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The First English Translation of the Wartime Diaries of the Eldest Daughter of Nicholas II, the Last Tsar of Russia, with Additional Documents of the Period
In August 1914, Russia entered World War I, and with it, the imperial family of Tsar Nicholas II was thrust into a conflict they would not survive. His eldest child, Olga Nikolaevna, great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, had begun a diary in 1905 when she was ten years old and kept writing her thoughts and impressions of day-to-day life as a grand duchess until abruptly ending her entries when her father abdicated his throne in March 1917. Held at the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow, Olga’s diaries during the wartime period have never been translated into English until this volume. At the outset of the war, Olga and her sister Tatiana worked as nurses in a military hospital along with their mother, Tsarina Alexandra. Olga’s younger sisters, Maria and Anastasia, visited the infirmaries to help raise the morale of the wounded and sick soldiers. The strain was indeed great, as Olga records her impressions of tending to the officers who had been injured and maimed in the fighting on the Russian front. Concerns about her sickly brother, Aleksei, abound, as well those for her father, who is seen attempting to manage the ongoing war. Gregori Rasputin appears in entries, too, in an affectionate manner as one would expect of a family friend. While the diaries reflect the interests of a young woman, her tone grows increasingly serious as the Russian army suffers setbacks, Rasputin is ultimately murdered, and a popular movement against her family begins to grow. At the point Olga ends her writing in 1917, the author continues the story by translating letters and impressions from family intimates, such as Anna Vyrubova, as well as the diary kept by Nicholas II himself. Finally, once the imperial family has been put under house arrest by the revolutionaries, we follow events through observations by Alexander Kerensky, head of the initial Provisional Government, these too in English translation for the first time. Olga would offer no further personal writings, as she and the rest of her family were crowded into the basement of a house in the Urals and shot to death in July 1918.
The Diary of Olga Romanov: Royal Witness to the Russian Revolution, translated and introduced by scientist and librarian Helen Azar, and supplemented with additional primary source material, is a remarkable document of a young woman who did not choose to be part of a royal family and never exploited her own position, but lost her life simply because of what her family represented.
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
HELEN AZAR is a librarian at the Free Library of Philadelphia who helps run a popular local history program. Trained as a scientist, she has worked at the Rare Book Foundation at the Museum of Tsarskoe Selo, Russia, and has published several articles on the identification of the remains of the last Tsar and his family.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
think what makes this volume so special, and needed in the Romanov oeuvre, is that a close examination of one of the last Tsar's daughters has never been published before in English, for an English reading audience, and in a scholarly manner. Azar's scientific credentials are more than sufficient to serve as historian, since no academic discipline demands careful research and the presentation of evidence more than the pure sciences. I was inspired to purchase this book based on that information alone. Too many, far too many, dreamy, frou-frou tomes and tales of Anastasia and her sisters have passed through the bookstores and onto my bookshelves, and they never satisfied. Who among OTMA devotees has not wondered about the details of their individual lives, particularly that of Olga's, who was the oldest child, oldest daughter, the one most keenly aware of what was happening around her in the family's final years. Azar's book allows us a solid look into Olga's life, via her diaries and the really helpful supporting documents.
I like to think that I am a real Romanov "nerd"....in a good way of course! I have read and purchased all of the major books that have come out about them since back when Massie wrote "Nicholas and Alexandra" and that started my interest. This latest book by Ms. Azar is a wonderful opportunity to open the window just a little more on the lives of the Romanovs, in particular, Grand Duchess Olga, the oldest daughter. In her own words, which it is amazing to read, she talks about her daily life, and we find that many of the stereotypes we used to think of about the "girls" are not true. Olga was a lively, intelligent girl with an inquiring mind and this book shows many facets of her personality that were heretofore not known. Ms. Azar has put together this book in a format that is easy to read, and the inclusion of excerpts from other sources, such as Tsar Nicholas's diary and the Memoirs of others close to the Imperial Family, round out the narrative of the diary. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the last Imperial Family of Russia, or indeed, anyone who is learning about the Russian Revolution, for the life of this young woman, short as it was, mirrored the start of the Revolution. I think this book is a "must have" in the library of any person interested in the Romanovs, the Russian Revolution, or indeed, Royalty of that period. I rate this book with five stars!
This book is excellent! It gives you the feel of actually being there and feeling what Olga felt, seeing what she saw. It also includes many rare pictures and other information. I highly recommend it to all Romanov fans, and everyone!
Sorry to break it to you, fellow Romanov aficionados, but Olga's diary is more a list, as another reviewer warned, of "What I did today." She and Tatiana went to the infirmary, she had tea with her Aunt Xenia, she took a walk with her father. What did she and her father talk about? Olga never says. How did she feel about her work at the infirmary during WWI? After all, it was grueling work and it was her first real contact with what most of us would call "the real world." Surprisingly, Olga never addresses any of that. As for the title's claim that she was a witness to the Russian Revolution -- she sure doesn't see much, based on what Azar gives us. This is also surprising, as according to other sources (I think it was family friend Gleb Botkin), Olga read the papers and had a greater understanding, he felt, of her family's situation than her parents did. But if she felt any foreboding, you wouldn't know it from her diary. I was rather afraid of this, as other writers have noted that while all the Romanovs kept diaries, they didn't include any reflection, etc. But I'm a little obsessed with the Romanov daughters, so I hoped I was wrong. There is some interesting material. Azar quotes from memoirs and letters of people who knew Olga -- but it's not enough. Truly, it's kind of boring. If you must read The Diary of Olga Romanov, wait for a used copy and save some money. I know at least one gently used copy will be available soon!