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The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of…

The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II

by Edvard Radzinsky

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How do you make a story suspenseful when everyone knows how it ends? Mr. Radzinsky solved this problem in The Last Tsar by writing a historical-detective tale. The death of Russia’s last tsar, along with that of his family, is told largely through actual documents: diaries and letters of the tsar and his wife, and painstakingly uncovered reports from the Soviet archives. In addition, there are interviews with people who contacted Mr. Radzinsky after he began publishing articles in Russia about the tsar’s execution.

The Soviet state was highly secretive and paranoid, and the details of the tsar’s death had been buried. So the public record on the execution was skeletal: the world knew the family had been killed, but that was about it. Mr. Radzinsky builds the story slowly, so that even on the last pages of this 400-page book the reader still learns new, fascinating details.

I was intrigued with the Soviet Union when I was younger. I spent six weeks in 1979 traveling through the western part of Russia; I could speak Russian at the time. I have studied Russian and Soviet history, but my attention when I read about the Russian revolution was always on the Bolsheviks. I had never read about this event from the tsar’s point of view.

What becomes clear is that the tsar and his wife were detached from reality. They traveled between their palaces, took trips on the royal yacht, and held balls. They lived in a dream world that they thought would never end, even though the warnings couldn’t have been clearer. The French Revolution was an obvious cautionary tale, but closer to home, Nicholas’ grandfather had been assassinated in 1881, and in 1905 there was a mini-Russian revolution. But because Nicholas and Alexandra were so oblivious in their dream world, they never stopped fighting the prospect of a constitution and a constituent assembly.

The tsaritsa was the worst. All she could think of was getting her son on the throne. The disaster of her relationship with Rasputin was her desperate attempt to keep the hemophiliac heir well enough to rule one day. In addition, she wanted him to have absolute power.

When the tsar and his family were arrested and sent to Siberia (Tobolsk), it’s hard to believe how thoroughly they were abandoned. It appears that no one tried to rescue them. It also seems that they could have escaped and didn’t, in part because there was no one who cared enough about them to help, and also because the tsar felt he belonged to Russia and couldn’t leave her. Not to mention their faith: God was on their side and whatever happened was His will.

If you’re interested in details about how the tsar lived you’ll have to look elsewhere. You also won’t learn much about the Soviet revolution—other than the fascinating detail that the Bolsheviks were close to losing power in 1918; they were almost defeated in the civil war that erupted after the Revolution. The executions took place a day or two before the White Russians took the town where the royal family had been held captive.
This isn’t an easy book, but if you like history it’s definitely worth the read.
( )
  KatieBrugger | Jun 6, 2013 |
This book is not so much about life of Nicholas II as about his death. The first half of the book is just a prologue to the events and people surrounding his death - which take the whole second half. It is interesting and intriguing and well researched but I had different expectations. I expected it to be a study of Nicholas II life in the context of political environment and events - and there were so many important events. It's all has been mentioned but very briefly, without going into details. Much more emphasize has been put on personality of Nicholas II, and especially his relationship with Alix. Which is all good and interesting but not enough. ( )
  everfresh1 | Mar 17, 2011 |
I can't read this book, because it is in Russian but I am sure it is excellent. ( )
  Joansknight | Nov 28, 2010 |
well done ( )
  Harrod | Nov 26, 2008 |
2487 The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II, by Edvard Radzinsky translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz (read 24 Jan 1993) The author is a playwright who has spent 25 years researching Nicholas II. The book spends a great deal of time on what happened at Ekaterinberg, and lists in its bibliography those fascinating books: The Riddle of Anna Anderson (read by me 24 Oct 1983), The Hunt for the Czar (read 16 Oct 1980), and The File on the Czar (read 16 Jan 1977). This book is a thrown together book, but I believe a little more carefully done than the last two above mentioned. The author seems to believe the whole family perished at Ekaterinberg, but does tell of a F. G. Semyonov, who believed he was Alexei, and does not reject Anna Anderson absolutely. However, because of the rather disjointed way this book is put together it was not as absorbing as other books I have read in this area. ( )
1 vote Schmerguls | Apr 26, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385469624, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:35 -0400)

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