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Nicholas and Alexandra: An Intimate Account…

Nicholas and Alexandra: An Intimate Account of the Last of the Romanovs… (1967)

by Robert K. Massie

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Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
This book gives a fascinating portrait of Nicholas II, and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna. It provides excellent atmosphere for imperial life. Massie's thesis is that Nicholas and Alexandra's relationships with each other and with their hemophiliac son Alexei are key for explaining the influence of Rasputin and the downfall of the Romanovs. This is convincing—the troubles of hemophilia and Rasputin are drawn brilliantly.

The weaknesses of the book are that it does not give a good picture of Russia beyond the Tsar, nor a decent explanation of the revolution that overthrew him. What else contributed to the Romanovs' downfall? We get only very little. Also, despite Massie's tight focus on the imperial family, to me Alexandra and, especially, Nicholas are still a bit mysterious. I don't fully understand how Alexandra grew into taking a larger role in government, and I don't know how to reconcile Nicholas's energy and intelligence with his passive governance.

Still a very good book, but I prefer Massie's Peter the Great biography. ( )
  breic | Jun 14, 2019 |
I've read this book several times. Fascinated by tsars, Russia, the mysticity and scandals that surround the family of the last tsar of Russia.

I did not like it as much as his book on Peter the Great, which was my first book by his hand. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Dec 20, 2018 |
Excerpts from my original GR review (Apr 2009; read this 2007):
- ..outstanding, highly readable saga of the life of Tsar Nicholas Romanov, his ascendancy and ultimately doomed reign in Imperial Russia. He took the throne in 1894 at age 26, after the early death of his father Alexander III. The blood relations to other monarchs is always amazing to read (descended from George II of England; first cousin to George V; nephew of several imperials). This study also intimately relates the lives of his core family: Alix of Hesse, German and Lutheran by birth who converts and becomes Alexandra; the fascinatingly guarded lives of their children, especially the tragic life of hemophiliac Alexei.
- But even beyond the personal scope, this is a well told history of the waning years of Tsarist Russia and the several crises, economic and social upheavals, intrigues, all leading precipitously to abdication, house arrest and gruesome death. Perhaps most engaging of all is the curious befriendment by Alexandra of the eccentric, bizarre, unstable Gregory Rasputin, whose strange influence over their affairs probably hastened their demise. As one famous quote says, "Without Rasputin, there could have been no Lenin". I recommend this to anyone interested in great history. ( )
  ThoughtPolice | Sep 23, 2018 |
Dated and problematic (published during the Cold War), but still fascinating. Massie is great at humanizing his subjects. ( )
  gossamerchild88 | Mar 30, 2018 |
This comes from the Russian history reading program; it’s been in one of the “to read” stacks for a long time but finally worked its way to the top. The original publication date was 1967; however the only really new information that’s come to light since then is DNA confirmation that remains found in the woods near Yekaterinburg were, in fact, those of Tsar Nicholas II, the Tsaritsa Alexandra, the Tsarevitch Alexis, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia, three retainers, a maid, and pet spaniel. It is, or course, a sad story; during XSSR times the name of Nicholas had been blackened as a bloodthirsty tyrant and when author Robert Massie was writing the view in the West was probably only moderately more restrained.

Massie has written several excellent books about Russian and WWI history; this was his first and was inspired by his son’s struggle with hemophilia. The motif is: no Rasputin without hemophilia; no Lenin without Rasputin. The lives of Nicolas Romanov and Alix of Hesse would have fit the classic fairy-tale plot; handsome prince of the world’s largest country maries obscure but beautiful princess from tiny German principality; after he attains the throne their lives are a whirl of balls and receptions and royal progresses and State visits – until the birth of a son, after four daughters. When the Tsarevitch Alexis was bruised, the bump didn’t heal; instead it developed an increasing large hematoma, eventually twisting the affected limb as blood pressure forced it to bend; sometimes the joint damage was permanent. The condition was known, but there was no cure for it (there still isn’t for sure, although gene therapy looks very promising). The Tsaritsa turned to religion when medicine failed, and eventually found a mystic who could heal (but not cure) her son, Gregory Rasputin. I’ve done a review of a book on Rasputin by Alex de Jonge; de Jonge was a believer in Rasputin’s miraculous powers. Massie is not, but concedes that there is plenty of evidence of Rasputin turning up at the Tsarevitch’s bedside when doctors had given up hope – and the Tsarevitch stopped bleeding. With his own experience with his son. Massie argues that what mattered was that the Tsaritsa and the Tsarevitch believed in Rasputin – and that the calming effect of his presence relaxed both and bleeding stopped in the calmer sickroom atmosphere. Don’t know – possibly.

Before the rise of Rasputin, the Tsar and Alexandra come across as decent sorts. When the Russian army adopted a new soldiers’ kit, Nicholas tried it out by going on a ten-mile march in the Crimea; the Tsaritsa and all four daughters served as nurses during the Great War. Their recovered personal letters (often in English; Alexandra was more fluent in that then Russian and Nicholas was more fluent than in German) show a loving couple even after years of marriage (they shared a bed, something very few royalty did). Alexandra, though, became more and more obstreperous as her son didn’t improve. Ironically it was her, the foreigner, who was vehemently opposed to Nicholas ceding some power to the Duma after the 1905 defeat by the Japanese; although before then she had stayed out of politics she now began interfering more and more – and Nicholas acquiesced. Eventually Alexandra was deposing ministers and generals – always based on their attitude toward The Man of God. Rasputin’s assassination came a little too late; by then the Russian populace had come to believe that Alexandra was a German agent actively working toward a Russian defeat (ironically, Alexandra kept a picture of Marie Antoinette in her boudoir).

Nicholas comes across as amiable but clueless – believing until his abdication that the Russian people loved him in their hearts. Pictures of him in Soviet captivity show a haggard man who had apparently aged in months (visitors made the same comment). The restrictions on the Tsar and family were gradually tightened as they were moved from one prison to another. There was a mysterious event when one of the commissars – Vasily Yakolev – put the family on a train heading east, ostensibly to a more secure site but just possibly as an escape attempt (Yakolev later defected to the Whites), but the train was turned back to Yekaterinburg by Soviet railway workers and a few weeks later that was that.

Extensive references; nice photographs of the participants and adequate maps. Massie has a more recent book on the final identification of the Romanov remains – I’ll have to track it down. ( )
  setnahkt | Dec 16, 2017 |
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"I have a firm, an absolute conviction that the fate of Russia—that my own fate and that of my family—is in the hands of God who has placed me where I am. Whatever may happen to me, I shall bow to His will with the consciousness of never having had any thought other than that of serving the country which He has entrusted to me."

"After all, the nursery was the center of all Russia's troubles."

"The Empress refused to surrender to fate. She talked incessantly of the ignorance of the physicians . . . She turned towards religion, and her prayers were tainted with a certain hysteria. The stage was ready for the appearance of a miracle worker . . ."

"The illness of the Tsarevich cast its shadow over the whole of the concluding period of Tsar Nicholas II's reign and alone can explain it. Without appearing to be, it was one of the main causes of his fall, for it made possible the phenomenon of Rasputin and resulted in the fatal isolation of the sovereigns who lived in a world apart, wholly absorbed in a tragic anxiety which had to be concealed from all eyes."

Tutor of Tsarevich Alexis
"Without Rasputin, there could have been no Lenin."

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From the Baltic city of St. Petersburg, built on a river marsh in a far northern corner of the empire, the Tsar ruled Russia.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0345438310, Paperback)

The story of the love that ended an empire

In this commanding book, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert K. Massie sweeps readers back to the extraordinary world of Imperial Russia to tell the story of the Romanovs’ lives: Nicholas’s political naïveté, Alexandra’s obsession with the corrupt mystic Rasputin, and little Alexis’s brave struggle with hemophilia. Against a lavish backdrop of luxury and intrigue, Massie unfolds a powerful drama of passion and history—the story of a doomed empire and the death-marked royals who watched it crumble.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:19 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

More than a quarter of a century after it was first published in hardcover comes a never-before-issued trade paperback edition of the classic Nicholas and Alexandra. Featuring a new introduction by its Pulitzer Prize -- winning author, this powerful work sweeps us back to the extraordinary world of Imperial Russia to tell the story of the Romanovs' lives: Nicholas's political naivete, Alexandra's obsession with the corrupt mystic Rasputin, and little Alexis's brave struggle with hemophilia. Against a lavish backdrop of luxury and intrigue, Robert K. Massie unfolds a powerful drama of passion and history -- the story of a doomed empire and the death-marked royals who watched it crumble.… (more)

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