Romanov Mystery Solved: Remains Of Anastasia And Alexei Identified

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | March 11, 2009 6:20 am

Romanov-Family.jpgI’ve been fascinated by the Romanovs for decades hoping that perhaps, just perhaps… Anastasia had somehow escaped. Unfortunately, new research published in PLoS ONE finally provides grim evidence of what happened to the family’s youngest children in 1918:

One of the greatest mysteries for most of the twentieth century was the fate of the Romanov family, the last Russian monarchy. Following the abdication of Tsar NicholasII, he and his wife, Alexandra, and their five children were eventually exiled to the city of Yekaterinburg. The family, along with four loyal members of their staff, was held captive by members of the Ural Soviet. According to historical reports, in the early morning hours of July 17, 1918 the entire family along with four loyal members of their staff was executed by a firing squad. After a failed attempt to dispose of the remains in an abandoned mine shaft, the bodies were transported to an open field only a few kilometers from the mine shaft. Nine members of the group were buried in one mass grave while two of the children were buried in a separate grave. With the official discovery of the larger mass grave in 1991, and subsequent DNA testing to confirm the identities of the Tsar, the Tsarina, and three of their daughters – doubt persisted that these remains were in fact those of the Romanov family. In the summer of 2007, a group of amateur archeologists discovered a collection of remains from the second grave approximately 70 meters from the larger grave. We report forensic DNA testing on the remains discovered in 2007 using mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), autosomal STR, and Y- STR testing. Combined with additional DNA testing of material from the 1991 grave, we have virtually irrefutable evidence that the two individuals recovered from the 2007 grave are the two missing children of the Romanov family: the Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters.

MORE ABOUT: Alexei, Anastasia, Romanov

Comments (10)

  1. Stacy L Mason

    Mhm, the lost-found sovereign archetype, always appealing. I hear there’s even a popular and occasionally obnoxious religion that’s sort of based on it.

  2. Holly M

    Thanks for sharing this – I too have been fascinated by the Romanov’s story since I read Nicholas and Alexandra as a young girl.

  3. The stabbing of the girls because of the inability to shoot through their diamond-studded coats is particularly grisly

  4. Erasmussimo

    The stabbing of the girls because of the inability to shoot through their diamond-studded coats is particularly grisly
    I’m not familiar with the fact you describe, but I can say that, in terms of the physics, diamond is not as strong as iron. It’s harder, not stronger; a hammer will smash a diamond quite easily (although I don’t recommend you experiment with this!) A coat of chain mail would provide better protection against a bullet than a coat completely covered with diamonds.

  5. brian smith

    As I recall the history of the killings, the girls were certainly not wearing these jewels as armor but simply had quite a number of valuables (gold/diamond jewelry) sewn into their bodices as a means of storing some assets for their exile. The executioners were not aware of this and some bullets really did get deflected as these unfortunates were shot. That delayed death for only a moment, and probably got their bodies stripped as well.

    A sad family that met a sad end, but the Tsar had been criminally incompetent in his conduct of a war that got millions of his subjects slaughtered. Of course, by that standard, the leaders of the Communist party should all have met the same fate, not just those that Stalin had liquidated within two decades.

  6. This isn’t news; it’s merely DNA confirmation.

    Anyone who read Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra knew over 40 years ago that all of the Tsar’s family had been massacred in 1918. That was Massie’s conclusion based on reports of their murderers.

    Most of the Romanov bodies were found nearly 90 years ago; the other two Romanov bodies were found at some point in the ’90s. The only doubt was whether ALexandra or Marie was buried with Alexei.

  7. Emanuel Goldstein

    Final proof of what the atheist swine Lenin ordered for the children of his enemies.

  8. why the hell did they murder them thats a little overkill.

  9. By the way srry for the language =p

  10. shelby

    Alexei and Maria were the ones who were found. Anastasia has never been identified. It is true that Olga, Tatianna, Alexandra and the rest of the family were burried in a mass grave leaving only Alexei and Maria as well as Anastasia being unaccounted for. Considering Anastasia was the youngest girl of the family and Maria was the “middle” child, Maria (being more than likely 18-23) was the one with Alexei. Forensic analysis has proven this. Anastasia was probably around 16 or so when she along with her family was murdered.


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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at


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