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The Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II

de Edvard Radzinsky

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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.
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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 |
Когда читаешь Радзинского, не покидает чувство, что смотришь голливудский исторический фильм: в череде фактов и событий подчеркиваются/выбираются те, которые развлекают. И даже если факты не подкорректированы, то все равно не оставляет ощущение какой-то исторической попсы. До этой книги я Радзинского только слушала, а теперь вот почитала. Наличествует чувство напрасно потраченного времени ( )
  utrechko | Sep 23, 2011 |
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 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Edvard Radzinskyautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Schwartz, MarianTraductorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and thou set they next among the stars, thence I will bring thee down, saith the Lord. --Obediah 1:4
Lord save Russia and bring her peace. --Tsar Nicholas II, October 17, 1905
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Prologue: As now, the century then was living out its last years.
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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.

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