On this Day:
In 1928, a woman dubbed Anna Anderson [possibly Franziska Schanzkowska] arrives in New York City, using the alias “Anastasia Tschaikovsky” claiming to be Grand Duchess Anastasia, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II.
Anna Anderson (16 December 1896 – 12 February 1984) was an impostor who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia. Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia, Nicholas II and Alexandra, was murdered along with her parents and siblings on 17 July 1918 by communist revolutionaries in Yekaterinburg, Russia, but the location of her body was unknown until 2007.
In 1920, Anderson was institutionalized in a mental hospital after a suicide attempt in Berlin. At first, she went by the name Fräulein Unbekannt (German for Miss Unknown) as she refused to reveal her identity. Later, she used the name Tschaikovsky and then Anderson. In March 1922, claims that Anderson was a Russian grand duchess first received public attention. Most members of Grand Duchess Anastasia’s family and those who had known her, including court tutor Pierre Gilliard, said Anderson was an impostor but others were convinced she was Anastasia. In 1927, a private investigation funded by the Tsarina’s brother, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, identified Anderson as Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish factory worker with a history of mental illness. After a lawsuit lasting many years, the German courts ruled that Anderson had failed to prove she was Anastasia, but through media coverage, her claim gained notoriety.
Between 1922 and 1968, Anderson lived in Germany and the United States with various supporters and in nursing homes and sanatoria, including at least one asylum. She emigrated to the United States in 1968. Shortly before the expiration of her visa she married history professor Jack Manahan, who was later characterized as “probably Charlottesville’s best-loved eccentric”. Upon her death in 1984, Anderson’s body was cremated, and her ashes were buried in the churchyard at Castle Seeon, Germany.
After the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, the locations of the bodies of the Tsar, Tsarina, and all five of their children were revealed. Multiple laboratories in different countries confirmed their identity through DNA testing. DNA tests on a lock of Anderson’s hair and surviving medical samples of her tissue showed that her DNA did not match that of the Romanov remains or that of living relatives of the Romanovs. Instead, Anderson’s mitochondrial DNA matched that of Karl Maucher, a great-nephew of Franziska Schanzkowska. Most scientists, historians and journalists who have discussed the case accept that Anderson and Schanzkowska were the same person.
By 1928, Tschaikovsky’s claim had received interest and attention in the United States, where Gleb Botkin had published articles in support of her cause. Botkin’s publicity caught the attention of a distant cousin of Anastasia’s, Xenia Leeds, a former Russian princess who had married a wealthy American industrialist. Botkin and Leeds arranged for Tschaikovsky to travel to the United States on board the liner Berengaria at Leeds’s expense. On the journey from Seeon to the States, Tschaikovsky stopped at Paris, where she met Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich of Russia, the Tsar’s cousin, who believed her to be Anastasia. For six months Tschaikovsky lived at the estate of the Leeds family in Oyster Bay, New York.
As the tenth anniversary of the Tsar’s execution approached in July 1928, Botkin retained a lawyer, Edward Fallows, to oversee legal moves to obtain any of the Tsar’s estate outside of the Soviet Union. As the death of the Tsar had never been proved, the estate could only be released to relatives ten years after the supposed date of his death. Fallows set up a company, called the Grandanor Corporation (an acronym of Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia), which sought to raise funds by selling shares in any prospective estate. Tschaikovsky claimed that the Tsar had deposited money abroad, which fed unsubstantiated rumors of a large Romanov fortune in England. The surviving relatives of the Romanovs accused Botkin and Fallows of fortune hunting, and Botkin accused them of trying to defraud “Anastasia” out of her inheritance. Except for a relatively small deposit in Germany, distributed to the Tsar’s recognized relations, no money was ever found. After a quarrel, possibly over Tschaikovsky’s claim to the estate (but not over her claim to be Anastasia), Tschaikovsky moved out of the Leeds’ mansion, and the pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff arranged for her to live at the Garden City Hotel in Hempstead, New York, and later in a small cottage. To avoid the press, she was booked in as Mrs. Anderson, the name by which she was subsequently known. In October 1928, after the death of the Tsar’s mother, the Dowager Empress Marie, the 12 nearest relations of the Tsar met at Marie’s funeral and signed a declaration that denounced Anderson as an impostor. The Copenhagen Statement, as it would come to be known, explained: “Our sense of duty compels us to state that the story is only a fairy tale. The memory of our dear departed would be tarnished if we allowed this fantastic story to spread and gain any credence.” Gleb Botkin answered with a public letter to Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia, which referred to the family as “greedy and unscrupulous” and claimed they were only denouncing Anderson for money.
From early 1929 Anderson lived with Annie Burr Jennings, a wealthy Park Avenue spinster happy to host someone she supposed to be a daughter of the Tsar. For eighteen months, Anderson was the toast of New York City society. Then a pattern of self-destructive behavior began that culminated in her throwing tantrums, killing her pet parakeet, and on one occasion running around naked on the roof. On 24 July 1930, Judge Peter Schmuck of the New York Supreme Court signed an order committing her to a mental hospital. Before she could be taken away, Anderson locked herself in her room, and the door was broken in with an axe. She was forcibly taken to the Four Winds Sanatorium in Westchester County, New York, where she remained for slightly over a year. In August 1931, Anderson returned to Germany accompanied by a private nurse in a locked cabin on the liner Deutschland. Jennings paid for the voyage, the stay at the Westchester sanatorium, and an additional six months’ care in the psychiatric wing of a nursing home at Ilten near Hanover. On arrival at Ilten, Anderson was assessed as sane, but as the room was prepaid, and she had nowhere else to go, she stayed on in a suite in the sanatorium grounds.
Although communists had murdered the entire imperial Romanov family in July 1918, including 17-year-old Grand Duchess Anastasia, for years afterwards communist disinformation fed rumors that members of the Tsar’s family had survived. The conflicting rumors about the fate of the family allowed impostors to make spurious claims that they were a surviving Romanov.
Most of the impostors were dismissed; however, Anna Anderson’s claim persisted. Books and pamphlets supporting her claims included Harriet von Rathlef’s book Anastasia, ein Frauenschicksal als Spiegel der Weltkatastrophe (Anastasia, a Woman’s Fate as Mirror of the World Catastrophe), which was published in Germany and Switzerland in 1928, though it was serialized by the tabloid newspaper Berliner Nachtausgabe in 1927. This was countered by works such as La Fausse Anastasie (The False Anastasia) by Pierre Gilliard and Constantin Savitch, published by Payot of Paris in 1929. Conflicting testimonies and physical evidence, such as comparisons of facial characteristics, which alternately supported and contradicted Anderson’s claim, were used either to bolster or to counter the belief that she was Anastasia. In the absence of any direct documentary proof or solid physical evidence, the question of whether Anderson was Anastasia was for many a matter of personal belief. As Anderson herself said in her own idiomatic English, “You either believe it or you don’t believe it. It doesn’t matter. In no anyway whatsoever.” The German courts were unable to decide her claim one way or another, and eventually, after 40 years of deliberation, ruled that her claim was “neither established nor refuted” (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
This week on Dancing With the Tsars:
Ivan was Terrible, Peter & Catherine were Great, and Boris was Godunov.
Second, a Song:
“God Save the Tsar!” was the national anthem of the Russian Empire. The song was chosen from a competition held in 1833 and was first performed on 18 December 1833. The composer was violinist Alexei Lvov, and the lyrics were by the court poet Vasily Zhukovsky. It was the anthem until the Russian Revolution of 1917, after which “Worker’s Marseillaise” was adopted as the new national anthem until the overthrow of the Russian Provisional Government (per Duke of Canada and YouTube.com).
Here is “God Save the Tsar!” set to images of Russia and the Tsar and his family (it appears from an unnamed movie). I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“There is no justice among men.” – Tsar Nicholas II Alexandrovich Romanov of Russia
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Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky