Tsar's daughter may, after all, have escaped the execution which wiped out the royal family, says new book.
Anna Anderson is known as 'the best of of several impostors who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia'. Picture: The Age, Australia
DNA evidence seemed to have put an end to the the claims of American Anna Anderson and others to be the lost princess. Now a new book to be published in Yekaterinburg, scene of the slaying of the Russian royals, will challenge the view that all the Romanovs were shot in a dank cellar in July 1918.
Anastasia - the youngest of the tsar's four daughters - was 17 when she was supposedly killed in 1918.
What makes the theory even more intriguing is that the author is leading Russian historian Veniamin Alekseyev, an academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences who was a member of the Russian government commission which investigated the authenticity of bones purporting to the those of the royals. He became convinced Nicholas II's remains had been found, but he is far less certain about Grand Duchess Anastasia's, whose bone remnants are - officially - interred in St Petersburg.
'I do not assume presumptuously she was executed by the Bolsheviks, nor do I assume she remained alive', he said, reported Itar-Tass. 'This is for the reader to decide. On the basis of the archive documents discovered, and new Russian and foreign evidence I have seen since 1991 as a scientist, I have reasons to believe the royal family's fate is not as certain as it has been believed for almost 100 years'.
The mysterious Anna Anderson - also known at various times by the family names Tschaikovsky and Manahan - was for years during the Cold War seen as a possible Anastasia, though her claim was rejected by a number of relatives and servants of the royal family after they met her. Later DNA tests after her death in 1984 were seen to establish her real identity as Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish factory worker with a history of mental illness. A lock of her hair and medical samples showed no link to the Romanovs, according to scientists.
Yet the author of the new book - 'Who are you, Ms Tchaikovskaya?' - is concerned that she has been labelled an imposter too easily.
Veniamin Alekseyev, pictures: Ural Institute for the Humanities and Natalya Zhigareva, 'Uralskiy Rabochiy' newspaper
Alekseyev has unearthed documentary evidence from the Russian State Archive and elsewhere to produce 'the first-ever publication of evidence of the imperial family's confidantes, opinions of Romanov House members and doctors, who treated the woman and came to the conclusion 'the patient's identification as the Grand Duchess is quite possible and even probable'.'
He argues against the sole reliance on DNA testing of remains discovered in the Porosyonkov log locality, near Yekaterinburg. Historians have ignored archive documents that cast considerable doubt over this version, he said.
'The interests of both the Bolsheviks and Kolchak (leader of the White Guard Movement which opposed Communism) under whose auspices the Yekaterinburg tragedy was investigated in 1918, uniquely coincided in this case. The former needed an image of an uncompromising new government determined to wipe out the old world without a trace, and the latter - a Great Russia without an emperor,' said Alekseyev.
Alekseyev admits he touches on a very delicate issue regarding whose remains were buried in the Peter and Paul Cathedral in St Petersburg. He hopes for new insights when documents pertaining to the royal family are released in 2018. These evidently concern secret diplomatic contacts between Germany and the Soviet Union over the German born tsarina Alexandra and her daughters, and a possible secret exchange in the First World War.
Romanov family pictured in their exile in Tobolsk, September 1917-April 1918. Pictures: Zlatoust City Museum
Leading French historian Marc Ferro has long argued that the wife of Nicholas II and the imperial couple's daughters were saved. Documents in Vatican archives are said to support this.
'Why such mercy on the part of the Bolsheviks? After the leftist Social-Revolutionaries assassinated German Ambassador Mirbach, Wilhelm II could breach the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, which would have ruined the Soviet regime. Therefore, they had to negotiate,' said Alekseyev. 'All over the world this issue has been degraded for decades by unpretentious stage productions, garbage literature and films.
'We need scientific clarity over this complicated issue. Therefore, I am only publishing the documents. Where the truth lies, is up to the readers to decide.'
In 1995 Alekseyev discovered a document in the Siberian town of Tobolsk which convinced him the tsar's bones had been discovered.
'Before I got my hands on these documents six months ago I had strong doubts that the remains were those of the Tsar. But today my doubts have vanished,' he said at the time.
One of Alekseyev's documents belonged to a dentist, Maria Rendel, who examined Nicholas from late 1917 until mid-1918. Rendel wrote that the Tsar had 'a mouthful of rotten teeth'. Decades later a medical expert studying what was thought to be the Tsar's skull said it showed signs of the dental disease paradontosis.
The historian has long argued that evidence hidden in Russian archives, and those of European royal families, can hold clues as to the fate of the Russian royals. Following Anderson's appearance, the Soviet Foreign Minister Georgi Chicherin said: 'The fate of the young daughters of the czar is at present unknown to me. I have read in the press that they are now in America'.
Ferro pointed to testimony from Gleb Botkin, who identified the tormented Anderson as the grand duchess.
'Being the son of Dr. Botkin, the tsar's physician who was murdered with him at Yekaterinburg, (Gleb) knew the sisters well and was their playmate for several years, right down to their incarceration at Yekaterinburg. He recognised her at once as Anastasia,' said Ferro.
Anderson appeared in Berlin in 1920. Originally she was labelled Fraulein Unbekannt - Miss Unknown - after refusing to give her identity. Later she used the name Tschaikovsky. An investigation by the tsarina's brother concluded she was Franziska Schanzkowska, though she remained a focus of media attention.
She emigrated to the United States in 1968, marrying Virginia history professor Jack Manahan.
The Russian Orthodox Church has long expressed reservations over the authenticity of the bones. DNA tests conducted in several Western countries were said to match the bones to a number of royal relatives, including Philip, the husband of the British Queen, Elizabeth II.
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