DNA Model

Anastasia, The Romanovs and DNA Profiling

The afternoon began with a trip to the theatre and ended in an internet search for the DNA profiling of Tsar Nicholas and his family.

The Theatre Royal Windsor showed a straight play this afternoon called The Anastasia File. Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra, has been portrayed on stage and screen and has the highest profile of the five children.

The Russian Imperial family were executed in a particularly bloody massacre at the start of the Russian Revolution. However, in 1920, a young woman turned up in Berlin claiming to be Anastasia. She claimed to have escaped the mass killing of her family and servants and campaigned to be recognised as the surviving Romanov.

The makeshift grave was discovered by the Russians in 1979, but wasn’t excavated until 1991. The grave contained five members of the Romanov family and four of their servants. The bodies of their son Alexey and one of their daughters was missing. Using DNA obtained from a Faberge locket containing Tsarina Alexandra’s hair and also a hair sample from Queen Louise of Denmark, the Tsar’s grandmother, it was established using modern DNA profiling techniques that the bodies were indeed the Tsar, his wife and three daughters, and four unrelated persons.

In 2007, a Russian archaeologist found the charred remains of two bodies close to the original burial site. One was estimated to be a boy between ten and thirteen years old, the other a young woman between eighteen and twenty three and subsequent DNA profiling showed them to be Alexey and his sister, although it is inconclusive if the cremated daughter were Anastasia or her sister Maria. Without comparative DNA, the identification of the sisters has relied on their skeletal development and it has been impossible to differentiate between the two younger sister.

What of Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Anastasia? She died in 1984 and was cremated. She did leave behind some tissue samples, and the mitochondrial DNA in these samples were traced to a missing Polish factory worker.

Almost 100 years after the disappearance of the Russian Imperial family, modern science has finally uncovered the truth about Anastasia.