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The Life and History of the Russian Duchess Anastasia and the Imperial Family (Fall 2012)

            Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna was born June 18th, 1901 in Peterhof, Russia. She was born into the Imperial Russian Family, her father being Tsar Nicholas Romanvos II.  Anastasia was the youngest of 5 daughters and the most infamous, with rumors surrounding her death and possible escape from the massacre of her family in July of 1918, by Bolshevik secret police. Although in recent years the myth of her escape has been put to rest, as her body was found near the grave sight of her family. Her life and death were completely shaped by many forces in history that brought her her infamy. The main forces that effected her were the role of her family and father in government. The Russian economic and political system, as well as Russian Japanese War, World War I and the Russian Revolutions, all of them are connected to one another and formed the outlines of what Anastasia did in her life, dictating where she lived and to what conditions she lived in, and why she died the way she did. 

Background
            Anastasia’s childhood was not the fairy tale many would think the daughter of the Tsar of Russia would live, it was a very modest upbringing although it was quiet different then most children’s growing up in Russia. Anastasia shared a room with her sister Maria and the two were said to be inseparable. All the children had a very strict schedule. They had set times for each meal and almost all of their time was devoted to their studies, which included “French and the English languages, history, geography, the compulsory Bible chairs, natural sciences, painting and grammar”. Grammar being Anastasia’s least favorite subject, she would even try to bribe her teachers to get out of doing work. On Sundays however the girls would go to children’s balls to learn proper etiquette, which they enjoyed tremendously more then their studies. Anastasia was said to also be a mischievous girl playing pranks on her teachers and servants, and would cheat at games with classmates. Although her childhood was not that eventful it was a very privileged on that was due to the status of her father and family before her. 

Grigory Rasputin
            Grigory Rasputin is a named widely recognized and associated with Anastasia and her family. He was a holy man that would probably never have come into contact with the girls if it were not for his and their own religion and Anastasia’s brother being a hemophiliac.   He was a know healer and somehow was successful in healing the boy’s blood loss, which cemented his trust and importance in the royal family. However he caused a storm of controversy after being appointed to the Tsars council, he was extremely disliked among the other nobles and his indiscretions were highly publicized. This made the general public question Nicholas competency, which was not good considering the criticism he was already facing from the people of Russia. However the relationship between Rasputin and the Romanovs sisters, and even their mother is somewhat clouded. Although his influence of the girls was evident in the letters that they would write to him, he seemed to have them completely mesmerized. Though there is a misconception that Rasputin had something to do with the family’s death, however he was dead years before the massacre occurred.

Nicholas II
            Unfortunately Anastasia’s father Tsar Nicholas the II made decisions that had an overall negative effect on her life. Although he was a good father to all accounts, he was not a very good ruler. He was the cause of the Romanov dynasty to fall and the Imperial Rule to end. Under his rule Nicholas lost the Russo-Japanese War, which caused many Russians to disapprove of their Imperial government and the chooses it was making. These decisions made by Nicholas led to a string of Russian Revolutions which was another force affecting Anastasias life, for with her fathers power came all the luxuries of her life. He also approved the Russian mobilization in World War I, although he was strongly advised against this by his council. This resulted in more then 3 million Russian deaths. He also made the fatal mistake of making himself commander in chief, which caused the public to “personally associate” the deaths occurring in the war with him. There were other missteps in policies in which he directed that are also cited to have lead to his down fall.  If he had not made these mistakes Anastasia’s life and her family as a whole would have been much different, probably not dying at such a young age and gruesome matter.

Russian Revolution
            After being defeated in the Japanese conflict a series of revolutions broke out in Russia from 1905 to 1917. The last causing the imperial government to finally fall. Inevitably leading to the formation of the Bolsheviks Communist Government and the fall of the Tsarist autocracy. This was a main factor in the execution of the family. The revolutions were prompted by the Russia Japanese War as well as World War I, and the effect it had on the country. The revolutions were both directed at the Imperial government and Tsar Nicholas. As conditions were continually getting worse in the country the revolutions gained strength. World War I being the breaking point as Russia’s economy plummeted into disarray.   

World War 1
            One of the main history forces that affected Anastasia and her family’s life would be World War one. When World War 1 broke out the Romanovs family was greatly effected. The Aleskander Palace was turned into a hospital for the wounded, the Romanovs sisters and their mother worked in the hospital helping in anyway they could. Anastasia and her sister Maria were even made patroness of the hospital because of their hard work. The family not only donated their money but also tried to entertain the patients by reading, play games and knitting things for them. They also would help soldiers who could not write, write letters to their families. These duties took up a majority of the girl’s time. This also affected Russia badly as well as the family, the girls were scared by what the saw in the hospital, and worse for the family yet, support for the Tsar was dropping even more rapidly. 

1917 Revolution
            While their home was surround by “rebellious troops”, Tsar Nicholas their father was at Headquarters in Mogilev, leaving the girls and mother alone and also the court and capital open to revolution. Though the truth of what was happening was kept secret from the girls, Aleksanda their mother not wanted them to know the frightening truth. The girls were under the impression that the military was conducting “exercises”. By this time Russia was on the verge of collapse, having so many men taken from home to fight, its economy had been thrown into shambles. Its infrastructure and transportation systems were also at the brick of collapsing causing major food shortages. The troops at the capital agreed with the angry mobs and no longer held loyalty to the Tsar. Although Nicholas was strongly advised to step down and resign fully by his Cabinet, he was “misinformed and was under the impression the rebellion at the capital was under control, which was the complete opposite. This was the most fatal mistake he made whose consequences we fall on his family.

End of Reign
            However on March 8th 1917 Nicholas was kidnaped and the newly formed “provisional government” announced that the family would be placed under house arrest. The girls now learned of what was happening. Their father was soon returned home and the family was still allowed to live their lives quite normally considering their situation. They had few changes to their day-to-day routines, besides having a more limited menu then normal and a crowd taunting them anytime they went outside.  The girls still had daily lessons and homework and seemed not to be freighted by what was happening outside the palace walls. In august the family moved to Tobolsk to get them away form the growing revolution. They lived in the steamboat in which they traveled to Tobolsk on until the Governs Mansion they would be staying in was done being built. The family had little entertainment but was still living comfortably, that is until the Bolsheviks overthrew the “provisional government”. Soon the family was made to live off soldier’s rations, and was not allowed to have servants in the house. In April of 1918 the family was moved again to Yekaterinburg, the stayed in the Ipatiev House. This would be there last destination and the place of their execution. 

Death
            On July 17 1918 the family was awakened early in the morning and led to the basement under the pretext that their anti-Bolsheviks forcing were coming into Yekaterinburg and their safety was at stack because the troops might shoot at the house. However waiting in the room next to which the Romanovs were in was a firing squad made up of communist and Bolsheviks soldieries, some reports say the men were Hungarians. Never the less as Nickolas and his empress sat down the executioners came into the room and Yurovsky told them that the Ural Soviet Workers had condemned them to death. Accounts say that Nicholas was the first to die by the hands of Yurovsky. The others which included the Tsars children and wife along with four servants who stayed with the family on there own wishes, were then opened fired on, the soldiers using hand revolvers. The four Romanovs girls however survived this first attempt because they were wearing cloths that had over 1.3 kilograms of precious stones and diamonds that were sewn onto their clothing. This gave the sisters some protection from the impeding gunfire. The girls were however then stabbed and shot in the head at close range. It was said that Anastasia put up a harsh fight as well as her sisters. Some reports say the Anastasia was still alive when they moved the bodies from the basement but was then stabbed until presumed dead. The bodies of the family were then put in a mass grave, except for Anastasia and her brother. Their bodies were burned and placed in a separate grave of reasons unknown. This leading to the infamous controversy over Anastasia still being alive and some how escaping the massacre and fleeing Russia. Leading to the many rumors and movie about her life.  

            Although Anastasia herself had little to do with why she was murdered, it was forces in history that lead to it, and almost all other aspects of her life. Being born into the imperial family her faith was shaped mostly by the decisions of her father. The politics and government of Russia and other country’s and the wars theses and her own country participated in. Had one or more of these forces been different the outcome of her short life could have been very different. But the forces of history are very strong and seem to be inevitable in her case. Although her life has been made famous by movies and stories of her survival. She had not yet really started her life when it was cut short at the young age of 17.


Sources
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