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The Fall of the Romanovs

The Fall of the Romanovs: Political Dreams and Personal Struggles in a Time of Revolution

Mark D. Steinberg
Vladimir M. Khrustalëv
Russian documents translated by Elizabeth Tucker
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 464
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  • Book Info
    The Fall of the Romanovs
    Book Description:

    "All around me is treachery, cowardice, and deceit!"-diary of Nicholas II, on the day he abdicated"Behave with dignity; do not allow the former tsar and his family to be insulted or treated rudely."-Commissar Vasily Pankratov's instructions to the guard, September 1917"The bullets...ricocheted off [the jewels in the daughters' corsets] and jumped around the room like hail."-Yakov Yurovsky, commissar in charge of the execution of the tsar and his familyThe compelling and poignant story of the arrest, captivity, and execution of the last tsar of Russia and his family during the revolution of 1917-1918 has been recounted-and romanticized-for decades. Now a new book explores the full range of events and reveals the thoughts, perceptions, and judgments of the individuals involved-Nicholas and Alexandra, their children, and the men who guarded and eventually killed them.This deeply moving book is based on documents and photographs from recently opened Russian archives and from Western collections. The documents, which appear for the first time in English (the language in which some of them were originally written), include correspondence between Nicholas and Alexandra during the February 1917 revolution; portions of their diaries; minutes of government meetings, telegrams, and other official papers concerning the arrest, confinement, and execution of the Romanovs; letters written by the captive tsar and his family to friends and relatives; appeals from Russian citizens concerning the fate of the Romanovs; and testimonies by the revolutionaries who guarded and executed them.

    Mark D. Steinberg sets the stage for this dramatic saga of revolution in a text that provides engrossing narrative and sensitive exploration of ideas and values and that draws on the whole range of archival and published documents. He and Vladimir M. Khrustalëv also provide notes identifying people and explaining terms. Together, the text and documents challenge the conventional image of Nicholas as weak and witless and of Alexandra as either the preoccupied mother of a hemophiliac heir or as the treasonous "German empress." Instead they tell an ironic tale of individuals whose fatalistic spirituality and unbending faith in an archaic political culture allowed them to fall victim to revolutionaries whose political dreams had yet to be proven false.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15701-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    Mark D. Steinberg
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Mark D. Steinberg
  6. Note on the Documents
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  7. Introduction Nicholas and Alexandra, an Intellectual Portrait
    (pp. 1-38)

    THE story of the arrest, captivity, and execution of the last Russian tsar and his family in 1917–1918 has long appealed to the public imagination in both Russia and the West. In the United States and western Europe, émigrés published dozens of accounts—invariably impassioned but varying in reliability—in the first decade after the Russian Revolution, and Western writers and historians continued to explore the story in the years following. In Russia, Soviet ideological constraints and preoccupations precluded any open discussion of the fate of the imperial family until the early days of glasnost. Then came an explosion...

  8. 1 Revolution
    (pp. 39-115)

    WELL before the revolutionary upheavals of 1917, the democratic challenge to traditional structures of power in Russia worried Russian conservatives, among them Nicholas II. At the very beginning of his reign, Nicholas acknowledged the growth in Russian society of “senseless dreams of participation … in matters of internal administration.”¹ Inspiring these dreams were powerful and dangerous ideas about inalienable rights and the moral and political necessity of civil liberty. Since the late eighteenth century, liberal ideas of the European Enlightenment had increasingly found a place in the thinking of Russia’s educated elite, including many state officials. As the number and...

  9. 2 Under Arrest at Tsarskoe Selo
    (pp. 116-168)

    INSPIRED by divergent ideas about the meaning and purposes of the revolution, the Provisional Government and the powerful nationwide network of soviets of workers’ and soldiers’ deputies viewed the fate of the abdicated tsar and his family differently. The liberals in the government held an embracing notion of citizenship that disregarded class and position. They were committed to promoting national unity and concord rather than conflict and hesitated to punish former enemies. Their political vocabulary was filled with references to nation, morality, law, duty, and rights. When considering the fate of the former imperial family, these liberals tended to view...

  10. Photographs
    (pp. None)
  11. 3 Siberian Captivity
    (pp. 169-276)

    AT dawn on 1 August 1917, the former tsar and his family left their palace at Tsarskoe Selo for the last time and, under heavy guard, boarded a train to Siberia. Although Minister President Aleksandr Kerensky stated that Nicholas, his family, and those who voluntarily accompanied them were to be treated as “under arrest” (Document 59), conditions en route and in exile were no harsher than at Tsarskoe Selo. The journey to Siberia was made in comfortable sleeper cars of the International Wagon-Lits Company and with a restaurant car serving—according to the evaluation that Nicholas noted in his diary...

  12. 4 Death in Yekaterinburg
    (pp. 277-366)

    ACCORDING to Pave1 Matveev, a member of the guard that accompanied Nicholas on his journey from Tobolsk, when Nicholas realized that his destination was Yekaterinburg, not Moscow, he commented, “I would go anywhere at all, only not to the Urals,” where, he had heard, the “mood” was “harshly against” him.¹ The comment may be apocryphal, like so much of the testimony of witnesses that has served as evidence, but even the fact that it was reported reflects the Urals’ well-deserved reputation as a bastion of left-wing radicalism. This reputation was reconfirmed, according to other recollections, the moment of the group’s...

  13. Chronology
    (pp. 367-378)
  14. Glossary of Personal and Institutional Names
    (pp. 379-395)
  15. Genealogy of the Imperial Family
    (pp. 396-398)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 399-418)
  17. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 419-422)
  18. Document and Illustration Credits
    (pp. 423-432)
  19. Index
    (pp. 433-444)