Real Name: Unknown, possibly Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia
Nicknames: Anna Anderson
Date: July 17, 1918
Details: Her Imperial Highness The Grand Duchess Anastasia was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Nicholas, his wife, four daughters and son Alexei lived in luxury. Meanwhile, most of the citizens of Russia were starving. When the country became involved in World War I, most of the soldiers had neither shoes nor rifles. More than a million were killed or wounded.
Finally, his people rebelled. In 1917, abdicated to a provisional democratic government, but soon after, that government fell to the radical Bolsheviks. The Tsar's mothers and sisters made it out of the country safely. However, the Tsar, his wife and children were virtual prisoners in their own palace. On August 13, 1917, the Romanovs were banished to their summer palace near St. Petersburg.
Eleven months later, on July 17, 1918, the Tsar was assassinated by firing squad at the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg. Also assassinated was his family, doctor, and three closest servants. The Duchesses, who had jewels sewn into their corsets, were shot multiple times. Some of the bullets were deflected because of the jewels. However, according to the official events, they all were killed. Their bodies were dumped in a mine shaft but later retrieved, burned and buried to conceal them.
A few years after, on February 18, 1920, a woman known only as Anna Anderson jumped into a waterway in Berlin, Germany, attempting to commit suicide. After she was pulled from the water, she was taken to the Dolldorf Asylum, a mental asylum just outside of Berlin. While there, she underwent a physical examination. It was discovered that she had several unexplained scars.
While there, she refused to identify herself. In December of 1921, however, another resident named Clara Peuthert recognized her as Grand Duchess Anastasia. An official representative of the Russian nobility was sent to the asylum. She was certain that the woman was one of the Tsar's daughters. The woman later told several nurses that she was Anastasia. Some suspected that the scars on her body were from the assassination attempt.
Four years later, in 1925, while Anna was being hospitalized for surgery, she was visited by Anastasia's former nanny. The nanny recognized her as the Grand Duchess, based on childhood scars and a bone deformity on her right foot. Anna asked her to massage her head with cologne, which was a favorite childhood ritual of Anastasia's. This was known only to the two of them.
Later, Anastasia's aunt Olga came to visit Anna. She immediately recognized her aunt and Olga later said that she was certain that the woman was her niece. However, the next day, she mentioned a bank account containing $80 million (today worth $5.6 billion) that her father had left for her. Olga and the rest of the family then denied that she was Anastasia, presumably to keep the money for themselves and prevent her from accessing it.
In 1927, she moved into a German castle with the help of a sympathetic Duke and Duchess. A childhood friend of Anastasia's, Gleb Botkin, came to visit her. He was certain that she was the Grand Duchess. She had accurately described a game that they had played as a child. Later, she told him about the night of the assassination. She claimed that she had been horribly wounded and left unconscious, thrown on a truck with the dead bodies of her family. She claimed that the truck overheated and stopped in the middle of the woods. One of the guards noticed that she was still alive and took her to safety.
In 1938, Gleb and Anna's lawyer went to court, planning to prove that she was really Anastasia, so that she could receive her inheritance. The attorneys based their case first on the many similarities between Anna and Anastasia. Experts analyzed photographs of both women's ears, which appeared to match. Various scars and birth marks also appeared to match. Handwriting samples were analyzed and found to be virtually identical.
By the age of 58, Anna was increasingly eccentric, yet the court battle continued. She became uncooperative with both her attorneys and the courts. For years, she lived in a remote village near the Black Forest. In 1959, during an appeal of the case, a judge and two language experts came to visit her. They tried to determine if she could speak Russian. However, she refused to speak Russian with them. She dismissed them after only ten minutes.
In 1967, a German high court issued a decision: there was not enough evidence to prove Anna's claim. However, it did decide that the death of Anastasia was not a verifiable fact. In 1968, she moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, and married a younger friend of Gleb's named Jack Manahan. A year later, Gleb died, insisting to the end that Anna was the Grand Duchess.
In 1984, Anna passed away, never being able to fully prove her identity. A few years after that, on July 12, 1991, a mass grave containing nine bodies was found in Russia. Included in the grave were Tsar Nicholas, his wife, three of his daughters, three servants, and his doctor. However, the remains of Alexei and one of the daughters was missing, further proving the theory that Anna Anderson was actually Anastasia. However, the Bolshevik leader that was in charge of the execution claimed that two of the bodies were burned and left in an area separate from the other remains. Some believe that the Bolshevik leader made up this story in order to account for the two missing Romanovs.
Many still wonder if Anastasia survived the assassination and became Anna Anderson. The truth will not be known until the remaining bodies can be accounted for.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the October 6, 1993 episode.
Results: Solved. In 1994, DNA evidence determined that Anna Anderson was not Anastasia. Instead, she was identified as a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska, who had a history of mental illness. In 1927, a private investigator hired by Anastasia's uncle came to the same conclusion. In 2007, the bodies of Anastasia and her brother Alexei were finally located at a site nearby and identified. However, it remains to be revealed how Anna/Franziska was aware of the intimate parts of Anastasia's life she revealed to relatives of the Romanovs.
- Anna Anderson on Wikipedia
- Grand Duchess Anastasia on Wikipedia
- She's not Anastasia, she's a very naughty girl
- Anna Anderson: the Great Impostor