Anastasia and the Grand Burial Place of the Romanovs

Before St. Petersburg became what it is today, the finest of all Russian cities full of magnificent palaces, grand churches, and impressive monuments, the center of power lay in the citadel that Peter the Great himself founded, the Fortress of Peter and Paul.

It was from here that the Russian Empire exercised its constabulary might; using the island-fortress as a prison for political opponents and execution site for those the empire deemed too dangerous to live. Despite that rather grim reputation; however, the fortress contains what is perhaps the greatest treasure of the former Russian Empire.

For it is here that all the Russian Emperors and Empresses, Princes and Princesses are entombed.

* And for contemporary standards, there is no more famous Russian royal family than that of Tsar Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia.

* Who along with his whole family was executed by the Bolsheviks during the revolution that finally ended Imperial rule; an execution that included the Tsar's famous (or infamous) daughter, Princess Anastasia (see upper right tomb)

* Decades after the execution of the Royal Family, rumors persisted of Princess Anastasia's survival, with plays, television series, and movies immortalizing the tragic story; enduring despite the negative forensic and DNA results gathered from the claimants.

* Nonetheless, Anastasia and her whole family are entombed in the Peter and Paul Cathedral, located in the heart of the Fortress.

* Built in 1712, the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul is St. Petersburg's oldest landmark, and contains the tombs of all Russian Emperors and Empresses save two. The tombs are spaciously laid-out, labelled, and ornately decorated.

* Emperors entombed include Tsar Peter the Great, founder of St. Petersburg, who led the modernization and westernization of Russia's military, cultural, and governmental institutions; single-handedly building Russia up to be a noble European power in his lifetime.

* Peter's wife and heir, Catherine I, who became the first female Tsarina of Russia (a leadership trend which would continue), and who, during her lifetime, commanded the largest army in Europe.

* And their granddaughter, the legendary Catherine the Great, whose efforts made the Empire into one of the great European powers of that period, and whose reign is considered as the Golden Age of Russia or era of the Russian Enlightenment.

* The Cathedral itself is as grand as its esteemed inhabitants, with gold decorating every wall, pillar, and corner.

* And the tombs of the other Tsars and Tsarinas organized to showcase over 200 years of Romanov Rule.

* The Romanovs were the Russian royal family through over 300 years of its history.

* Ruling at the same time as other legendary European houses: Hanover (UK), Bourbon (France and Spain), Wittelsbach (Bavaria), Hohenzollern (Prussia), and Habsburg (Austria-Hungary).

* At its greatest height, the Russian Empire reigned over the land that is now part of the Russian Federation, the Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Poland, Finland, and Alaska.

* Which is a HUGE tract of land! It was incredible that they were able to keep it all together for so lang.

* A view of the Cathedral from the outside with its splendid bell tower, the tallest Orthodox bell tower in the world.

* During the Bolshevik Revolution, the fortress, with its role as a prison and execution ground, came to signify the oppression, torture, and suffering that the regular folk endured thanks to the "evil" monarchists.

* Such dramatic ads!

* After the overthrow of the Tsar, the fortress became a museum and eventually one of the city's top tourist attractions; a role which it faithfully continues to serve to this day!

* Also inside the fortress, is the St. Petersburg Mint, once responsible for creating the gold coins of the Empire. It continues to operate to this day, minting ceremonial coins, medals, and badges.

* The sandy coast surrounding the island-fortress used to signify doom, terror, and incarceration; today sunbathers have converted the entire area into the city's favorite beach.

* Ode to an Empire.


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