Revisiting the Romanovs

The fall of Russia’s last royal family inspires intrigue in a traveller, as does its elusive princess Anastasia.  
Revisiting the Romanovs
In Russia, the Romanov myth endures. Photo by: Photo 12/Contributor/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

It’s a quiet spot in the Koptyaki Forest. The breeze carries a soothing earthy aroma, the calm of the clearing punctuated by the calls of magpies. But beneath the stillness, the forest is haunted by a dark memory.

Hours after midnight on July 17, 1918, a Fiat truck pulled over here, in the murky recesses of this Ural forest. Seven blood-soaked bodies were offloaded, doused in acid, and dumped down a mine shaft. It’s a gruesome fate, and even more shocking when you realise this misfortune befell those who were, not too long ago, the most powerful family in Russia—the Romanovs. Today, Ganina Yama, where the mine shaft used to be, is a lily-dusted monastery complex with seven onion-domed Orthodox-style wooden chapels, one dedicated to each member of the imperial family. This includes the last Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children: Tsarevich Alexei, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and their youngest daughter Anastasia Romanov. It is no secret that Anastasia’s rumoured escape has inspired movies, musicals, books, and documentaries for over 101 years, but (spoiler alert!) Anastasia did not escape the Bolshevik execution squad. This did nothing to discourage a trail of conspiracy theories, which has sent many, including me, down the Romanov rabbit hole.

 

To read the full story, subscribe to National Geographic Traveller India here.

  • Aanchal Anand is a travel addict who has been to over 50 countries across 5 continents. When she isn't travelling, she is typically coaxing her two cats off the laptop keyboard so she can get some writing done.

Psst. Want a weekly dose of travel inspiration in your inbox?