Genetics Case Study

Early twentieth century Russia was in great turmoil as the Bolshevik Revolution ended 300 years of monarchical rule. Tsar Nicholas Romanov, his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children were placed under house arrest, but disappeared in the summer of 1918. Rumors abounded about their possible execution or escape from Russia.

Two years later, a young woman named Anna Anderson claimed that she was Anastasia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. There was much controversy surrounding Anna’s claim. Some believed she was a fraud, others that she was indeed the lost Princess Anastasia. Anna remained steadfast in her claim until her death in 1984.

In 1991, the remains of nine skeletons, five male and four female, were exhumed from a shallow grave east of Moscow. Evidence from nuclear DNA showed that three of the young women were related and that one of the men and one of the women were their parents.

Further evidence from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) showed that one of the women could be positively identified as Tsarina Alexandra and that one of the men was indeed Tsar Nicholas II. The other three women had mtDNA that matched that of the Tsarina’s and were identified as three of the Tsar’s children. Anastasia and her younger brother, Alexei, were not among those found in the grave. This led to further speculation about Anastasia’s possible escape from Russia after her parents were killed.

In 2007, an additional grave was found near that exhumed in 1991. It contained the remains of a teenage girl and boy. These remains were mtDNA tested, as well as samples from Anna Anderson, uncovered from hospital storage long after her death.

Analysis of the mtDNA supported the hypothesis that Princess Anastasia had been killed with her family in 1918.

Which statements support this hypothesis? The mtDNA from Anna Anderson matched that of Tsarina Alexandra. The mtDNA of Anna Anderson bore no resemblance to that of Tsarina Alexandra. Tsarina Alexandria’s mtDNA was found to be a match to that of the teenage girl. The mtDNA from the remains of the teenage girl matched that of Anna Anderson. The mtDNA from the remains of the teenage girl matched that of Tsar Nicholas II.

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