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Romanov Wednesday, 15 July, 1998, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Exploring Anastasia
Anastasia Romanov
Mystery of Anastasia: now on the Net
On July 16, 1918, Nicholas Romanov, former Tsar of the Russian Empire, his wife Alexandra and their five children, are summoned from their beds and ordered to the basement of the Siberian house where they are being held as prisoners. Their Communist captors tell them they will be photographed. Posed for a portrait, they face the cellar door.

Four Romanov daughters
OTMA (Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia) are key to solving the puzzle
But instead of a photograph, 11 Bolshevik soldiers enter, raise their pistols and fire. The Tsar and his wife die quickly. Their teenage daughters, Anastasia and her sisters, do not. Sewn inside their clothes are diamonds, sapphires and other jewels. Meant to be bartered for freedom, the carefully hidden stones now act as bullet-proof vests, deflecting the fire. Salvation was temporary. Bayonets soon silence their screams and scatter the gems across the floor. The family was dead.

So begins the Internet game Clicking Anastasia - the latest exploration of the secrets behind the death of the last Russian Tsar.

The goal is to discover what happened to the Romanov fortune. Was it lost? Or hidden? And if hidden, where? To find the answers, users must sift through historical documents and family photographs as well as stay on alert for KGB agents and gold diggers who will betray them.

Nicholas II
Nicholas II - still a mystery
The subject may not be new. But even as Russia prepares to bury the Tsar's bones -and literally lay the story to rest - the tragedy of the Romanovs continues to capture public imagination and inspire a raft of books, movies and documentaries.

Still, Clicking Anastasia is special. Its beauty is not its intricate design as a mystery but the way it stays true to the facts.

"I like creating digital experience that recreate history," said Andrew Nelson, Clicking Anastasia's creator. "In this case it was easy. The facts about the Romanovs are much more interesting than any fiction we could come up with."

Not everyone feels that way. The 1956 film, Anastasia starring Ingrid Bergman, lent credence to the case of Anna Anderson, the most famous claimant to the Russian throne. (DNA tests later scientifically proved that Ms Anderson, who spoke no Russian, was not a Romanov.)

Evil Rasputin - drowned not poisoned
Just last year, historians and film critics went wild when Twentieth Century Fox released its animated version of the story. Although it is called Anastasia, the film addles dates, kills off the ghoulish Rasputin by drowning (rather than poison) and advances the plot through a fairytale love story. In sum, critics say, it misses what is most compelling about the Romanovs' tragedy: it actually happened.

"In Hollywood, where you are spending millions of dollars, people get scared," said Mr Nelson. "They go to the tried and true formula that they are sure will sell."

Clicking Anastasia certainly has no formula. Who you trust influences how your adventure ends.

But perhaps that is appropriate. For today, debate about what actually happened in 1918 continues to rage.

Robert K Massie, author of The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, which charts the search for, and identification of, the family bones, said people were kept fascinated by "the horror of their deaths, the savagery, the bestiality of taking these people down into the cellar and massacring them".

"Nothing in this story is final, even today."

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