Books by Mark D. Steinberg

Released: Oct. 18, 1995

The third entry in Yale's Annals of Communism series consists of documents on the fate of the Romanov dynasty, including official orders, personal letters, diaries, and recollections, interspersed with a commentary by Steinberg (History/Yale Univ.). The documents, found in the Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow (where coauthor Krustalâv is historian-archivist), run from late February 1917, just before the Russian Revolution, up to the execution of the former Tsar Nicholas II with his family and servants in July 1918. It reveals the tsar and his family alternately oblivious to the mood of the times (Alexandra writes to her husband that the riots in St. Petersburg are ``a hooligan movement''); pathetic (in a letter from Nicholas to his sister, ``For me, night is the best part of the dayat least you forget yourself for a while''); and noble (one of the tsar's daughters writes to an officer supposedly organizing their escape that it would be ``ignoble'' to leave without the servants ``after they have followed us voluntarily into exile''). On the vexed question of the responsibility for the murder of the tsar and his family, the documents are inconclusive. Steinberg thinks it likely that Lenin approved the murder but that ``no direct proof has ever surfaced.'' He concludes that the version closest to the evidence is that the Urals Soviet was authorized to execute the tsar and his family without trial if the military situation deteriorated. Most chilling is the recollection of the commissar who murdered them. Writing of the tsar's young hemophiliac son, he noted that ``Aleksei remained seated, petrified, and I finished him off.'' A mixed bag of documents, alternately the mundane record of a largely uneventful captivity and the cruel record of an execution, with first-class analysis from Steinberg. Read full book review >