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The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg

by Helen Rappaport

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Decent historical account of the last fourteen days of the Romanov family. The author doesn't hold back with the grisly details, which was fine with me.

However, the book dragged in places for me when describing some of the long term politics leading up to the death of the Romanovs and the war history (both the Bolshevik revolution and WWI). I found myself skimming those parts to get back to what interested me more.

Overall worth the read. ( )
  steadfastreader | Mar 18, 2014 |
Everyone knows the rough story of the Romanov's and most people have at least a passing familiarity with the story of Anastasia. This book didn't deal with the myth, only briefly mentioning it near the end of the book after the facts were covered. The book deals with the Romanov family's imprisonment in the city of Ekaterinburg, a Bolshevik stronghold and their stay in the 'House of Special Purpose' which would eventually be the site of their slaughter. Each chapter covers a day - explaining the events that were happening around them, including foreign reports and the diplomatic efforts at getting their freedom (and the botched efforts and occasional lack of action by certain governments.) or at least reporting what was going on. There are brief mentions of Rasputin and his influence over Alexandra, and the history of the family and their personalities. For example, it was fascinating that Maria was the only one of the women who didn't have as many jewels in her outfit because they didn't trust her after she had had a relationship with one of her previous captors.

The book is concise, and doubly tragic because of it. The harshness of their environment and living conditions wasn't over blown, and the worsening in conditions and the cool way the executioners decided their fate, and planned it, carried it out and disposed the body was terrifying tbh. The actual execution though was awful - the cool way they lined them up and made them wait, came back and read the order, came back and read the order, then pulled the gun and shot Nicholas once, before the rest of the executioners all reacted and shot him as well, then turning to Alexandra and the rest of the family and shooting indiscriminately. Then, because they were mostly untrained, and many of them drunk, they hadn't killed them cleanly and attempted to bayonet them as well only to be prevented because of the jewels sewn into the clothes. The execution of 11 people took more than 20 minutes, and even then they still didn't kill one of the girls cleanly and she woke up screaming when they tried to move her body and had to be killed again. The most tragic aspect though was the description of how the young boy died.

The execution was supposed to be 'clean', but it was anything but and the attempts at destroying the corpses using acid, grenades and burning them were only partially successful such was the squad's incompetence. The real tragedy is that the Czechs were less than 20 miles away when the executioners acted.

It's just a tragic story and made doubly so because when you take away the politics, you really were just left with a regular family who would have been content with exile. This is definitely worth a read if you're interested in that period. Other books would maybe give a more vivid background on the extreme complexities that condemned them but this gives enough background to get an appreciation about it and concentrates more about the human issues. ( )
  sunnycouger | Sep 20, 2013 |
Rappaport's poignant look at the sad imprisonment and demise of the Romanovs is exhaustively researched, if sometimes imaginative--is there evidence to support that the stiff, formal Tsarina really "wished her own bonds of affection with the Russian people could have been appreciated rather than...misunderstood"? The character assumptions, if out of place in a work of nonfiction, serve to flesh out these dusty names from history, and make Rappaport's account of the Romanovs' demise even more horrifying, if that is possible. This is, of course, the most gripping part of the story, and the ineptness of the execution and subsequent attempts at concealment are truly shocking. For more details on Russian human rights abuses during this period, I also recommend "Gulag: a History," by Anne Applebaum.
  Sarahfine | Dec 27, 2011 |
An account of the last two weeks of the lives of the Romanovs and the details of their executions and their aftermath, plus an epilogue on subsequent attempts to get at the truth of what happened. The book conveys very well the grim atmosphere of impending disaster as the days tick by, combining necessary background detail of the evolving political and military situation, with personal details about the inhabitants of the Ipatiev House. Unlike nearly all other accounts of the Romanovs, the daughters are treated as four individual different young women, not some ethereal collective representing innocent femininity, and we also get to hear about the background of Dr Botkin as well as that of Yurovsky and the other leading killers. The account of the actual murders is very graphic and horrific. A near perfect, concise account of these events and the main related issues. ( )
  john257hopper | Mar 6, 2011 |
Thanks to Sher (ProfilerSR) for recommending this book in 2009. Continuing my quest to learn more of Russian history, I noted The Last Days of the Romanovs in my LT library.

It was a hot, humid evening in Ekaterinburg, in the industrial town located in Siberia. July 16th started as other days for the Romanovs. They entertained themselves by playing cards, reading and caring for their young son and brother. Frail from blood that refused to clot, they continued their hovering and worrying.

Thin from lack of food, they were hungry. Weary of the constant rudeness and cruelty of the guards, their spirits were depressed. Hoping this terrible seclusion would end, they prayed religiously for rescue. Earlier that day, it was noted in Alexandra's diary that the kitchen boy was dismissed by the guards. Distressed, they complained. He was a likeable fellow who helped to ease Alexey's pain.

They ate their small rations of food and noted the unusual treat of hard boiled eggs. Later, the barbaric killers of the family ate the excess eggs. The shells of eggs were scattered with the bullets that fell from their corpses deep in the woods where their slaughtered bodies were hastily buried.

Hours ago, they were systematically herded into a small basement room. Unaware of their fate, they believed they were to be transported to a safer location.

The dresses and coats of the Royal family hid jewels, carefully sewn into the seems of the garments. As the bullets hit their bodies, they ricocheted off the rubies and diamonds, thus impeding the quick killing the assassins planned.

This book chronicles the events leading up to the downfall of Nicholas and Alexandra, but primarily it is the well researched account of the terror and chaos of the brutal slaying of a family who did not deserve this fate.

Recommended ( )
5 vote Whisper1 | Mar 6, 2011 |
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Don't you forget what's divine in the Russian soul -- and that's resignation. -Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes, 1911.
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For my daughters, Dani and Lucy
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On the evening of 29 April 1918, a special train stood in a siding at the remote railway halt of Lyubinskaya on the Trans-Siberian railway line, not far from the city of Omsk.
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A brilliant account of the political forces swirling through the remote Urals town of Ekaterinburg at the bitter end of the First World War. Challenges the view that the deaths of the Romanovs were a unilateral act by a maverick group of Bolsheviks, and identifies a chain of command that stretches to Moscow-- and to Lenin himself.… (more)

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