The Truth Behind Anastasia
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The Truth Behind Anastasia

The movie is based on a woman who went by many names.

The Truth Behind Anastasia

The movie Anastasia has always been one of my favorite movies. As I became more and more interested in the true story behind it and learned more about the many inaccuracies of the 1997 animated film, the more I enjoyed pointing them out to whomever I was watching the film with. As much as I have always enjoyed the film and understand why the creators took the extreme liberties they did, I have always longed for something a bit closer to the real story.

The movie begins with the 300th anniversary of Romanov reign in Russia, incorrectly set in the year 1916. While the Romanov Family did rule for 304 years, the tercentenary celebrations took place in in 1913.

They also changed the year that the family was executed. They made it so that the Romanovs were killed by Rasputin at the tercentenary in 1916. The family was actually killed by the Bolsheviks in Ekaterinburg 1918. My theory is that they changed the year of their death to have it align with the year Rasputin was killed (which was accurate) in order to keep the plot line intact.

Tsar Nicholas II had four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Marie, and Anastasia. Olga was always looking after her siblings. She was like a second mother to their little brother. Tatiana was her mother’s favorite daughter and was sort of the parent pleaser. Her nickname was the Governess, seeing how she would always make sure everything was in order. She was considered the most beautiful and the most well-known of the grand duchesses. Olga and Tatiana called themselves the Big Pair and were often called that by others when they were needed. They shared a room, and slept on military cots as per tradition.

Marie was the middle child. She was very talented artistically and had a love of children. She wanted a large family. However, she was a carrier of hemophilia, just as her mother was, so her children would either have had the bleeding disease or be carriers of it themselves.

Finally, there was Anastasia, who was perhaps the most famous of the grand duchesses because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death. I could just write about the impostors and how fake they all were, but I am going to talk about the REAL Shvybzik. She could have been an impostor herself. She was always performing impressions of guests and pulling pranks with her brother. She would get often chocolate stains on her white gloves. Her nickname, Shvybzik (or Shvybs for short as Marie liked to call her), is an old fashioned name you would call someone when they are mischievous. It fit the grand duchess very well. She and Marie were called the Little Pair. They shared a room together, where they also slept on military cots.

Moving on to some of the inaccuracies; let’s start with Rasputin. Yes-- the creepy magical guy who had to keep putting his fingers back on and his eye balls back in his head. Although he was a holy man with crazy healing powers, I don’t think he had connections with the dark world and a completely loveable bat for a sidekick. (Let’s be honest, Bartok was everyone’s favorite character.)

Rasputin was born in 1869. He was assassinated on 30 December 1916. He was supposedly a heavy drinker, but he gave it up long before meeting the Imperial Family. He was also known for hosting parties in Saint Petersburg. That was true. He was a womanizer. Many stories and rumors flew around about him, but Alexandra refused to believe them. She believed he was a man of high religious powers, considering how spiritual she was herself. She almost didn’t marry Nicholas because she didn’t want to switch her religion to Russian Orthodox.

When the heir to the Russian throne was born, they quickly found out that he had hemophilia, which is a sex linked bleeding disease. Mothers carry it and pass it down to their sons. In this case, it ran in Alexandra’s family and she gave it to her son, Alexei. Every time he was bleeding internally and the doctors did not think he would make it, Rasputin came and would say a prayer, bless him, and tell the family that the baby of the family would be alright. Sure enough, Alexei would be better when he dropped in.

For that reason, the empress put a TON of trust into him. I mean, if someone could heal your son through prayer, wouldn’t you trust them too? He was able to influence her, and even got her to replace a few officials that didn’t like him. That is one of the things that annoys me the most about her-- she was completely blind to what he was doing. He was a power hungry peasant.

In a letter to the Empress, Rasputin predicted as early as December of that year that Nicholas would abdicate the following March, and the family would be executed the next year. He also predicted his own death by a member of the Romanov family (which also turned out to be true, as he was killed by Felix Yusupov)

Sketchy, right? The thing about that is this letter has yet to be found. No one knows whether it is in the Russian Archives (known as GARF) or lost or just completely made up.

Now that we’ve got the whole Rasputin inaccuracy covered, let’s talk about the ‘Rumor in St. Petersburg’. First of all, the movie takes place in the 1920’s. St. Petersburg was called Leningrad at the time, but “there’s a rumor in Leningrad, have you heard? What they’re saying on the streets? HEY!” doesn’t have a good ring to it.

Can we talk about the logics of that number for a second? Everyone is doing a choreographed dance, so I am pretty sure everyone has heard the rumor that the Princess Anastasia survived. Fun fact, in English we say her title was Grand Duchess. In Russian, it is Velikaya Knyazhna, which can be loosely translated to Grand Princess. In case any of you were wondering, yes, she and her sisters had a higher ranking than most European princesses. You know, during the song, they show a cop on a horse in a Soviet uniform, but the uniform is not from the twenties, it is from the nineteen seventies/ eighties.

Continuing with the inaccurate "rumor in Leningrad," the whole movie is based on a woman who went by many names from 1920 until her death in 1984. It was on the night of 17 February 1920, when twenty four year old Franziska Schanzkowska attempted to kill herself by stepping off of a bridge in Berlin. She would first be sent to the Elizabeth hospital, and then to Dalldorf Mental Asylum for the next two years. She would not reveal anything about herself, not even a name. (And here I thought I could be stubborn!)

The other patients and doctors would call her Fraulein Unbekkant, meaning Miss Unknown. Throughout her lifetime she would go by Frau Annie, Frau Tchaikovsky, Anastasia Tchaikovsky, Anastasia Romanova, Anastasia Manahan, and the most commonly known, Anna Anderson. From the time she ran from the family that took her in, until her death, she only went back to being herself for three days in August of 1922. When she went back to the people she was staying with after two years of not showing up, she mentioned that some Russians mistook her for someone else. After those three days, for the next sixty two years, she would continue to claim that she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova or Russia.

Other than Anna Anderson, there have been other claimants. First, before I go on, let me get this straight; Anastasia died with the rest of her family on the night of 17 July 1918. The only member of the Romanov Family to survive was the Tsarevich’s English Cocker Spaniel, Joy.

I don’t know if any of you are religious or belong to the Russian Orthodox Church and believe that the remains that were found do not belong to her, but that is why the church will not accept them (although all of the Romanovs were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in August of 2000), I respect that.

Both Russian and American scientists have worked with Anna Anderson’s tissue that was kept from a surgery, and both found that her DNA matched Franziska’s relatives, and not Anastasia’s. This woman was mentally unstable. She had injuries from a factory explosion which resembled those that Anastasia would have had. If she wasn’t the grand duchess, who was she and how did she remember all of those memories? The polish factory worker, unwanted by her family, read a lot about the Romanov Family and for the things she couldn’t remember, she blamed on head injuries from that night and people would try to help her remember. I was heartbroken when I found out the truth of what happened. There was so much going on during those sixty two years of Anna’s claim that people needed to believe something, they needed something to hope for. There was much to deal with at the time--the aftermath of World War I, World War II would happen, and the Cold War.

Clearly, people are still interested in the Romanovs' story years later. In fact, there will be a musical about Anastasia making its debut in NY on Broadway in April 2017!

One last fun fact about Anastasia-- both the movie and the real Grand Duchess or Grand Princess--you can actually buy the music box given to her by her grandmother in the movie on eBay, along with the necklace. The real Anastasia had one, but it was plain and silver.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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