romanov mystery solved - University of Mississippi Medical Center

The Mystery of the Russian Royal Family
Susan A. Bender 2005
Anastasia and Anna Anderson
Anastasia's Family
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna was born on June 18, 1901. Her
parents were Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, and his wife Alexandra.
Anastasia had three elder sisters: Olga, Tatiana, and Maria. Her only
brother, Alexei (often translated as "Alexis"), was born in 1904.
For years Russia had been in upheaval. Anastasia's great-grandfather, Tsar
Alexander II, freed the serfs and was known as the Tsar-Liberator, but in
1881 his carriage was bombed by a terrorist group called People's Will.
Alexander was carried unconscious to the Winter Palace, where family
members, including his thirteen-year-old grandson Nicholas, watched him
die. Alexander II was succeeded by his son, Alexander III, Nicholas's
father. Unlike his father, Alexander III believed in autocracy and opposed
liberal reforms. He persecuted minorities, especially Jews.
Nicholas grew up to be a kind and gentle young man. He spoke French,
English, and German, and was an excellent dancer and horseman. But he was
given little training for his future role as tsar. His father was still in his
forties when Nicholas reached adulthood, and no one expected Nicholas to
inherit the throne for many years.
Nicholas's wife Alexandra was born Alix, Princess of Hesse-Darmstadt, the
daughter of Princess Alice of England and Grand Duke Louis of Hesse.
Alexandra was seen by many as cold and remote, but she had started life as
a warm, happy child nicknamed Sunny. When Alix was six her mother died
and Alix became withdrawn. For the rest of her life she appeared cool and
aloof to those who didn't know her well.
Alix was 12 and Nicholas 16 when they first met. Nicholas was smitten with
Alix right away. When they were older they met again and fell in love, and in
1894 they became engaged.
Soon after their engagement Alexander III died and 26-year old Nicholas
became tsar. He said at the time, "I am not prepared to be a tsar. I never
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Susan A. Bender 2005
wanted to become one." His first decree proclaimed Alix's new name,
Alexandra Feodorovna. A week after Alexander III's funeral, Nicholas and
Alexandra married.
Nicholas and Alexandra were caring parents who spent a lot of time with
their children. Anastasia and her sisters were close, and sometimes signed
themselves collectively OTMA (their initials). The family lived quietly in the
Alexander Palace at Tsarkoe Selo. This "simple" palace had over 100 rooms
but was smaller than the nearby Catherine Palace, built by Catherine the
Great to outshine Versailles.
Anastasia as a Girl
Anastasia was the youngest, most intelligent and most michievous of the
tsar's daughters. She was an excellent mimic and enjoyed pranks and
practical jokes. Anastasia's childhood playmate Tatiana Botkin described her
as "lively and rough . . . roguish." Her cousin Princess Xenia described her as
"frightfully temperamental, wild and rough." Years later Tatiana Botkin and
Princess Xenia met Anna Anderson. Both believed that Anderson was
But Anastasia had a gentle side. She was kind to her dogs: Shipka, who died
of a brain disease, and Jemmy, a spaniel who died with the imperial family.
And she was loving toward her sick brother. Few people outside the family
knew that Alexei suffered from hemophilia, a disorder in which blood
doesn't clot properly, causing internal bleeding. The smallest bump could
cause Alexei agony, so he wasn't permitted play active games. Alexandra
spent much of her time worrying about her son, who was unlikely to survive
to adulthood.
Anastasia had light brown hair (sometimes described as reddish blonde) and
blue eyes. Like her mother and sisters she was a beauty, although as a teen
she became rather fat. She shared a bedroom with her sister Maria, whom
she dominated. Their room adjoined Olga and Tatiana's. The girls' quarters
were separate from their parents'. They were raised relatively simply,
bathing in cold water, sleeping on hard camp beds. The beds went with them
everywhere, even to Germany when the girls visited their Uncle Ernst. They
slept in these same beds until the night they died.
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Susan A. Bender 2005
Like her sisters, Anastasia spoke English and Russian. Because of their
isolation from the outside world, the girls' Russian was somewhat childish.
Rasputin and the Revolution
Nicholas II's reign lasted for over 22 years. He continued his father's
policies of suppressing reform and persecuting minorities. His critics said
that he listened too much to his advisors. Socialist groups agitated for the
overthrow of the tsar's regime and the creation of a classless society. The
Revolution of 1905 began when government troops fired on a crowd of
workers who were marching to petition the tsar. This "bloody Sunday"
caused peasant revolts, workers' strikes and naval mutinies. The Duma, a
national parliament, was established, but it was hostile toward Nicholas and
he dissolved it after 10 weeks. Later Duma conventions met the same fate.
Meanwhile Alexandra was preoccupied with her attempts to help her sick
son. She turned to Rasputin, a controversial holy man. Rasputin (1872-1916)
had been born Grigori Yefimovich, the son of a Siberian farmer. As a young
man Grigori was a drunken rake, so fellow villagers nicknamed him Rasputin,
or "dissolute." One day Rasputin claimed to have received a vision from God.
He became a wandering monk, apparently adept at healing.
Rasputin did seem to have the power to help Alexei. One on occasion in 1912,
when the tsarevich was on the verge of death, Rasputin sent a telegram
saying, "The Little One will not die," and Alexei recovered. Rumors circulated
about Rasputin's wild life when he was away from the imperial family, but
Nicholas, Alexandra and their children trusted him completely, and he was
always on his best behavior with them. Few people knew about Alexei's
illness, so few understood why the imperial family chose to associate with
the dirty, disreputable "mad monk."
World War I began in 1914, and Nicholas personally took command of the
Russian army the following year. In his absence Alexandra ran the
government with Rasputin as her advisor. Many ministers resigned or were
fired, and their posts filled by supporters of Rasputin. The government
started to crumble. In 1916 a band of conspirators, including members of
the imperial family, invited Rasputin to supper. According to the
conspirators, they gave Rasputin poison, but it had no effect. They shot him
and still he did not die. At last they tied him up and threw him into a river,
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Susan A. Bender 2005
where he drowned. Rasputin was gone, but the damage he had done to image
of the imperial family was irreparable.
Disgusted by war losses and food shortages, workers in Petrograd and
Moscow rioted. Mutiny spread through the military. On March 15, 1917
Nicholas was forced to abdicate.
Captivity and Execution
At the time of the abdication Anastasia and her siblings were suffering
from measles. While they were confined to their beds the palace was taken
over by soldiers. The imperial family were now prisoners. When the children
recovered they went outside each day with their parents to walk in the park,
where they were harassed and jeered.
The imperial family had little peace during their months of captivity. Once,
while sewing, Anastasia leaned repeatedly over a table. As she did so she
moved back in forth in front of two colored lamps. Soldiers outside the
window saw the lights flicker and thought she was sending signals to some
outside accomplice. They burst in and searched the room, but of course
found nothing.
Eventually the imperial family was moved to Siberia. Their guards were rude
and threatening. Anastasia and her sisters were not permitted to lock their
bedroom door at night. Guards even followed the girls into the bathroom.
The imperial family lived at Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg for 78 days. Their
last day was July 16, 1918. Late that night, the family was awakened and told
to get dressed. After midnight they were taken to the cellar where,
believing they were to be photographed, they stood in two rows. Anastasia,
carrying her dog Jemmy, stood with her sisters, their doctor, and three
Suddenly armed men burst into the room and began firing. Anastasia's
parents and sister Olga died at once, as did Dr. Botkin and two servants. But
bullets bounced off Anastasia, Tatiana and Maria and ricocheted around the
room. Unbeknownst to the men, the girls had sewn diamonds into their
clothes so that they could smuggle them from place to place. This was what
caused the bullets to bounce off them, but to the soldiers it appeared
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Susan A. Bender 2005
miraculous. Astounded and scared, they kept firing. Tsarevich Alexei was on
the floor, groaning but alive, so one soldier shot him in the head.
It was a chaotic scene. The cellar was filled with smoke. Anastasia was seen
huddled against the wall, covering her head with her arms. Eventually Tatiana
and Maria died. A maid who did not die from the gunshots was bayoneted. By
some accounts, Anastasia was also bayoneted many times. There is much
confusion about how Anastasia died. Some people refuse to believe that she
died at all.
Anna Anderson
The assassins did their best to destroy the bodies of the last imperial
family and their attendants. First they were thrown down a mine shaft and
grenades were tossed in after them. Later the corpses were removed from
the mine shaft; some were burned, and others were doused with acid. The
remains were thrown into a pit and buried.
For decades, those who knew the location of the grave kept quiet for fear of
the Soviet government, and rumors arose that one or more of the children
had survived. Several supposed Anastasias surfaced over the years. One,
Eugenia Smith, was still alive in the 1990s. The most famous Anastasia was
Anna Anderson.
On the night of February 17, 1920, less than two years after the murders in
Ipatiev House, a woman jumped off a bridge in Berlin. She was rescued and
taken to a hospital. She had no ID and refused to give her identity. She was
sent to a mental asylum. There someone recognized her as Grand Duchess
Tatiana. She didn't deny this right away, but eventually said, "I never said I
was Tatiana." When she was given a list of the tsar's daughters' names, she
crossed out all except Anastasia. When one of Alexandra's ladies-in-waiting
visited her, the woman hid beneath a blanket. The lady-in-waiting called her
an imposter and stormed off. But there were some who believed the
woman's tale, and after her release in 1922 she lived on the charity of
various sympathizers.
Eventually she explained her escape from the imperial family's assassins.
She had been bayoneted, she said, but survived because the soldiers'
weapons were blunt. After the murders a soldier named Tschaikovsky saw
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Susan A. Bender 2005
that she was still moving. During the chaos of that night he rescued her.
Anderson said Tschaikovsky took her to Romania. Her story was confused,
but it seems that at some point she may have married Tschaikovsky. After
he was killed in a street fight she gave birth to his son, who was placed in an
The woman walked to Berlin to seek out "her" aunt, Princess Irene.
(Scoffers asked why she hadn't sought out her parents' cousin, Queen
Marie, while she was in Romania.) She reached the palace where Irene lived,
but, fearing no one would recognize her, didn't try to enter. Instead she
decided to commit suicide by jumping off the bridge.
Princess Irene did meet the woman eventually and denied that she
resembled Anastasia. Yet Irene later cried about the meeting and admitted,
"She is similar, she is similar." Irene's son Prince Sigismund, a childhood
friend of Anastasia, sent the woman a list of questions. Her answers
convinced him that she was Anastasia.
The woman, who began calling herself Anna Anderson in the 1920s, attracted
many supporters and many deniers. Crown Princess Cecilie, the daughter-inlaw of the former kaiser and a relative of Anastasia, came to believe that
Anderson was the lost grand duchess. Cecilie's son Prince Louis Ferdinand
and his wife, Princess Kyra, did not believe. One of Anastasia's aunts, Grand
Duchess Olga, met Anderson several times. Her opinion wavered, but finally
she declared Anderson was not Anastasia.
Anastasia's tutor, Pierre Gilliard, also met Anderson and thought she might
be Anastasia. Later he changed his mind and called her "a first rate
actress." Former ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska, who had been Nicholas's
mistress before his marriage, and who later married Nicholas's cousin,
Grand Duke Andrew, believed Anderson was Anastasia. She said Anderson
had Nicholas's eyes, and looked at her with "the emperor's look."
After spending two days with Anderson, Nicholas II's cousin Grand Duke
Alexander exclaimed, "I have seen Nicky's daughter! I have seen Nicky's
daughter!" Other staunch supporters included Anastasia's cousin Princess
Xenia, and Gleb and Tatiana Botkin, whose father was murdered with the
imperial family. Gleb's childhood drawings of animals in court dress had
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Susan A. Bender 2005
delighted Anastasia. When he first met Anderson she asked about his "funny
animals," convincing Gleb that she was Anastasia.
Anderson also claimed to have startling knowledge about Anastasia's uncle,
Grand Duke Ernst of Hesse. She said he had visited Russia in 1916, when his
country and Russia were at war. Ernst angrily denied making the visit, but
the kaiser's stepson testified in court in 1966 that he had been told Ernst
did secretly made the trip. If this was true, how did Anna Anderson know
about it?
Determined to prove that Anderson was an imposter, Ernst backed an
investigation that suggested Anderson was a Polish factory worker,
Franziska Schanzkowska, who disappeared right before Anna Anderson
surfaced. Some believe the investigation was tainted because the woman who
identified Anderson as Schanzkowska was paid for her testimony.
Although she depended on the good-will of her supporters, Anna Anderson
was haughty and demanding, often arguing with her hosts. At times she
attacked people or ran around naked. Her supporters pointed out it was not
surprising Anastasia would have mental problems after watching her family
die and being nearly murdered herself.
Her detractors pointed out that she never spoke Russian. However, when she
was addressed in Russian she understood and answered in other languages.
She said she wouldn't speak Russian because it was the language spoken by
those who had killed her family. She spoke good English, German and French
- unusual for a Polish factory worker. She had scars that she said came from
being shot and bayoneted. Her detractors said that the scars came from
dropping a grenade when she worked in a munitions factory.
Anderson and Anastasia had other physical similarities. Anderson had a foot
deformity like Anastasia's. Anthropologists who studied their photographs
found their faces to be very similar. One famous anthropologist, Dr. Otto
Reche, testified in court that Anastasia and Anna Anderson had to be either
the same person or identical twins.
Anderson brought suit in a German court in 1938 to prove her identity and
claim part of an inheritance. The case dragged on until 1970. Reche's
testimony, made after examining photographs of Anastasia and Anna
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Susan A. Bender 2005
Anderson, came in 1964. A handwriting expert, who was not paid for her
testimony, also swore that Anderson was Anastasia. Anderson even tried to
obtain samples of Anastasia's fingerprints for comparison, although this
proved impossible. Finally the court ruled, not that Anderson wasn't
Anastasia, but that she hadn't proved it. But experts continued to take
Anderson's side. In 1977 a prominent forensic expert, Dr. Moritz Furtmayr,
identified Anderson as Anastasia.
For the last 15 years of her life Anderson was married to wealthy American
John Manahan. She died of pneumonia in 1984 and was cremated at her own
request. Her husband carried out her wishes and saw to it that her ashes
were scattered in the cemetery at Castle Seeon in Germany, which was
owned by distant relatives of the Romanov family.
Recent DNA analysis of hair and tissue samples from Anderson seemed to
prove that she was not Anastasia, but Franziska Schanzkowska. But some of
Anderson's supporters cling to hope, saying that the tissue tested was not
really Anderson's. They believe Anna Anderson - Anastasia - was swindled
out of her true name and inheritance.
The Romanov’s Remembered
The remains of the imperial family were exhumed in 1991. Portions of nine
skeletons were found, and DNA testing confirmed they included Nicholas,
Alexandra, and three of their daughters. Two bodies remain missing. The
consensus is that they are those of Alexei and one of his sisters, possibly
On July 17, 1998, eighty years after the assassination, the imperial family
and those who died with them were buried in the St. Catherine Chapel of St.
Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. Russian president Boris Yeltsin
and members of the Romanov family attended the funeral, but senior
members of the Russian Orthodox Church refused to attend due to lingering
doubts over the identity of the remains.
As tsar, and even after he abdicated, Nicholas II was the head of the
Russian Orthodox Church. After the assassination, he and his family were
revered by many as martyrs and numerous miracles were attributed to them.
The family was canonized as royal martyrs by the Russian Orthodox Church
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Susan A. Bender 2005
Abroad in 1981. In 2000, the Archbishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox
Church voted unanimously to canonize Nicholas, Alexandra, and all of their
children as passion bearers, a minor form of sainthood that recognizes the
Christian humility and patience with which they endured their captivity.
Nine skeletons found in a shallow grave in Ekaterinburg, Russia, in July 1991
were tentatively identified as being the remains of the last Tsar, Tsarina
and three of their five children - the Romanov family.
It is believed that shortly after the night of 16th July 1918, Tsar Nicholas
II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra and their five children Olga, Tatyana, Maria,
Anastasia and Alexei were executed by the Bolsheviks. Their bodies were to
have been transported to a mine shaft where they would have been disposed
of however, the truck transporting them developed a mechanical fault along
the way and so a shallow grave was hastily dug on the roadside and the
bodies buried in un-consecrated ground.
Despite extensive forensic evidence being collected, the version of events
described above had never been positively verified and in 1992 the Forensic
Science Service was approached by the Russian authorities to initiate an
Anglo-Russian investigation to verify the authenticity of the remains using
DNA analysis.
Using samples taken from the surviving bones, the FSS performed DNA
based sex testing and short tandem repeat (STR) analysis, the results of
which confirmed that a family group was present in the grave. In addition a
further testing technique was employed analysing Mitochondrial DNA
Mitochondrial DNA is a tiny amount of the total DNA present and can
therefore be used when samples are too small, old or degraded for analysis
by normal means. Where there is no body fluid or tissue available,
Mitochondrial DNA can be taken from bone. MtDNA is more likely to survive
for prolonged periods than chromosomal DNA and is particularly suited to
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Susan A. Bender 2005
tracing maternal inheritance and testing relatedness if there are several
generations between ancestor and living descendant.
Following this extensive analysis, the FSS concluded that the DNA evidence
produced supports the hypothesis that the remains are those of the
Romanov family.
DNA Test Confirms Dead Czar's Identity
Science News, April 20, 1996
A new genetic analysis may finally allow former Russian Czar Nicholas
Romanov II to rest in peace. On the night of July 16, 1918, a firing squad of
Bolshevik soldiers executed the Russian royal family, including Nicholas, and
buried the bodies in a hidden mass grave. The burial site finally came to light
in 1989, and 2 years later nine skeletons were excavated.
Though forensic analyses of the bones, clothing, and other material from the
grave have provided b evidence that some of the skeletons belonged to the
czar and his family, attempts to confirm the identifications by analyzing
DNA samples have provoked controversy. When researchers compared DNA
from bones presumed to be those of Nicholas II with DNA from two living
relatives, they found an unusual mismatch.
DNA is composed of long sequences of building blocks called nucleotides,
which come in four forms that geneticist’s label A, C, G and T. The bits of
DNA from the skeleton and Nicholas II's relatives matched perfectly
except at one position. At a nucleotide site where both living relatives had a
T, some of the DNA samples from Nicholas' bones had a T but others had a
C. Such a variation is a rare condition called heteroplasmy.
Despite the difference, investigators proclaimed that Nicholas had been
identified. Yet the Russian Federation government and the Russian Orthodox
Chruch, which is considering canonizing the entire Romanov family, demanded
further proof. In July of 1994, researchers resorted to exhuming the body
of Georgij Romanov, Nicholas' younger brother, who had died of tuberculosis
in 1899.
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Susan A. Bender 2005
Like Nicholas's DNA, Gerogij's had either C or T present at the
controversial site, report Pavel L. Ivanov of the Russian Academy of
Sciences in Moscow and a team from the Armed Forces DNA Identification
Laboratory in Rockville, Md., led by Thomas J Parsons. The team describes
its findings in the April Nature Genetics. The heteroplasmy, says Parsons,
must have disappeared somewhere in the generations after Nicholas.
An editorial in Nature Genetics notes that this is the first time
heteroplasmy has been used to aid identification. "To me, this is the nail in
the lid. It's the most convincing argument I've seen," adds William R, Maples
of the University of Florida in Gainesville, who had suggested earlier that
Nicholas' apparent heteroplasmy resulted from contamination of the DNA
Why Are Alexei's Bones Absent?
By John Kendrick
The St.Petersburg Times
In the 80 years since the Romanov's deaths, numerous pretenders have claimed to
be a member of the imperial family who miraculously survived. Sooner or later,
their claims were debunked, but as John Kendrick reports, the claims of one man
who never publicly pushed his case while alive have yet to be convincingly
VANCOUVER, Canada - A world of controversy surrounds the identity of the
remains to be interred this Friday in St. Petersburg, but one matter is not in
dispute. The remains of Tsarevich Alexei, Nicholas II's only son and heir, will not
be among those laid to rest.
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Susan A. Bender 2005
Half a world and 11 time zones away from the former imperial capital, there is a
grave where a man known as Alexei Tammet-Romanov was buried 21 years ago, soon
after his death on June 26, 1977, which followed a two-year battle with a
mysterious blood disease.
On July 2, 1977, an obituary marked by the Romanov crest of the imperial double
eagle ran in the Vancouver Sun stating that, "Alexei Nicolaievich, Sovereign Heir,
Tsarevich, Grand Duke of Russia," had died June 26. On page 62 of its July 5
edition, the same paper reported that Tammet-Romanov's widow, Sandra, intended
to write a book on her late husband's life. Within a month, the Ipatiev House
where the Bolsheviks executed Nicholas II was gone, demolished by the governor
of the Sverdlovsk region, one Boris Yeltsin, at Leonid Brezhnev's order.
Tammet-Romanov never publicly claimed to be the tsarevich. When 16-year-old
Sandra Brown met 52-year-old Heino Tammet on a beach in 1956, she had no idea
that the man she would marry four years later was anything more than an Estonian
immigrant who ran a small dance studio.
Mrs. Romanov explained that when she met Alexei it was her father who first
sensed that there was something unusual about the man calling himself Heino
Tammet. In the beginning he would only tell them that, "as a youngster I lived in
many houses," although he was not beyond dropping an occasional, broader hint.
When pressed, he said that he was the Tsarevich Alexei Romanov, who had
survived the bloodbath at Ipatiev House on July 17, 1918, when the rest of his
family were killed.
After Alexei had escaped the fate of his parents and sisters, he and the
Veermann family who took care of him stayed at their farmhouse close to
Yakaterinburg before moving to the Estonian capital of Tallinn in September 1921.
He lived in Tallinn for the next 22 years, the same town where a boy named Alexy
Mikhailovich Ridiger was born in 1929. Alexy Ridiger grew up to become His
Holiness Patriarch Alexy II.
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Susan A. Bender 2005
Tammet-Romanov used the name of Ernst Veermann until 1937, when he changed it
to Heino Tammet. As Heino Tammet he operated seven newspapers in Tallinn as
editor-in-chief, before fleeing the advancing Red Army in early 1944. He moved to
Sweden, before emigrating to Canada in 1952.
According to Mrs. Romanov, Alexei explained that he blacked out after hearing
Yakov Yurovsky - the head of the execution squad - give the command to fire. He
woke up almost three days later at nearby farm house belonging to Johann and
Paula Veermann. Alexei was told that Johann Veermann was on the road with his
farmer's cart when he happened upon the assassins' truck stuck in the mud possibly at the same spot where geologist Alexander Avdovin discovered in 1979
the remains that will be interred this Friday. Veermann told Alexei that he was
asked to take two bundles wrapped in sheets off the truck to lighten its load and
take them to a nearby pit. When one of the bundles moved he took it home, and
found the injured Alexei wrapped inside the sheets.
What exactly happened will probably never be known, but the official versions of
the killings leave much to be desired. The firing squad of 11 to 13 men (official
versions vary on the number of assassins) are said to have emptied their weapons
at the party of 11 - Romanovs and servants - yet those who examined the remains
and the house found evidence of far fewer than the 80-plus bullets that would
have been loaded into the guns used by the firing squad. Then there are the
bizarre assertions that bullets bounced off diamonds and jewels sewn into the
grand duchesses' corsets. Yurovsky later claimed that his deputy, Grigory Nikulin,
emptied an entire clip of bullets at the girls and Alexei with no effect. This story
does not fit with an understanding of basic physics.
The force of a bullet fired at near point blank range and striking a diamond or
similar stone dead center would either shatter the stone or push it into the soft
cloth and flesh situated directly behind it. If the bullet struck the stone offcenter then it might change direction slightly but it would still pass some of the
energy of its forward momentum onto the jewel it struck. Anyone who has played a
game of billiards knows how this works.
Then there is the medical evidence. Execution squad commander Yurovsky fired
two shots at the right ear of Tsarevich Alexei. Alexei Tammet-Romanov was
completely deaf in that same ear. Doctors thought the injury was caused by some
kind of concussion accident, such as a very loud noise, during his youth.
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Susan A. Bender 2005
Adding that evidence to executioners' stories that the bullets they fired at the
young Grand Duchesses were having no effect suggests a new possibility.
Execution squad commander Yurovsky loaded the guns himself before handing
them out to his hand-picked firing squad. Each assassin was told to fire at a
certain member of the Imperial party. If Yurovsky had loaded some of the guns
with blanks that would explain how guns fired at the Grand Duchesses had no
effect. It would also explain how a gun fired at the ear of Alexei would make him
deaf in that same ear, but would not kill him.
At the height of the civil war Lenin was faced with the problem of 11 imperial
hostages that were attracting a lot of attention. Might the Bolshevik leaders have
looked for a way to reduce the number of hostages but keep the one who was the
most politically important?
The identity of Alexei Tammet-Romanov's foster mother, Paula Veermann, may
provide a clue. Her maiden name was Paula von Benckendorff-Kanna. Research into
the genealogy of the Benckendorff family has suggested that Paula may have been
related to Count Paul Benckendorff, Grand Marshall of the Tsar's Imperial Court.
Count Benckendorff was known to have led the efforts to find the Romanovs a
place of exile or rescue right up to the time of the murders.
Then there is the matter of the tsarevich's health. Historians have always
suggested that Nicholas II's only son suffered from hemophilia, but no actual
proof of that diagnosis is known to exist. The only official statement on the
disease from the tsar's doctors described the boy's symptoms as "significant
It took six months for Tammet-Romanov's Vancouver doctors to identify the
disease that eventually took his life. They decided it was a form of leukemia.
Throughout those last two years, Tammet-Romanov displayed the same symptoms
that struck down Tsarevich Alexei during a visit to the tsar's hunting lodge at
Spala in Poland in October 1912.
The key to the true nature of Alexei's disease can be found in a letter that
Nicholas II wrote to his mother.
"The days from the 6th to the 10th were the worst ... His high temperature made
him delirious night and day."
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Susan A. Bender 2005
An episode known to modern medicine as thrombocytopenia produces the same
symptoms of hemorrhaging and fever that struck down the tsarevich and is known
to occur in child and adult patients with leukemia and aplastic anemia. If
thrombocytopenia does not kill the patient first it can instead go into spontaneous
remission - which could explain Rasputin's alleged power to "heal" the tsarevich.
Modern medicine also has greater knowledge on methods of identification. In
1994, British expert Peter Gill announced that DNA matching techniques at the
Forensic Science Service Research Laboratory in Aldermaston, England, had shown
that the woman known as Anna Anderson, who had long claimed to be the Grand
Duchess Anastasia, could not have been related to Nicholas II or Empress
Gill and Russia's molecular biologist Dr. Pavel Ivanov were the researchers who
first used DNA to verify the identity of the bones to be interred Friday. Two of
Alexei Tammet-Romanov's teeth extracted in 1962 were sent in April 1993 at
Ivanov's request to the Adermaston laboratory. Ivanov admitted in a 1995 letter
to Tammet-Romanov's widow that a DNA extraction was started on her late
husband's DNA samples while the identification of the remains found near
Yekaterinburg was being done at the English laboratory in 1993. He told her that
shortly after that "we were forced to stop all the tests on any potential survived
Romanov claimants." He did not explain why the tests were stopped.
In the five years since DNA extraction was started on one of Tammet-Romanov's
teeth, no one has said if the tests were ever completed.
Neither has any person connected to the investigation of the murders of the
Imperial Family been willing to say anything about the man buried in a Vancouverarea cemetery and whether or not he really could have been the missing Tsarevich
Alexei Nicolaievich, Grand Duke and Sovereign Heir to Russia's throne.