THE LAST TSAR by Edvard Radzinsky


The Life and Death of Nicholas II
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 On July 17, 1918, Nicholas II--the last tsar in the 300-year- old Romanov dynasty--and his wife, five children, family doctor, and three servants were executed in the storage room of a squalid house in a small Siberian city, their bodies burned, then buried in a mine shaft. From previously hidden royal diaries and letters, the testimony of the executioners, and the reminiscences of friends and descendants, Radzinsky, a popular Russian playwright, dramatizes the Romanovs' final, poignant days--the confusion, mystery, and waste. Radzinsky begins by re-creating the personalities and events of happier times: Nicholas, doting, charming, ineffectual; ``Little Wifey,'' as he called his empress, the half-mad, superstitious, demanding granddaughter of Queen Victoria; the four daughters, dressed in white; the hemophiliac son, beloved but bored; the demonic Rasputin; and the clutch of cousins and generals who secluded the royal family from the popular unrest, terrorism, and war that marked Nicholas's reign. Radzinsky's dramatic technique of weaving together scraps from the family's diaries and letters is particularly effective in the book's second half. There, he follows the Romanovs through their final year after Nicholas's abdication, a year during which the family--waiting to be rescued by the tsar's English cousin, King George, or to seek refuge in a monastery--was dragged around the countryside by unlettered Bolshevik guards until Lenin himself, deciding on the ``simple'' and ``ingenious'' solution to the Romanovs' fate, gave the order for their execution, recounted here in brutal detail. Like James Blair Lovell in Anastasia (1991), Radzinsky incorporates into his story his own pursuit of historical truth, sharing his frustrations and fascinations; and he confirms what Lovell demonstrated--that the Romanovs tend to inspire exceptional writing, lyrical, precise, and intense. (Fifty b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: July 17th, 1992
ISBN: 0-385-42371-3
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1992


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