The 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Russian imperial family in July 17.
The victims included former emperor Nicholas II, his wife, former empress Alexandra, and their five children, the former grand duchesses Maria, Tatiana, Olga, Anastasia and the tsarevich (heir to the throne) Alexei.
By the time of the Romanov murders, the country was careening from revolution to full-scale civil war with the Bolsheviks (the communists headed by Lenin) on one side and the White Russians (pro-restoration of the monarchy) on the other.
Nicholas II had been forced to abdicate as emperor and autocrat because of his failure to bring about needed reforms, preferring the status quo. Complicating this was the imperial couple’s attachment to the charismatic mystic, Grigori Rasputin, whom it was felt, helped their son Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia.
Unfortunately for them, Rasputin began to influence the running of the government through the empress. The ex-monk was eventually murdered by conspirators that included two members of the Romanov family in December 1916, less than a year before the outbreak of the revolution.
The tragic fate of the Romanovs has inspired many books, films, plays and documentaries on the subject. If you are interested in learning more, your library can help.
Robert K. Massie is one of the foremost Russian historians and has written acclaimed books on the subject.
“Nicholas and Alexandra” is an excellent portrait of the imperial couple, who despite their lackluster leadership, were warm and affectionate parents. When the former Soviet archives were opened in the 1990s, Massie obtained access, and with the documents found, wrote “The Romanovs: The Final Chapter,” which details the final days of the family and their final resting place.
Russian playwright and noted historian Edvard Radzinsky’s “The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II” also explores the life of the ill-fated Nicholas II through private diaries and interviews with ordinary Russians who felt free to contribute their own recollections. Particularly chilling are accounts of the imperial family’s last days straight from the mouths of their executioners.
The enigmatic Rasputin has inspired many books, whether fiction and non-fiction. Greg King penned a biography of one of the mystic’s assassins, “The Man Who Killed Rasputin: Prince Felix Youssoupov and The Murder That Helped Bring Down the Russian Empire”, telling the story of Youssoupov (sometimes spelled “Yusupov”), who was the scion of one of the wealthiest and most prestigious families in Imperial Russia.
He was married to Princess Irina, niece of Nicholas II. After the murder, Youssopov and his wife were exiled by Nicholas II, ironically saving their lives. More recent books of interest are Simon Sebag Montefiore’s “The Romanovs: 1613-1918”, a comprehensive history of Romanov rulers from Mikhail I to Nicholas II, and Catherine Merridale’s “Lenin on the Train” is an engrossing account of how Lenin returned to a Russia in the throes of revolution and World War I raging outside its eastern border. Merridale tells the story of how Lenin’s train journey forever changed the world.
David Breakfield is a reference librarian at the Downtown Central Library. Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday in the Bradenton Herald. You can access the library at mymanatee.org/library.