The story of Princess Anastasia has inspired several books, at least two movies, a broadway play, and innumerable newspaper and magazine articles. There are many Web sites that also speculate on the fate of Czar Nicholas II’s daughter.
Thought by many researchers to have survived the massacre of the Imperial family in 1918, Anastasia Romanov has been the subject of numerous rumors, myths, and a few attempts at identity theft (or maybe simply of mistaken self-identity). One or two of the women who claimed to be Anastasia were considered by many people to be credible claimants.
Alas! It appears that her remains have at last been identified in a forest in the Ural Mountains. Princess Anastasia did not survive the massacre after all.
Her father’s career as a monarch may not be exemplary in the eyes of historians and human rights activists but Princess Anastasia’s mystery has elicited a great deal of sympathy for the Czar’s children, who were murdered by Bolshevik revolutionaries to prevent them from leading a counter rebellion against the Communist regime of Vladimir Lenin.
The Romanovs were tied by blood to virtually all the ruling families of Europe. The current English royal family, for example, claims a relationship with Nicholas’ wife Alexandra, who was a grand-daughter of Queen Victoria. The First World War, which resulted in the deaths of millions of people, arose in large part from the mistrust between the ruling families, who arranged secret treaties for mutual defense.
Nicholas’ cruel policies (including anti-Semitic pogroms) culminated in Russia’s entry into the First World War in a state of near-complete unpreparedness. The Russians lacked the logistical and industrial base to support a large war effort, which was required in order to challenge the combined might of Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire. Nicholas’ mobilization of the Russian people left too few men to work the inefficient farms and the economy eventually collapsed as millions of people starved.
While this tale of woe has no direct connection to science fiction and fantasy it certainly has influenced science fiction and fantasy in many ways. Stories of noble families facing military and economic disaster have appeared from time to time, with perhaps Frank Herbert’s Dune being the most notable. In fact, there are several parallels between the story of the Atreides family and the Romanov family (it turns out that Duke Leto Atreides was building an army capable of challenging Imperial power, which is why the Atreides were betrayed by the Emperor).
Science met fiction in recent years as researchers uncovered the truth about what happened to the Romanovs. Their story will no doubt inspire many other tales to come. And, who knows? Perhaps Anastasia’s memory will live on in tales of princesses who escape family tragedies. Perhaps Nicholas’ bad judgement will be echoed by stereotyped villain rulers.
Maybe some good will come of the bad if people use the Romanov story to teach future generations of monarchs to be careful how they wield their power.
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