Anna Anderson-  The Fake Anastasia

Anastasia Romanov on the left; Anna Anderson on the right

News of the execution of the Romanov family in 1918 rocked the world.  (For more on this please see this post: )  However, in the face of this devastation people tried to keep the faith that someone may have made it out.  European newspaper ran stories that one or more of the Romanov children had escaped.  The one name that kept coming up was Anastasia Romanov.  However, there was no proof.  Only hope.

Then in 1920, a young woman was fished out of a the water after jumping off a bridge in Berlin.  Her suicide attempt failed and the young woman had no identification and refused to tell her rescuers her name.  She was taken to a mental institution, Dalldorf Asylum, where she remained for two more years.  For the first six months, the strange young woman would not speak at all.  Medical staff noted she had given birth to at least one child and had strange scars that looked like gunshot wounds.  This was right after World War I, so it would not have been unusual for her to have gotten caught in a firefight somewhere.  Eventually, the she began to talk and had a strange Russian accent and haughty demeanor.  Another Dalldorf patient, Clara Peuthert, believed the woman was a member of the Russian royal family after seeing a picture of them in the newspaper.  Upon Clara’s release, she  went to high Russian expatriates to beg them to see this strange young woman she believed was the Grand Duchess Tatiana.

At first, the young woman treated these new visitors with the same disdain she had treated everyone else.  She would even hide under the covers rather than talk to them.  They pushed pictures of the Romanovs at her and she would shy away, despite naming them to the nurses after they left.  A former lady in waiting visited and informed her she was too short to be Tatiana.  The strange woman actually replied saying, “I never said I was Tatiana.”  At this point there was a frenzy to find out who she was.  If she would say who she was, then perhaps she would indicate who she wasn’t.  Presented with a list of the Romanov daughters, she crossed out all of them but one.  Anastasia.

The woman who claimed to be Anastasia called herself Anna Tchaīkovsky after the man who she claimed rescued her.  She claimed that she and her sisters had jewels sewn into their corsets, which caused the bullets to not fully pierce her skin.  Then the soldiers tried to kill them with bayonets, but they were dull.  She was wounded but survived and played dead.  The soldier who came to take away the bodies took pity on her and saved her.  His name was Alexander Tchaīkovsky, and the two had a son together.  Eventually she came to Berlin to see family, but they refused to see her and that’s why she tried to kill herself.

It’s a far fetched tale, but there was some evidence in Anna’s favor.  Anna and Anastasia both spoke French, English and German.  Anna said she could understand Russian but would not speak it because it was the language of her family’s murderers.  This was taken as a sign she did not speak Russian and was a fraud by some investigators.  The two women had the same foot deformity as well.  There were details that Anna told of court life and of family members that were not common knowledge, such as a companion who drew humorous drawings of animals for her.  A handwriting expert said they identical handwriting.  There was no definitive proof.  However, this was enough for some Romanov relatives and Anna bounced from castle to castle living on the largess of her supposed relatives.  She was kept away from the larger prize of the remaining Romanov fortune.

It was only a matter of time before it came to trial.  For 32 years, the remaining Romanov family fought against Anna’s claim in German court.  They claimed that Anna was really a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska. No proof either way was produced.  In 1970, the German Supreme Court ended the case ruling for no one.  They did not prove Anna was or was not Anastasia.  Anna eventually moved to the United States after marrying an American professor John Manahan.  They lived an eccentric life in Charlottesville, VA, where they had a sprawling home with cats, dogs and piles of garbage.  Anna died of pneumonia in 1984.

However, fate took a hand, as the remains of three Romanov daughters were found in a mass grave in 1991.  These were verified as Romanov by conducting DNA tests comparing the DNA of the skeletons to DNA from the blood donated from members of the British family who were related to the Romanovs.  Another DNA tests was performed as well.  DNA from a section of intestine removed from a prior surgery on Anna was compared to the DNA from the skeletons.  There was no match.  Anna was not a Romanov.  However, all of this is hotly debated.  There are those who claim Anna’s DNA was doctored.  Even the Russian Orthodox Church believes the skeletons found in the mass grave were not the Romanovs and refuses to treat them as royal remains.  Perhaps we will never know.


Weird Science – Ilya Ivanovich Ivano

16830664_416342465374508_7486416414320440735_nBorn around 1870 in the town of Shchigry, Kursk Gubernia, Russia. Graduating from Kharkov University in 1896 Ivano became a full professor in 1907. He worked as a researcher in the Askania-Nova Natural Reserve, also for the State Experimental Veterinary Institute for the Central Experimental Station for Researching Reproduction of Domestic Animals, and for the Moscow Higher Zootechnic Institute.

Around the start of the 20th century, he would perfect the artificial insemination and practical usage for horse breeding. He proved that this technology allows one stallion to fertilize up to 500 mares. The results were sensational for their time, and Ivanov’s station was frequented by horse breeders from many parts of the world.

This is where things get a bit strange. He attempted to create a human-ape hybrid. As early as 1910, he had given a presentation to the World Congress of Zoologists in Graz in which he described the possibility of obtaining such a hybrid through artificial insemination. He carried out a series of experiments to create the hybrid. Working with human sperm and female chimpanzees, he failed to create a pregnancy. In 1929 he organized a set of experiments involving nonhuman ape sperm and human volunteers, but was delayed by the death of his last orangutan.

There was a political shakeup in the Soviet scientific world and Ivanov and a number of other scientists involved in primate research and experiments lost their positions. In the spring of 1930, Ivanov came under political criticism at his veterinary institute and on December 13, 1930, he was arrested and sentenced to five years of exile to Alma Ata, where he worked for the Kazakh Veterinary-Zoologist Institute until his death from a stroke on March 20, 1932.



timurlane-1After the death of Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire had fragmented into separate khanates as his descendants squabbled amongst themselves.  The empire he built was too big for any of them to rule, so it was split into pieces and divided between them.  The northwestern portion was called Golden Horde, and by 1336 the majority of it was ruled by Sultan Mohammed Oz Beg.  His domain ran from Moscow to the Aral Sea and his capital was Sarai.

Also in 1336, a son was born to a Turco-Mongol tribal leader of the Barlas in Transoxiana.  Transoxiana is located at the edge of the mountains just south of the beautiful city of Samarkand.   This is in modern day Uzbekistan.  The boy was called Timur.  Timur’s father was one of the first tribesmen to convert to Islam, and so the young boy grew up reading the Qur’an and educated in the ways of Sunni Islam.   He earned the nickname “the lame”, or Timurlane, after being shot in the thigh early in life.  Stories vary as to whether this was sustained participating in local rebellions or after being caught by a farmer for stealing sheep.  When Timur was 10 years old, there was a rebellion against the Mongol leader in Transoxiana and a man named Kazgan became emir.  There was a period of anarchy for several years as the battles were fought to bring the area back into Mongol control.  Mongol armies marched into Transoxiana in 1360 and 1361, and Timur acted like a good tame prince and submitted to the new Mongol governor, Ilyas Khodja, becoming a minister within his government.  They didn’t realize who they were dealing with.

Unbeknownst to the Mongols, Timur made an alliance with Hussein, the grandson of the Kazgan, who originally freed Transoxiana in Timur’s youth.  Together they fought the Mongols winning victories in 1364, but ultimately being defeated in 1365 at the Battle of the Mud.  They withdrew to consolidate power.  It wasn’t always a happy partnership as neither of them seemed to like each other very much, but it was successful in that they were able to eventually drive the Mongols from Transoxiana.  An Islamic uprising in Samarkand and a plague affecting the Mongol’s horses helped matters immensely.  With the common enemy of the Mongol’s retreating, Hussein and Timur’s partnership was deteriorating rapidly as both of the were jockeying for supremacy over Transoxiana.  Timur spent his time charming the local emirs, princes and merchants as well as a man from Mecca who claimed to be a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad.  It came to open warfare when Timur’s wife died as she was also Hussein’s sister.  Without the ties of family between them, the two clashed.  Hussein was captured at the siege of Balkh in 1370 and executed, leaving Timur the undisputed master of Transoxiana.  He set up his capital at Samarkand, and began consolidating his power.  Anyone who had been loyal to Hussein, including most of the inhabitants of the city of Balkh, were bound in chains and beheaded.

Samarkand was improved and beautified as Timur’s favorite and capital city.  New walls were built which were surrounded by a deep moat.  The marketplace was enlarged and beautiful gardens and palaces were built.  Soon Samarkand was the envy of even Cairo and Baghdad.  Leaving a nominal king behind in Samarkand to rule, Timur took his army out for a test drive.  The make up was similar to the Mongols, however, there were more foot soldiers.  The army took great pride in Timur and his warrior prowess.  Their loyalty was to their commander, not their state.  They moved east and took on his old enemies, the Mongols.  In 1381, they turned west and moved through Iraq, Asia Minor and Syria.  Their atrocities were legendary.  Even Timur’s own court historian didn’t try to pretty it up.  For example, at Sabzawar, Timur had a tower built out of live men and cemented together with bricks and mortar.  Populations were massacred as a matter of course and minarets were made of decapitated heads.  Not a nice guy.  By 1385 all of Persia was under his control.

Then he moved north into what is now Georgia and Armenia.  He wrapped himself in the mantle of a warrior for Islam as he claimed these kingdoms were attacking caravans on their way to Mecca.  The Christians there were slaughtered.  The Mongols attacked him there again, but he pushed them back to Moscow.  By 1392, things were pretty much settled and Timur was itching for another fight.  He after putting down more rebellion in Persia and Georgia and practiced a scorched earth policy by destroying entire towns.  Then he turned his greedy eyes to India.

Claiming the Muslim rulers there were being too tolerant of their Hindu neighbors, Timur attacked.  He destroyed the Islamic kingdom centered around Delhi and bragged about getting further into India than Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan.  Then he turned westward again, leaving the Indian builders and artisans he took from Delhi in Samarkand, Timur headed to Syria.  He took on the Mameluks and occupied Damascus.  During the looting of Damascus, a fire started that burned for three days.  Damascus took years to recover.  He was getting too close to the Ottoman Turks, who engaged them in battle in 1402 at Angora, today’s Ankara.  Timur crushed them.  Moving on to Smyrna, he demanded the Christian crusader knights there convert to Islam.  When they did not he conquered the city and had the entire population killed.  Their heads were built into a pyramid.

Timur returned to Samarkand and began planning a new expedition into China.  Luckily for China, he died in 1405 enroute with the army.  At Samarkand, Timur was embalmed and buried in an ebony casket.  Like Genghis Khan before him, Timur’s sons could not hold his empire and squabbled amongst themselves.  By the end of the century the empire was fractured and gone.


Sources available on request

Sister goddesses- The Zorja

14955819_365986907076731_6146071227743775988_nIn Slavic mythology, the Zorja are two guardian goddesses, known as the Auroras. They guard and watch over the doomsday hound, Simargl. Simargl is chained to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor or the “little bear”. If the chain ever breaks, the hound will devour the constellation and the universe will end. The Zorja represent the Morning Star and the Evening Star.

The Zorja serve the sun god Dažbog, who in some myths is their father. Zorja Utrennjaja, the Morning Star, opens the gates to his palace every morning for the sun-chariot’s departure. She is a patroness of horses, protection, exorcism, and the planet Venus. Slavs would pray to her each morning as the sun rose. At dusk, Zorja Vechernjaja—the Evening Star—closes the palace gates once more after his return. She was associated with the planet Venus or Mercury

The home of the Zorja was sometimes said to be on Bouyan, an oceanic island paradise where the Sun dwelt along with his attendants, the North, West and East winds.


The Romanovs

Romanov family tree
Romanov family tree

Romanov. That’s the name nearly all of us come up with when faced with the question of naming royalty in Russia. But why? The Romanovs only ruled Russia for a very brief period, and it is the female branch of the family that ruled the longest. This means that in countries, such as France or England, the name would have changed completely once the male line died out. Of course there is the Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty, but that’s a whole different story. In Russia though, the name went from Romanov to Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov. Why the difference?

It’s starts with Michael I, the first Romanov tsar of all Russia. He ruled from 1613 to 1645 and upon his death his son Alexis assumed the role of tsar. Alexis had two wives that produced a brood of children, four of which would rule. First was Feodor (or Fyodor) III who ruled for only 6 years and produced no children and his line died. Next came Ivan V and his half-brother Peter I, later to be known as Peter the Great. These two ruled together because as it turns out Ivan had some disabilities of the mind and body so he could not rule alone. To complicate matters was that when Feodor III died, Ivan V was 16 (and incompetent) and Peter I was only 9. Neither of them could rule Russia, so Ivan’s older sister stepped in as regent. Sophie ruled as regent for 6 years until Peter was old enough to assume responsibilities of the throne. Ivan died 14 years after his co-rule with Peter began.  Find out more about Peter in this post:

During Peter’s rule, his title changed from tsar to Emperor so that when he died, his wife ruled Russia as Empress. Catherine was not a Romanov, but her rule only lasted a little more than two years. Peter II, the grandson of Peter I and his first wife, now became emperor but only for three years before he contracted smallpox and died.

That’s it. 1613 to 1730 was the rule of the Romanov Dynasty. At least through the male line. Peter II died at age 14 without producing heirs, Peter I only had one son who survived infancy and Ivan only produced females.

But this is where Romanov history becomes quite enthralling.

Ivan V of Russia
Ivan V of Russia

The last male Romanov died in 1730 after only three years of being emperor of all Russia. The name had died but the family continued on through female descendants and it wasn’t pretty.

After smallpox took Peter II of Russia at the age of 14, his second cousin Anna was made Empress. Her husband died shortly after they married. She decided not to take another husband, which resulted in her having no heirs. She was faced with the difficult decision of who to name as her heir and it was all about the family tree.

Remember Alexis I from the beginning? The son of Michael, the first Romanov tsar? He only had descendants from two of his children- Ivan V from his first marriage and Peter I (Peter the Great) from his second marriage. Empress Anna just happened to be the daughter of Ivan and she wanted very much for the following rulers of Russia to come from Ivan’s line and not Peter’s.

Out of 14 children born to Peter, only three survived infancy- one boy and two girls. The boy was Alexei, who became Peter II’s father. Then there was Anna (a different one) who died before Peter II, and Elizabeth, who became Empress a little later in the story but had no children. Alexei had two children and both had died before Anna became empress. This leaves the only child Anna (the different one) had: Peter (yes, another one). That was Empress Anna’s only choice from Peter I’s side. Confused yet?

Now for Ivan V’s descendants. We know Empress Anna had no children. Anna’s sister, Praskovia, had a son who died before Anna was empress. Her other sister, Catherine, had one daughter, another Anna, and then particular Anna had a son named Ivan. Don’t you wish they had named their children different names? Anyway…

So, Empress Anna was to choose between Peter’s descendant named Peter and Ivan’s descendant named Ivan. She chose Ivan. But that would only prove to be bad luck for Ivan and his immediate family.

When Empress Anna died, little Ivan was only 2 months old and this is when Elizabeth comes back into play and things start getting heated. Since Ivan could not rule in his own right, his mother was regent. However, many people did not like her connects with Germany as she had married a German. Elizabeth, mentioned above as Peter I’s daughter, particularly detested the German connection and less than a year after Ivan took the crown he was overthrown. Elizabeth seized the crown for herself in December of 1741, but that was not the end of her plans. Ivan and his family were held under house arrest until 1744. At that time, Elizabeth ordered the entire family to be imprisoned. Anna and her husband had four more children, all of whom were imprisoned from birth. However, Ivan was held captive separately from his family and was raised alone except for the guards who were to watch him.

Ivan and his family were kept locked up until Elizabeth died in 1762 and Peter III ascended the throne. This was the last descendant from Peter the Great’s side of the family, and he took pity on the poor family who had not had freedom for nearly 20 years. Unfortunately, Peter only held the throne for 6 months before dying under unknown and mysterious circumstances. Some believed he was assassinated, but of course, none of it has been proven. The assassination rumor was that his wife and successor, Catherine II (Catherine the Great) was the one who ordered his death.

Peter II of Russia, the last male Romanov
Peter II of Russia, the last male Romanov

Nonetheless, once Peter had died, Catherine became Empress and that did not bode well for Ivan. Let me state here that Ivan’s identity has been kept secret from everyone. No one, not even his guards, knew who he was. He was referred to as “a certain prisoner” or “the nameless one”. One clever guard learned Ivan’s story and made an attempt to free him. Unfortunately, this signed Ivan’s death warrant. This brave guard did not know of the orders made by Catherine to Ivan’s personal guard stating that if anyone attempted to free him, Ivan was to be murdered immediately. That is exactly what happened on July 16, 1764. Ivan was murdered by his guard after being in solitary confinement for nearly his whole life. All those who were a part of the attempt to free him were also murdered.

But the story isn’t over yet.

The rest of Ivan’s family was kept in prison until 1780. Catherine decided they should be released but only to house arrest. By this time, Anna and her husband had already both died but all four children were still alive. The two girls and two boys were kept segregated until the last of them died in 1807. This wiped out the Brunswick-Bevern side of Ivan V’s line, the only family left from his side.

This left only the Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov line, which is Peter III’s line.

And speaking of Peter III, we are not done with him yet either. After his rumored assassination, some believed that he was not killed but still alive and being held against his will. Then pretenders began showing up on the scene. Four fake Peter’s actually, all who gained support and led uprisings and revolts and all were crushed by Catherine. Catherine the Great is remembered for reforming Russia and making it great again- except if you were descended from the Romanov’s.


References available upon request