On February 17, 1920, a young woman was pulled from the Berlin canal after a suicide attempt. She was committed to a mental institution in Berlin. At first she refused to give her name, so she became known as Fraulein Unbekannt (German for ‘Miss Unknown’). Later she gave her name as Anna Anderson, and soon after, incredibly, claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, who was supposedly murdered; alongside her parents, three sisters, and brother. With this claim, Anna quickly captured the attention of the world.
According to Victor Alexandrov in his book The End of the Romanovs, in 1917, the Russian people were starving. World War I was being fought, and flour for bread making was rationed; but these reserves had been sold to “unscrupulous traffickers” who took advantage of the people’s desperation and sold it to them at a very high price (Alexandrov 122). The working class began rioting all over Russia.
The Russians had also suffered devastating losses of many soldiers because of several bitter defeats by Germany and Austria. These factors finally led to the overthrow of the last Tsar of Russia: Nicholas Romanov, which was followed by the rise of Communism in Russia.
On March 2, 1917, in the city of Pskov, “Imperial Russia died after a thousand years of life” (129). Nicholas, pressured by members of the Russian Parliament, abdicated the in favor of his brother Michael; who never took the throne, but was immediately murdered by the Bolsheviks. This was the name that the members of the emerging new government called themselves; similar to the Rebels and Yankees of our Civil War.
Nicholas, his wife, and their five children were murdered by a firing squad on July 17, 1918. The Communist government at first tried to cover up the murders; saying that only Nicholas had been executed. Because the graves had not been found, the Russian government was able to keep this lie going for several years after the murders.
Meanwhile in other parts of Europe, several imposters appeared; some claimed to be Alexei, the Tsar’s son, others claimed to be Marie, one of the Tsar’s younger daughters. They were all quickly exposed as frauds. “Europe, however, had yet to meet Anna Anderson” (History.com).
(Part II coming soon)