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6 People Who Claimed to Have Been Romanovs

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In 1917, the House of Romanov had been ruling Russia continuously for more than 300 years when the family was overthrown by the Bolsheviks and Vladimir Lenin. On this date (or possibly yesterday—there’s a debate about exactly when it happened) in 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, along with his wife Alexandra and their five children, met a brutal end: they were shot and stabbed in the basement of the house where they were being held by the Bolsheviks, and the Romanovs’ extended family were either killed or exiled. Nicholas and his family were the last to hold the throne, and their deaths signified a permanent end to the royal family.

Over the years, a number of people have come forward pretending to be exiled members of the Romanov family. Some merely wanted to be famous, while others were convinced that they truly had royal blood coursing through their veins. Today, all members of the immediate family have been identified through DNA evidence as having been killed. 

1. Marga Boodts // Claimed to be Olga

Marga (left); Photo from alexanderpalace // Olga (right); Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

After Marga Boodts married a German officer in 1926, she shared a shocking secret: That she was actually Grand Duchess Olga of the Romanovs. Olga was the first daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra, and her hand in marriage was considered very valuable.

Boodts claimed she'd kept the secret because she wasn’t allowed to tell anyone. She said that she was being supported by her uncle, Kaiser Wilhelm II, until his death, and she promised him she wouldn’t tell anyone for “the protection of [her] own life.” 

She went public with her claims when Anna Anderson (see below) decided to come out with her own claims of Romanov ancestry. Boodts wanted to destroy Anderson’s credibility while supporting her own. She even wrote a book about everything she had supposedly gone through as a run-away Romanov, but it was never published.

Boodts died in 1976 and was buried under the name “Olga Nikolaevna”; the grave was supposedly ruined in 1995.

2. Larissa Tudor // Rumored to be Tatiana

Larissa's grave (left); Photo from telus.net // Tatiana (right); Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Larissa Tudor married Owen Frederick Morton Tudor in 1923 and lived a very uneventful life with her husband until she died three years later, when she was just 28. Larissa never claimed to be Tatiana, the second daughter in the Romanov family, but rumors arose after her death.

When Larissa died, she left Owen with a large inheritance; its origins were unknown. More than 60 years later, author Michael Occleshaw discovered some inconsistencies in Larissa’s story. He found that she was buried under the name “Larissa Feodorovna,” even though her marriage certificate said “Haouk.” She looked similar to Tatiana and some neighbors, when seeing portraits of Tatiana, said the woman was Larissa. 

Occleshaw wrote a book detailing the events and how Tatiana would have escaped and how she could have come to be known as Larissa, although his theory was later disproven. 

3 and 4. “Granny” Alina and Ceclava Czapska // Said to be Maria by their grandsons

Alina and Ceclava never publicly claimed to be the third daughter of the tsar, Maria, themselves, but both of their grandsons later said they were without a doubt the Grand Duchess.

Alina (left); Photo from alexanderpalace // Maria (right); Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Granny Alina, according to her grandson, mysteriously showed up in South Africa and supposedly told her family there that she was a princess, but couldn’t tell anyone else out of fear of being shipped back to Russia. She died in 1969, and, in 2004, her grandson took her claims public. George Negus Tonight, an Australian program that focused on current events in the early 2000s, ran a show on it, and while the family was still investigating, the story was more or less closed.

Ceclava (left); Photo from alexanderpalace // Maria (right); Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Alexis Brimeyer also claimed that his grandmother was Maria, but his claims were taken significantly less seriously because he had a history of faking noble titles. He started with “His Serene Highness Prince Khevenhüller-Abensberg,” which he quickly gave up after he was sued by the actual Princess Khevenhüller.

After the legal dust settled, he took on several other names before claiming that his grandmother was actually Maria and that made him a Romanov as well. Brimeyer died in 1995, but not before he also laid claim to the Serbian throne. Until 2007, these conspiracies didn't seem especially farfetched, because there were a son and daughter missing from the skeletons discovered. But that year, the missing Romanovs were discovered, proving both Brimeyer's and Alina’s claims false.  

5. Anna Anderson, a.k.a. Franziska Shanzkowska // Claimed to be Anastasia

Anna (left); Getty Images // Anastasia (right); Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Since 1918, dozens of women have claimed to be Anastasia, the fourth and youngest daughter in the Romanov family, but Anderson is by far the most famous imposter. Her story begins when she tried to commit suicide in Berlin in 1920 and refused to tell anyone her name. Two years later, she began telling people that she was the Grand Duchess.

Some people who knew the Grand Duchess backed up her claims, including family friends and Russian officials. But when relatives of the tsar investigated Anderson’s claims, they discovered that she was actually Franziska Shanzkowska, a woman who had suffered a series of tragic events and had not been heard from since around the time Anderson was found in the canal. Her family later denied her when Nazis threatened to throw her in jail if she was found to be Shanzkowska.

In 1928, she came to live in the United States at the expense of Xenia Leeds, a Russian princess who was distantly related to the Romanovs and living with her American husband. After a failed attempt to claim the Romanov estate, she moved from place to place before ending up in Germany. Once there, she again tried to get ahold of the estate and failed. She returned to the United States in 1968, where she married a wealthy man, and spent her final years in an institutional care facility.

Anderson claimed she was Anastasia until her death in 1984, but DNA evidence proved otherwise in the '90s.

6. Michael Goleniewski // Claimed to be Alexei

Michael (left); Photo from alexanderpalace // Alexei (right); Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Alexei was the youngest child and only son of Nicholas II, and a real problem for the communist regime in Russia. Like Anastasia, Alexei had quite a few claims to his name.

Michael Goleniewski lived a much less exciting life than Anderson, likely because so few believed his claims. He was born in Poland, and worked as a spy for the Soviet Union while employed for the Polish Secret Service, but he ended up working for the CIA and MI5

Goleniewski defected to America in 1961 and was made a citizen by a private bill passed by both houses of Congress. Once in the States, he began to claim that he was Tsarevich Alexei and that the rest of the family was alive and in hiding somewhere in Europe. In 1963Goleniewski had a reunion with another "Anastasia," a Rhode Island imposter named Eugenia Smith.

Unfortunately for Goleniewski, documents proved he was born and raised in Poland and 18 years younger than Alexei. The tsarevich also had hemophilia, a blood disorder that makes clotting difficult, which was never confirmed in Goleniewski. 

The CIA was not happy with Goleniewski for faking something so huge and ended his employment. Still, the wannabe Romanov claimed to know about the tsar’s money and even managed to spark an investigation. Like Anderson, he claimed to be Alexei until his death. 

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History
A Brief History of Time
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You may have heard that time is a social construct, but that doesn’t stop it from having consequences in the real world. If you show up to a party 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, you’ll likely be the first one there, and if you arrive to an interview 10 minutes late, you likely won’t get the job. But how did humanity agree on when and how to observe certain times of day?

In their new video, the It’s Okay to Be Smart team explains how humans “invented” the modern concept of time. The increments we use to measure time, like seconds, minutes, and hours, come from the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Early clocks, like sundials and water clocks, were pretty crude, so people couldn’t pinpoint a time like noon down to the second even if they wanted to. But as clocks became more accurate, the problem wasn’t being unable to tell time accurately, but deciding which clocks qualified as “accurate” in the first place.

In 1884, President Chester A. Arthur organized the International Meridian Conference with the intention of deciding on a uniform definition of time to be followed around the world. The attendees ended up choosing the meridian running through Greenwich, England as the official Prime Meridian, and all clocks would be measured against the clock in the town’s observatory. Greenwich Mean Time is still used as the standard world time today.

Check out the full story below.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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