The century-long mystery of the Romanov execution

Headshot Czar Nicholas II, the final czar of Russia.

May 26, 1894

In 1894, Nicholas II took the throne after his father, Alexander III died. Unlike many before him, Nicholas wasn’t trained to become the Czar, which led to ill-advised involvement in a number of conflicts, including the Russo-Japanese War and World War I.

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Czar Nicholas II tasting food before dinner with soldiers.

September 5, 1905

Following the Russo-Japanese War in 1905, unrest boiled over, leading to the first Russian Revolution. The Czar avoided the fallout by establishing governmental representation for the people, but he abolished when they fought his agenda.

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A seated portrait of the Romanov family.

March 15, 1917

In March of 1917, Nicholas II, the final Czar of Russia, abdicated the throne. Tensions grew after he went back on his promises and led the empire into World War I. By force, he was forced out of his position of power, and the Romanov family was interned in locations across the country.

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The cellar in Ipatiev House, where the Romanov's and their servants were executed.

July 16, 1918

Fearing that the Romanovs might be rescued from Yekaterinburg, the family and their four servants were led into the cellar of their prison. After being posed for a photo, guards burst through the doors and executed the group.

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Czar Nicholas II shortly before the execution.

Summer 1918

Mystery surrounded the fate of the family because the Bolsheviks, who led the revolution, kept the information under wraps. They published the murder of the Czar, but they avoided talking about the execution of the children.

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Headshot of Anna Anderson, the most well-known of the Romanov imposters.

February 6, 1920

In 1920, a woman known as Anna Anderson came forward claiming to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov. For years, she tried to prove her identity, and although she convinced many of Romanov relatives, she was never official recognized as the princess. Over the years, four other women claiming to be Anastasia and seven men claiming to be Alexei appeared.

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A still from the film, Anastasia, showcasing one of Ingrid Bergman's costumes.

December 13, 1956

In 1956, a film titled “Anastasia” was released to great acclaim. The story was based on a French play that was inspired by the story of Anna Anderson, and it followed the princess on a journey to reconnect with her grandmother in Paris. The film’s star, Ingrid Bergman, won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role.

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Three skeletons from the Romanov family's grave.

July 1991

In 1991, twelve years after the grave was found, the skeletons of the Romanovs were exhumed. Although DNA samples of the family didn’t exist, scientists were able to work retroactively using mDNA, which passes from mother to child, to determine the identity of the Czar, his wife, and three daughters. Two of the children were still missing.

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An illustration of Anya, from the animated film, Anastasia

November 21, 1997

In this animated classic, the youngest Romanov daughter, Anastasia, survived the attack on her family by an undying wizard. In traditional Disney style, the main character encounters troubles along the way, but in the end, she gets everything she wanted, falling in love and reuniting with her grandmother.

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Maria and Alexei Romanov, the children who weren't buried with the rest of the family.

July 29, 2007

In July 2007, around 40 bone fragments of the final two Romanov children were discovered. Using DNA and mDNA, scientists confirmed that the female body was four trillion times more likely to be related to the Romanovs than unrelated, and the male body was 80 trillion times more likely to be related.

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Christy Altomare as Anastasia in the Broadway adaption of the Romanov story

2 years ago

A few months past the 100-year anniversary of the execution, the 2018 Broadway opening of “Anastasia” strived to be more accurate to Russian history, with government officials serving as the antagonists rather than a wizard. With the closing of the final curtain, Disney once again brought a happy ending to the stage, choosing to create an ending happier than the harsh reality the Romanovs faced.

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