Anastasia (1901–1918)

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Anastasia (1901–1918)

Russian grand duchess who was the youngest daughter of Russia's last tsar. Name variations: Anastasia Romanov. Born Anastasia Romanov (Romanoff or Romanovna) on June 18, 1901, in Peterhof, Russia; executed on July 17, 1918, at Ekaterinburg, in Central Russia; youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and

Alexandra Feodorovna (1872–1918, known also as Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt).

In March 1917, the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II became one of the precipitating events of the Russian Revolution and made the deposed ruler, his wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna , and their five children pawns in the tumult that overtook their country until their deaths the following year. When Civil War broke out, the Grand Duchess Anastasia, the youngest daughter in the family, was moved in the spring of 1918—along with her parents, sisters Tatiana (b. 1897), Olga (b. 1895), and Marie (b. 1899), and her brother, Alexis (b. 1904)—to Ekaterinburg, east of the Ural Mountains. As White Russian armies, including tsarist supporters, approached the Urals, orders came down from the opposing Bolshevik leader Vladimir I. Lenin to execute the royal family. On the night of July 16, the tsar, his wife, the five children, and several members of their household were roused from their beds and escorted by a local commissar to the cellar, where they fell to the shots of a firing squad. The 11 victims were buried in an abandoned mineshaft, then reburied later in an open field.

For a long time, as rumors circulated that the 17-year-old Anastasia had survived the death squad, theories abounded as to her subsequent whereabouts. The most convincing conjecture was that she reappeared in Germany under the name Anna Anderson . In 1993, DNA tests were conducted in Britain to identify remains found under railroad ties in a deep pit in the Ural mountains. The remains were identified as those of the tsar, Empress Alexandra, and three of their four daughters. Though DNA comparisons finally debunked Anderson's claim, speculation continues around the "missing children" whose remains have not been found—Alexei and either Anastasia or Maria.

Inevitably, the myth of the lost princess led to dramatization. A play by Marcelle Baurette, loosely based on Anna Anderson's claim, became the basis for the 20th Century-Fox movie Anastasia, starring Ingrid Bergman , Yul Brynner and Helen Hayes . The story of the impostor-duchess proved auspicious in drawing the legendary Bergman back to American screens after a long absence and won her an Academy Award. A later movie version of the Anastasia story starred Amy Irving .