Friday, January 21, 2011

The Romanov Dynasty

The Romanov Dynasty was to rule Imperial Russia from 1613 to 1917. It was, as they say, interesting times.  Years ago, before there was any inkling of future ties to Ukraine and Russia, I began reading Russian history, simply because the country has always fascinated me. Three excellent books introduced me to the Romanovs: 
Peter the Great by Robert K MassieCatherine, Empress of all the Russias by Vincent Kronin;  and
The Shadow of the Winter Palace; Russia's drift to revolution 1925 - 1917 by Edward Crankshaw.  I do need to reread the last one as it has been a while.

Having waded through 1050 pages of Tolstoy's War and Peace followed by Richard Riehn's 1812: Napoleon's Russian Campaign, I figured I needed some "lighter reading" so I tackled Imperial Legend by Alexis Troubetskoy, a biography of Alexander I who reigned as Tsar from 1801, on the assassination of his father, Paul son of Catherine the Great, until his "death" in 1825.  The book, written by a descendant of high ranking Russian nobility (one of whom was one of the Decembrists) explores the very strong circumstantial evidence that Alexander I, with the connivance of his family staged his death to escape the throne as abdication was impossible for a reigning Tsar.  He allegedly reappeared some years later in Siberia as Feodor Kuzmich, a wandering mendicant or "starets" who died in Tomsk in 1864.  The murder of his father and his indirect involvement preyed on Alexander's mind all his life and it is argued that in his desire for peace of mind and true salvation of his soul, that he "disappeared" at the peak of his power and spent the rest of his life as a hermit, in penance.

Alexander I was succeeded by his younger brother Nicholas I, followed by Alexander II and III and finally Nicholas II, whose 1967 biography, Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K Massie, I am working my way through just now.

An interesting note:  the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg where Tsar Nicholas II, the last of the Romanovs and his family spent their final days before their brutal murders in 1918 bears the same name as the Ipatiev Monastery where Mikhail I, the first of the Romanov dynasty, hid out during The Time of Troubles


  1. From the current trends in Russia today, it would appear that they too are hard into repeating history.

    What is it about us humans? We just love making the same mistakes over and over again.

  2. I keep wondering how much of this tendency to repeat history is due to flaws hard wired into us. Religions of all kinds from Muslim to Baptist to Communism have tried to make us a better race and failed miserably every time. Fear, greed, complacency, laziness, love and pride make the world go round.

  3. Seven deadly sins? Or some such.

    Thanks for the essay. I knew there was some reason I liked you immediately.

    I was a reader of Russian history since grade school. When sputnik went up I just had to figure out what other civilization had reached that level.

    Of course, I became a Trotskyite later, and now I'm off to look for those books you listed.


    Love ya!


  4. You must be having a hard time sleeping to read that "light" reading.
    All I know about Russia is that they seem to have had a hard time of it for too many years. When the Russians first started coming to our area in the early 90s they sure looked like they'd been through a lot.

  5. Suzan, always glad to find another reader of Russian history. What have you read and what do you recommend? Any of Anna Politkovskaya's works? The Russians have only just escaped a totalitarian government with little regard for the law and seem to be headed back that way. At least Putin's government doesn't pretend to be too interested in social equality.

  6. Demeur, I am sure they had been. the first few years of post-communist "government" were pretty tough, especially in the cities. There was no food, there was no nothing until the market began to sort itself out. In Ukraine, the villagers only grew enough food for themselves traditionally and it took a couple years before they were growing enough extra to sell into the city. Hunger was not unknown in Kyiv, Moscow, Sankt Peterburg etc.


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