The Real Tragedy Behind 'Anastasia'

By Melvin Rhodes

Russian Royal Family

THE PRODUCERS OF THE RECENT full length cartoon movie, "Anastasia" have come under a great deal of criticism for throwing history out the window. By now, people should have grown accustomed to Hollywood's Cartoon Anastasia historical rewrites. Sometimes the movie capital falls victim to revisionism, where history is rewritten to be politically correct; sometimes they just alter the facts to make for a more dramatic story.

Whatever the reason this time, "Anastasia" distorts history. Perhaps this is what some parents want -- to hide the real world from their children. But at some point growing children need to be made aware of the major events of history. Eventually those children will be our leaders and those leaders will have to make decisions to preserve our freedoms in a very cruel world. The real world is not a cartoon fantasy.

There is a very real tragedy behind the story of "Anastasia" -- a tragedy that has dominated the twentieth century and is still not over.

The fact is that the real Anastasia was murdered while still a teenager in one of the bloodiest and cruellest acts of a distinctly bloody and cruel century. Tens of millions of others have died along with her.

The story begins at the turn of the century. Nicholas II had been crowned Czar of Russia in 1896 after Nicholas II ascending the throne two years previously. He was the last autocratic ruler left in Europe, a continent still dominated by Kings and Emperors. Only two European countries at the dawn of the twentieth century were republics, France and Switzerland. A number of others had tried republicanism at different times but had all gone back to the monarchical system. Europe at this point in time was the most powerful continent in the world. Europeans and people of European descent dominated the globe. The Czar of Russia alone ruled over one sixth of the world’s land surface. Only the British Empire was bigger, but the Russian Empire was one continuous solid land mass.

Nicholas took over from his autocratic father Alexander III who had died after a brief reign of only thirteen years. His grandfather, Alexander II, had been one of the most progresive Czars, liberating Russia’s serfs on the eve of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Declaration. Alexander’s decree impacted Russia no less than Lincoln’s in America. For his efforts, he suffered the same fate as the American President, assassination, in 1881. This bloody terrorist activity was witnessed by his son and his grandson Nicholas. Both saw this as the direct result of liberal reform and set their minds against any moves toward democracy.

The real Anastasia was murdered while still a teenager in one of the bloodiest and cruellest acts of a distinctly bloody and cruel century.

Unfortunately for Nicholas, the rest of Europe was democratizing, with the various monarchs having to contend with parliaments and constitutions. But Nicholas II still ruled by " Divine Right", "answerable only to God" -- just like previous Czars. The Romanov royal family itself went back 300 years to 1613, when the coronation of the sixteen year old Michael Romanov ended a period of turmoil known as the "The Time of Troubles." The Romanovs had given stability to Russia, as other monarchies had done elsewhere in Europe.

Most of these royal families were related to each other. Nicholas was closely related to the future King George V of Great Britain and the German Kaiser William II. His wife Alexandra, of the royal house of Hesse in Germany, was the granddaugther of Queen Victoria. Victoria was known as "the Grandmama of Europe," her progeny having married diplomatically in an age when royal marriages cemented alliances and built bridges between nations.

Sadly, family squabbles were to plunge the world into a major conflict in 1914. But not before significant events in Russia itself. Nicholas and Alexandra’s reign got off to a bad start. A collapsed support stand at the Czar’s coronation left hundreds dead and thousands injured. Unaware of the full extent of the tragedy the celebration Coronation Ball went ahead, leaving the impression that the Imperial couple didn’t care about their subjects. Later tragedies included the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1905 when the Czar’s troops opened fire on a peaceful demonstration. This event led to the 1905 Revolution, which in turn led to the establishment of a Duma (parliament or congress), the beginnings of a democratic process, though the Czar still had the last word.

During the next few years Russia enjoyed one of the greatest economic growth rates in the world, under the Prime Ministership of Pyotr Stolypin. Unfortunately, some of the changes left him very unpopular and he was assassinated.

In 1913 the Romanovs celebrated 300 years on Russia’s throne. Everywhere they went crowds turned out in the hundreds of thousands to warmly welcome them. Their popularity had never been greater. Future revolutionary Vladimir Lenin wrote at this time that there was no prospect of an end to the Russian monarchy in his lifetime. Yet less than five years later it was gone.

The royal children were particularly popular. The Czar’s four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Ansastasia were beautiful girls. All doted on their younger brother, Alexis, heir to the throne. Behind the facade lay a carefully concealed secret -- Alexis’ haemophilia, threatening the dynasty’s future (at this time only a male could inherit the throne and he was the only male child). This affliction had been passed down to Alexis from his Great Grandmother Victoria, through his mother the Czarina Alexandra.

This accident of history was to play a major part in Russia’s history. Alexis had to be carried constantly so that he would not fall, thereby causing internal bruising and bleeding. Because of his haemophilia, the bleeding would not stop thus causing death. His distraught mother blamed herself. Her anxiety did not help him. But a peaceful, calm, Siberian woodsman, a mystic (not a monk) called Rasputin was able to tell him stories that would calm him and help him recuperate. Rasputin (a Russian nickname which means "debaucherer," an apt description of his wayward lifestyle) became a major influence at court, particularly during World War I when the Czar went to the front and left his wife in charge at home. Rumors began to circulate about Rasputin and the "German woman."

Sadly, family squabbles were to plunge the world into a major conflict in 1914.

One thing led to another and the eventual result was revolution in March 1917, after three years of war with Germany. A provisional (temporary) liberal government came to power under the leadership of Alexander Kerensky. The Czar’s brother the Grand Duke Michael was supposed to be regent.

A few months later this government was violently overthrown as the Bolshevik branch of the Communist Party seized power. Under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) was set up and Russia plunged into a despotism worse than anything it had experienced under the Romanovs.

A few months later, in the city of Yekaterinburg, the Imperial Family was slaughtered. A message had been sent to the world that there was no turning back, that the revolution would go forward. All the children had to die along with the parents, bringing the dynasty to an abrupt and bloody end.

When all were assembled, Yurovsky (secret police leader) re-entered the room, followed by his entire Cheka squad carrying revolvers. He stepped forward and declared quickly, "Your relations have tried to save you. They have failed and we must now shoot you."

Nicholas, his arms still around Alexis, began to rise from his chair to protect his wife and son. He had just time to say "What. . .?" before Yurovsky pointed his revolver directly at the Czar’s head and fired. Nicholas died instantly. At this signal, the entire squad of executioners began to shoot. Alexandra had time only to raise her hand and make the sign of the cross before she too was killed by a single bullet. Olga, Tatiana and Marie, standing behind their mother, were hit and died quickly . . .

The room, filled with the smoke and stench of gunpowder, became suddenly quiet. Blood was running in streams from the bodies on the floor. Then there was a movement and a low groan. Alexis, lying on the floor still in the arms of the Czar, feebly moved his hand to clutch his father’s coat. Savagely, one of the executioners kicked the Czarevitch in the head with his heavy boot. Yurovsky stepped up and fired two shots into the boy’s ear. Just at that moment, Anastasia, who had only fainted, regained consciousness and screamed. With bayonets and rifle butts, the entire band turned on her. In a moment, she too lay still. It was ended.

-- Nicholas and Alexandra, by Robert K. Massie (1968)

Rumors began circulating that some of them had survived. Only one such rumor persisted, that a lady fished out of a Berlin canal in 1920 was the Grand Duchess Anastasia. This was never proved. Some years after the death of the lady in the early 1980's, the new post-communist rulers of Russia excavated the bones of the Romanovs. DNA analysis proved once and for all that the deceased Anna Anderson could not have been the Romanov Grand Duchess and that the family was completely eradicated in July 1918.

A tragedy for the Romanovs. But an even greater tragedy for the Russian people and even for tens of millions in other nations.

The fall of the Romanov dynasty led directly to the advent of Communism, which then spread through conquest, civil war, or revolution to many other countries. China, Mongolia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, and the nations of eastern Europe.

The Romanovs were not the only dynasty to fall. In the same year that the family were assassinated, the ruling houses of Germany and Austria-Hungary (the Hohenzollerns and the Habsburgs) were overthrown, bringing to an end the old order in Europe.

These were replaced by fledgling democracies, democracies that were not to survive the Great Depression in the early 1930's and that were replaced by dictatorships that made the old monarchies look decidedly liberal. Hitler and Stalin replaced the Kaisers of Germany and Austria and the Czar of Russia. Fascism and communism were the new mass hysterias.

Stalin Other less powerful dictators came to power elsewhere in Europe, including Mussolini in Italy. All of these dictators only proved the wisdom of King Solomon’s words in Eccl. 10:16-17. "Woe to you O land, when your king is a slave" (somebody from the bottom of society suddenly elevated to great power).

Far from improving conditions in Europe, the fall of the dynasties had left the continent unstable and prone to demagogues, eventually leading to a greater conflict.

The rise of the dictators led to World War II. By 1945, Europe lay in ruins and world supremacy had passed to the United States and the Soviet Union, which now lorded over half of the continent. The Cold War between these two super powers had begun.

Fifty years later that "order" too has vanished -- and a vacuum is left.

The fall of the Romanov dynasty led directly to the advent of Communism, which then spread through conquest, civil war, or revolution to many other countries. China, Mongolia, North Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Cuba, and the nations of eastern Europe.

The real tragedy of Anastasia is that the nations of Europe have not been stable since the collapse of the old dynasties that gave the continent COMPARATIVE stability for hundreds of years. I say "comparative" because no government devised by man is going to bring true stability. That will only come with the Kingdom of God ("of the increase of his kingdom there will be no end"). But in comparing human systems, the great dynasties of Europe provided a solid foundation, stability. Stability has not been in much supply in the twentieth century. Many countries have endured conditions similar to ancient Israel described in Judges 21:25 : "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes".

France illustrates this lack of stability very well. ( Genesis 49:4: "Unstable as water, you shall not excel".)

In 1789 the French Revolution overthrew the ancien regime, the royal house of Bourbon. A short time later the new republic plunged into chaos. A military coup finally brought some order. The new dictator was then crowned Emperor Napoleon I. He then went on the rampage throughout Europe. Defeated by the British he died in exile. The old regime was brought back but remained unpopular and was then overthrown again in 1830. A new "people’s monarchy" was set up under the Citizen King Louis Philippe. In 1848 he too was removed. The Second Republic was established. Four years later it was replaced by the Second Empire of Napoleon III. That lasted just over twenty years and was replaced by the Third Republic (1871-1940). World War II saw the collaborationist Vichy France in power, followed by the post-war Fourth Republic which collapsed in chaos in 1958. Finally the Fifth Republic was set up by Charles deGaulle who, before his death, contemplated restoring the monarchy as France seemed to be inherently unstable. The Fifth Republic has now lasted almost 40 years, but has had its stresses and strains.

Such instability is typical of many European nations this century (Italy has had over 50 governments since the end of World War II). Instability makes doing business difficult and makes it very difficult for people to plan for their future.

The nations of Eastern Europe that recently broke away from communism still have not worked out governmental systems that will endure. Even those that have probably could not withstand a major problem, such as an economic depression, the great test many failed to pass sixty years ago.

I mentioned earlier the Time of Troubles of early seventeenth century Russia. The chaos and confusion were only brought to an end when the nobles, the aristocrats that dominated the country and that had been squabbling amongst themselves, agreed to crown Michael Romanov as Czar. They couldn’t agree on anybody older. A neutral young man was chosen, each one of the competing nobles hoping to influence him. So began a dynasty that lasted over three centuries.

The lesson is not lost on Russia’s President Boris Yeltsin. Yeltsin Russia is in chaos. Nobody has been able to bring it the stability that it enjoyed under the Czars. Communist rule was stable but at a great human price. Reports keep surfacing (the latest in this week’s USN&WR, 12/15/97) that Yeltsin may still restore the dynasty, setting up a constitutional form of government comparable with the British system. Conveniently, the new heir to the Romanov throne is a teenage boy, who could only rule with the help of a Regent (Yeltsin?).

In the near future a decision will have to be made on burying the remains of Anastasia’s family. The city of Yekaterinburg wants to keep them as they have boosted the tourist industry. (Ironically, Boris Yeltsin, when Communist Party Secretary of the city over twenty years ago, ordered the demolition of the Ipatiev House, site of the murders, as it had become a shrine to monarchists.) Moscow, the capital of Russia, would like them buried there. But the most likely burial site is St Petersburg, recently renamed for Peter the Great and the magnificent capital city of Imperial Russia. March 1st 1998 has been pencilled in as a possible date for this solemn ceremony.

A state funeral would rejuvenate monarchist feelings, already fairly high. Polls show a sizeable minority of the people would already like the monarchy restored, incredible when all the anti-monarchist propaganda of the last seventy years is taken into account. The state church, recently boosted by new legislation designed to keep out western churches, is talking of canonising Nicholas and Alexandra on the grounds that they died for their faith. The head of the church has also called for a thorough investigation of the murders, to dispel reports that the assassinations were due to a Jewish-Freemason conspiracy.

There could be further repercussions in the event of a restoration.

Other nations may follow suit. Romania’s former King Michael, overthrown by communists in 1947, has already made a number of visits to the country. The son of the former King of Albania returned there earlier this year (and left again). The sons of other former kings have visited their ancestral homes in eastern europe. All enjoy some support amongst the people, but not enough amongst the ruling elites who fear losing some of their power and influence (much of it due to corruption).

The real tragedy of Anastasia is that the nations of Europe have not been stable since the collapse of the old dynasties.

Most of the Eastern European dynasties do not go back far. The nations themselves broke away from the collapsing Ottoman (Turkish) Empire towards the end of the 1870's. The new nations needed to emphasize their sovereignty quickly and one of the best ways to assure independence is by having your own King. As they had none of their own, they imported Kings from Germany. Until 1870 Germany had been disunited with many princes, kings and grand dukes ruling over small territories. Following war with France, Germany united under the Prussian Kaisers. Suddenly royals needed new thrones and the eastern european market was opening up. Later, this was to give Germany major influence throughout the region as many of her princes were suddenly elevated to sit on new thrones (Isa 10:8 "Are not my princes altogether kings?").

Revelation 17:12 is particularly interesting in this context. The prophecied future union of ten kings could simply be ten nations or groups of nations coming together under ten leaders not chosen as yet. But it could be talking of ten literal kings. Most of Europe’s royal families are inter-related. One of the quickest ways to bring the European nations together would be through their royal houses -- one big family reunion, in fact. (Politicians are not beyond using the royals to get what they want.)

Restoring the monarchies would seem like a restoration of Europe’s golden age. It would provide the respectability for European Union that politics has only diminshed. It could, should there be a future time of political instability, help restore order.

Verse 13 goes on to add that these ten kings then "give their power and strength unto the beast".

There is more than one precedent for this.

The German Empire in 1871 was composed of many kings and dukes, who all "voluntarily" gave up their power and independence to the Kaiser of the new Empire. The medieval Holy Roman Empire had an Emperor, under whom were many kings and other nobles ruling over various territories all subordinate to the Empire. The British Empire had kings and paramount chiefs within it, subservient to the King-Emperor in London.

The prophecied future union of ten kings could simply be ten nations or groups of nations coming together under ten leaders not chosen as yet.

Before the collapse of the dynasties in 1918 European monarchs ruled over nations populated by diverse peoples. The Emperor of Austria was also King of Hungary. Included amongst his subjects were Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Slovenes, Serbs, Italians and others. The collapse of the empires led to these people wanting their own independent nations, creating new nation states in middle europe that were so weak they could not stand up to Hitler or Stalin. The Emperor Franz Joseph II had predicted this himself in 1904, "The Monarchy is not an artificial creation but an organic body. It is a place of refuge, an asylum for all those fragmented nations scattered over central Europe who, if left to their own resources would lead a pitiful existence, becoming the playthings of more powerful neighbours." (See "Twilight of the Habsburgs" by Alan Palmer, page 349.)

The European Union today, like the old dynastic empires of Europe and the Holy Roman Empire before them, is enabling nation states to come together for greater ecnomic, political and even military security. It is the perfect solution for preserving national identity within the warmth and security of a new super-power.

The hope of the founders of the EU was that the nations of Europe would never go to war again. This century has seen Europe devastated by war, two of them world wars that left 90% of Europe’s heritage destroyed and the continent reduced from world dominance to second and third class status. Nothing has yet filled the void left by the fall of the dynasties. Anastasia’s bloody end, along with the other members of her family, is a type of the tragedy that has befallen all of Europe. In the minds of many Europeans, the European Union will bring this tragic century to a close. Scripture, however, shows it will bring about yet another major conflagration, culminating in the end of European civilization and the return of Jesus Christ as the Supreme Monarch, the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords".

This article is extracted from the second issue of Perspectives, a new magazine devoted to examining Bible prophecy in the light of Matthew 24. You may obtain a copy may be obtained by writing to: Perspectives, P.O.Box 153, Okemos, MI 48805-0153.

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