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Did Anastasia Survive?

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"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 the disappointing answer of "no".

Following the events of Red October, the abdicated Tsar Nicholas II 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, and Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexei — were all executed by Bolshevik soldiers. Or were they? (They were.) For many years, some people insisted that the Tsar's youngest daughter, seventeen-year-old Anastasia, survived and escaped. (She didn't.)

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Why the focus on Anastasia and not another of the Tsar's five children?note  Well, it all began in 1920, two years after the execution of the Romanovs, when a mysterious Slavic-accented woman turned up in Berlin. Suicidal and apparently amnesiatic, 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 because Everything's Better with Princesses. The case was finally ended in 1970, with the inconclusive ruling that there was no proof either way, but nevertheless denying her 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 was in the future, 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?

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Then came The Great Politics Mess-Up 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 note . 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. In all likelihood, Anderson was actually a woman named Franziska Schanzkowska, a missing Polish factory worker with a history of mental illness, perhaps suggesting that her impersonation was a Napoleon Delusion to some extent. 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 Romanov bodies have been confirmed through DNA testing, establishing once and for all that the entire family, including Grand Duchess Anastasia, was killed in Yekaterinburg by Bolshevik guns on July 17, 1918. Case closed.

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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 taking significant liberties with historical fact anyway.

Coincidentally, the name Anastasia means "resurrection". This will often be mentioned in works employing this trope.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • At the end of one Detective Conan movie, The Last Wizard of the Century, the protagonists find her as the solution of this film's mystery (Actualy not Anastasia, but Maria).
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Shadow Strikes, Anastasia has survived and is on a campaign of revenge.

    Fan Fic 
  • 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, As a result, Molly is able to convince the real Romanovs to come with her and 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 them to safety in the 1990s so that they can start new lives.

    Film 
  • 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 1956 film Anastasia, starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner, is a straight adaptation of the Marcelle Maurette play (see the "Theatre" section for more information).
  • 1956 also saw a German movie called The Story of Anastasia, again based on the life of Anna Anderson.
  • The 1986 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.
  • Don Bluth's 1997 animated feature Anastasia, which was a very loose (and very Disneyfied) remake of the Ingrid Bergman film and thus distantly adapted from the Marcelle Maurette play. It further fictionalizes the story with the inclusion of supernatural elements, adding in Rasputin the Mad Monk as an undead sorcerer who is trying to kill off Anastasia in order to complete a curse he cast on the Romanov family.
  • The Don Bluth film inspired no less than three Mockbusters, one each from UAV Entertainment, Golden Films, and Dingo Pictures. The Secret of Anastasia, the UAV one, has its own article here.

    Literature 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Event Group: 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Pathfinder adventure Rasputin Must Die Anastasia was indeed shot dead, but was resurrected by Rasputin's magic. She can potentially leave Earth for Golarion in the company of the PCs.

    Theatre 
  • 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.
  • 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 villain.

    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.
  • 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 the playable characters scatter to different parts of the timeline, unable to return back to the time that they left, meaning that from the perspective of her contemporaries Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov disappeared mysteriously and would be unaccounted for in whatever happened to the rest of her family.
  • Fate/Grand Order's depiction of Anastasia averts the trope. She was gunned down with the rest of her family, and 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 of the Romanov family being mages in Nasuverse and the last thing she did before dying was make a contract with an elemental called Viy.
  • 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.


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