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The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II

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Russian playwright and historian Radzinsky mines  sources never before available to create a  fascinating portrait of the monarch, and a minute-by-minute account of his terrifying last days.  Updated for the paperback edition.


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Russian playwright and historian Radzinsky mines  sources never before available to create a  fascinating portrait of the monarch, and a minute-by-minute account of his terrifying last days.  Updated for the paperback edition.

30 review for The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bob Mayer

    I read this a long time ago, but had to pull it off the shelf for the book I'm finishing writing; Time Patrol: Ides of March, because one of the six missions in my book is on 15 March 1917. The day Nicholas II abdicated. This book is an extraordinarily detailed account of how the events unfolded. Some don't believe the author's claim that the execution of the family was ordered by Siberian Bolsheviks, but new evidence supports that. While I'm focusing on only one day, and not even on the Tsar, b I read this a long time ago, but had to pull it off the shelf for the book I'm finishing writing; Time Patrol: Ides of March, because one of the six missions in my book is on 15 March 1917. The day Nicholas II abdicated. This book is an extraordinarily detailed account of how the events unfolded. Some don't believe the author's claim that the execution of the family was ordered by Siberian Bolsheviks, but new evidence supports that. While I'm focusing on only one day, and not even on the Tsar, but rather the Tsarina in the Alexander Palace with her four daughters and son, what really strikes me the more I research, is how that abdication might be the most significant events of the 20th Century if you look at long term impact. Even to this day. It's definitely in the top 5. Also, while he focuses on the Tsar, I'm fascinated with Rasputin's role via the Tsarina. Actually, the icon that was supposedly on Rasputin's body, signed by the Tsarina and her four daughters has intrigued me. No one seems to know where it ended up. Which is, of course, fodder for fiction. If you want a detailed breakdown of the breakdown of Tsarist Russia, this a very worthwhile book.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    While providing a tidbit here and there that I wasn't aware of, this book was distasteful to me. It reads like a sensationalist journal rather than a historian's account. The Massie book on Nicholas II was much more concise and professional, and much less hysterical--Massie was not looking for strange patterns and mysticisms, as Radzinsky seems to have been. Skip this one, as it is not really worth your time, and offers very, very little new on a subject that has been written on by many others.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Denis

    One of the greatest books about Russia's past history. Surprisingly very moving, but also very well written, this massive book is filled with such extravagance, drama, love, adventures and heartbreaks of all kinds that it reads more like fiction than real history - and yet, everything is true, to the last details (and Radzinsky has done an amazing research job). Truly a superb book, one of the very best and most interesting written about this period. Radzinsky remains impartial and objective, an One of the greatest books about Russia's past history. Surprisingly very moving, but also very well written, this massive book is filled with such extravagance, drama, love, adventures and heartbreaks of all kinds that it reads more like fiction than real history - and yet, everything is true, to the last details (and Radzinsky has done an amazing research job). Truly a superb book, one of the very best and most interesting written about this period. Radzinsky remains impartial and objective, and he does show how life at the court of Russia, the influence of the empress, the errors of the tsar could only end in disaster, yet it's hard not to feel some kind of sympathy for the royal family - especially for the children. The horrific ending is narrated like a thriller and is mindboggling, even when one already knows what happened. The book echoes the tragedy of a doomed family as well as the tragedy of an entire nation.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    I read this quite a while ago, but I really enjoyed it. Based largely on documents released by the Russian government during the 90's and on journals entries from members of Nicholas II and his family, the author simultaneously unravels and adds to the mystery surrounding the last years of the tsar's life and the execution of his family during the Russian revolution.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Back when I was a real person, I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, and I used to trawl all the town's bookstores looking for books about Nicholas, with whom I became fascinated during the summer of 2008 and outright obsessed with over the course of 2009. Caveat Emptor was a great place to go because I always found heaps of Russian books there; a George R.R. Martin lookalike manned the counter, and the entire place was floor to ceiling with books, an entire maze of bookshelves placed as close togeth Back when I was a real person, I lived in Bloomington, Indiana, and I used to trawl all the town's bookstores looking for books about Nicholas, with whom I became fascinated during the summer of 2008 and outright obsessed with over the course of 2009. Caveat Emptor was a great place to go because I always found heaps of Russian books there; a George R.R. Martin lookalike manned the counter, and the entire place was floor to ceiling with books, an entire maze of bookshelves placed as close together as possible. Although R.R. Martin's doppelganger tended to price these things rather high, I scored plenty of great stuff including The File on the Tsar and Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra, both completely stuffed with newspaper clippings and magazine articles about the Romanovs. Tucked inside The File on the Tsar, between the endpaper and the back cover, I found a three-page folded article from a 1992 issue of People magazine, a review of this book. Well, of course I immediately set out to get it from the library, but it was still awhile before I got around to reading it. I was not disappointed. Not only is it one of the best books I’ve ever read about Nicholas II, but it's the only one I'm aware of actually written by a Russian. Э́двард Станисла́вович Радзи́нский was born in Moscow on September 23, 1936. It seems obvious he was deeply involved in the theater throughout his life, the son and son-in-law of playwrights and husband of an actress, and he is himself a playwright as well. However, I hazard to say he is mainly known as a very popular author of history. A historian by training, he has written some 40 books, including biographies of famous Russians that include a level of research English-speaking writers have not been able to accomplish. (I have also read his The Rasputin File, and it was an eye-opener!) His theatrical background helps him produce dramatic and highly-readable material, and his Russian nativity gives him the ability to find and incorporate rare historical documents. I can tell you that most biographies of Nicholas II, being written by the fascinated English and skeptical Americans, simply repeat one another and a few haphazard translations of mid-20th-century sources. Not so with Mr. Radzinsky. His bibliography is a mass of Cyrillic primary sources. By a huge margin, The Last Tsar is the fairest portrayal of Nicholas II I have ever read, and fairness is the most important factor when it comes to Romanov biographies. Also: something that is very difficult for Americans or "westerners" to grasp, but Russia is part of the East. They simply don't think according to the same pattern we do. American biographers can look at this action of Nicholas', at this response of the people, at this situation that the government had to deal with, and they connect A to B and conclude C like any logical western thinker would. But in the old colloquialism, in the east, you can't get thar from here. A doesn't wind up at C by way of B. Maybe B is unrelated, and C turns out to be the result of D. Romanov biographies are full of gross assumptions by westerners that this behavior was perceived as this; that action was a reaction to that; but Radzinsky applies his Russian brain to the source documentation and sets out the most likely state of affairs. He becomes our bridge, explaining Russian cause and effect for us. In short, this biography has everything going for it -- Russian primary sources, Russian interpretation of Russian behaviors, and dramatic prose that brings it all to life. The book itself, translated from Russian into English (lest I belabor the obvious), is occasionally quirky in its word choice, but on the whole, this book is as exciting and readable as any novel with the extra spice of the fact that it's all true. Despite the fact that it came out in the early 90s, it continues to hold up as the best and most complete Nicholas II biography available today. Thanks, whoever left that People book review in the copy of Nicholas and Alexandra I bought. My life would not be complete without this biographical masterpiece. This review via Hundredaire Socialite

  6. 5 out of 5

    Terry Bonner

    This was a totally engaging biography. I could not put it down. The Nicholas who emerges in these pages is both despicable and sympathetic. He is a nebbish placed by a capricious fortune at the vortex of history. He is a basically decent man who occupies a corrupt, indecent office. His naivete is both endearing and criminal. Radzinsky is no apologist for the unfortunate last of the Romanovs; neither is he judgmental, at least in regard to Nicholas himself. The Tsarina, on the other hand, suffers This was a totally engaging biography. I could not put it down. The Nicholas who emerges in these pages is both despicable and sympathetic. He is a nebbish placed by a capricious fortune at the vortex of history. He is a basically decent man who occupies a corrupt, indecent office. His naivete is both endearing and criminal. Radzinsky is no apologist for the unfortunate last of the Romanovs; neither is he judgmental, at least in regard to Nicholas himself. The Tsarina, on the other hand, suffers at the hand of the biographer. She is petty, demanding, hysterical, Machiavellian and thoroughly Teutonic. Radzinsky quite obviously points to her neurotic religiosity as the true nail in the coffin of Tsarist Russia. If Nicholas displays poor political judgment, he is nonetheless a good human being. The Tsarina, on the other hand, is prideful, sanctimonious and outrightly shrewish. The Tsar truly loves her and, so much as it is possible for Alexandria, the love is reciprocated. Her guilt at producing a hemophiliac heir leads her to the very edge of madness and Russia to the cusp of a long-fomenting revolution. Even though the story is familiar, this masterful biography -- originally written in Russian during the brief opening of the Cheka's extensive archives during Yeltsin's time of Perestroika -- is utterly absorbing. It is Radzinksy's skill in recreating the hundreds of bit players in this court drama which makes it so compelling. If you read only one book on the Russian revolution during your lifetime, make it this one. You will appreciate what happened, why it happened, and how it was inevitable. And, I might add, you will find yourself cheering when Nicholas abdicates, and weeping when the Royal Family is executed. This is biography at its best.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Robert Alexander

    A great follow-up to Robert Massie's Nicholas and Alexandra. It's written in a quirky Russian style, a bit difficult to get into...but ultimately it pays off handsomely by telling the story of the last days of the royal family from a decidedly Russian point of view.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Maan Kawas

    An unforgettable, wonderful, powerfully written and vivid, but disturbing and touching book! The best I have ever read so far about the last tsar, Nicholas II and his family. The book is filled with detailed information based on documents, research, investigations, meetings, first-hand witnesses’ information, and personal diaries. I loved so much the insertion of some extracts of the Tsar’s and the Tsaritsa’s letters and diaries. The book reveals the good, gentle, kind, but weak and spineless ch An unforgettable, wonderful, powerfully written and vivid, but disturbing and touching book! The best I have ever read so far about the last tsar, Nicholas II and his family. The book is filled with detailed information based on documents, research, investigations, meetings, first-hand witnesses’ information, and personal diaries. I loved so much the insertion of some extracts of the Tsar’s and the Tsaritsa’s letters and diaries. The book reveals the good, gentle, kind, but weak and spineless character of the last Tsar, who was a pious, religious, tender and loving person and father, but a shy and weak Tsar. Unfortunately, Nicholas II came as a tsar to the throne of a wide empire upon the early and unexpected death of his father. Unprepared, with the lack of experience, coupled with his gentle and shy personality led to his and his family’s tragic end. I loved so much reading the extracts from Tsar Nicholas II’s diary and letters, and I loved his acceptance of the hard times (God’s will), ordeals, and severe fate, holding his cross with patience and humility. The book shows that there are key qualities and characteristics a sovereign must have, as being a ruler or a sovereign is a highly demanding role that is filled with huge challenges and risks. Moreover, the book shows the power of the situation on one’s actions and behaviors, the impact of the social pressure, the cruelty of man to man, and man’s strategies to cope with threat and challenges, and the impacts of one’s beliefs on his behavior and actions. Finally, it is a great book and a compelling reading.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Excellent! Lots of facts and history to plow through but totally worth it. Uncovers true historical facts of what really happened to the Romanov's. The first time some of these documents have been published from the Russian archives. If you love Russian history or have an interest in the Romanov's I highly recommend it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Miriam Reeves

    This book was filled with great facts and history but it was poorly written. Even History books should keep our attention shouldn't they?

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Wow. This book had a lot of info. I had no trouble following along with the first half, which was mostly explaining family relations (there is a nice little family tree diagram at the front) and stories from when Nicholas was born up until he took the throne. Then the story moved into quotes from his diary and her diary, and their letters to each other when he was away. Reading the excerpts from the diaries while in exile was interesting. It was when the book moved into all the political names a Wow. This book had a lot of info. I had no trouble following along with the first half, which was mostly explaining family relations (there is a nice little family tree diagram at the front) and stories from when Nicholas was born up until he took the throne. Then the story moved into quotes from his diary and her diary, and their letters to each other when he was away. Reading the excerpts from the diaries while in exile was interesting. It was when the book moved into all the political names and parties that I started to get a bit lost. All the names started to look the same from page to page, so I was constantly flipping back to see if that was the same guy from this and that, etc. (Example: Lukoyanov & Lyukhanov...two totally different dudes). Also, the author didn't help matters by jumping between using first names and last names. The end of the book was hard to read, in a different sense. The whole read is building up to the execution, and then to read first hand accounts is just surreal and very sad. The author left the book open a bit because the mystery had not yet been solved (this was 1992) which led me to do a little internet research. Discoveries have been made in just the past 3 years! It takes away the mystery of it all (I'm a fan of some of the conspiracy theories) but glad that we finally know once and for all what happened almost 100 years ago. p.s. the reason I picked this book - I saw the title and I've always found the Anastasia/Anna Anderson story fascinating, so I opened this book to see if it was about her dad. The first page stuck under the cover and someone had written on the title page "Nancy - Hope you like it - It is an OK book/ Lot of detail - God Bless! Ed Thrift, Jr. 8/26/92." Weird! So then I had to read it. This idiot then wrote on page 376 "Stop/ Ed T. 8/26/92 I am getting bored." He was getting bored at the most interesting part of the book!!! Crazy I tell you.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    As I noted somewhere before, I continue to be fascinated with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, with the whole history of the Russian czars and with the arrest and deaths of the last Czar, Nicholas II, and his family. Rather than a dry history, Radzinsky uses documents that were opened from archives, personal histories & diaries from those individuals involved in the Romanov assassinations and from Nicholas & Alexandra themselves to create a very good study of what actually happened to Nicholas As I noted somewhere before, I continue to be fascinated with the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, with the whole history of the Russian czars and with the arrest and deaths of the last Czar, Nicholas II, and his family. Rather than a dry history, Radzinsky uses documents that were opened from archives, personal histories & diaries from those individuals involved in the Romanov assassinations and from Nicholas & Alexandra themselves to create a very good study of what actually happened to Nicholas II and his family. After having read through the end, I was left with a vivid picture of what were the final days of the Romanovs. His research seems to be incredibly thorough. Radzinsky is a playwright; his book comes out not in a general tone most often taken by historians -- it is very readable. Thank God there was a family tree showing both Nicholas & Alexandra's families in the front cover; I would have been totally lost without it. As it was, I probably should have xeroxed it instead of flipping back to it time after time, because I really needed it. I think it probably could have also used a map. While the book has a few problems, overall it was very well done & a very welcome addition to my history library.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Julia Poncho

    I unfortunately couldn't finish this book. It is well written and intricate. Shines a new light on the assassination of the Romanov family. However, the characters are awful. One has trouble sympathizing with the not-so-bright tsar Nicolas and his neurotic wife. Past half of the book, one can't help shaking the feeling that the Romanovs are responsible for their own plight, knowing what was coming to them yet choosing to remain indolent and pray instead. Tsar Nicolas is blindly and stupidly piou I unfortunately couldn't finish this book. It is well written and intricate. Shines a new light on the assassination of the Romanov family. However, the characters are awful. One has trouble sympathizing with the not-so-bright tsar Nicolas and his neurotic wife. Past half of the book, one can't help shaking the feeling that the Romanovs are responsible for their own plight, knowing what was coming to them yet choosing to remain indolent and pray instead. Tsar Nicolas is blindly and stupidly pious. He is an incredibly frustrating protagonist. One hopes for the Romanov children to escape their parents' mess, but in the end they are the true victims of their parents' stupidity.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brianna

    I found this such an interesting read on the history of Nicholas the II... I learned a lot about Russian history that I never knew before, and thoroughly enjoyed this read... and yes... His last days were terrifying.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brian Bigelow

    I did find the writing a bit tedious at times. Nonetheless, I continued on. This book is a very in depth look at the last days of the last Czar, Nicholas II. Did think it was very well researched.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cassandra

    I enjoyed reading this book very much! I like the authors writing style. It reads like a novel, but it is non-fiction. I appreciated the family tree at the beginning of the book and the map that was given. I would have liked to know a bit more about Rasputin, but I have ordered his book The Rasputin File. This is my first book related to the Romanovs and the Tsars. I am looking forward to reading more about the Russian leaders. This was a great book to read for my first. The novel like reading m I enjoyed reading this book very much! I like the authors writing style. It reads like a novel, but it is non-fiction. I appreciated the family tree at the beginning of the book and the map that was given. I would have liked to know a bit more about Rasputin, but I have ordered his book The Rasputin File. This is my first book related to the Romanovs and the Tsars. I am looking forward to reading more about the Russian leaders. This was a great book to read for my first. The novel like reading made the topic very interesting and I enjoyed learning. Mr. Radzinsky has inspired me to learn more about the Romanovs.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Will Duban

    Unless you want to know about everyone even the guy that once waved to them during a parade then this is your book. Overall it was an interesting topic but it just dragged on way to long for my taste.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    Good read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    The first half of the book, encompassing (very much in brief) the life of Nicholas II, is some of the worst historical work I've read since having the misfortune of picking up Simon Dixon's "biography" of Catherine the Great. Details are sparing, information is sketchy, and there are enough twists and turns of logic to make one's head spin. Among other assertions the author expects us to take as fact: Rasputin really did have mystic powers; Alexandra was hysterical and borderline insane through The first half of the book, encompassing (very much in brief) the life of Nicholas II, is some of the worst historical work I've read since having the misfortune of picking up Simon Dixon's "biography" of Catherine the Great. Details are sparing, information is sketchy, and there are enough twists and turns of logic to make one's head spin. Among other assertions the author expects us to take as fact: Rasputin really did have mystic powers; Alexandra was hysterical and borderline insane through most of her husband's reign; Anna Vyrubova was in some sort of non-physical "love affair" with Nicholas; there was some sort of plot (or several) among the secret police to remove Nicholas II from the throne. If any of these are true I will eat my hat--though I doubt I'll have to, since the evidence for all of the above is sketchy conjecture, at best. However. The book's second half, which is devoted to the family's imprisonment at Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg and their eventual murders, is much, much better. It doesn't excuse the terrible first half, but it did keep me reading until the end. Radzinsky had access to a remarkable archive of accounts from witnesses, participants, and their families' recollections, including many documents previously kept hidden and classified. With these Razinsky puts together a thorough, concrete account of the days leading up to the family's execution (with special focus on the Ural Soviets' decisions and actions, whereas most other accounts focus on the family), what happened after, and the ultimate fates of the participants. As for the style--disjointed, occasionally rambling (which may be due in part to the translation)--but easy enough to follow once you get into it. Where I get lost are in the leaps of logic and occasional bouts of poor scholarship. Read this for the unique Russian perspective, and for the second half--after Nicholas II's abdication--only. (Just please, ignore his conjecture that Alexei Nicholaevich and one of his sisters may have been saved. We know now that that is, perhaps sadly but absolutely, not the case.) If you must read anything prior to that, come prepared with prior knowledge of pre-revolutionary Russia, and have a truckload of salt standing by.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Tessman

    The true story of the last Russian tsar as written by a Russian playwright/historian. In a word, maddening. As I read the book, I appreciated the author’s insights into the Russian political mind. Additionally, I strongly feel the author deserves recognition for his exhaustive efforts to uncover the facts of what happened to the Romanovs by poring through endless amounts of previously-classified documents and sitting through countless interviews. That said, the writing style made the book a chor The true story of the last Russian tsar as written by a Russian playwright/historian. In a word, maddening. As I read the book, I appreciated the author’s insights into the Russian political mind. Additionally, I strongly feel the author deserves recognition for his exhaustive efforts to uncover the facts of what happened to the Romanovs by poring through endless amounts of previously-classified documents and sitting through countless interviews. That said, the writing style made the book a chore to read. I grew tired of the constant sensationalism and foreshadowing by end of chapter one and the story did not pique my interest again until about page 360-something. And, while I can understand the author’s desire to include a wink-and-nudge bit about Anastasia’s potential escape from death to add a little romance and mystery, I cannot excuse him from leaving out the truth that the woman referenced in the book was denied a connection to the Romanovs through DNA testing in 1984, years before the book was published. In short, well-researched, but poorly written and the attempt at ending the book on a cliff-hanger was unnecessary. I have heard great things about Radzinsky. Unfortunately, this was just not the clear, concise, chronological history of Nicholas II’s reign that I was seeking. On to Massie’s version...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Albert

    This was an odd book. While Radzinsky's digging in the newly-opened Soviet archives provides fascinating information, I had some problems with the book. He has a habit--which grows annoying--of constantly making reference to tragic future events while narrating peoples' lives. He also indulges in a fair amount of speculation about events and people's thoughts and feelings. The closing section in which he tries to find out about the final days of the Romanovs is especially confusing---leaving thi This was an odd book. While Radzinsky's digging in the newly-opened Soviet archives provides fascinating information, I had some problems with the book. He has a habit--which grows annoying--of constantly making reference to tragic future events while narrating peoples' lives. He also indulges in a fair amount of speculation about events and people's thoughts and feelings. The closing section in which he tries to find out about the final days of the Romanovs is especially confusing---leaving this reader unsure of what he himself believes. It would be fine if he explained what was definitely known and what was still a mystery but all the conflicting narratives and his own speculations just makes a mishmash. Lastly, he assumes a lot of knowledge of Russian/Soviet history making for a confusing read for anyone who lacks it. Worth reading anyway, though, for the glimpses he provides into the archives.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Boothe

    Edvard Radzinsky is exceptionally detailed in describing his research into the deaths of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarista Alexandra Feodorova, and their five children. From the information he gives from the diaries of Nicholas II to his conversation with his mysterious guest towards the end of his book, Radzinsky paints a suspenseful picture of his journey to find out the truth about the Romanovs. The author plays part researcher and part psychologist in that he attempts to analyze the behavi Edvard Radzinsky is exceptionally detailed in describing his research into the deaths of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarista Alexandra Feodorova, and their five children. From the information he gives from the diaries of Nicholas II to his conversation with his mysterious guest towards the end of his book, Radzinsky paints a suspenseful picture of his journey to find out the truth about the Romanovs. The author plays part researcher and part psychologist in that he attempts to analyze the behavior of Nicholas II and other people in this tragic story. At times I found his conclusions based upon his psychoanalysis of these people overly dramatic. The reason for this is that early on in his book when discussing Alexandra Feodorovna's mother, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, he states that "the nerves and the dreadful headaches - everything that led Alice to an early grave - remind us very much of the portrait of her daughter Alix" It is well-known that diphtheria is the disease that killed Princess Alice and not nerves and headaches. It was at that point that I began to be a bit suspect of certain conclusions Radzinsky reached in this book. For instance, he speculates and gives his conclusion about why Nicholas would have written down details about (fake) covert attempts to rescue them from their imprisonment by the Bolsheviks, when he should have known his they would read his diaries. He concludes that Nicholas believed that by letting the Bolsheviks read his diary that they would kill him and let his family go. There is no way this author could know that for sure. He also referred to Emperor Wilhelm II as the uncle of Nicholas. He was a first cousin of Nicholas, not an uncle. Also, once Alix accepted Nicholas's proposal of marriage, the author noted that Alix continued crying days afterward, leading one observer to conclude that she did not love him. However, this author suggests that it could have been a premonition about what their future held. Given that Radzinsky could not get basic facts about Princess Alice's death and the familial relationship between Nicholas and Wilhelm correct makes me doubt his ability at something much more difficult, psychoanalysis. However, the actual evidence he presents regarding the lives, last days, and deaths of the Romanovs are very much supported by his exceptional research. Radzinsky does mention the discovery of the nine sets of remains in Ekaterinburg, but at the 1992 publication date of this book, they had not been positively identified as Nicholas II, Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Maria (or Anastasia), three of their servants, and Dr. Botkin. That didn't happen until 1993. The last part of this book discusses the evidence surrounding the possible escape of Tsarevich Alexei and Grand Duchess Anastasia. The evidence presented is quite compelling, except that we now know that in 2008 the remains of Alexei and one of his sisters (either Marie or Anastasia) were positively identified. I had to reread different sections of this book due to its difficult sentence structure. Because it was translated from Russian to English, the construction of much of the sentence structure is not how it would be were it had been written in English originally. Despite my criticisms of the author's melodramatic approach about an already dramatic and tragic subject, I do highly recommend this book. It is a very compelling read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Clem

    First of all, if you’re looking for a book about “history” – i.e. the history of Russia during Nicholas II’s tempestuous reign, this probably is not the best choice of a book. This book was written by a Russian author who, I believe, has the assumption that his audience already is familiar with the events that led to the Tsar’s exile, and eventual execution. Instead, this book portrays a very personal account of the man’s life inside the palace walls. I seem to recall that about 25-40% of this bo First of all, if you’re looking for a book about “history” – i.e. the history of Russia during Nicholas II’s tempestuous reign, this probably is not the best choice of a book. This book was written by a Russian author who, I believe, has the assumption that his audience already is familiar with the events that led to the Tsar’s exile, and eventual execution. Instead, this book portrays a very personal account of the man’s life inside the palace walls. I seem to recall that about 25-40% of this book is actual correspondence and diary entries of Nicholas and his wife Alexandra (‘Alix’). It’s quite obvious that the royals led an extremely sheltered existence and were oblivious to most of the pains and necessary remedies for their country. The book makes us believe that the tsar really does mean well, but to reform such a mess as early 20th century Russia requires a very strong leader which, sadly, he is anything but. Alix seems to not care much. Her main compulsion is producing an heir to the throne. After four daughters, she finally produces a male heir, who is soon diagnosed with hemophilia. Because of his fragile condition (which must be hidden from the public), she consorts with the odd mystic Rasputin with uncanny regularity. I only mention this because this seems to be one of the main narratives of the story. Again, the book is much more “personal”. On that note, it should be pointed out that the last half of the book details the family’s exile to Siberia, and eventual execution – in very meticulous detail. We read diary entry after diary entry during the family’s captivity, along with all of the turbulent post 1917 events that lead to the ultimate tragedy. In fact, the author interviews and does extensive research in order to uncover all of the details and retell them as truthfully as possible. If one thinks about it, one realizes that whenever such a tragedy happens, speculation and rumors are abundant in terms of the exact detail (think about the assassination of JFK). I’m not sure if I’ve ever read any other book by a Russian author, but the style here seems a bit disjointed. Edvard Radzinsky seems to bounce around a lot during his narrative, and flow isn’t as seamless as I would have liked it to be. Since so much of the story is told within diary entries, it was a bit difficult to transition back to first person narrative many times. I enjoyed the book, but if you’re looking for a more detailed perspective of the causes and effects of the Russian Revolution – I would recommend looking elsewhere. A good suggestion from me would be “The People’s Tragedy” by Orlando Figes.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Alan Braswell

    Kingdoms rise and Kingdoms fall. Those whom are in the seat of power are taking away into captivity for the days come upon them, for it is an evil time. Edvard Radzinsky biography of The last Czar of Russia was in the making for twenty five years. It was only when the 'evil' time had past and the secrets that should have been buried saw a new light. Robert Massie had to write another book when Edvard Radzinsky found the diary of the last Czar and the link to the Romanov family execution. One feel Kingdoms rise and Kingdoms fall. Those whom are in the seat of power are taking away into captivity for the days come upon them, for it is an evil time. Edvard Radzinsky biography of The last Czar of Russia was in the making for twenty five years. It was only when the 'evil' time had past and the secrets that should have been buried saw a new light. Robert Massie had to write another book when Edvard Radzinsky found the diary of the last Czar and the link to the Romanov family execution. One feels a since of sadness for the Romanov family especially Alexei. "Why can't I be like the other children?" God's will perhaps. But it hurt Alexandra as she says, after the Romanov family are placed in isolation, "I listen to God's voice, but now its like He doesn't hear me at all." Lenin said that the failure of the 1905 reveloution was do to Tolstoy and his followers being against all forms of war. Of course Lenin didn't believe in the will of God. The World War changed kingdoms. Russia. The Weimar republic. Even the British Empire was teetering on the brink of collapse. Yet no one thought there little empire would falter. An excellent personal firsthand account. Incredible details of the last moments of the doomed Romanov family.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Romanov family, history, or just looking for a good read. The author is able to concisely, and without sounding too "stuffy/textbook-ish", go into detail regarding the last Romanov Tsar. He humanizes them in an amazing way. I've never been a fan of the Empress Alexandra, but this book showed a side of her that I haven't previously read about. He takes excerpts from letters and journal entries and is able to weave an amazing historic I highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Romanov family, history, or just looking for a good read. The author is able to concisely, and without sounding too "stuffy/textbook-ish", go into detail regarding the last Romanov Tsar. He humanizes them in an amazing way. I've never been a fan of the Empress Alexandra, but this book showed a side of her that I haven't previously read about. He takes excerpts from letters and journal entries and is able to weave an amazing historical portrait of the royal family. There is another review that I read before I started this book, that pointed out that the author is a journalist and he still writes like one. I, personally, enjoyed that feeling. By adding the saying "but we'll talk about that later" after introducing something kept me engaged and curious as to how he was going to tie it all together. I'll probably come back and re-read this book and I'll definitely read other books by this author.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sophia Gallegos

    This was a very personal look at the story of the last Tsar of Russia with many first hand accounts. The author is obviously a Russian speaker but the translation was handled adeptly. There were scenes and vantage points presented that will stick with me always. Fate and being true to one's own nature now mean something so much more than they did for me before I read this book. History was shifted because of who Nicholas II was - not his title or position - but who he was inside, his innate char This was a very personal look at the story of the last Tsar of Russia with many first hand accounts. The author is obviously a Russian speaker but the translation was handled adeptly. There were scenes and vantage points presented that will stick with me always. Fate and being true to one's own nature now mean something so much more than they did for me before I read this book. History was shifted because of who Nicholas II was - not his title or position - but who he was inside, his innate character. The world can never know all but this book illuminates a great deal about this fascinating subject.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vigee

    A beautifully idiosyncratic, insightful, gripping and in the end very Russian account of Russia's last Tsar. I am a Massie girl, like anyone who came to this story in my generation, but this sits beside the American version of the story for me as a reminder that what lies at the heart of the fascination with this story is mystery. The fall of Russia was a cataclysm for the 20th century and we're living with its fall-out now, but its the people who fascinate. Radzinsky puts me right there. This i A beautifully idiosyncratic, insightful, gripping and in the end very Russian account of Russia's last Tsar. I am a Massie girl, like anyone who came to this story in my generation, but this sits beside the American version of the story for me as a reminder that what lies at the heart of the fascination with this story is mystery. The fall of Russia was a cataclysm for the 20th century and we're living with its fall-out now, but its the people who fascinate. Radzinsky puts me right there. This is a work of literature as much as history. Brava!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jordan Clark

    While I did enjoy this book and the deep dive into the character of Nicholas II and his family, many instances of 'historical fact' seemed sensationalized for the tragic tale of the Last Tsar. There were passages that also drew much more from the emotion and drama than actual fact, including some very big assumptions to add to the tragedy of the events. Overall, an interesting read but it lacked the historical perspective and timeline I usually like in history books.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Wilkin

    Exhaustive history of the last tzar from ascension to throne to death. Tough read due to the many characters. Some needless melodrama on the part of the author. Some pages reprinted out of order in later part of the book. Good history of the different movements and violent struggle within the revolution. Made me want to learn more about this period of history.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Margaret E Tufts

    Good history lesson This book was very informative. Visited St. Petersburg several years ago. There is a wall in the winter palace that has pictures of all the Tsars except this one. Alex had a large collection of Faverge eggs. There’s not a single one in the palace. This Tsar and his family was totally obliterated. The malachite was amazing. They didn’t destroy that.

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