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The Fate of the tsar’s family

The  ROMANOVS dynasty which had ruled Russia for more than 4 centuries ended in the brutal massacre after the Revolution of 1917. Following the Bolshevik seizure of power in October that year . Tsar Nicolas 2 and his family were moved with a small number of courtiers to the town of Ekaterinburg in Siberia . On July 16, 1918 at the house there of the wealthy merchant called N. N. Ipatiev. Nicholas his wife Alexandra and their son and four daughters were reportedly herded into a room and raked with bullets by their guards. Those who did not die at once were finished off by blows with rifle butts and bayonets.

The Romanovs met their gruesome end at a time when civil war was still raging between Tsarist and Bolshevik armies in Russia . Not long after  the massacre Ekaterinburg fell to counterrevolutionary forces , and Tsarist Investigators explored the site to try to determine precisely what had happened to the royal family . They concluded that , after the killings , the corpses were hauled off to a secluded pine forest where they were dismembered ,soaked in petrol and burnt. Sulphuric acid was pored on the remains , which were dropped down a deep shaft at the nearby four brothers mine. From the pit , the investigators recovered a handful of charred bones and one severed finger , along with bits of clothing , an emerald cross ,women’s corset stiffeners, diamond-studded shoe buckles , a doctor’s false teeth and glasses and more . The jewelry was easily identified as that of the Romanov women and the searchers also found brass buttons with coats of arms that had belonged to Nicholas and his haemophiliac son Alexis .

A train with the blinds down :
However certain puzzles have  continued to surround the Ekaterinburg findings. For  one thing , the few human remains discovered at the mine did not suggest that the whole family and their servants-11 people-had been disposed of there . Bodies donot simply turn to ash when burned in petrol and soaked in acid . Where were the rest of the Skeletons ?

For a long time , serious researchers were convinced that some members of the royal family , at least , had escaped death because they were needed as bargaining counters in secret talks between the Bolsheviks and German government . Alexandra  was a relation of German Kaiser and , so they argued , she and her children were to be exchanged for certain revolutionaries and then imprisoned in Germany . These clandestine negotiations are well documented. As late as September 10,1918- long after the supposed massacre – the German consul in Moscow reported : “ I talked with Badek a [ Bolshevik leader ] again today about releasing the Empress and her children ”. In October , Sir Charles Eliot , the British High Commissioner in Siberia , reported the rumour that :  On 17 July a train with the  blinds down left the Ekaterinburg for an unknown destination , and it is believed that the surviving members of the imperial family were in it .

Spice was added to the possibility of escape by the fact that if any of the tsar’s family did survive ,they might inherit fabulous riches. At the time of the Revolution , the Romanovs wealth was estimated at an incredible $ 9000 million – the present day equivalent of 30 billion pounds . How much of this was saved from Bolshevik hands was a mystery in itself , but rumours were rife of huge gold shipments out of St Peterburg during the Tsarist regime’s last days. Fortunes were reputedly hidden away in private accounts at banks in London , Paris , Berlin and New York and with such inheritance , there was no shortage of pretenders to the tsar’s estate . Over the decades that followed the revolution , scores of treasure-seekers ,fantasists and downright maniacs came forward , asserting that they were royal survivors of Ipaties house massacre .

Anna Anderson and others :
The most famous claimant was a woman called ‘Anna Anderson who was rescued in 1920 from the suicidal drowning attempt in Berlin canal . After a long period in hospital when she was reluctant  to say anything about her past . She claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia , the Tsar’s youngest daughter . She had , she said , been spared death at Ekaterinburg and send off by train with her mother and sisters to another place of imprisonment . In the course of three escapes attempts , she said , she was beaten and raped . Eventually , she got free and travelled incognito with the help from a Russian soldier , in a farm cart to Bucharest .

Some of the relatives ,friends and staff of Russian royal Family , brought to meet Anastasia , became convinced of her authenticity , including the Grand Duke Andrew , the Tsar’s cousin.
Others were more dubious : prince Felix Yusupov called her ‘ an adventuress , a sick hysteric , and frightful play-actress ’. Anna was the subject of famous play . Ingrid Bergman and Lilli Palmer movies , a Lynn Seymour ballet , several books , countless newspapers articles and a 32 year long lawsuit in Germany. She died in February 1984 with historians no more certain of her identity than they had been 60 years earlier .

Many other claimants appeared . It has been said that in Siberia after the massacre, every town had its clutch of  grand duchesses and sons of tsar-all of them obvious fraud . Among the female hopefuls, pretenders to be Anastasia have been the most numerous , although there were others who claimed to be her sister Olga , Tatiana or Maric . Nor was there a shortage of men asserting themselves to be the Grand Duke Alexis , the Tsar’s only son . One of these was Colonel Micheal Goleniewski , a Polish army Intelligence officer who defected to the United States in 1960 after feeding the American CIA with microfilm secrets for two years . Not long after his defection had hit the headlines , Goleniewski began to make public claims to be Alexis. His story was astonishing – that the whole family had been smuggled out of Ekaterinburg. In Goleniewski’s account , Tsar Nicolas lived on until May 1952 , when he died incognito in Poznan in Poland and was buried in the cementery of Wolsztyn.

The Secret grave :
The claims of many Romanov pretenders were shattered by dramatic developments in 1989 .In that year , with the glasnost spirit of free enquiry spreading in the Soviet union , investigators announced that they had found skeletons of the Russian royal family in a birch swamp 12 miles (19 km ) outside Ekaterinburg . The location had been revealed in notes left by Jacob Yurovsky, the commander of the Bolshevik execution squad at the Ipatiev house .

The case is reopen :
On the order of Russian president , Boris Yeltsin , an official investigation of the burial site was later carried out . The grave yielded nine skeletons , and in September 1992 remains were sent to British forensic science Laboratories at Aldermaston in Berkshire for DNA testing . Meanwhile , blood samples were taken from relatives of the Russian royal family who Prince Philip , Duke of Edinburg (a direct maternal descendant of Alexandra’s sister). A year later , it was officially announced that the mystery of the Romanovs was just about solved . Combining historical evidence with the DNA results . It was possible to identify the nine bodies in the grave as those of Tsar Nicholas 2 , the Empress Alexandra , Three of their daughters ,  Dr Botkin ( the family physician ) , a foot man maid and cook .
Fascinatingly , two figures remain unaccounted for . Remains of the Tsar’s son , Alexis , were not present in the grave and one of the Romanov daughters was missing  (although experts disagree as to whether this is Marie or Anastasia). Were their lives spared ? Or were they butchered like the others and buried elsewhere for reasons now forgotton ? The answer continues to baffle, though the evidence from the birch swamp grave has debunked the claims of many a pretender to the identity of the Grand Duchess Olga or Tatiana . Its also makes nonsense of Goleniewski’s  claim that the tsar died in Poznam in 1952. As for the fascinating Anna Anderson , historians are now satisfied that she was in fact a Polish peasant called Franziska Schanzkjowska who had endured the very real ordeals of rape , pregnancy and suicidal break down-but was not Anastasia.

The Final Hours :
Pavel Medvedev was commander of the guard keeping watch on the royal family at the Ipatiev house . In 1919 he was interrogated in Ekaterinburg on charges of conspiracy and murder .This is his evidence
“ I, Pavel Spiridonovich Medvedev , 31 year of age , am orthodox , literate , have never been charged with breaking the law , am of peasant origin… I took up duty the night of 16 july , and around 8 o’clock the same evening , commander Yurovsky ordered me to confiscate all the Nagant revolvers in the detachment , and to bring them to him .

I took revolvers from those at their posts and from some others , a total of twelve revolvers , and brought them to the commandant’s office. Then Yurovsky said to me ” Today we will have to shoot everybody. Warn the detachment so they won’t worry if they hear shots .” I guessed tha Yurovsky was talking about the shooting of the entire royal family and the doctor and the servants who lived with them …Around 2 o’clock in the morning the tsar, tsaritsa , four royal daughters , the maid , doctor , cook , and footman came out of their rooms .

The tsar carried the heir in his arms . The sovereign and heir were dressed  in soldier’s shirts and caps . Her majesty and the daughters were in dresses with no outerwear and uncovered heads… None of the members of the imperial family asked anybody any questions in my presence. There were no tears , no sobbing , either . Having descended the stairs leading from second entrance hall to the lower floor, we went into courtyard and from there through a second door (counting from the gates) into the inner lodgings of the lower floor . Yurovsky showed the way .

They were brought into the corner room on the lower floor adjacent to the sealed storage room . Yurosky ordered that chairs be brought…It seems that all of them suspected the fate that was about to befall them , but no one made a single sound. Simultaneously , eleven people walked into the same room… Yurosky send me out , saying “ Go to the street, to see whether anybody’s there and whether the shots will be heard .” I walked out into the courtyard enclosed by a tall fence , and I heard the sound of shots before I had reached the street .I immediately returned to the house .

Much has now become clearer. But the fate of the Two missing Romanovs remains unknown , and until it is settled the memory of the tsar’s family is unlikely to rest in peace .

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