The secret script of the AETA Federation

Russian Tsarina Alexandra was a member of a poetic secret society that used a cipher. Do my readers know more about this?

Deutsche Version

Today’s topic was once again brought to my attention by a reader – six years ago, in fact. Admittedly, it was only now, while rummaging through old blog articles, that I realized that this was an exciting topic. Better late than never.

The encrypted diary

On April 11, 2016, I reported on a coded entry in the diary of the Tsar’s daughter Olga Romanova (1895-1918).

Quelle/Source: The Romanow Family

Olga was the older sister of the somewhat better known Anastasia and a daughter of the last Russian Tsar Nicholas.

Quelle/Source: Wikimedia Commons

Like her four siblings and her parents, Olga was killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Quelle/Source: Wikimedia Commons

I have also blogged about a coded telegram reporting this murder. Ralf Bülow, Torbjörn Andersson and Thomas Bosbach have solved the mystery damas.

With the diary excerpt shown above, I wasn’t sure at first if it was encrypted at all. I would also have thought a fancy writing was possible. But again, my readers helped me out. Thomas Bosbach eventually figured out that it was indeed encrypted, and a simple letter-by-letter substitution at that. Here is the plain text:

ласковый. молодой улыбался.
радовался. голубчик дорогой.

Translated, that means something like:

Tenderly. The young man smiled.
He was pleased. My dear, dear one.


Die Geheimschrift des Geheimbunds

Thomas Bosbach found out something else at that time, which is interesting for this blog. Unfortunately, I did not pay attention to it at that time.

It is about Olga’s mother, the Tsarina Alexandra. She was originally called Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt and came from Germany. According to the book “Briefe der Zarin Alexandra von Russland an ihre Jugendfreundin Toni Becker-Bracht” by Lotte Hoffmann-Kuhnt, Alexandra founded a poetic secret society in 1887 with three friends, which was dedicated to the exchange of poems. The society was called AETA and was still named after the first letters of the names of the four members. The letters that the friends sent to each other were often signed “AETA, until death “.

The AETA League also developed a cipher. This was used in letters and in a friendship album. In addition, the tsarina kept a poetry booklet, which she encoded in this way. The above book shows the following excerpt from it:

Quelle/Source: Briefe der Zarin Alexandra von Russland: an ihre Jugendfreundin Toni Becker-Bracht

The mentioned book also provides part of the plain text. It is written in German:

Erinnerungen an unsre Gefühl[e]
für meine teure + vielgeliebte Freundin
Toni Becker
von der stets treuen Bundesgenossin, +
Schwester nach Liebe
Alix von Hessen

Gedichte über die Liebe
Kein Feuer, keine Kohle brennet so heiss
Als heimliche Liebe von der niemand weiss

If I see it correctly, the lower right part of the ciphertext in the said book is not decoded. Perhaps a reader can help here.

I would also be interested to know if it is possible to get hold of other texts of the AETA Bund that are encrypted in this way. The friendship album in question is probably kept in the Hessian State Archives. If any reader has any other tips, I would appreciate it.

If you want to add a comment, you need to add it to the German version here.

Further reading: Russian crypto mystery solved by a reader of this blog


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