July 9 - DNA Puts Romanov Rumors to Rest

  Posted on July 9, 2022     

This is an update of my post published on July 9, 2011:

Forensic scientists use a variety of tests to figure out what happened in a crime and to identify bodies. Most forensic scientists work on current mysteries—such as solving murders that occurred today or yesterday—but sometimes they are called upon to solve a long-ago mystery.

In this case, the tests were able to squash a lot of rumors and speculation about what really happened to Russia's last czar and his family—a crime committed more than a century - 100 years! - ago!

During the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, in 1917, Czar Nicholas II (a Romanov) and his wife and five children were imprisoned, along with the family's medical doctor, the valet and lady-in-waiting, and the family's cook. They were supposed to be put on trial, but in July of 1918 they were hastily murdered, instead—all of them, servants and doctor included! They were buried in a common grave.

The imprisonment, murder, and burial site of the Romanovs stayed secret for a while. In 1926, Soviet Union officials admitted that the emperor and his family were dead, but there were rumors that some of them had survived. Once in a while somebody would come forward and claim to be a long-lost Romanov. Princess Anastasia was particular popular as a target for imposters.

In the late 1970s, the mass grave was found, but the discovery was kept secret. When the USSR government was dissolved in 1991, and the mass grave was officially revealed, the remains were dug up and analyzed. The DNA evidence confirmed (on this date in 1993) that the remains were the Romanovs. But there were two skeletons missing—Prince Alexei and one of his sisters seemed to be missing from the mass grave. There was a lot of uncertainty about which sister was missing—Anastasia or Maria?

See, there goes the mention of Anastasia again. Maybe one of those imposters wasn't really an imposter! Maybe, somehow, the princess had survived!

In 2007 partially-burned bones from the prince and one princess were unearthed near the mass grave site. Once again, DNA tests were run, and Romanov identities were confirmed. It seems that the entire family had, indeed, been murdered in 1917, but that the Bolsheviks wanted to split the burial in case the White armies found the grave—the grave would confuse them by having the wrong body count!

These are photos of Nicholas II and
his children in happier times.

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