Nicholas and Alexandra: The Classic Account of the Fall of the Romanov Dynasty

Nicholas and Alexandra: The Classic Account of the Fall of the Romanov Dynasty

by Robert K. Massie


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The story of the love that ended an empire

In this commanding book, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Robert K. Massie sweeps readers back to the extraordinary world of Imperial Russia to tell the story of the Romanovs’ lives: Nicholas’s political naïveté, Alexandra’s obsession with the corrupt mystic Rasputin, and little Alexis’s brave struggle with hemophilia. Against a lavish backdrop of luxury and intrigue, Massie unfolds a powerful drama of passion and history—the story of a doomed empire and the death-marked royals who watched it crumble.

Praise for Nicholas and Alexandra

“A larger-than-life drama.”Saturday Review

“A moving, rich book . . . [This] revealing, densely documented account of the last Romanovs focuses not on the great events . . . but on the royal family and their evil nemesis. . . . The tale is so bizarre, no melodrama is equal to it.”Newsweek

“A wonderfully rich tapestry, the colors fresh and clear, every strand sewn in with a sure hand. Mr. Massie describes those strange and terrible years with sympathy and understanding. . . . They come vividly before our eyes.”The New York Times
“An all-too-human picture . . . Both Nicholas and Alexandra with all their failings come truly alive, as does their almost storybook romance.”Newsday
“A magnificent and intimate picture . . . Not only the main characters but a whole era become alive and comprehensible.”Harper’s

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345438317
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/28/2000
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 79,528
Product dimensions: 5.43(w) x 8.24(h) x 1.34(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Robert K. Massie was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and studied American history at Yale and European history at Oxford, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He was president of the Authors Guild from 1987 to 1991. His books include Nicholas and Alexandra, Peter the Great: His Life and World (for which he won a Pulitzer Prize for biography), The Romanovs: The Final Chapter, Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War, Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea, and Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman.

Read an Excerpt



Part One


1894: Imperial Russia

From the Baltic city of St. Petersburg, built on a river marsh in a far northern corner of the empire, the Tsar ruled Russia. So immense were the Tsar’s dominions that, as night began to fall along their western borders, day already was breaking on their Pacific coast. Between these distant frontiers lay a continent, one sixth of the land surface of the globe. Through the depth of Russia’s winters, millions of tall pine trees stood silent under heavy snows. In the summer, clusters of white-­trunked birch trees rustled their silvery leaves in the slanting rays of the afternoon sun. Rivers, wide and flat, flowed peacefully through the grassy plains of European Russia toward a limitless southern horizon. Eastward, in Siberia, even mightier rivers rolled north to the Arctic, sweeping through forests where no human had ever been, and across desolate marshes of frozen tundra.

Here and there, thinly scattered across the broad land, lived the one hundred and thirty million subjects of the Tsar: not only Slavs but Baits, Jews, Germans, Georgians, Armenians, Uzbeks and Tartars. Some were clustered in provincial cities and towns, dominated by onion-­shaped church domes rising above the white-­walled houses. Many more lived in straggling villages of unpainted log huts. Next to doorways, a few sunflowers might grow. Geese and pigs wandered freely through the muddy street. Both men and women worked all summer, planting and scything the high silken grain before the coming of the first September frost. For six interminable months of winter, the open country became a wasteland of freezing whiteness. Inside their huts, in an atmosphere thick with the aroma of steaming clothes and boiling tea, the peasants sat around their huge clay stoves and argued and pondered the dark mysteries of nature and God.

In the country, the Russian people lived their lives under a blanket of silence. Most died in the villages where they were born. Three fourths of them were peasants, freed from the land a generation before by the Tsar-­Liberator Alexander II’s emancipation of the serfs. But freedom did not produce food. When famine came and the black earth cracked for lack of rain, and the grain withered and crumbled to dust still on the stalks, then the peasants tore the thatch from their roofs to feed their livestock and sent their sons trudging into town to look for work. In famine, the hungry moujiks wrapped themselves in ragged cloaks and stood all day in silence along the snowy roads. Noble ladies, warm in furs, drove their troikas through the stricken countryside, delivering with handsome gestures of their slender arms a spray of silver coins. Soon, along came the tax collector to gather up the coins and ask for others.

When the moujiks grumbled, a squadron of Cossacks rode into town, with lances in their black-­gloved hands and whips and sabers swinging from their saddles. Troublemakers were flogged, and bitterness flowed with blood. Landowner, police, local governor and functionaries were roundly cursed by Russia’s peasants. But never the Tsar. The Tsar, far away in a place nearer heaven than earth, did no wrong. He was the Batiushka-­Tsar, the Father of the Russian people, and he did not know what suffering they had to endure. “It is very high up to God! It is very far to the Tsar!” said the Russian proverb. If only we could get to the Tsar and tell him, our troubles would be at an end—­so runs the plot of a hundred Russian fairy tales.

As the end of the century approached, the life of many of these scattered towns and villages was stirring. The railroad was coming. During these years, Russia built railroads faster than any other country in Europe. As in the American West, railroads bridged the vast spaces, linked farms to cities, industries to markets. Travelers could step aboard a train in Moscow and, after a day in a cozy compartment, sipping tea and watching the snowbound countryside float past, descend onto a station platform in St. Petersburg. In 1891 the Imperial government had begun the construction of Russia’s greatest railway, the Trans-­Siberian. Beginning in the eastern suburbs of Moscow, the ribbon of track would stretch more than four thousand miles to the Pacific Ocean.

Then, as now, Moscow was the hub of Russia, the center of railroads, waterways, trade and commerce. From a small twelfth-­century village surrounded by a wooden stockade, Moscow had become the capital and Holy City of Russia. It was there that Ivan the Terrible announced, when he took the throne in 1547, that he would be crowned not as Grand Prince of Moscow, but as Tsar of all Russia.

Moscow was “The City of Forty Times Forty Churches.” High above the green rooftops glistened the blue-­and-­gilded onion domes of hundreds of church towers. Below, the wide avenues were graced by the columned palaces of princes and the mansions of wealthy textile merchants. In the maze of back streets, rows of two-­story wooden buildings and log cabins sheltered the city’s clerks and factory workers. The streets themselves lay deep in the snows of winter, the spring mud or the thick dust of summer. Women and children who ventured out had to watch for the sudden dash of a carriage or a thundering band of Cossacks whooping like cowboys in a town of the American West.

In the heart of Moscow, its massive red walls jutting from the bank of the Moscow River, stood the somber medieval citadel of Russian power, the Kremlin. Not a single building but an entire walled city, it seemed to a romantic Frenchman no less than a mirror of Russia itself: “This curious conglomeration of palaces, towers, churches, monasteries, chapels, barracks, arsenals and bastions; this incoherent jumble of sacred and secular buildings; this complex of functions as fortress, sanctuary, seraglio, harem, necropolis, and orison; this blend of advanced civilization and archaic barbarism; this violent conflict of crudest materialism and most lofty spirituality; are they not the whole history of Russia, the whole epic of the Russian nation, the whole inward drama of the Russian soul?”

Moscow was the “Third Rome,” the center of the Orthodox Faith. For millions of Russians, most of the drama and panoply of life on earth were found in the Orthodox Church. In the great cathedrals of Russia, peasant women with kerchiefs over their heads could mingle with princesses in furs and jewels. People of every class and age stood for hours holding candles, their minds and senses absorbed in the overwhelming display taking place around them. From every corner of the church, golden icons glittered in the glowing light. From the iconostasis, a high screen before the altar, from the miters and crosses of gold-­robed bishops, blazed diamonds and emeralds and rubies. Priests with long beards trailing down their chests walked among the people, swinging smoking pots of incense. The service was not so much a chant as a linked succession of hymns, drawing unbelievable power from the surging notes of the deepest basses. Dazzled by sights and smells, washed clean by the soaring notes of the music, the congregation came forward at the end of the service to kiss the soft hand of the bishop and have him paint a cross in holy oil upon their foreheads. The Church offered the extremes of emotion, from gloom to ecstasy. It taught that suffering was good, that drabness and pain were inevitable. “As God wills,” the Russian told himself and, with the aid of the Church, sought to find the humility and strength to bear his earthly burden.

For all its glory, Moscow in 1894 was no longer the capital of the Tsar’s empire. Two hundred years before, Peter the Great had forcibly wrenched the nation from its ancient Slav heritage and thrust it into the culture of Western Europe. On the marshes of the Neva River, Peter built a new city, intended to become Russia’s “Window on Europe.” Millions of tons of red granite were dragged into the marsh- land, piles were driven, and two hundred thousand laborers died of fever and malnutrition, but before Peter himself died in 1725, he ruled his empire from this strange, artificial capital at the head of the Baltic Sea.

Peter’s city was built on water. It spread across nineteen islands, chained by arching bridges, laced by winding canals. To the northeast lay the wide expanse of Lake Ladoga, to the west the Gulf of Finland; between them rolled the broad flood of the river Neva. “Cleaving the city down the center, the cold waters of the Neva move silently and swiftly like a slab of smooth grey metal . . . bringing with them the tang of the lonely wastes of forests and swamp from which they have emerged.” The northern shore was dominated by the grim brown bastions of the Fortress of Peter and Paul, surmounted by a slim golden spire soaring four hundred feet into the air above the fortress cathedral. For three miles along the southern bank ran a solid granite quay lined by the Winter Palace, the Admiralty, the foreign embassies and the palaces of the nobility.

Called the Venice of the North, the Babylon of the Snows, St. Peters- burg was European, not Russian. Its architecture, its styles, its morals and its thought were Western. The Italian flavor was distinct. Italian architects, Rastrelli, Rossi, Quarenghi, brought to Russia by Peter and his heirs, had molded huge baroque palaces in red and yellow, pale green or blue and white, placing them amid ornate gardens on broad and sweeping boulevards. Even the smaller buildings were painted, plastered and ornamented in the style and colors of the south. Massive public buildings were lightened by ornamented windows, balconies and columned doorways. St. Petersburg’s enormous Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan was a direct copy of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Despite its Mediterranean style, St. Petersburg was a northern city where the Arctic latitudes played odd tricks with light and time. Winter nights began early in the afternoon and lasted until the middle of the following morning. Icy winds and whirling snowstorms swept across the flat plain surrounding the city to lash the walls and windows of the Renaissance palaces and freeze the Neva hard as steel. Over the baroque spires and the frozen canals danced the strange fires of the aurora borealis. Occasionally a brilliant day would break the gloomy monotony. The sky would turn a silvery blue and the crystal snow-­flakes on the trees, rooftops and gilded domes would sparkle with sunlight so bright that the eye could not bear the dazzling glare. Winter was a great leveler. Tsar, minister, priest and factory worker all layered themselves in clothing and, upon coming in from the street, headed straight to the bubbling samovar for a glass of hot tea.

Summer in St. Petersburg was as light as the winters were dark. For twenty-­two hours the atmosphere of the city was suffused with light. By eleven in the evening the colors of the day had faded into a milky haze of silver and pearl, and the city, veiled in iridescence, slept in silence. Yet those who were up after midnight could look to the east and see, as a pink line against the horizon, the beginning of the next dawn. Summer could be hot in the capital. Windows opened to catch the river breezes also brought the salt air of the Gulf of Finland, the aromas of spice and tar, the sound of carriage wheels, the shouts of street vendors, the peal of bells from a nearby church.

St. Petersburg, in 1894, still was faithful to Tsar Peter’s wish. It was the center of all that was advanced, all that was smart and much that was cynical in Russian life. Its great opera and ballet companies, its symphonies and chamber orchestras played the music of Glinka, Rimsky-­Korsakov, Borodin, Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky; its citizens read Pushkin, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev and Tolstoy. But society spoke French, not Russian, and the best clothing and furniture were ordered from Paris. Russian noblemen vacationed in Biarritz and Italy and on the Riviera, rather than going back to the huge country estates which supplied the funds to finance their pleasures. Men went to the race track and the gambling clubs. Ladies slept until noon, received their hairdressers and went for a drive to the Islands. Love affairs flourished, accompanied by the ceaseless rustle of delicious gossip.

Society went every night to the Imperial Ballet at the gorgeous blue-­and-­gold Maryinsky Theatre or to the Théatre Français, where “fashionable décolletage was compensated for by an abundance of jewels.” After the theatre, ladies and their escorts bundled themselves into furs in little, bright red sleighs and sped noiselessly over the snows to the Restaurant Cuba for supper and dancing. “Nobody thought of leaving before 3 a.m. and the officers usually stayed until five . . . when the sky was colored with pearl, rose and silver tints.”

The “season” in St. Petersburg began on New Year’s Day and lasted until the beginning of Lent. Through these winter weeks, the aristocracy of the capital moved through a staggering round of concerts, banquets, balls, ballets, operas, private parties and midnight suppers. Everybody gave one and everybody went. There were receptions at which officers in brilliant uniforms with blazing decorations and old ladies in billowing white satin dresses milled about in high-­ceilinged drawing rooms, plucking glasses of champagne from passing servants and filling their plates with cold sturgeon, chicken creams, stuffed eggs and three different kinds of caviar. There was the Bal Blanc, at which young, unmarried girls in virginal white danced quadrilles with young officers, carefully watched by vigilant chaperones sitting in stiff-­backed gold chairs. For young married couples, there were the Bals Roses, a swirl of waltzes and gypsy music, of flashing jewels and blue, green and scarlet uniforms, that “made one feel one had wings on one’s feet and one’s head in the stars.”

At the height of the season, ladies put on their diamonds in the morn- ing, attended church, received at luncheon, took some air in the afternoon and then went home to dress for a ball. Traditionally, the finest balls of all were those given by Their Majesties at the Winter Palace. No palace in Europe was better suited for formal mass revelry. The Winter Palace possessed a row of gigantic galleries, each as wide and tall as a cathedral. Great columns of jasper, marble and malachite supported high gilded ceilings, hung with immense crystal and gold chandeliers. Outside, in the intense cold of a January night, the whole three blocks of the Winter Palace would be flooded with light. An endless procession of carriages drew up, depositing passengers who handed their furs or cloaks to attendants and then ascended the wide white marble staircases, covered with thick velvet carpets. Along the walls, baskets of orchids and palm trees in large pots framed huge mirrors in which dozens of people could examine and admire themselves. At intervals along the corridors troopers of the Chevaliers Gardes, in white uniforms with silver breastplates and silver eagle-­crested helmets, and Cossack Life Guards in scarlet tunics stood rigidly at attention.

The three thousand guests included court officials in black, gold-­laced uniforms, generals whose chests sagged with medals from the Turkish wars, and young Hussar officers in full dress with elkskin breeches so tight it had taken two soldiers to pull them on. At a great court ball, the passion of Russian women for jewels was displayed on every head, neck, ear, wrist, finger and waist.

An Imperial ball began precisely at 8:30 in the evening, when the Grand Master of Ceremonies appeared and tapped loudly three times on the floor with an ebony staff, embossed in gold with the double-­headed eagle of the tsar. The sound brought an immediate hush. The great mahogany doors inlaid with gold swung open, the Grand Master of Ceremonies cried out, “Their Imperial Majesties,” and hundreds of dresses rustled as ladies sank into a deep curtsy. This announcement in the winter of 1894 produced the appearance of a tall, powerful, bearded man, Tsar Alexander III. Beside him, in a silver brocade gown sewn with diamonds, her famous diamond tiara in her hair, was his dark-­eyed Danish wife, Empress Marie. The orchestra broke into a polonaise, then as the evening progressed, a quadrille, a chaconne, a mazurka, a waltz. At midnight, in adjacent rooms, a supper was served. While demolishing plates of lobster salad, chicken patties, whipped cream and pastry tarts, the merrymakers could look through the double glass of the long windows to see the wind blowing gusts of fine powdered snow along the ice-­bound river. Through clusters of tables, the Tsar, six feet four inches tall, ambled like a great Russian bear, stopping here and there to chat, until 1:30, when the Imperial couple withdrew and the guests reluctantly went home.

Tsar Alexander III had an enormous capacity for work and awesome physical strength. He could bend iron pokers or silver plates. Once at dinner the Austrian ambassador hinted at trouble in the Balkans and mentioned ominously that Austria might mobilize two or three army corps. Alexander III quietly picked up a silver fork, twisted it into a knot and tossed it onto the plate of the Austrian ambassador. “That,” he said calmly, “is what I am going to do to your two or three army corps.” Alexander’s mode of relaxation was to rise before dawn, shoulder his gun and set off for a full day of hunting in the marshes or forests. Like a bear, he was gruff, blunt, narrow and suspicious. He had a strong mind, strong likes and dislikes and a purposeful will. After making a decision, he went to bed and slept soundly. He disliked Englishmen and Germans and had a passion for everything Russian. He hated pomp and felt that a true Russian should be simple in manners, table, speech and dress; he wore his own trousers and boots until they were threadbare. Queen Victoria once said frostily of this huge Tsar that he was “a sovereign whom she does not look upon as a gentleman.”

Alexander III dominated his family as he did his empire. His wife achieved a role of her own by charming the gruff giant; his children, especially his three sons, scarcely had any independence at all. The Tsar’s words were commands and, to one official of his court, when he spoke he “gave the impression of being on the point of striking you.” When he gathered a small group to play chamber music together, the Tsar dominated the room, puffing away on his big bassoon.

Under Alexander III, the Russian system of autocracy appeared to work. The tsar personally was the government of Russia. His power was absolute, his responsibility only to God. From the tsar, power flowed downward and was exercised across the empire by an army of ministers, governors, clerks, tax collectors and policemen, all appointed in the name of the tsar. No parliament existed, and the people had no say in their government. Even members of the Imperial family, the grand dukes and grand duchesses, were subject to the tsar’s will. Imperial grand dukes served as governors of provinces, or high-­ranking officers in the army or navy, but they served only at the pleasure of the tsar. A snap of his finger and they stepped aside.

Alexander III was a dedicated autocrat, exercising to the limit the powers of his rank. He would have been a forceful tsar under any circumstances, but the fierceness of his belief in autocracy was inspired by his revulsion against those who had murdered his father, the Tsar-­Liberator Alexander II. That his father’s assassins were not liberals but revolutionary terrorists did not concern Alexander III; he lumped them all together.

Throughout the thirteen years of his reign, Alexander III devoted himself to crushing all opposition to autocracy. Hundreds of his political enemies made the long journey to exile in the lost towns of Siberia. Heavy censorship shackled the press. Before long, the vigor of his policies actually began to create a psychological force in favor of autocracy, and the zeal of the assassins and revolutionaries began to wane.

Except in his reactionary political views, Alexander III was a forward-­looking tsar. He made a military alliance with republican France and acquired the huge French loans he needed to build Russian railways. He began rebuilding the Russian army and resisted all temptations and provocations which might have dragged it into war. Although he disliked Germans, he encouraged German industrialists to bring their capital and develop the coal and iron mines of Russia.

The attempt to run this vast empire by himself required all of Alexander Ill’s great energy. In order to work undisturbed, he chose to live in the palace at Gatchina, twenty-­five miles southwest of St. Petersburg. The Empress Marie much preferred living in town, and every winter she brought him into the capital to preside over the season. Alexander III flatly refused, however, to live in the huge, ornate Winter Palace, which he thought cold and drafty, and the Imperial couple took up residence in the smaller Anitchkov Palace on the Nevsky Prospect.

It was Russia’s good fortune that Alexander III was married to a woman whose talents exactly suited her position. Born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, she was a younger sister of Princess Alexandra, who married Edward, Prince of Wales, and became Queen of England. As a girl, Dagmar was engaged to Tsar Alexander Ill’s older brother, Nicholas, then the heir to the Russian throne. When Nicholas died before their marriage, he bequeathed to Alexander not only his title of Tsarevich, but his dark-­haired fiancée as well. Before her marriage, Princess Dagmar took the Russian name of Marie Fedorovna.

Russians loved this small, gay woman who became their Empress, and Marie gloried in the life of the Russian court. She delighted in parties and balls. “I danced and danced. I let myself be carried away,” she wrote at the age of forty-­four. Seated at dinner, she was an intelligent, witty conversationalist and, with her dark eyes flashing, her husky voice filled with warmth and humor, she dominated as much by charm as by rank. When something worth gossiping about occurred, Marie delightedly passed the tidbit along. “They danced the mazurka for half an hour,” she once reported in a letter. “One poor lady lost her petticoat which remained at our feet until a general hid it behind a pot of flowers. The unfortunate one managed to hide herself in the crowd before anyone discovered who she was.” Amused by human foibles, she was tolerant of human weaknesses. She regarded with droll pity the ordeal suffered by the Archduke Franz Ferdinand when he paid a ceremonial visit to St. Petersburg in 1891: “He is feted, he is stuffed with lunches and dinners everywhere so that he will end by having a monstrous indigestion. Last night at the theatre, he looked already rather pasty and left early with a migraine.”

By the time she was thirty, Marie had met the requirements of royal motherhood by producing five children. Nicholas was born May 18, 1868, followed by George (1871), Xenia (1875), Michael (1878) and Olga (1882). Because of her husband’s involvement in work, it was Marie who clucked over the children, supervised their studies, gave them advice and accepted their confidences. Frequently she acted as a maternal buffer between her growing brood and the strong, gruff man who was their father. Her oldest son, the shy Tsarevich Nicholas, was especially in need of his mother’s support. Everything about Alexander inspired awe in his son. In October 1888, the Imperial train was derailed near Kharkov as the Tsar and his family were eating pudding in the dining car. The roof caved in, but, with his great strength, Alexander lifted it on his shoulders and held it long enough for his wife and children to crawl free, unhurt. The thought that one day he would have to succeed this Herculean father all but overwhelmed young Nicholas.

As the year 1894 began, Nicholas’s fears appeared remote. Tsar Alexander III, only forty-­nine years old, was still approaching the peak of his reign. The early years had been devoted to reestablishing the autocracy in effective form. Now, with the empire safe and the dynasty secure, he expected to use the great power he had gathered to put a distinctive stamp on Russia. Already there were those who, gazing confidently into the future, had begun to compare Alexander III to Peter the Great.

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Nicholas and Alexandra 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 82 reviews.
immortalimp83 More than 1 year ago
This book means so much to me. My great grandfather was in the Russian army under the last 2 Tsars. He always spoke so highly of Nicholas and his family. He fled to America with his wife and children during the Revolution. My grandma Irina (renamed Irene, who will be 90 this year) grew up hearing about the family. She bought this book when it came out, being somewhat of a Romanov ameteur historian. She passed it to her son, my father, who also grew to love this amazing family. As fate would have it, I was born on the oldest daughter Grand Duchess Olga's b-day. When I was old enough, Grandma and Dad gave me their copy of this book. Every subsequent b-day and Christmas I recieve another book or some Romanov or imperial Russian related item. This is our way of honoring my heritage...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was remarkable, Robert k. Massie allows the readers to really look into the Russian imperial family's daily life and feel as if they are there alongside them. He allows the reader to go through the good times and bad, with them and feel as though they are there watching the empire crumble at their feet. The reader can literally hear the calmness of Nicholas's commands during the war, feel the agony Alexandra deals with as she watches her son, Alexis suffer from hemophilia, and become friends and enemies with those who closely surround the family. Personally I found the book wonderful and would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in Russia, royalty, and romance or if you are just looking for a good read. (Which in all reality this book is far beyond just a "good read") The only part I did not enjoy was how in-depth Robert k. Massie went with the details of Rasputin's dirty deeds. However the information was pretty necessary to get the point and facts across. On the other hand, I loved all the details of the imperial families' daily life, coronations, and family vacations. Also the way Massie goes into each characters background and future was quite enjoyable. Robert k. Massie really knows his stuff! I would recommend any of the books written by Robert k. Massie on account of his writing style, ability, and overall knowledge of Russian history. If I had to rate this book on a scale of one to ten I would give it a 14, it really and truly went above and beyond all of my expectations and I'm so glad I read it! It truly is a must read book!!
mermaidchick More than 1 year ago
And I loved it!!!!!!!!!!! This was my 35th birthday present to me from a dear friend and I cried at the end. I can't believe what happened to the Romanovs. I read this book in a matter of days. I couldn't put it down. It has inspired an excitement in me to learn more of european history which has always interested me. Massie wrote so well I couldn't tell I was learning history. I loved it so much that I do find my self still, after a couple of months since I read it, thinking about them and wishing things hadn't ended so tragically for them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am 16 years old, and read this book for a book report. This was incrediblely powerful! The fall of Imperial Russia and the Romanov Family facinates me! This is the absoulte BEST book that I have read about the topic! Hats off to Robert K. Massie!!!!!!!!!!!! If you even remotely are interested in this book, READ IT!!! You will love it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
EXCELLENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! One of the best book ever writing dealing with royal european history. The relationship between Nicholas & Alexandra and the times in which they lived is written in a very detailed and enjoyable fashion. If you love this book you should watch the movie Nicholas and Alexandra staring Janet Suzman and Tom Baker which was made in 1972.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a student of history, I find a lot of the books can be dull or dry. Not this one. It's full of interesting infomation to humanise a very vivid part of Russian history with two of her most interesting characters. While completely non-fiction, it doesn't read like a textbook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book just after I completed "Catherine The Great" by the same author, Robert K. Massie. I throughly enjoyed "Nicholas and Alexandra" because it gives the reader an up close and personal account of Russian history, and the Russian people in the late 19th Century and the early 20th Century. I appreciate the research the author had to do to put this very detailed account of the Tsar and his family together. I would highly recommend this book to anyone!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is essentially a true story about two people and their love .. for each other, family, country and god; their inability to rule wisely and the resulting disaster of the fall of their Imperial government with the background of the WWII. This is history told in flesh and blood. Robert Massie has written another masterpiece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I bought this book because I enjoy reading about world history but realized that what I knew of Russia was only in relation to the United States. This book brought life to this extremely important time in world history but more than facts gave me the human aspect and reasons that so many history books lack. It is a terrible story and so many decisions were made based on emotions rather than the greater good of the nation but as a parent I cannot fault a mother for putting the well being of her child before any and everything...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tsar Nicholas II was the last tsar of Russia, overthrown by the Bolsheviks and an enormous, starving nation. Him, his wife Alexandra and their four children were tragically murdered in the middle of the night by a nation that had grown to hate them. Robert K Massie does an exceptional job of showing how Nicholas and his family were victims of fate, exemplifying the power of propaganda and rumors, and how when a member of a family is chronically ill with a life-threatening illness the rest of the family will do anything possible to save the invalid. This book reads like a novel, while subtly teaching the reader all about the last tsar of Russia and his downfall. My only complaint is the abrupt manner in which the book ends, providing the epilogue isn't taken into account. Because of the wonderful way it is written to evoke emotion where most historical reads are very dry, even those not interested in Russian history can find pleasure in this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nicholas and Alexandra is the fascinating story of the last royal family of Russia, the Romanovs. Massie takes you from the childhood of Nicholas and Alexandra all the way to their tragic deaths. You see the deceitful relationship between Rasputin and Alexandra and also the motherly love of Alexandra. This book reads like a piece of fiction that Massie just dreamed up one day. Yet, all at once, it shows you the reality of this mysterious time period, both good and bad. Massie makes you feel as though you truly are sitting in the same room as the characters and that their life becomes yours. I did feel though, that at some points the details of World War I and the council men became a little bit too deep and complex to follow without knowing a great deal about Russian history and World War I. To me the map seemed a little bit incomplete of the exactly where the war cities and other important cities were and but it might have been an error on my part. I loved how when you are at first reading the book, Massie makes Alexandra out to be some cold and hard woman but then once you reflect you realize that the love she had for her son, her husband, and her country was intense. With other books on this subject, some of the information isn't necessarily 100% accurate but with the citations in the back of the book there was no debate that everything was true. Massie squashed all of the rumors about the Romanov children's death, Rasputin's death; his relationship with Alexandra, etc. This book also makes you think about life and the value that it holds. With Alexis' condition you realize how much you take simple things for granted, to me that was one of the most valuable parts of the book. One of the major themes of the book was trust and mistrust. Nicholas completely trusted Alexandra and Alexandra trusted her son's wellbeing with Rasputin. However, this trust was definitely wrongly placed in Rasputin. Some of Nicholas' most trusted officials had tried to cue him in and yet he still didn't believe in them which was a fatal decision. Overall, I would say that this book was very good and possibly one of the best I've read and it completely exceeded my expectations.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was perhaps the best book I have read on the Romanovs. I read it over 30 years ago, and have recently reread it. The problem at that time in around 1972 is that the print was so very small that it would be easy to put it down by just looking at the print. However, I pushed on, and it was a very educational experience. Lorrie
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found this book remarkably well researched and well written. Massie satisfies every time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was 14 just for fun, it is wonderfully written and gives you tons of information about what was going on with the last royal family of Russia
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Massie's account of the end of the Romanov era is thoroughly engrossing and completely fascinating. I would highly recommend it to both general readers and history buffs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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teckelvik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was given this book by a family friend when I was in junior high school. It was an amazing experience - probably my first experience of being completely swept into another world by a non-fiction book. Nicholas and Alexandra emerge as sympathetic and flawed characters, trapped in a deeply unjust and disfunctional system. The strength of this book is the Massies' (plural - Suzanne Massie was the uncredited co-author) deep research into the world of late Imperial Russia. The book covers the poverty, the sweep of the Siberian steppe, the elegance and glamor of St. Petersburg and Moscow, as well as the very human story of love and devotion between the title characters.This is a wonderful, highly recommended book.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title signals this is a dual biography. Yes, one set against the backdrop of the last decades of Imperial Russia and the Russian Revolution, but more intimate portrait of a couple than a book that deals with impersonal historical forces, though I think it gives enough of the context to make the destruction of the dynasty understandable. In the introduction Massie quoted Kerensky, the last Russian Prime Minister before the Bolsheviks took over, as saying, "Without Rasputin, there could have been no Lenin." Masse further notes that without Tsarevich Alexis' hemophilia, Rasputin would have never become a confident of a Tsar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra desperate to heal their child and heir. Massie himself became interested in the last Czar when his own son was diagnosed with hemophilia. He wrote this account in 1967 in the middle of the cold war, when Nicholas and Alexandria had been swallowed up in a memory hole. He brings Nicholas and Alexandra and their lavish lifestyle to life. He starts by painting the vast landscape of Russia, and he paints it and the court with vivid colors in the way of a fine novelist but with the insights of historian. This is not a short book by any means, over 500 pages. But not one page drags. He writes of the couple with tremendous sympathy and Nicholas comes across as a decent man, a good husband and father who was a dreadful Tsar. By the end of Part Three that ends with his abdication, I'd come to the conclusion Nicholas is Exhibit A in the case against monarchy in anything but a purely ceremonial role. I've heard of a recent book that actually tries to argue for monarchy over republics. The author contends that a monarch has a personal stake in the fate of a country that cuts across politics and that a dynastic vision means a longview rather than short-term perspective. Well, they have a personal stake in keeping power, true, but the roll of the genetic dice doesn't often mean a competent leader, let alone a gifted one in a monarch. If the Romanovs' tale ended with them stripped of their throne and in exile say in England, I'd have said that was a deserved and satisfactory fate. But of course that's not how it ended. Massie makes you feel the full weight of the personal and national tragedy. Forty-five years have passed since its publication, and I'm sure with the end of Soviet Russia a goldmine of information about the Romanovs has opened up--but this classic account of two lives has stayed in print for decades for good reason.
NellieMc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The iconic Russian biography written by a master. The irony of Nicholas and Alexandra, which Massie so beautifully captures, is that they had a loving marriage marred by the anxiety of a chronically ill child. If they hadn't happened to have been Russia's rulers at the turn of the 20th century, they would still have been interesting, but not tragic, people. What made them tragic is that their weaknesses, esp. Alexandra's for believing in the mysticism of one of the great frauds of our time¿Rasputin¿contributed to the tragedy that was World War I and helped push Russia into the communist era rather than in a more democratic evolution out of monarchy. And Massie really helps bring that out. Well worth a read.
Whisper1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read many books regarding Russia. I'm fascinated by this incredible country. Published in 1967, Nicolas and Alexandra by Robert Massie seems to be the definitive book by which others are measured regarding this subject.Massie is an incredible writer. His images are crisp and clear. The reader can feel the icy cold winds of Siberia, can almost taste the delicacies served at the grand balls held in the Winter Palace and can also have a sense of silently watching the Royal family in their daily lives as the clock ticks toward the inevitability of their death. I felt like an observer, peering into the large windows of the palace as I watched the shimmer of the jewels and felt the texture of the jewel-laden gowns of the aristocratic women as they swirled around the golden dance floor, arms on the handsome Russian soldiers. Then, I was transported to the hovels of the Russian pheasants and felt the abject poverty and hopelessness.Massie paints a lovely and tragic portrait of the couple, so in love and so doomed. Never wanting a leadership position, Nicholas was a terrible manager. Better at wearing a military costume than actually strategically planning a war or leading his people, this inept Tsar didn't have a clue how to rule.Massie's major point is that had it not been for the agony of Alexi's hemophilia, had it not been for the desperation of Alexandra which led her to the mad monk Rasputin, the downfall of the Romanov's would never have occurred. Throughout 532 pages, Massie enthralls the reader with the history and life of the vast country of Russia. Brilliant, poignant, never boring, this is a must read for anyone interested in Russian history.
Jmmott on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is the book that initially spurred my interest into the Russian Revolution. The concept that a love match could go so amazingly wrong with regards to politics, and global conflict was a pretty amazing look into dynastic marriages and imperial politics.
ValSmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My edition of this book was published in 1967. I have read it at least three times, and found it a fairly detailed look at the reign of Nicholas II (1894), his relationship with his wife Alexandra, their relationship with Rasputin, their struggle with the heir Alexis' hemophilia, and their fall and execution by the Bolsheviks in 1918. A sad account, often angering the reader for the seemingly rigidity and inability to lead by the Tsar.
ddelmoni on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me, this is the best telling of the Romanov family. I've read it more than once, over 20 years, and still find Massie's narrative to be reviting and his history flawless. I find it interesting that now -- older, wise and the mother of 2 -- I'm much more forgiving and far more understanding of the main characters, than I was in my 20's. I also understand we saddle our own "baggage" on others, even characters we're simply reading about.
aajay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite Romanov book. The tragedy of a ruler fatally unfit for rule is borne out not only by Nicholas II and Louis XVI but unfortunately by USA's current leader. All three share the fatal flaws of stunted intellects embellished by arrogance, stubborness and misguided advisors. For Nicholas and Louis it was decades of misrule and fecklessnes by their forbears that led to their inevitable end. Our leader has orchestrated his debacle in less than ten years.