, Nicholas was forced to step down from power, bringing the Romanov family reign to an end. The family was put under house arrest at the palace until they boarded a train headed for Siberia. The fantasized story of the Romanovs was planted after they boarded the train, and the Imperial family was never seen by the public again.
From the unknown sprouted rumors and whispers among the people. Was the family dead? Did they escape? The most popular myth was that Anastasia, the youngest daughter, escaped during the executions. The most recognizable version of the story is the 1997 animated film adaptation, directed by Gary Goldman and Don Bluth. Unfortunately, the movie is more fantasy than fact, and people are easily swooned by a charming story. The movie begins with a young Anastasia at the palace, and during a ball an attack happens.
With the help of a kitchen boy, she and her grandmother escape to a train, only to have Anastasia slip from her grandmother’s grasp in the chaos. She falls and hits her head, causing a state of amnesia to occur. She does not know she is royalty, and lives as Anya, the unwanted orphan. Years later, Anya returns to St. Petersburg, where rumors of Anastasia’s survival are ever present. There she meets Dimitri, who is holding auditions to find a girl who could convince the duchess Maria Feodorovna that she is Anastasia. At this point in the film, the facts come to a halt.
Anastasia wasn’t a young girl at the palace when the attacks on her family happened. In reality, she and her family were already far from the palace, and she died at the age of 17. There was no young man named Dimitri; Dimitri is really Borris, who was known for finding fake royals to present to the duchess Maria Feodorovna. Anastasia’s grandmother was truly desperate to find her missing family, and did hold an award for whoever could find her family. The rest of the story is a well woven fairy tale that uses Anastasia as the story’s center piece.
As charming as the beloved film is, it masks a gruesome and horrific truth with a pretty fairytale. One thing that the film did get right was that many real life imposters took claims to the famous Romanov title, and the conspiracy theories were born. Anna Anderson was the most convincing Anastasia the world has known. Two years after the Romanov executions, Anderson claimed in an insane asylum that she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Anderson fabricated an elaborate tale of how the jewels in her corset had saved her life, and pretended to be dead as the executioners attempted to kill her with their bayonets.
One feature that made Anderson so convincing was her deformed foot that was exactly like Anastasia’s, and the scars on her body that she claimed to be made by bayonets. One incident that provided evidence that helped Anderson’s claim to the title was when she met the Romanov’s court doctor’s son. When she first met the doctor’s son, she asked him about his “funny animals. ” Years prior to Anderson’s claim to the Romanov name, the doctor’s son had drawn Anastasia a picture of animals in court attire. He claimed that only the real Anastasia would know about his drawings.
Anderson also spoke many languages, including English, French and German. She understood Russian, and claimed she wouldn’t speak it because it was the language of those who murdered her family. Nicholas’s sister said that Anderson was an imposter, but still people believed Anderson was Anastasia. Even the Romanovs first cousin, the Prince Sigismund of Prussia, thought she was Anastasia. The prince also believed he had found Olga as well. Marga Boodts had fooled the Prussian Prince into believing she was Olga.
Boodts had a story woven about how a member of the firing squad had knocked her unconscious to help her escape. She said that after she pretended to be dead, the firing squad member replaced her body with the corpse of a grave robber, and he traveled with her to Vladivostok. Boodts said she traveled to the Netherlands and was recognized as Olga by Kaiser Wilhelm the second. Wilhelm then provided her with financial help, but told her to never reveal her ‘identity to anyone. Against Wilhelm’s wish, she made herself known to Prince Sigismund, who believed she was his cousin.
In 1960 when Anna Anderson took her claim as Anastasia to the court, Boodts declared Anderson an imposter, and even considered taking legal actions against her. However, Prince Sigismund was a supporter of Anderson, and Boodts never made any legal actions. Anderson publicly said she would be willing to meet Boodts, but Boodts refused. In 1964, a few years after Anderson and Boodts’s claims, Michael Goleniewski made a claim to Alexei’s title. Goleniewski was a Polish officer who worked as a triple agent for the CIA.
His career with the CIA was ruined when they put him on pension and ended his employment after his ridiculous claim. Goleniewski’s story was that an assassin named Yakov Yurovsky saved the family, who were supposedly hiding in Poland. Unfortunately for him, nobody believed his story. He was born in 1922, 18 years after the tsarevitch. Goleniewski claimed that the haemophilia made him a child twice, causing him to appear much younger than he really was. He never had many supporters, but Life magazine did write an article about him and a second Romanov imposter. He died claiming he was Alexei.
Though many people believed that at least one of the Romanovs escaped, the tragic truth is they did not. After the tsar had been removed from power, the family was ordered to board a train to Siberia, where they would be placed under house arrest for the remainder of their lives. 46 attendants went with the family, along with their three dogs. It took two train to move the travelers, their luggage, the government representatives, jailers, and soldiers. The trip lasted five days. When they arrived at Ekaterinburg, the family was moved to a house called Ipatiev, meaning House of Special Purpose.
When they arrived, they were only allowed to speak Russian and were not permitted to look out the window. The tsarina was distraught; she liked to speak English with her children. The girls had a difficult time with not looking out the window, but they soon stopped after Anastasia poked her head out a window and was shot at by a soldier. The family was under high watch, but they still enjoyed eachothers company with endless card games and walks in the small garden. Unfortunately during this time, Alexei’s health reached the lowest point.
At 13, he began suffering from recurrent haemorrhage in his knee, causing him agonizing pain. He was no longer able to walk, and doctors said he would not live until 16. But despite the awful effects of his sickness, Alexei would allow his father to carry him out to the garden, enjoying the sights out of the house. July 16th was an uneventful day for the Romanovs. The tsar and his girls went out for their walk, and they went to bed at the normal time. In the small hours of the morning, the family was awakened and told that the White Army could strike an attack on the house.
The tsaritsa and the children all put on clothing with the family jewels sewn in, then walked down to the basement along with some of the servants. Anastasia carried one of the family’s dogs with her and her mother had a pillow. Alexandra complained that there were no chairs in the basement, and the family was told to stand in a line for one last photograph. They were then left alone for a half hour as the firing squad went upstairs and took shots of vodka. When the half hour was over, the firing squad returned downstairs and read the death sentence for the Romanovs.
Immediately after the reading, Nicholas was shot squarely in the chest and died as he slumped to the floor. Alexandra was then shot on the left side of her skull and bled to death. The tsar was the only member to die a quick and painless death, for the drunken assassins were unable to kill the others swiftly. The children suffered the most. All of the Romanov girls put up a fight, and the jeweled clothing made it so bullets could not hit their torsos and upper bodies. Maria was shot in the thigh, then stabbed repeatedly until she perished.
Olga was shot in the jaw, and Tatiana in the back of her head. They too were stabbed to death. Anastasia hid herself behind a pillow, and fainted from the trauma. When the assassins examined her body, she wildly screamed and they killed her with their bayonets and ends of their rifles. Poor Alexei was unable to move, and laid next to his dead parents until he was shot in the head. It was 20 minutes before all of the Romanovs and their servants were dispatched. The bodies of the royal family were then burned with sulphuric acid, and thrown into an unmarked grave.