Follow TV Tropes


Did Anastasia Survive?

Go To
Translation: Anastasia, the False Czar's Daughter
"Have you heard
There's a rumor in St. Petersburg?
Have you heard
What they're saying on the street?
Although the Tsar did not survive
One daughter may be still alive
The Princess Anastasia!
But please do not repeat..."
— "A Rumor In St. Petersburg", Anastasia (1997)

One of the Stock Unsolved Mysteries of the twentieth century, until it was solved in 2007 with a definite "no".

Following the events of Red October, the abdicated Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his immediate family were exiled to the Siberian city of Yekaterinburg. On July 17, 1918, with the anti-communist White Army closing in on the city, the former Tsar, his wife Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children — Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexei — were all executed by Bolshevik soldiers. Or were they? For many years, some people insisted that the Tsar's youngest daughter, then-seventeen-year-old Anastasia, survived and escaped. (Spoiler alert: Yes, they were killed. Yes, that included Anastasia - whose body is either one of the three women buried with the former Tsar, or the woman found buried with Alexei, much later.)

Why the focus on Anastasia and not another of the Tsar's five children? In the Soviet Union, in fact, the daughter believed to have survived was generally either Tatiana or Maria rather than Anastasia; there were also some lesser-known rumors that Tsarevich Alexei might have also survived - after all, his body had never been found at this point - but these never gained much traction due to the fact that Alexei had a severe form of hemophilia that made it exceptionally unlikely that he could have survived being woundednote , on top of which Alexei was unable to walk at the time of the shooting and therefore would have had no way to even try to take cover.

However, in 1920, two years after the execution of the Romanovs, a mysterious Slavic-accented woman turned up in Berlin. Suicidal and apparently amnesiac, she was admitted to a local mental hospital. History generally refers to this woman by the adopted name of Anna Anderson. Within a couple years, she would claim to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Anderson gained much publicity through a lengthy legal battle in which she sought to establish her identity as Anastasia in order to claim a share of the remaining Romanov fortune. Public opinion sided overwhelmingly with Anderson due to the inherent romance of a Rags to Royalty story. The case was finally ended in 1970, with the inconclusive ruling that there was no proof either way, but nevertheless denying Anderson the Romanov riches. When Anderson died in 1984, still claiming that she was the lost Grand Duchess, there was still no way to be certain what the truth was. After all, DNA testing wasn't a thing at the time, so the argument for both sides ultimately rested on hearsay. And besides, the site of the Romanovs' murder was located deep behind the Iron Curtain, hidden from the world by the Soviet Union's secretive government, so who could say for sure what had happened there?

Then came the end of the Cold War, and the Romanov burial site was revealed to the world. At first, it seemed there was hope for the legend, since the bodies of Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters were missing from the grave. Meanwhile, however, science marched on with advent of DNA testing, which finally proved that Anna Anderson not only had absolutely no relation to the Imperial family, but also was, in fact, not even Russian. It is widely believed that Anderson was actually a Polish woman named Franziska Schanzkowska, a missing factory worker with a history of mental illness. She eventually married an American man and spent most of the rest of her life in and out of facilities, suggesting the impersonation could have been a Napoleon Delusion of some kind. In 1998, a team of scientists were able to extract some mitochondrial DNA from intestinal tissue she’d had removed to test it against both the Romanov’s closest living maternal relative, the Duke of Edinburgh and Schanzkowska‘s great-nephew, with the latter being a match. Later testing would more closely match her DNA to the great nephew’s.

In 2007, another grave was discovered in Yekaterinburg, this one containing the remains of Alexei and his remaining sister, so at long last, all the Romanov children were accounted for. The last Romanov bodies were confirmed through DNA testing in 2009, establishing once and for all that the entire Romanov family, including Grand Duchess Anastasia, was killed in Yekaterinburg by Bolshevik guns on July 17, 1918. Case closed.

During the 89 years it took to get there, however, the premise that Anastasia had survived became a perennial fixture of Western popular culture. This trope is technically an example of Dated History, but it shows every sign of continuing, at least in works which are either exploring her survival as a deliberate counterfactual or taking significant liberties with historical fact anyway.

For a historical mystery that hasn't yet been solved by science or new information, see The Fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Coincidentally, the name Anastasia means "resurrection". This will often be mentioned in works employing this trope. Also, the proper Russian pronunciation of her name is, "ah-nah-stah-SEE-yah," but many works will use the modern Anglo pronunciation of, "an-nah-STAY-zhah."

Subtrope of Lost Orphaned Royalty, which covers the general case of the last remaining member of a royal line being hidden away in secret. Any examples not specifically connected to the 20th-century Romanovs should go there.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • In Blood+ Anastasia is an alias of the series Big Bad Diva circa 1918. It's not clear when she assumed the Grand Duchess's identity or what happened to the real Anastasia, but Diva is fully capable of pulling a Kill and Replace and had Rasputin as one of her chevaliers during that period to help her.
  • At the end of one Case Closed movie, The Last Wizard of the Century, the protagonists find her as the solution of this film's mystery (Actually not Anastasia, but Maria).
  • In Dance in the Vampire Bund, Rasputin the Mad Monk was a vampire who rescued Anastasia from being killed by the soldiers, but then turned her into a vampire and made her his slave. She eventually escaped him and took on the alias Natasha. Eventually, she resurfaces and helps the heroes kill him.
  • Addressed in Lupin III: From Siberia With Love; she managed to escape execution and fled to America. It becomes relevant to the story when its revealed Judy is her granddaughter and wants the gold Lupin and Rasputon stole to rebuild Russia.

    Audio Drama 
  • In the Doctor Who spin-off audio "Last of the Romanovs", the Doctor and his companions meet the Tsar and Anastasia the day before their execution, and the Doctor's granddaughter Susan attempts to teach Anastasia a meditative technique that may allow her to escape by feigning death at a crucial moment.

    Comic Books 

    Fan Works 
  • The Frozen (2013) AU fic "Grains of Sand in the Passage of Time" depicts an AU that reinvents Anna as Anastasia, who escaped from captivity and hid on the farm owned by Elsa and her grandmother.
  • In Semper Ad Meliora, it turns out that Anastasia did survive, and ended up emigrating to Britannia, where she joined the military forces. And as many people guessed, Anastasia is now known as Amastasia li Brittania, and is Cornelia and Euphemia's mother.
  • The Woman Who Counted- a Doctor Who/Sherlock crossover where the Tenth Doctor is travelling with Molly Hooper- sees the Doctor and Molly arrive in Russia a few days before the Romanovs are to be executed. The Doctor states that the Romanovs' deaths are a fixed point in time that can't be altered, but when a group of alien invaders end up trapped as duplicates of the Romanovs, they allow Molly to take the original family away as the aliens believe that they can use the Bolsheviks to take over Russia. Molly is subsequently able to convince the real Romanovs to come with her, as well as persuade the Doctor to trust her after he's rendered unconscious for a few hours and misses the moment when the aliens were trapped. As a result of the aliens taking their place, while history still records the deaths of the Romanovs, in reality Molly and the Doctor take the family to safety in the 1990s so that they can start new lives.
  • In the Discworld of A.A. Pessimal, there is no doubt about it for people who can join the dots: (Olga) Anastacia Romanoff is alive and well and lives in Ankh-Morpork. She is in direct line of descent to the last acknowledged Tsar of Rodinia, a state which crumbled into lots of smaller regions and nations amidst much acrimony. Catching magic at the age of twelve and covertly educated as a Witch by the local Baba Yaga, she ran away to Lancre to pursue a different destiny, much to her noble father's anger. Today, she is in her thirties and commands the Ankh-Morpork City Air Watch. This is all she ever wanted to do and all the Empire she needs. Anyone wanting her to become Little Mother to a New Rodinia will get very short shrift and she prefers to go her own way and make her own destiny.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live Action 
  • The 1956 film Anastasia, starring Ingrid Bergman in her comeback from six years of exile from U.S. cinema and Yul Brynner, is a straight adaptation of the Marcelle Maurette play (see the "Theatre" section for more information).
  • In the film Anastasia: Once Upon a Time, Anastasia initially escapes her family's capture when Rasputin opens a portal to 1988, but after a brainwashed Rasputin nearly captures her, Anastasia is able to go back and save her family, the film concluding with Anastasia reuniting with her 1980s friend Megan after growing old and becoming a grandmother.
  • The 1986 NBC Made-for-TV Movie Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna, starring Amy Irving as Anna Anderson. It's most notable for following Anna Anderson's actual life, more or less, instead of taking its cues from Marcelle Maurette. The movie leaves it as an open question as to whether Anderson was really Anastasia. (It's really most notable for being Olivia de Havilland's last acting gig, playing Tsar Nicholas II's mom.)
  • The Anastasia legend got its cinematic start with the 1928 silent film Clothes Make The Woman, in which she is saved by a sympathetic Bolshevik soldier. Years later, they reunite in Hollywood, where the ex-Bolshevik is now a famous movie star, and he casts her in a movie about her own life. They fall in love, of course.
  • The 1996 HBO Made-for-TV Movie Rasputin: Dark Servant of Destiny, references this theory in its epilogue, which shows the Romanov family's execution, but ends just before Anastasia and Alexei are shot, leaving them to an Uncertain Doom.
  • 1956 also saw a German movie called The Story Of Anastasia, again based on the life of Anna Anderson.

  • Discussed in Anastasia Krupnik, as the titular character learns that she was named after the historical Anastasia from her parents and promptly declares that she must be the missing Romanov. Her dreams are quickly dashed when her parents point out that as a 10-year-old in 1979, she is far too young to be that Anastasia.
  • Event Group Adventures: Book 5, Primeval (released in 2010), states that yes, Anastasia and Alexei did indeed escape, with the aid of Russian soldiers loyal to their father (a pair of body doubles were left in their place), and made it to Canada, along with a whole lot of gold and two enormous diamonds (payment to the lead soldier). Most of the soldiers died in the fall of 1918 after attempting to betray their leader (believing the bad luck that had fallen on them was because of a curse on the Romanovs and wanting to kill the two children in order to save their own lives), and Alexei the following March, but Anastasia and the lead soldier not only survived, they married and lived out the rest of their lives in that area, dying of old age in the mid 1950s; they were survived by their daughter. Anastasia's daughter married at some point, but her own child and their spouse died later (one in childbirth, the other a few years later), and by the end of the book, only Anastasia's great-granddaughter remains, content to live out her life in peace and asking the protagonists to keep her ancestry a secret.
  • In Fire Ice a spinoff of Dirk Pitt Adventures the story shows that while the Romanov men were executed, the deaths of the women were faked due to loyalists smuggling them to an escape ship (as detailed in the prologue). When the communists chased down and destroyed that ship, Anastasia herself is killed, but one of her sisters is saved by the dying captain.
  • The Romanov Cross by Robert Masello depicts Anastasia surviving the execution and escaping with the aid of a young soldier who had fallen for her, but a chain of events lead to her being trapped and isolated on a distant island off the coast of a village in Alaska, shortly before the rest of the island's population are killed by The Spanish Flu (it is all but explicitly stated that Anastasia's survival of these misfortunes is part of a 'gift' from Rasputin). While written after the denouncement of the theory that Anastasia survived, characters note that the DNA evidence supporting the idea that Anastasia is dead is actually rather slim, considering that the remains of her sisters could have been mixed together and the decades since their deaths would make DNA test results sketchy at best, particularly when dealing with siblings who would have been genetically similar anyway.
  • In The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry, when the Russians decide to restore the monarchy, a lawyer named Miles Lord is hired to do a background check on the most likely candidate to be tsar. He finds evidence that Anastasia and Alexei might have made it out of Russia after all, and goes in search of their fate, being hounded by agents of the aforementioned candidate, who doesn't want a direct descendant of Nicholas II to come forward. He discovers that they settled in America. Anastasia died childless, but Alexei had a son, meaning that son's son-Alexei's grandson-is the rightful heir. And to top it all off, everything in the book, from the fall of the Romanovs to the restoration of the monarchy, even to the new tsar being a dead ringer for Nicolas II was foretold in possibly the one actual prophecy Rasputin had.
  • The Royal Diaries: The epilogue of Anastasia: The Last Grand Duchess mentions the legend and leaves it as an open-ended question, as the book was released before the last two bodies were found.
  • The Tsarina's Daughter by Carolly Erickson offers an unusual twist on the trope: Tatiana was the one that escaped Russia, thanks to her Georgian lover and a revolutionary-turned-friend who looks like Tatiana taking her place after the royal family was caught trying to escape.
  • Likewise, in the Heirs of Anton romance series, the heroines of the first three books turn out in the fourth book to be descended from the titular Anton and Grand Duchess Olga, who changed places with her maid.
  • Suzanne Weyn's young adult novel The Diamond Secret from the Once Upon a Time collection (a series of YA retellings of popular fairy tales and legends, no relation to the TV series) retells the standard Marcelle Maurette-inspired plotline of two conmen trying to pass off an amnesiac girl as Anastasia, only to find that she just might be a Genuine Imposter.
  • The Death of Russia:
    • Referenced in what became of the town of Shaitanka, which during the collapse of Siberia into anarchy during the Second Russian Civil War turned into a microstate called the "Kingdom of Russia" led by an old woman who claimed to be Anastasia, despite not being nearly old enough, and had somehow convinced the starving town to go along with the delusion.
    • On another note, with what has become of Russia by the end of the war, there is little if any hope for the remains of Nicolas II and his family to be found like they were in our world, likely giving this trope more of a shelf life.

    Live-Action TV 
  • American Horror Story: Apocalypse plays with the legend in "Fire and Reign", positing that Anastasia was actually a witch who tried (and failed) to use her magic to save her family from their demise.
  • Dive Club: Despite being made more than a decade after Anastasia's survival was disproved, the series' backstory has her escaping to Australia.
  • History of the World Part II, being ran on Rule of Funny, spares an Anastasia who is basically a digital influencer a century too early.
  • The subject of an In Search of... episode, naturally. It included an interview with Anna Anderson, who was still living at the time.
  • This was the subject on the episode of Mystery Hunters. Araya goes to Virginia to investigate about Anna Anderson, while Christina goes to Russia to find out if she did survive.
  • In the Canadian sketch show The Red Green Show, one of Hap Shaughnessy's many outrageous claims was that Anastasia not only survived, but was in fact his own mother, who, after fleeing Russia, immigrated to Canada. He even spun a survival story out of whole cloth shortly after proclaiming it.

  • Stuck around St. Petersburg/ When I saw it was a time for a change/ Killed the Tsar and his ministers/ Anastasia screamed in vain...
    "Sympathy for the Devil," The Rolling Stones

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Pathfinder adventure Rasputin Must Die (part of the Reign of Winter adventure path) Anastasia is the daughter of Rasputin, and thus the granddaughter of the ancient witch Baba Yaga. She was indeed shot dead, but was resurrected by Rasputin's magic. She can potentially leave Earth for Golarion in the company of the PCs, and at the end of the adventure path she can claim the throne of Irrisen. Second Edition makes this option canon.
  • In the Werewolf: The Apocalypse sourcebook Rage Across Russia, Anastasia is said to have escaped with the help of her werewolf relatives.

  • Marcelle Maurette's 1952 play Anastasia is notable as the origin of what has become the standard Anastasia plotline. This involves an amnesiac waif being hired by a conman to impersonate Anastasia, only for it to turn out that said amnesiac waif was the real Anastasia all along (or at least might be her) and has fallen in love with the conman to boot. This is a highly fictionalized take on Anna Anderson's life, essentially just using it as a jumping-off point for a romantic fantasy. The play also invented the concept of her winning over Anastasia's grandmother, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna Romanova, who actually never even met Anderson in real life.
  • Anya, a 1965 Broadway musical based on the Marcelle Maurette play and the Ingrid Bergman film. It flopped.
  • Kenneth MacMillan's 1967 ballet Anastasia focuses on Anna Anderson struggling to remember her past while in a Berlin mental hospital. In 1971, MacMillan expanded the ballet by adding two acts set before and during the Revolution, with the original material becoming the third act.
  • Natalie Wood was set to play the role of famous impostor Anna Anderson in Anastasia, a play that was to open in Los Angeles in February 1982. Alas, Wood was found dead at sea in November 1981 and the whole thing was cancelled as a result.
  • Anastasia, a 2016 Broadway musical, this one based on the Don Bluth film (so just to be clear, this is a play based on a movie which was a remake of another movie which was itself based on a play). It removes the supernatural elements, with a Chekist officer taking Rasputin's place as the antagonist.

    Video Games 
  • The third part of Assassin's Creed: Chronicles is set in Russia after the October Revolution, and not only does Anastasia survive, she becomes a Player Character, gets Historical Badass Upgrade and fights and kills her way to freedom taking on the identity of Anna Anderson as a Historical In-Joke. Notable for being the first 21st Century work to revive this trope well after the facts had corrected it finally. Given that the series deals heavily with the Ancient Conspiracy of the Templar Order having rewritten history to suit their needs and hide the truth, it makes sense that the series would explore the urban legend as yet another coverup.
  • Alluded to in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, where the Soviet Premier is Alexander Romanov. And to put any guesses that his surname is a coincidence aside, when President Dugan is confronting him over Soviet aggression against the continental United States, Romanov states that he's no mere puppet leader appointed by Dugan, stating that "We Romanovs have a legacy to consider." In this timeline where Adolf Hitler was removed and Germany was a part of the western Allies united against the Soviet war machine, it's possible that Anastasia survived Red October and one of her descendants became a Bolshevik.
  • Fate/Grand Order's depiction of Anastasia averts the trope. She was gunned down with the rest of her family, and the only mention of the survival theories is almost a footnote in the story, where Sherlock Holmes mentions the rumours about her survival but DNA testing has made those theories disappear. However, she was recorded in the Throne of Heroes as a Heroic Spirit, meaning that she can be summoned as a Caster-class Servant, due to the Romanov family being mages in Nasuverse and the last thing she did before dying was make a contract with an elemental called Viy. However, she's the only one of her immediate family recorded in the Throne, which causes her a bit of angst since there's no hope of her meeting any of them again as Servants.
  • The DS game The Hardy Boys: Treasure on the Tracks has the final twist of the story involve this. Borrowing from the 1997 animated film, Anastasia had survived and traveled to France, where she married and had a daughter. That daughter later became a grandmother to one of the passengers on the Royal Express: Isabelle. What's more, the game depicts Anastasia still alive and meeting her great-grandchild at the end of the game.
  • Anastasia is a playable party member in Shadow Hearts: Covenant, which takes place in a very fictionalized alternate World War One. After the main cast defeat the demon-possessed Rasputin, Anastasia joins them to help protect Russia and the rest of the world. The mystery isn't directly referenced, but in the good ending playable characters are scattered to different parts of the timeline, unable to return back to their time, meaning that from the perspective of her contemporaries Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov disappeared mysteriously, and would be unaccounted for in whatever happens to the rest of her family. An ending still shows her alongside Kurando, alive and happy, but in an unspecified location and time period.
  • The fourth Hearts of Iron game is a clear aversion - while a woman calling herself Anastasia Romanov will show up to claim the Throne of Poland should one reject all other candidates twicenote  the game makes it very clear that it's actually the aforementioned Anna Anderson, with many text prompts even having her status doubted in universe. Since it's very possible for Poland to actually defeat the Soviet Union, the true fate of Anastasia can be discovered if the player has met certain conditionsnote .
  • The New Order Last Days Of Europe offers an interesting variation with Tsarevich Alexei (Anastasia's brother). Sergey Taboritsky, possible leader of the Komi Republic, fervently believes that Alexei survived, but will only return when Russia is sufficiently purified. If Taboritsky unifies West Russia, he initiates a reign of terror that rivals or even exceeds what the victorious Nazis have done in Europe. In reality, Alexei is very dead, making this an aversion. Eventually, if he is not defeated by another unifier, Taboritsky realizes that Alexei is never coming back and all his killing was for nothing. This epiphany kills him, and his Holy Russian Empire collapses.
    • A further subversion comes from the "After Midnight" update. After Taboritsky dies and the Holy Russian Empire collapses, one of the factions that emerges is led by a man who claims to be Alexei returned. In reality, he's Michał Goleniewski, a Polish-born NKVD agent using the Alexei persona to try and restore some kind of sanity to Russia.