Staunton, July 23 – In the century since the Bolsheviks murdered Nicholas II and his immediate family in the basement of the Ipatyev House in Yektarinburg, some 230 pretenders have come forward with claims that they miraculously survived that crime, claims that many credulous people and some unscrupulous ones have been all too willing to accept.
But despite the legend, most famously presented in the classic 1956 movie Anastasia starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brenner, none have withstood close examination and all have been rejected by other members of the extended Russian Imperial Family and by those with direct knowledge of the last Russian court.
Now that yet another investigation has concluded that the remains found near the site of the brutal murder are in fact those of the members of Nicholas, his wife, children and immediate servants, this sad chapter in Russian history may finally be closing. But as it closes, it may be worth remembering just how large a cottage industry it involved.
Such pretenders began appearing immediately after the murders, Igor Kiyan of Versiya says. Perhaps the first was a young man who claimed to be the Tsarevich Aleksey. He showed up at the headquarters of anti-Bolshevik leader Admiral Kolchak in Biisk but was quickly unmasked (versia.ru/za-rasstrelyannyx-nikolaya-ii-i-chlenov-ego-semi-vydavali-sebya-230-samozvancev).
In the next decade, 28 women came forward to claim they were the Grand Duchess Olga, 33 to say they were the Grand Duchess Tatyana, 53, Maria, 34 Anastasia, and 81 the Tsarevich Aleksey. Few tried to present themselves as the tsar – his visage was too well-known – and even fewer as the Tsarina Aleksandra perhaps because she was hated even among monarchists.
The most famous of these were Margo Bodts who claimed to be Olga and attracted a certain following in Europe in the 1920s and Anna Anderson who gained even more attention not only then but until her death in Virginia in 1984 because of her long-running legal battle to gain not only recognition but also to get access to tsarist funds abroad that did not in fact exist.
Less well-known in the West are cases like the man in Ukraine who in 1928 organized an underground anti-Soviet movement in the name of the tsar and then claimed to be the ruler himself. That played into a long history of Russian fascination with hidden rulers and he lasted for a time until Soviet security police arrested him.
With the passage of time, the number of possible “survivors” has dwindled to insignificance. Now anyone doing so would be well over 100. But a certain uptick has occurred among people who claim that their parents or grandparents were grand duchesses or even the tsar himself.
The most interesting of those concerns claims of supposed descendants of the Russian Imperial Family who turned up 20 years ago in the Republic of Georgia. They claimed that the family had not been executed because the tsarist powers that be had inserted doubles and that the real Romanovs had fled into hiding in Abkhazia.
Moreover, one of the descendants claimed that she was Anastasia and knew where trillions of dollars in tsarist money was held in the West. She even suggested that this money was the basis of the US Federal Reserve System and that taking it back would allow Russia to “defeat America.”
Immediately in Moscow was formed an International Foundation of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanova. It was led by Yury Dergausov, then an assistant to speaker of the Duma; and both he and other members wrote articles and gave press conferences at which they demanded the return of the tsarist “gold” from America.
Unfortunately for their cause, Sergey Mironenko, then head of the Russian State Archive, offered proof that there was no such tsarist hoard in the US or anywhere else. Now, Russian government experts that the remains found near Yekaterinburg were those of the Imperial Family.
It would seem that the end of this story has been reached; but the inventiveness of some and the willingness of others to believe them may mean that someone will come up with yet another conspiracy story for another generation.
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