The unsolved riddle of princess Anastasia

The youngest daughter of Nicholas II, Anastasia, born on June 18, 1901, became extremely famous for numerous claimants, who had been popping up in the West after the murder of the Russian Tsar family.
Since the age of seven Anastasia had been looking after her sick brother Alexei, her usual pastime was tatting,  learning languages, ballroom dances, and taking part in home-staged performances. She had the reputation of a tomboy and got the name of ‘Shvibzik’.

“I can recall over 30 stories about impostors using the name “Anastasia”, once said Alexii II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. Only three women succeeded in the role of “miraculously saved” princess,  two of which were mentally sick.

Princess Anastasia and Chekist Tschaikovsky: A tragic love story

The first impostor was fished out of Landwehrkanal in Berlin in 1920 when she attempted a suicide. Franziska Schanzkowska, alias Anna Anderson, alias Anastasia Manahan (after marriage) was the most successful impostor in the 20th century. After the WWI, the life in Germany was not easy and many Germans tired of misery made attempts to settle accounts with life. A policeman patrolling along a Berlin canal was not surprised at all when he saw a young lady jump off into the water. However, he darted to rescue her. The poor woman received first aid and was sent to a mental hospital where those who attempted a suicide were compulsorily institutionalised.

“Well, Freulein, can you tell us your name and home address? We found no papers on you,” the doctor asked her gently when she came to herself.

“I have to make an important statement”, said she in a feeble voice. “My name is Anastasia Nikolayevna Romanova. I’m a Russian Princess, Grand Duchess Anastasia, the daughter of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas. By miracle, I managed to survive the slaughter in Yekaterinburg.”

And she narrated an exciting story. A Tschaikovsky, one of Cheka agents, who guarded the Ipatiev House, where the Tsar’s family was kept, fell in love with Anastasia and resolved to save her by all means. Anastasia had to become his mistress and they both escaped from the Reds. Just six days after the massacre in the cellar of the Ipatiev House, the White troops led by Admiral Kolchak entered Yekaterinburg. Eventually. Varieties of fortune brought the fugitives to Romania, where Anastasia’s lover found his death in a tavern brawl and the princess was left by herself without any money or papers. She gave birth to Tschaikovsky’s child, whom she put in an orphanage, though during her wanderings her feelings towards the father of her child rose to real love. For some time the Grand Duchess had been roaming various European countries aided by her proficiency in languages and finally landed in Germany. In Berlin, unable to stand humiliation and hardships any longer she decided to commit suicide.

It was clear that a statement like that made in an asylum needed verification. As the story got the press,  the hospital was receiving crowds of Russian emigrants. Some of them had personally known the late Nicholas II and all the members of the royal family. The Germans were cautious enough to issue new documents to the name of Anna Anderson rather than Anastasia Romanov.

In 1925, the bogus Anastasia met her ‘aunt’ Olga Aleksandrovna Romanova – Kulikovskaya. The younger sister of Russia's last monarch Nicholas visited her ‘niece’ in one of asylums, which lately became the claimant’s habitual place of residence. The ‘aunt’ showed warm cousinly feelings towards her ‘niece’,  though the content of their talk was never made public. “It passes my comprehension, but my heart tells me that it is Anastasia!”, said Olga Aleksandrovna after her visit. However, in 1927 Nachtausgabe, a Berlin newspaper, published a sensational article “Anastasia’s Mystery is Solved” and a few weeks later it exposed the pretender pointing to her Polish proletarian background. In 1928, every Romanov alive,  totalling twelve people, jointly with their relatives in the German lineage decided to repudiate “Grand Duchess Anastasia” and declared her tale as untrustworthy.

Anna Anderson made repeatedattempts to make out her case at court. The last verdict found in 1970 was: ”Her claims cannot be either proved or refuted.” With age, she was reported to embarrass both acquaintances and other people asking them the same questions she had been asked all her life: “Are you sure you are you? How can you prove that?”.

She died in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA,  in 1984. A single word is carved on her tombstone – “Anastasia”.

Freedom for the monarch’s daughter was reduced to the Solovki Islands and asylums.

On the morning of April 7, 1934 an emaciated young woman in shabby clothes entered the Resurrection Church on the Moscow Semyonovskoye Cemetery before service. Priest Ivan Sinaisky felt as if he had seen her before, though she did not belong to the parish. The unknown lady was sent by hieromonk Afanasiy for confession. The priest was amazed to learn during confession that the lady was Anastasia Romanova, the daughter of the last Tsar Nicholas II. When asked about her miraculous escape from slaughter,  the stranger said: “I can’t talk about that”.

Now it is too late to identify the person who informed the NKVD on the clergyman who displayed concern for the woman’s fate. The warrant to arrest Nadezhda V. Ivanova-Vasilyeva read: “Investigation into the activities of a counter-revolutionary clerical monarchical organization has revealed that at the beginning of 1934 an unknown woman, 30, who impersonated the daughter of the former Tsar Nicholas II – Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolayevna Romanova, resided illegally in Moscow. With an active assistance of hieromonk Afanasiy – Alexander M. Ivanshin – the above impostor obtained a false passport issued to Nadezhda V. Ivanova-Vasilyeva. The above hieromonk Afanasiy helped her raise about 1,000 roubles and sent her to a safer place, the town of Yalta, the Crimea, where she currently resides maintaining close contacts with Ivanshin. In her recent letters “Ivanova-Vasilyeva” asked Ivanshin to send her a considerable sum of money intending to go abroad. Based on the above, Nadezhda V. “Ivanova-Vasilyeva” is subject to arrest and charges under the Criminal Code.”

She was detained in Yalta and under escort brought to Moscow. The escort guards knew that their detainee was a singular person. The woman disclosed right away that she was the monarch’s daughter and told her story. In the inquiry form Ivanova-Vasilyeva indicated foreign language teacher as ‘place of service and position’. She declared no property of her own and refused to give information on her father’s property. In the lines ‘social origin’ and ‘family’ she wrote ‘ from the noble’ and ‘none’, respectively.

The NKVD officer who conducted the interrogation of Nadezhda V. Ivanova-Vasilyeva wrote the transcript of interrogation:

“In November 1933, I was discharged from the Solovetsky camp. I met with Anna D. Kuznetsova in 1930, several days before my arrest… During our talk Kuznetsova told that she had been maintaining contacts with the Swedish Embassy and promised to inform it about my arrival. I wrote a letter to the English King George, the cousin of Nicholas II, and Kyrill Romanov, and asked Kuznetsova to send the letters via the Embassy.  In my letters I told that I had been behind bars all the time and was asking them to help me financially and help me leave the country. A few days later Kuznetsova told me that she had delivered my letters and an embassy employee,  a Greta Janson, wanted to see me. I was requested to come to the Khudozhestvenny Theatre at the appointed time. Accompanied by Kuznetsova, I came to the rendezvous with Janson, who invited us to her flat where she asked questions about the Romanov house. Then Janson said that princess Vyrubova was in Finland and asked me to write a letter to her, what I did. I asked her to tell the Romanovs’ relatives that I was alive and asked for some money …”

The claimant had been in touch with her “relatives” abroad until she was arrested in Yalta. Ivanova-Vasilyeva was examined by Prof. Krasnushkin, an NKVD psychiatrist. He wrote in her medical certificate: “ Citizen Nadezhda V. Ivanova-Vasilyeva aged 33, …. manifests clear symptoms of panicdiseaseintheform of paranoia expressed as systematized delusion of grandeur and persecution. As a mentally sick person, chronic and representing a danger to society, she is subject to compulsory treatment at a civil metal hospital”. The rest of her life, over 35 years, the woman spent in mental institutions.

A forensic medical examination report made at Serbsky Mental Institute in Moscow said that the examined person in the “area of the lower third part of her both shoulder bones is covered with extensive soft scars reportedly of firearm origin.” Whether the princess claimant got the scars in the cellar of the Ipatiev House, or elsewhere, was impossible to establish.

Nadezhda V. Ivanova-Vasilyeva died in 1971 in a metal hospital on Sviyazhsk Island and was buried in a unknown grave.

How Russia discarded 2 trillion dollars

During the reign of Yekaterina II, a monk called Avel came into sight. According to his augury, Russia after a trying ordeal would be saved from ruin by a child born in 1901 into the monarchy family and bearing the name ‘Anastasia’ meaning ‘Resurrected’ in Greek.

In 1995, another Anastasia was found by Anatoly Gryannik, a Latvian lawyer, together with his brother Alexander. In 2000, almost a centenarian princess made claims on the money and gold allegedly shipped abroad by Nicholas II before the October Revolution of 1917. Over 80 years these assets kept with many foreign banks with all interest accrued might have turned into an enormous fortune.

The Royal family allegedly planned to leave Russia as early as before abdication, immediately after Rasputin’s killing at the end of December 1916. In January 1917, two months before abdication, Nicholas and his wife shipped 150 large chests of their personal possessions to England via Murmansk on a British man-of-war. Besides, the emperor shipped five and a half tonnes of gold via Japan and the USA to England to be entered to a personal family account at Barings Brothers Bank.

The documents for gold placement reached the bank, but the gold proper did not.  In March 1917, the Japanese on the grounds of Nicholas’ abdication and diplomatic non-recognition of the Kerensky regime confiscated the gold taking it into ‘temporary deposit”. The gold is believed to be held at Mitsubishi Bank. The rest trillions of the royal family money await their owner in the European banks.

Since childhood the princesses have been memorizing the numbers of their bank accounts. A Cheka agent Verkhovsky, in the past an officer of Tsar secret services and a staff of Stolypin, in secrecy had taken Anastasia out of the Ipatiev House on the eve of the slaughter and fled with her from Yekaterinburg. They went to the south of Russia, stayed in Rostov-on-Don and the Crimea, and in 1919 settled in Abkhazia. There the princess married Belikhodze, also a Cheka agent, who was not her husband in a conventional sense but played the role of a guardian angel. He was victimized in 1937. Living in Abkhazia, Anastasia fairly often saw both miraculously saved tsarevich Alexei and her father. Anatoly Gryannik even wrote a book The Testament of Nicholas II where he maintained that Nicholas died only in 1957 as Sergei Davidovich Beryozkin.

In 2000, the International Christian Public Charitable Foundation of Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanova was established. Its objective is to bring the royal money back to homeland. Two sums are claimed from foreign banks, $2 trillion of the entire Romanovs’ inheritance, or at least $30 billion of Anastasia’s part. Ms. Belikhodze was willing to pay the entire amount to the Russian Treasury since she had no children and her royal relatives did not accept her.

In Russia the story of the superannuated princess thrilled the public, though Belikhodze failed to win support from President Putin whom she expected to help her in her litigation with European banks. However, financial claims of Belikhodze were left unheeded as they had not involved any concrete legal actions. 

Svetlana Lyzhina  

Translated by Zaghid Yusoupov

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Author`s name Evgeniya Petrova