The Mystery of Anastasia

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12305

What really happened in Yekaterinburg? What would make the Bolsheviks happy? Research the story of a real-life princess who may or may not have "lived happily ever after," and write your own ending!



learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Imagine if a princess were separated from her family and lived the life of a normal young woman. How could she convince people that she was really a princess? Does that sound like a fairy tale? But, it's true!

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Crisco

Image by Boissonnas et Eggler, St. Petersburg, Nevsky 24. - Bain News Service, publisher, via Wikimedia Commons, is from the George Grantham Bain collection at the Library of Congress  (ID ggbain.38336) and has no known copyright restrictions.

Once upon a time, there was a princess.

How many stories start out that way? Usually, those stories end with words like, “They lived happily ever after.” This lesson is about a princess whose story did not have that kind of ending: Anastasia. Anastasia was the youngest daughter of the last Russian Tsar, or emperor, Nicholas II, of the Romanov family.

To understand their story, try to locate important places in the story of the Romanovs. Use the map below, and point to these locations:

  • Russia The country where the story of the Romanov family took place
  • St. Petersburg The capital city of the Romanov’s Russian Empire
  • Moscow The capital city of Bolshevik Russia (the people who took over after the Romanovs)
  • Yekaterinburg The place where the Romanovs were taken and executed

Take a look at this map and see if you can find them!

map of Russia

Image by Peter Fitzgerald, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 2.5 license.

The Romanovs ruled the Russian Empire from the year 1613 until 1917, just over 300 years. The head of the family and the ruler of the country was known as the Tsar, also spelled “Csar,” or emperor. There were many important rulers of the House of Romanov, including Catherine the Great. Well, Catherine was really only a Romanov by marriage. The Tsars ruled over Russia from the capital city of St. Petersburg.

Trouble started in the late 1800s. Most of the Russian people were living in terrible poverty. The rulers kept getting the country involved in foolish wars, like the Crimean War and a war with Japan. A group of Russians rose up against the rulers in 1905. Tsar Nicholas II made changes to the government to try to make the people happy once again, but it was too late.

Revolution broke out in 1917. Nicholas II abdicated his throne, meaning he gave up his role as emperor. A group of revolutionaries known as the Bolsheviks took over the country. The rule of the Romanovs was over, but for the Bolsheviks, that was not enough.

Take a look over the story of the Romanovs that you just read and discuss these questions with your parent or teacher:

  • About how long did the Romanovs rule Russia?
  • When did trouble start for the Romanov family?
  • Who took over Russia from the Tsars?

So far, this seems like an ordinary chapter of history: emperors, wars, and revolutions. There is a great mystery to the story, though.

In the Got It? section, learn about the mystery of what happened to Anastasia, the last princess of the Romanovs!

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