Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Review - The Last Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky

I've just finished reading The Last Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky. The book goes into incredible detail of Nicholas II - the last tsar of all the the Russias. The reign of Nicholas II begin in tragic circumstances when his father Alexander III was murdered. Nicholas took the throne and during the mourning period and married his childhood sweetheart Alix of Hesse from Germany. One could so that that was not the start to a happy reign.

Edvard Radzinsky had access to secret documents in Russia in his ability to cover the incredible amounts of history in the Russian royal family is amazing. He had access to the tsar's diaries which we kept from the age of 13 and which gives us a great insight into who Nicholas II was. I understand that Nicholas was never a strong man for his mother held much power in the empire and his wife Alix appeared to be an autocrat at heart.

Nicholas was in a very privileged position as tsar and when some unfortunate accidents happened during his reign and many people were killed he became known as Nicholas the Bloody although the book doesn't talk about this in great detail it is as though Nicholas didn't know what was happening around him. I would say he was quite sheltered from what was actually happening in the country.

The story about the last tsar has been hidden from the truth the last 70 years. He and his wife had four daughters before an heir, Alexei, was finally born. But the heir was a sickly child and suffered from haemophilia. This illness was kept as a state secret. Alix, although she was queen Victoria's granddaughter, was ignorant to modern medicine which in fact could not treat her son had turned to Rasputin for help. He was a demonic and may and despised by many bodies treatment for the boy appeared to work and his mother had great faith in Rasputin as a healer. She kept the faith in him until her death and her demise can be partly attributed to her belief in Rasputin. The people of Russia did not believe that he, Rasputin, have such power over the royal family and they were condemned for the belief. If How could such a despised men have such great power in the royal household?

Nicolas came out from a large family and there were many grand dukes, his brothers, and they were largely murdered by the Bolsheviks. It is intriguing how much information Radzinsky has been able to unearth about the Romanov family. Did you know that Nicholas and Alix conversed in English and wrote to each other in English? There were over 600 letters from the empress to her husband during their lifetime. Her Russian was never fluent. Considering her ties with the British royal family, and Nicholas also, perhaps it's not so surprising that they used English.

When the second revolution came, the first was in 1905, Nicholas realised that he would have to abdicate to protect his family. This did not have the desired affect though and they were forced to leave their palace in Tsarkoe Selo as prisoners although at the time they may not have realised this. The guards for there for protection of the royal family. I believe the royals felt that they would be rescued by the British royal family but in truth nobody tried to save them. They were kept for some time in Tobolsk which is not far from Rasputin's hometown. This was seen as a good sign by the empress. Their final place of captivity was Ekaterinburg and they were not allowed much freedom here. Their captors were trying to discover the whereabouts of the Russian royal jewels without any success. Very cleverly the jewels were sewn into the bodices of the grand duchesses.

The final few chapters of the book are relating to the execution of the royal family and what happened to the people involved in the execution. At the time of completing another book a strange men contacted Radzinsky and provided documents that were still classified. Some of the royal servants were slain as well and there were meant to be 11 people killed. And just before book was published the Romanov family bodies were exhumed and the number of bodies seems to indicate what was written in the book was true - only nine people were killed and two may have survived. There is a great mystery surrounding Anastasia and Alexei. Did they survive? Radzinsky was not the only one to investigate this possibility and a great deal of mystery surrounds this outcome.

The Last Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky

I enjoyed this book immensely and there are very few books I have read that go into this much detail. The man should have been a detective but he did have access to an immense source of material. The structure of the book actually changes from being a biography to listening to the opinions of the author written firsthand. It is a brilliant book and does not waffle on at any stage. Superb reading and I can only recommend it to you. Not bad for a book picked up for $3.00 at a book fair.


Anonymous said...

I must read it. Thanks for the info. Gil

Iris Flavia said...

Does sound interesting!