Russian Mystery Is Finally Unraveled

Missing Romanov bodies found.

ByABC News via via logo

Nov. 26, 2007 — -- One of the great mysteries of the 20th century has been solved after nearly 90 years.

In 1918, revolutionaries brutally murdered the last Russian czar and his family. But the remains of one daughter, thought to be Anastasia, and his only son, Aleksei, were never found. The mystery fed countless legends, impostors and Hollywood films. Now after years of searching, the puzzle has finally been solved by amateurs.

The Romanovs were the most beautiful and privileged family on the globe.

But during the Russian Revolution, the daughters -- Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia -- and one boy, Aleksei, were killed by the Bolsheviks, along with their mother and father, Czar Nicholas II.

On July 17, 1918, the family was lined up in the basement as if posing for a photo and then were shot and stabbed. It was a grisly and chaotic scene by all accounts, with bullets bouncing off the women because they had their corsets lined with jewelry.

The killers mutilated and burned the bodies so they couldn't be identified and then buried them in a wooded area. Because the bodies couldn't be found, speculation continued that some family members may have survived.

For years, people all over the world claimed to be a Romanov survivor, most famously a woman named Anna Anderson, who went to her death insisting that she was the real Anastasia, who was 17 in 1918, despite DNA evidence to the contrary.

When the remains of the Romanovs were found and exhumed in 1991, the mystery only intensified. The bodies of one of the daughters and son Alexei, 13, were missing.

The mystery, however, seems to have finally been unraveled. A group of amateur sleuths pored over documented archives of the murders.

One of the main killers, Yakov Yurovsky, said he had buried two corpses separately from the other nine bodies. People had searched near the area where the bodies were initially dug up, but found nothing.

The sleuths focused on a Russian phrase Yurovsky used -- "tut zhe," which can mean "nearby."

They figured out that this meant the graves were in the general area of the first. Below a cover of trees, they did what so many before them could not -- they found the final two Romanov bodies, believed to be Prince Aleksei and his sister Maria, who was 19 at the time of the murders.

Now the two bodies have been removed from the site for DNA testing. Hardly a romantic ending for a story that has blossomed in the public's imagination for years, but still the end of chapter from long ago.

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