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Dynastiet Romanov

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Romanovene tilhørte det driftigste familiedynastiet i moderne tider, med kontroll over en sjettedel av jordens overflate. I sitt storslåtte dokumentarverk forteller Simon Sebag Montefiore historiene til 20 tsarer og tsarinaer. Dette en fortryllende historie om triumf og tragedie, kjærlighet og død, og et helt essensielt portrett av imperiet hvis tid ved makten fremdeles pr Romanovene tilhørte det driftigste familiedynastiet i moderne tider, med kontroll over en sjettedel av jordens overflate. I sitt storslåtte dokumentarverk forteller Simon Sebag Montefiore historiene til 20 tsarer og tsarinaer. Dette en fortryllende historie om triumf og tragedie, kjærlighet og død, og et helt essensielt portrett av imperiet hvis tid ved makten fremdeles preger dagens Russland.


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Romanovene tilhørte det driftigste familiedynastiet i moderne tider, med kontroll over en sjettedel av jordens overflate. I sitt storslåtte dokumentarverk forteller Simon Sebag Montefiore historiene til 20 tsarer og tsarinaer. Dette en fortryllende historie om triumf og tragedie, kjærlighet og død, og et helt essensielt portrett av imperiet hvis tid ved makten fremdeles pr Romanovene tilhørte det driftigste familiedynastiet i moderne tider, med kontroll over en sjettedel av jordens overflate. I sitt storslåtte dokumentarverk forteller Simon Sebag Montefiore historiene til 20 tsarer og tsarinaer. Dette en fortryllende historie om triumf og tragedie, kjærlighet og død, og et helt essensielt portrett av imperiet hvis tid ved makten fremdeles preger dagens Russland.

30 review for Dynastiet Romanov

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    As astounding and astonishing survey of this epic imperial family, The Romanovs is an incredible and insightful read. Did you know that Putin's grandfather was Rasputin's cook? The horrible fate of the Romanovs made me almost physically ill at the end - I of course was repulsed by their corruption, autocracy, anti-Semitism, and blind devotion to the despicable (yes occasionally wise) Rasputin, their ignoble assassination filled me with horror and sadness. The Romanov dynasty had an unlikely begi As astounding and astonishing survey of this epic imperial family, The Romanovs is an incredible and insightful read. Did you know that Putin's grandfather was Rasputin's cook? The horrible fate of the Romanovs made me almost physically ill at the end - I of course was repulsed by their corruption, autocracy, anti-Semitism, and blind devotion to the despicable (yes occasionally wise) Rasputin, their ignoble assassination filled me with horror and sadness. The Romanov dynasty had an unlikely beginning in 1613 with Michael I being reluctantly brought in to quell the chaos that reigned in Russia at the end of the 16th C in the aftermath of Ivan the Terrible. The Romanov family then ruled with a heavy hand for just over three centuries fraught with politics, intrigue, Times of Trouble, revolutions, wars, and lots and lots of massacres. It was fascinating to learn more about all the Tsars - most of which I had heard about and knew next to nothing about their reigns. The tragedies of Peter III, Paul I, and Nicholas II (and Michael II as well although he was only tsar for a day) were horrific but still the violence was not out of proportion to the times they lived in. I believe my favourite stories in the book were those of the greatest tsars (and tsarinas): Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and Alexander I. I had no idea of the incredible sexual appetite of this regime (of all regimes?) and how interrelated they were with the British and German dynasties (Nicholas II's wife Alix was related to Queen Victoria and many of the tsars and their children intermarried with German families). I learned as well that many of the tsars ruled for extremely short periods of time (Paul only 5 years, Ivan VI and Peter III for only a year, and both Constantine and Michael II for a few days or even less!). The author breaks up the Romanov period into three Acts (Act I: The Rise - Michael I to the advent of Peter I, Act II: The Apogee - Peter the Great to Alexander I, and Act III: The Decline - Nicholas I to II to Nicholas II/Michael II) and each of those into Scenes that are introduced with a very useful casting which helps keep the myriad of names straight which cover the major events of a reign or reigns - or towards the end, the phases of the ultimate fall of the Romanovs. I really enjoyed Act II Scene 6, the Duel which narrated the great contest of the beginning of the 19th C between Napoleon and Alexander I. It was absolutely fascinating and I realised to what degree that Europe was really saved from Napoleon by Alexander I because the Germans and British were completely sidelined in 1812/1813 and it was the Russian army beat Napoleon in 1814. Having read War and Peace (but having as yet to have neglected to review it :(, I loved learning of the political history behind the meeting of these two geniuses who could have become friends (they were nearly brothers-in-law), but for Napoleon's ambition and Alexander's pride became bitter foes. I learned that Alexander did not order the burning of Moscow. He had returned to Petersburg and left control and decision making in the army to Kutuzov who - faced with either losing the entire Russian army after the incredible carnage of Borodino or losing the capital, chose to live and fight another day. The scorched earth policy was devastating to Alexander, but it turned out to be the right decision as Napoleon squandered his time for a week in Moscow and was defeated by a combination of the onset of wintry conditions and famine and the marauding techniques of the Russian army pursuing him all the way back to Paris. If Alexander had preferred Paris to St Petersberg, we might be speaking more Russian words in Paris than just "bistro" which entered the French vocabulary during the Russian occupation of March to May 1814. The only drawback to this book is the lack of detailed maps to explain the geopolitics. Otherwise, the writing is excellent (as good as Montefiore's Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar which was excellent!) and the level of research is truly amazing. I believe that Montefiore had access to many documents that have only been accessible inside the Soviet Union or just recently found which allows him to belay certain myths and legends and give the reader a truly interesting and factual history.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    “Two teenaged boys, both fragile, innocent and ailing, open and close the story of the [Romanov] dynasty. Both were heirs to a political family destined to rule Russia as autocrats, both raised in times of revolution, war and slaughter. Both were chosen by others for a sacred but daunting role that they were not suited to perform. Separated by 305 years, they played out their destinies in extraordinary and terrible scenarios that took place far from Moscow in edifices named Ipatiev…At 1:30 a.m. “Two teenaged boys, both fragile, innocent and ailing, open and close the story of the [Romanov] dynasty. Both were heirs to a political family destined to rule Russia as autocrats, both raised in times of revolution, war and slaughter. Both were chosen by others for a sacred but daunting role that they were not suited to perform. Separated by 305 years, they played out their destinies in extraordinary and terrible scenarios that took place far from Moscow in edifices named Ipatiev…At 1:30 a.m. on 17 July 1918, in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg…Alexei, aged thirteen, a sufferer of hemophilia, son of the former tsar Nicholas II, was awakened with his parents [and] four sisters…and told that the family must urgently prepare to move to a safer place…At night on 13 March 1613, in the Ipatiev Monastery outside the half-ruined little town of Kostroma…Michael Romanov, aged sixteen, a sufferer from weak legs and a tic in his eye…was awakened by his mother to be told that a delegation had arrived. He must prepare to urgently to return with them to the capital…” - Simon Sebag Montefiore, The Romanovs: 1613-1918 Simon Sebag Montefiore’s The Romanovs is telling a very familiar story about a very familiar dynasty. In terms of scope, very little separates this from, say, W. Bruce Lincoln’s The Romanovs: Autocrats of All the Russias, which follows the exact same historical figures over the exact same time period. But the difference here is that Montefiore has a specific focus. He is not here to analyze autocratic decision-making or gauge the impact of Imperial rule on Russia or the wider world, though those aspects are present. Instead, he locks onto the bloody soap opera that was Russia under the Romanovs and never relents. There are wars, coups, sex, revolutions, betrayals, sex, assassinations, dramatic blunders, sex, torture, catastrophic flaws, a dash of incest, countless affairs, and a real exploration of the limitations of human beings in power. There is also – in case I have failed to stress this enough – a lot of sex. (You will probably want a cigarette after reading some of the love letters between Alexander II and his mistress/eventual wife Katya Dolgorukaya). The Romanovs begins in 1613, with the ascension of Michael I, the first Romanov tsar. It ends in 1917, with the brutal murder of Nicholas II, the last Romanov tsar (excluding Michael II, who served one day), along with his wife, children, and several retainers. In between, there are all those things mentioned above. This weighs in at 654 pages of text, and it is a decent start if you’re looking to fill the hole in your life left by the end of Game of Thrones. Montefiore tells this tale in novelistic fashion, structuring his narrative around scenes of dialogue and big set pieces. He sticks close to his main characters and attends to their personalities, their virtues, and their flaws. He peppers his prose with the kind of conversational interjections you’d expect from a guy at the pub, such as his reference to Alexander I (who Montefiore finds underrated by history) as a “metrosexual.” Certainly, Montefiore has a way with words. For example, when discussing the many enemies of Empress Alexandra (wife of Nicholas II), he states that they libelously “depicted a traitorous German pornocracy with naked lesbian hellions Alexandra and Anna [Vyrubova] in thrall to Rasputin’s throbbing phallus.” At another point, he gives a great thumbnail sketch of Mikhail Kutuzov, bête noire of Napoleon: In the 1860s, Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace presented [Kutuzov] as an oracular personification of the soul of the Russian nation; in 1941, Stalin promoted him as a genius; he was neither. But this protégé of Potemkin and Suvorov had vast experience, having served as governor-general and as ambassador to the sultan. He was wise, unflappable and sly, a nature symbolized by his eye wound: bullets had…passed fortuitously through his right temple and out through his right eye without affecting his judgment or shaking his sangfroid. If he could no longer stay awake during a war council nor mount a horse, this priapic antique concealed two peasant-girl mistresses disguised as Cossack boys among his staff… And his depiction of the wanton destruction of the ex-tsar, his wife, and their children, is extremely potent: Alexandra was crossing herself. She had always believed that she and Nicky would be, as she wrote long before, when they were newlyweds, "united, bound for life and when life is ended, we meet again in the other world to remain together for all eternity." As her hand was raised, Ermakov fired his Mauser point-blank at her head which shattered in brain and blood. Maria ran for the double doors at the back so Ermakov drawing a Nagant from his belt fired at her, hitting her in the thight, but the smoke and clouds of plaster were so dense that Yurovsky ordered a halt and opened the door to let the shooters, coughing and sputtering, rest as they listened to "moans, screams and low sobs" from within... It is worth nothing that while Montefiore occasionally indulges glib conclusions and gleefully dwells on the sordid aspects of the story, he is an esteemed historian who has written extensively about Russia and the Soviet Union. I did have some minor issues. First, while Montefiore does not ignore the overall context, I found it helpful going in to have some semblance of the order and meaning of events, since the perspective is tightly tethered to the Romanovs themselves. (Montefiore mitigates a lot of the complexity by providing a number of family trees, to keep everyone straight, while also starting each chapter with a cast of characters, so that you can recall everyone’s role). Second, I was often befuddled by Montefiore’s use of “but” and “and,” by which I mean, he seems to interchange them. That is, “but” is generally used to introduce a clause that contrasts with that which has come before. Meanwhile, “and” is used to connect things that are supposed to be taken together. Long story short, Montefiore uses “but” to connect things that are supposed to be taken together, while also utilizing “and” to introduce contrasting clauses. Of course, Montefiore has a PhD from Cambridge, while I am the village drunk, so maybe I’m totally wrong. Still, there are a lot of confounding sentences here. Overall, though, these are extremely minor quibbles in an overwhelmingly entertaining book. The history of the Romanovs is so dramatic that even the most pedantic, monotonal recitations still manage to provide at least a frisson of excitement. And this is anything but pedantic or monotonal. The Romanovs is, to the contrary, a fortunate intersection of material and author. Montefiore was born to give this account. He is learned and well-read, has literary style to spare, and is effortlessly confident in tracing the epic sweep of the Romanov dynasty, from the extraordinary heights of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great, to the tragic depths of Nicholas II and his young family, herded into a basement room by drunken, ruthless criminals masquerading as revolutionaries. Montefiore draws you into this story so effectively that you will have to remind yourself that you're actually learning. You have to remind yourself that all these things – the good, the bad, the inexplicable – actually happened.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    Simon Sebag Montefiore's blockbuster history of the Romanov dynasty was a great choice for me to read prior to my much anticipated trip to St. Petersburg next month. I had been looking for a book on the Romanov dynasty and this was exactly what I was looking for. It's a unique and compelling read and quite a shocking insight into all twenty of the Romanov tsars and tsarinas. Some books especially non fiction need to be read in good old fashioned paperback in order to get the best out of them and Simon Sebag Montefiore's blockbuster history of the Romanov dynasty was a great choice for me to read prior to my much anticipated trip to St. Petersburg next month. I had been looking for a book on the Romanov dynasty and this was exactly what I was looking for. It's a unique and compelling read and quite a shocking insight into all twenty of the Romanov tsars and tsarinas. Some books especially non fiction need to be read in good old fashioned paperback in order to get the best out of them and the Romanoves is a prime example. I originally purchased this on Audio but very quickly realized this was a mistake and switched to the hardback edition. I was so glad I did as each chapter is prefaced with a cast list and I found this extremely helpful as there is a vast amount of characters in each chapter and I found myself consulting the Cast List on numerous occasions to remind myself of who was who and I think this is reflected in the length of time it took me to complete this book. I also enjoyed the inclusion of the Family tree, maps and illustrations which really added to the enjoyment of the book and are so important additions for the reader. From the first paragraph of the Introduction I was hooked........... " It was hard to be a tsar. Russia is not an easy country to rule. Twenty sovereigns of the Romanov dynasty reigned for 304 years, from 1613 until tsardom's destruction. by the revolution in 1917" The Romanovs were actually the most spectacularly successful empire builders since the Mongols" , This is an epic history of The House of Romanov which was the second dynasty, after the Rurik dynasty, to rule over Russia, and ruled from 1613 until the abdication of Czar Nicholas II on March 15, 1917, as a result of the February Revolution. its packed full of facts and intrigue and details that any reader who enjoys reading about the Romanov family from its begining until its shocking massacare of the entile family in 1918 may well find this a very interesting read. Its also a story of power, love, lust sex and violence and greed and I was at times quite shocked by the debauchery and cruelty of the time although I had come accross it in other accounts of the Romanov family its seems more highlighted in this account and may not be for the feint hearted. A very comprehensive and detailed book and therefore a slow but extremely satisfying read for me. Its perfectly paced and meticulously researched and while it could have been a slog with such a vast amount of information and details to pack in, the author manages to bring Russian Histroy and the house of Romanov to life in a most unique and modern way and I found myself engrossed throughout. Delighted I had the opportunity to read this before my visit to St. Petersburg and looking forward to visiting a number of places mentioned in the book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Having now completed the book has my view changed? No it hasn’t. Please see what I have written below. What is written here are either additional thoughts or that which I feel must be emphasized. While the book does indeed provide facts of interest I feel the author all too often sensationalizes, emphasizes the bad over the good and has excessive details on the sexual behavior of not only of the Romanovs but also every darn person mentioned. I really don't need to know the size of Rasputin's pen Having now completed the book has my view changed? No it hasn’t. Please see what I have written below. What is written here are either additional thoughts or that which I feel must be emphasized. While the book does indeed provide facts of interest I feel the author all too often sensationalizes, emphasizes the bad over the good and has excessive details on the sexual behavior of not only of the Romanovs but also every darn person mentioned. I really don't need to know the size of Rasputin's penis. Seriously, given the amount of details pertaining to sex, a more appropriate title might be: The Sex Lives of the Romanovs and Their Compatriots 1613-1918. I am kind of joking but there is also a message to be taken note of. The mix of historical facts and the pronounced emphasis on sex is just plain weird. In any case a prospective reader should be warned. The sex is not graphic, but excessive and unnecessary. Furthermore, I felt I was wading through an immense amount of irrelevant details, not just those related to sex. The writing is dense. Lots of names, dates and minutiae. Important historical details are there if you can wade through the muck to get to them. Perhaps the book’s wide scope, covering all of the Romanovs, makes it difficult to achieve adequate depth. The Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean and Balkan Wars, the Russian Revolution and the First World War are all, albeit cursively, covered. Below I have recommended books by Robert K. Massie, but also George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I should be mentioned. I gave it 4 stars. I did not find the personalities of the eighteen different Romanov czars to be sufficiently analyzed. Each one’s most important actions are spoken of but their personality traits remain diffuse. Each one’s physical appearance is described but their thoughts get much less attention. Negative attributes come to the fore over the positive. For me a balanced portrayal is lacking. I left the book with the feeling that the author immensely dislikes the Romanovs as a group and was unable to acknowledge their achievements. All of them are pretty much classified as anti-Semitics with little attention paid to those actions which counter this sweeping judgement. I think the positive actions of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Alexander II’s abolition of serfdom warranted more attention. Not only were the serfs emancipated but also given land. The emancipation occurred in 1861. It is interesting to note that the Civil War in the States began this year. Blacks were not given land. By the end of the audiobook I was sick and tired of having to rewind to catch the Russian names. The narration should have been slower and names more distinctly pronounced. This is my second non-fiction book by the author. I gave Jerusalem: The Biography also two stars. My review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I am providing my review because I believe by comparing the two one sees similarities. I have decided on the basis of these two books that most probably even the author’s fiction will not fit my tastes though the topic might attract me. It is interesting to note that in both of these books the author goes off on a tangent about his own family’s roots and how his ancestors knew famed personages. This doesn’t belong in either book! Please read below. I have tried to avoid repetition. ************************* Halfway through: I have gotten thorough the Romanov Czars up to Nicolas I. I am not (for the most) critical of the factual content but rather its focus. However, please see below the paragraph about Alexander von Benckendorff! This author loves to stun, loves to point out violence. Beheadings, impalements, dismembering of bodies, torture, tongues ripped out, rapes, deviant sexual behavior and physical abuse abound. He doesn't merely document, he dramatizes. One example is that written about the Congress of Vienna. Less is said about its political consequences than the partying and sexual liaisons of the delegates. You get a whiff of the author's way of writing from the fact that rather than the book having chapters the different sections are called scenes and acts. This author prefers to detail the bad rather than the good. One example: very little is said about the magnificent buildings erected by the Romanovs. Sure, they are mentioned, but few details are given. Art collections, literary works are scarcely mentioned. A quote is taken from Pushkin, but what does the author choose to quote? A line about the the size of General Aleksey Arakcheyev's penis. Sigh. The author enjoys throwing out statements that shock or at least surprise. Some sentences leave you wondering what exactly is being implied; I prefer clarity. I was surprised by the statement that Alexander von Benckendorf, head of the Secret Police under Nicolas I, "didn't know his own name and had to consult his business card". The author leaves no comment on the validity of this statement. Who said this? What are the sources? Which facts are pure gossip and which true? If this is to be considered a serious work on the Romanovs why is this statement presented in such a fashion? Reading this is not a waste of time. I am learning, but I don’t like the presentation, the author’s dramatization and penchant for salacious details. I MUCH prefer the writing of Robert K. Massie. I have read and highly recommend the author's books Nicholas and Alexandra and Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. I would grab Peter the Great: His Life and World if I could. I should say something positive. I liked how the author wrote about the Napoleonic Wars. I am furthermore disappointed that family tree information provided in the written version is not made accessible in the audiobook format via an accompanying PDF file. Not a big problem though, since one can easily find the information on the web. The audiobook is narrated by Simon Russell Beale. I don't love it, but there is nothing actually wrong. For the most part the lines are clearly pronounced and presented at a good speed. He seems to be fluent in Russian, so he whips off the names quickly. This makes it hard for me to jot them down. It can be hard to guess the correct spelling, but I have come close enough to be able to find them on the web. I continue.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    Review to follow. But it's basically just going to say it's excellent so if you don't need any more info than that, you're good to go.

  6. 4 out of 5

    BAM The Bibliomaniac

    Heavy reading but well worth it. Unbelievably well researched none of the myth of this great house Family trees and fantastic photos Each chapter begins with a "cast of characters" which primes the reader for whom to expect to read about keeps the timeline straight as well as who is related Explores beginning links to other royal families, the construction of palaces, formation of armies. Torture, espionage, murder, intrigue, war, sex I thought at first to write quick synopses of each secti Heavy reading but well worth it. Unbelievably well researched none of the myth of this great house Family trees and fantastic photos Each chapter begins with a "cast of characters" which primes the reader for whom to expect to read about keeps the timeline straight as well as who is related Explores beginning links to other royal families, the construction of palaces, formation of armies. Torture, espionage, murder, intrigue, war, sex I thought at first to write quick synopses of each section, but this review would have been entirely too long. Each Tsar's reign was so eventful, so much violence and drama. I'm buying this book 2017 Lenten nonfiction Buddy Reading Challenge book #31 1/14/18 Audio reread wanted to know how everything is correctly pronounced so bought the audible AUDIO READ #5 of 2018

  7. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    I'M DONE!!! This is a behemoth of a book... But it's so worth it! The Romanovs is absolutely wonderful historical nonfiction. Montefiore clearly knows his stuff, and it's a joy to read. I will say, if you don't read a ton of nonfiction (and more specifically, historical nonficiton), this may be a bit difficult. It's a WHOLE LOT of exposition. If you're used to that, or think that's no problem, then DEFINITELY pick this up! But it's something to keep in mind. If you don't think huge, unbroken par I'M DONE!!! This is a behemoth of a book... But it's so worth it! The Romanovs is absolutely wonderful historical nonfiction. Montefiore clearly knows his stuff, and it's a joy to read. I will say, if you don't read a ton of nonfiction (and more specifically, historical nonficiton), this may be a bit difficult. It's a WHOLE LOT of exposition. If you're used to that, or think that's no problem, then DEFINITELY pick this up! But it's something to keep in mind. If you don't think huge, unbroken paragraphs are your thing, I'd recommend checking this out on audiobook. I often find that exposition works better when you're listening rather than reading. I do think that the structure of this books REALLY helps with it's size, both literal and figuratively. This book is well over 600 pages of text (plus an extensive bibliography), and it covers about 300 years. Montefiore breaks the book up into several different parts, and the chapters in each part are described as "scenes." The beginning of each scene has a cast--all of the important figures he'll be discussing--and I found that wildly helpful. There are lots of similar, if not identical, names, and being able to flip back to the cast list really helped with keeping track of who's who. Montefiore's tone throughout the novel was great--he's informative, but happily pokes fun at the (quite frequent) ridiculousness of the Romanov family. Many of the footnotes, while not essential to the story, are full of wonderful little tibits. I definitely recommend picking this up!

  8. 5 out of 5

    happy

    Having read Mr. Sebag Montefiore’s previous book Jerusalem: The Biography, I was looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately I found this mildly disappointing. While it is well researched and is organized in a linear manner, I found the narrative a bit disjointed. The other problem I had was the author’s emphasis on the various Romanov’s sexual lives. (view spoiler)[I really didn’t need to know the pet names Nicholas and Alexandra had for their genitals, the Having read Mr. Sebag Montefiore’s previous book Jerusalem: The Biography, I was looking forward to reading this one. Unfortunately I found this mildly disappointing. While it is well researched and is organized in a linear manner, I found the narrative a bit disjointed. The other problem I had was the author’s emphasis on the various Romanov’s sexual lives. (view spoiler)[I really didn’t need to know the pet names Nicholas and Alexandra had for their genitals, the size of Rasputin's penis, or that Nicholas I, publically portrayed as a paragon of family values, visited his main mistress twice a day. (hide spoiler)] In this narrative the author takes each Romanov ruler in turn from Michael I through to Michael II (technically the last Tsar). Especially in the early chapters, Mr. Montefiore looks as the brutality that was rampant in Russia. This was not just executions, but the manner people were executed. This included impaling losers in political contests through the rectum on spikes in the court yard of the Kremlin, or just tossing them over the wall and letting the troops tear them apart. In telling story he looks at each Tsar/Tsarina, I found a lot of interesting facts that I didn’t know. For instance, when Michael I was chosen as the first Romanov Tsar – he didn’t want anything to do with it. He hid in a closet in hopes the messengers wouldn’t find him and it took his mother to convince him that it was his duty to accept the crown. As the author tells the story of each of the Tsar, in addition to their sex lives, he also looks at how they governed and how the power of the throne changed over time. This includes Peter the Great’s attempts to force Russia into the 17th century as he fought his wars with Sweden, Catherine the Greats attempts to modernize while conducting wars with the Ottoman Empire in the 18th century and the push back she received from her aristocracy, Alexander I’s growth as Tsar in facing Napoleon and finally the utter failure of Nicholas II as an autocrat and his refusal to admit his limits, resulting Russia’s failure in World War I and his abdication. Roughly the last half of the book is about the 19th and 20th century Tsars. As he looks these Romanovs again he looks at the attempts, however halting that they made to modernize Russia and the pushback they received from both the aristocracy and surprisingly the peasants. One fact I found amazing was that Nicholas II's grand father, Alexander II who finally freed the serfs, survived 6 assassination attempts before finally succumbing to the 7th. In telling the story of the 19th century Tsars, the author also does a very commendable job of describing the antisemitism that was rampant in both the aristocracy and the general populous. He does a excellent job of explaining how the Jewish population was used as the scapegoat for what ever problems was occuring in society at the time. Probably the most in depth look at any of the Romanovs is the treatment of Nicholas and Alexandra. In the section, the author tells the story of their romance, Alexandra’s influence over her husband and his failures as autocratic Tsar. For example, whenever he thought about weakening the power of the Tsar and allow more democracy, she would object strenuously and usually prevail! The picture the author draws of Nicholas is of a man who was personally a kind and gentle and knows he really isn’t cut out to be Tsar, but feels it is his duty to accept the job. His personal gentleness did not carry over to his official duties and he allowed several brutal suppressions of various rebellions. In additions to the sexual hijinks of the various Tsars and other members of the Aristocracy, The author looks at the drug use of the Royal family, especially Alexandra. According to the author she was a drug addict. She was being prescribing large amounts of both cocaine and various opioids. The author does a really good job of describing the influence Rasputin had on both Alexandra in particular and the court in general. One fact I didn’t know was that Nicholas II technically was not the last Tsar. When he abdicated the crown passed to his brother Michael. He was Tsar only as long as it took to sign his abdication papers, less than a day. The final section of the book is a telling of what happened to the Romanov family after they abdicated the throne. Mr. Sebag Montefiore does a good job in describing the attempts Lenin made to keep his finger prints off of the executions and the reasons he had of doing so. However, once the decision was made to execute Nicholas and his family, no Romanov was safe. The Bolsheviks executed every member of the family they could get their hands on. Some of the executions were moderately humane, ie Micheal II, but others were executed with shocking brutality including Nicholas, his immediate family and the few retainers that had been allowed to stay with them. For example, one group including the Tsarina's sister Ella, a nun, were thrown into a flooded mineshaft and left to drown. When the executioners could still hear the victims talking, they threw grenades down the shaft, when they still heard noises, they threw more grenades and finally built a fire over the shaft until they could hear no more sound. All in all this is an extremely well researched book, but the narrative is a bit uneven. It is lavishly illustrated, including a nude sketch that Alexander II made of his favorite mistress and later his wife, that is not bad. It really picks up in the last half. 'Midst all the sexual content that is not really appealing to me, there is some really good history. I would give this 4 stars for research, but only 3 for the writing. If GR allowed, I would rate this 3.25 stars, so I rounded down.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Maria Espadinha

    The Hell Gardeners Depravation Perversion Despotism Were some of Romanov's favorite hobbies! Hobbies?!... Did I say hobbies?!... Maybe hell seeds will provide a better match for those deviant diversions?! If you're interested in a testimony of their iniquity, just take a look at the list of atrocities commited by Peter the Great — Great in bestiality, for sure!...🤬 There, you'll meet a beheaded brother, a murdered mistress, a son torture The Hell Gardeners Depravation Perversion Despotism Were some of Romanov's favorite hobbies! Hobbies?!... Did I say hobbies?!... Maybe hell seeds will provide a better match for those deviant diversions?! If you're interested in a testimony of their iniquity, just take a look at the list of atrocities commited by Peter the Great — Great in bestiality, for sure!...🤬 There, you'll meet a beheaded brother, a murdered mistress, a son tortured till death, etc, etc,... Romanov have been hell farmers — they lived and died in hell! Nobody escapes the Law of Karma!...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Anderson

    This enormous book covers an enormous topic: 300 years of the Romanov dynasty. Toward the end of the book, when it reached the stories of Czar Nicholas II (whose reign was ended by the Communist Revolution), I found myself wishing the author would go deeper into the lives of the common people and help us understand the roots of the revolution better. But that is not within the scope of this book - this is a survey that has a lot of ground to cover and does a magnificent job of it. And This enormous book covers an enormous topic: 300 years of the Romanov dynasty. Toward the end of the book, when it reached the stories of Czar Nicholas II (whose reign was ended by the Communist Revolution), I found myself wishing the author would go deeper into the lives of the common people and help us understand the roots of the revolution better. But that is not within the scope of this book - this is a survey that has a lot of ground to cover and does a magnificent job of it. And now I need to find more books about Russia in the late 19th century!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

    This is one of those books some people feel that they must rate 5 out of 5 star because of all the time they invested on it, but I do feel without any imposition that this book clearly does deserve the rating of 5 stars, because of its magnitude and its amazing detail, it is an epic research work into the life of the Romanov dynasty that rules over Russia for over 300 years. If you are interested in ancient or modern Russian history this is the book for you because the only way to understand Rus This is one of those books some people feel that they must rate 5 out of 5 star because of all the time they invested on it, but I do feel without any imposition that this book clearly does deserve the rating of 5 stars, because of its magnitude and its amazing detail, it is an epic research work into the life of the Romanov dynasty that rules over Russia for over 300 years. If you are interested in ancient or modern Russian history this is the book for you because the only way to understand Russia now is to go back into its past and learn. I highly recommend it!.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ray

    The Romanovs ruled Russia for 300 years. This book catalogues the rise and fall of the dynasty, atop a multi ethnic empire spanning one sixth of the globe. I liked the authors attention to detail and his erudite and gossipy style. I particularly liked the evocative opening chapter which bookends the teenagers Michael, first czar of Russia, and Alexei, doomed tzaraevitch and son of the hapless Nicholas II - one hunted by Polish death squads, the other destined to be murdered by Bolshev The Romanovs ruled Russia for 300 years. This book catalogues the rise and fall of the dynasty, atop a multi ethnic empire spanning one sixth of the globe. I liked the authors attention to detail and his erudite and gossipy style. I particularly liked the evocative opening chapter which bookends the teenagers Michael, first czar of Russia, and Alexei, doomed tzaraevitch and son of the hapless Nicholas II - one hunted by Polish death squads, the other destined to be murdered by Bolsheviks. In between we have a parade of the mad and the bloodthirsty, the cruel and the murderous, with dramatic succession struggles and an empire that somehow survives and thrives. Palace intruige is a constant, as a succession of strongmen (and women - these mainly princesses imported from minor principalities in Germany) accede to the throne. We even have a Russian version of the man in the iron mask. In the end the dynasty fails, as the incompetent Nicholas II proves unable to change even as the world changes around him. Today, although the Romanovs are gone, Russia still needs a Czar. Stalin was perhaps the epitome of an autocrat, and Putin now holds the throne in an iron grasp. The author draws interesting parallels between the political system under the Romanovs and modern day rulers - a supreme leader surrounded by and supported by a kleptocratic elite - and he points out the inherent instability of a country where the rule of law is subject to the whim of one person. Worth a read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    List of Illustrations Map: The Expansion of Russia, 1613-1917 Family Tree: The House of Romanov Introduction Acknowledgements and Sources Note --The Romanovs Bibliography Index (The full and extremely extensive references for this book, which were included in the hardback edition, are available on the author's website at: http://www.simonsebagmontefiore.com. To make the paperback a manageable and readable size, the author and publishers have decided not to include them in the paperback. We hope/>Bibliography

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bibliophile

    The Romanovs make the Lannisters look like the Bennett sisters. Simon Sebag Montefiore does his best to avoid speculation and sensationalism, but not even his sober outlook and academic restraint can quench the glorious madness that was the Romanov rule. THE MAYHEM. People are not only shot or beheaded, as one would expect, but imaginatively tortured, broken on the wheel, impaled in the bottom, cut into sections, stomped to pulp, doused in vodka and set on fire. Cut into sections. That requires dedicatio The Romanovs make the Lannisters look like the Bennett sisters. Simon Sebag Montefiore does his best to avoid speculation and sensationalism, but not even his sober outlook and academic restraint can quench the glorious madness that was the Romanov rule. THE MAYHEM. People are not only shot or beheaded, as one would expect, but imaginatively tortured, broken on the wheel, impaled in the bottom, cut into sections, stomped to pulp, doused in vodka and set on fire. Cut into sections. That requires dedication. On a good day you only get your tongue ripped out. Then there are the courtly intrigues and sexual shenanigans. The corridors of the Winter Palace are teeming with mistresses, assassins and false Dimitris. Nitroglycerin is stored under pillows. Heirs have fits and conveniently fall on their daggers. Brides-to-be are poisoned so often you'd think that they'd wise up and look for husbands elsewhere. Of course, there is more to this work than colourful anecdotes, but where's the fun in war and politics? Only half kidding. 300 years are crammed into 650 pages, which eventually made me lose track of the bit players and their political motivations and animosities. Which was ok, because I was able to lean back and enjoy the tsar mania, but if you would like a deeper understanding of Russian history, you need further reading. This book tells the history of the Romanovs, and does it wonderfully.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dave Cullen

    My early read on this book is enthralled. I'm just on p. 37 (plus the epilogue that I started with, and half the intro that I dispensed with), and I'm totally sucked in. I've already learned a great deal about how the peculiar Russian aristocracy works, and when I plunge back into Anna Karenina soon, it will be with much clearer vision. The pace feels just right for now, giving me the clarity I hoped for on the origin of the line, starting just far back enough to set the stage, and a clear pictu My early read on this book is enthralled. I'm just on p. 37 (plus the epilogue that I started with, and half the intro that I dispensed with), and I'm totally sucked in. I've already learned a great deal about how the peculiar Russian aristocracy works, and when I plunge back into Anna Karenina soon, it will be with much clearer vision. The pace feels just right for now, giving me the clarity I hoped for on the origin of the line, starting just far back enough to set the stage, and a clear picture of the machinations that went on to establish things. We'll see if I tire of that after 600 pages. (A book on the whole Plantagenet line started similarly for me, but I eventually grew weary of the minutiae. These seems to be avoiding some of those traps, though: detail yes, but not drowning in it: details that illuminate the patterns, so far.) I've got a long way, but I read slowly, and expect to go back and forth between this and Anna. So that's my early take. I'll update.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Bou

    A story of brutality, sex and power Sebag Montefiore, known for his excellent works about Stalin and Catherine the Great, delves into the Romanovs - the imperial family who ruled Russia for more than 300 years. It is a tale of torture and sexual escapades. Tsars are displayed as modern day Caligula's. Based on newly disclosed personal letters, Sebag Montefiore tells a tale of enjoyable passages, but nowhere are the scenes set in the greater historical events. Finally, in the last c A story of brutality, sex and power Sebag Montefiore, known for his excellent works about Stalin and Catherine the Great, delves into the Romanovs - the imperial family who ruled Russia for more than 300 years. It is a tale of torture and sexual escapades. Tsars are displayed as modern day Caligula's. Based on newly disclosed personal letters, Sebag Montefiore tells a tale of enjoyable passages, but nowhere are the scenes set in the greater historical events. Finally, in the last chapters, Sebag Montefiore shows his qualities as a true historian: the final stages of the imperial family and their murders by the communists are chilling and set against the background of the historical event. Unfortunately, the book is snowed under by erotical achievements and gossip, where instead he could better have concentrated on the development of the Russian monarchy and the effect of its rulers in the greater historical context.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost. This book is a physical example of how hard it is to do complete histories of stuff from much before the 18th, even really 19th, century. Of the 650-odd pages, the last half covers less than the last century of the Romanov dynasty (which started in 1613 and went to 1918). Not because Michael or Peter the Great or Catherine the Great did less stuff, but because there's less stuff firmly attested. Or attested at all. Whereas ther This book was provided to me by the publisher at no cost. This book is a physical example of how hard it is to do complete histories of stuff from much before the 18th, even really 19th, century. Of the 650-odd pages, the last half covers less than the last century of the Romanov dynasty (which started in 1613 and went to 1918). Not because Michael or Peter the Great or Catherine the Great did less stuff, but because there's less stuff firmly attested. Or attested at all. Whereas there are heaps of diaries and letters and non-Russian people talking about the goings-on certainly around Napoleon, and then even more so afterwards with the various power struggles, the Crimea, and then into the 20th century. Anyway: this book is, as the name suggests, a biography of a dynasty. As with any biography there's a certain frisson in knowing how everything ends - in this case, in a damp cellar with gunshots. I've done a fair bit of reading around the end of the dynasty (this bio of Alexander Kerensky was great, and I also read a bio of Nicholas and Alexandra recently), and I know names like Catherine the Great (it's always weird to make connections like she's active during the French Revolution), but I didn't really know how it all connected. The answer is with blood, and sweat, and more blood, and a lot of trial and tribulation. Then more blood. I was intrigued by, and quite liked, the format of the book. It's divided into Acts: The Rise, The Apogee, The Decline. Each Act is divided into scenes, like The All-Drunken Synod and The Golden Age and Colossus, where the names are intended to reflect the individual Tsar (or, occasionally, Tsarina) who is the focus. It's not quite a chapter per Tsar, in the earlier half, but it comes close. Additionally there's a map early on showing the extent of the Romanov empire at different times, and each Act opens with a family tree, while each scene opens with a cast list - family, courtiers, other hangers-on. Which is a good thing because if I learnt nothing else I learnt: By golly there's a lot of people with the same name in Russia over this period. I'm not just talking about the number of men called Alexander or Nicholas - Montefiore's use of nicknames was a lifesaver - but the surnames! There's like three important families! For three hundred years! ... which also tells you something about the dynasty and who was important of course. If I thought the English royal family had a complicated family tree, I was kidding myself. The Romanovs are incredibly hard to follow - partly from marrying across generations, occasionally, but also with cousins coming and going and multiples wives and WHOA. I just gave up eventually. There's also quite a few pictures, in four different sets across the book, showing portraits and architecture and such things. I love that part of a good history book. Other things I learnt: There were a surprising number of important women. Catherine I had acted as empress even before Catherine II reigned so superbly, and Anna was between both of them and Elizaveta, while Sophia was 'Sovereign Lady' for a while in the late 1600s and another Anna was briefly regent. Did I mention the blood? There was a lot of blood spilt by and for this dynasty. Like, a lot. Even if you don't count the Napoleonic Wars (which were EPIC) and then World War I, of course, there was a LOT of fighting. Some of the blood was even Romanov blood... looking at you, Peter III, and all you would-be usurpers. There was a lot of infidelity. Two of my favourite picture captions are one depicting "A rare happy marriage" between Nicholas I and his Prussian wife Mouffy (this is another thing: the nicknames), while immediately below is a picture of Varenka Nelidova, "the beauty of Nicholas I's court," whom "he visited twice daily" because she was his favourite mistress. Not just mistress; favourite mistress. These Romanovs, they could not keep their pants on. How German the Romanovs were. So many princesses came from the German principalities - Hesse-Darmstadt, Wurttemberg, Holstein-Gottorp and so on - I'm frankly amazed that some more-Russian types didn't do some maths and throw them over on account of not being very Russian. I guess that's partly what Catherine II did, to her husband Peter III - where SHE is the formerly German princess and HE is acting all "I wish I were Prussian." Napoleon was a cad. So were many of the Tsars. The one thing that really bugged me was the use of footnotes. I want a history book to have copious endnotes where sources are detailed - this reassures me that the author really has done their research. When these are presented as footnotes, it clutters up the page too much. When the author uses endnotes for sources and footnotes for extra stuff that didn't quite fit into their narrative, well, I'm largely ok with that - if it's done well. Here it felt like there were footnotes on almost every other pages, and the thing that MOST annoyed me was that the symbol was almost never at the end of the sentence. Which for someone like me meant I was breaking in the middle of a sentence to go read a footnote that WASN'T ALWAYS ACTUALLY RELEVANT. I mean, what even is that about? By the second half I was basically training myself away from this compulsion and at least waiting to the end of the sentence, so that I wasn't wasting time going back and re-reading the whole sentence. I'm still very bemused by a bunch of those footnotes because I don't know why they were included, except to imagine Montefiore was just so excited by the fact that he wanted to include it. While there were a few other stylistic tics that occasionally annoyed me, there was nothing bad enough to prevent me from reading this pretty steadily and basically enjoying the whole book. It's a big book, but it doesn't require much in the way of prior knowledge, so if you want an overview of Russian political history from 1613 to 1918 this is a pretty good place to get it. It's also got violence and sex. Quite a lot of both. And some comparisons with modern Russian politics that gave me pause, too.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Roxanne

    I just graduated studying history and politics at uni and was slightly bitter about the fact i never got to study that much Russian history (check the modules before you pick your uni choice, rookie mistake!) so being newly free to read history books that i actually have an interest in, this was my first choice, the Romanovs have such a vast, bloody and totally crackers history that i'm amazed it's often overlooked and this book perfectly sums up the Romanov dynasty and it's amazing to read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jocie

    I HAVE FINISHED IT. I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED IT.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bevan Lewis

    Russian history has increasingly interested me of late. Hitler and Stalin by Alan Bullock gave greater insights into the struggles and cruelty of Stalin’s regime, and the revolution has fascinated me even more since reading Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (a book that generates polarised opinions, I enjoyed it!). The Romanovs seemed like a good choice to get the backstory. In some respects it fulfilled this purpose, in other aspects I was left wanting more. Firstly let me say that the book delivers e Russian history has increasingly interested me of late. Hitler and Stalin by Alan Bullock gave greater insights into the struggles and cruelty of Stalin’s regime, and the revolution has fascinated me even more since reading Fall of Giants by Ken Follett (a book that generates polarised opinions, I enjoyed it!). The Romanovs seemed like a good choice to get the backstory. In some respects it fulfilled this purpose, in other aspects I was left wanting more. Firstly let me say that the book delivers exactly what it says on the tin. The label promises The Romanovs 1613 - 1918 with the family crest of the double headed golden eagle resplendent on the cover. The book provides the whole narrative sweep of the royal family, beautifully written with a range of sources, both primary and secondary. The book is clearly the story of the cream on the cheesecake of Russian history during the period, focusing specifically on the royal family and to some extend on the surrounding court and ministers. Simon Sebag-Montefiore promises that his book is the first to combine the whole history of the Romanovs with a “blend of the personal and the political”. This he does, but I often felt mystified that such debauched individuals could have retained their legitimacy, and sustained their autocracy. Many of the answers are there, but I was left a bit hungry for a bit more about society and the economic context, and how the Romanovs maintained their power. They certainly were remarkable - few dynasties have lasted as long and to maintain an autocratic agriculture based land empire into the twentieth century was no mean feat. The relationship with the army seems to have been an important factor throughout the story. The assent of the nobility was the other inter playing factor, vital to the Romanovs coming to power. One of the remarkable facts is the continuing lack of assemblies of nobles - the creme-da-la-creme at court seem to have had almost exclusive influence. Montefiore describes how “the court was the entrepôt of power where the nobles offered their recognition and service to the monarch, who in response distributed jobs, land, power, titles and marriages and in turn expected them to help command his armies and organize the mobilization of his resources.” The main preoccupations of the Tsars seem to have been with finding wives, having children and military prowess. The book recounts the changing priorities - establishing the rituals of the monarchy early on, and the continuing pendulum swing of modernity (usually equivalent to Europeanisation) such as that seen in the time of Peter the Great, and reaction, usually expressed as a retreat to mysticism and reaction (and in Peter III, a not untypical case, often accompanied by an excessive fascination with Prussian style militarism). These retreats from modernity did not always immediately compromise the success of their rule however. Nicholas I would probably be described as fairly conservative, but managed to rule for almost three decades. Montefiore writes that “Nicholas was convinced that ‘Our Russia was entrusted to us by God,’ once praying aloud at a parade: ‘O God, I thank Thee for having made me so powerful.’ The result of Nicholas’ successful autocracy, however, was a Russian increasingly left behind by a modernising Europe. Although Nicholas’ success concealed the growing distortions, they became apparent during the Crimean War in the 1850s where Russia’s deficiencies were obvious. Thinking about these issues and Nicholas I’s legacy clarifies one of the difficulties with this book, but also perhaps with narrative history as a form. The role of the historian has long been debated. Christopher Hill wrote iin the early 1950s that one of the few things the contributors to the journal Past and Present would probably agree on was that “it is the duty of the historian to explain, not merely to record.” I think one of the frustrations of The Romanovs is that it records. We find few pithy judgements. To take the example of Nicholas I’ legacy, J M Roberts in The Penguin History of Europe writes that “because of the immobility which he imposed upon her, Nicholas' reign deeply and negatively influenced Russia's destiny … there were also great challenges to be met, and for the most part Nicholas' reign was a sterile but immediately effective response to them.” We don’t find many passages in this book that give such a useful feel for the importance of the events and personalities described so well. I don’t think that this is purely a problem with narrative history as a form. A story can be told with a beginning, middle and end (i.e. without the sometimes tedious academic mores of thematic theoretically grounded approaches) whilst still providing some understanding and interpretation. The Romanovs just needed a little more of Montefiore’s own voice, his judgement as a historian to really give the story he is telling greater meaning. It is a fascinating tale, well told with a plethora of sources, and it has certainly left me reflecting on the legacy of decisions made by powerful men, and curious to learn more about the layers of Russian society beneath them. Montefiore does provide some reflection. His recount of the outbreak of World War 1 is good. He describes Nicholas’ decision to mobilise as “a decision of honour in an age of honour taken by a patriot steeped in the overlapping missions of Romanov autocracy, Russian nationalism and Slavophile solidarity. Then there was expediency – this might be Russia’s last chance to seize the Straits.” It would have been nice though to have a few more signposts to follow in understanding the tsar’s legacy, powerbase and the reasons for their rise and eventual fall.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex Givant

    Excellent overview of Romanov's dynasty, apparently I remember close to nothing from school history course.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Disappointing account of the Romanovs - the author deliberately sets out to provide a comprehensive account of the whole dynasty and has used his family (royal) connections and recent opening up of Russian archives to access lots of private information However as a result the book is excessively detailed and leaves the reader marooned in: a bewildering list of royal relatives; tedious expositions of their lovers and affairs and love letters; gruesome and repetitive accounts of plots, Disappointing account of the Romanovs - the author deliberately sets out to provide a comprehensive account of the whole dynasty and has used his family (royal) connections and recent opening up of Russian archives to access lots of private information However as a result the book is excessively detailed and leaves the reader marooned in: a bewildering list of royal relatives; tedious expositions of their lovers and affairs and love letters; gruesome and repetitive accounts of plots, counter plots and resulting tortures and punishments and lots of other extraneous detail. What the book lacks is any attempt to give context of an overview - crucial parts such as the Cossacks, Tartars and the Bolsheviks are relegated to footnotes which are otherwise reserved for details too tedious even for the author to include in the main text.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I am going to say 4.5, because I am biased on the subject. Interesting 304 years of history, mostly wars, sex, corruption, and murder.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Inkspill

    This is a non-fiction, it surveys the Roman dynasty that ruled Russia for just over 3 centuries, the first and last both with the name Michael. It’s a tragic tale as Montefiore illustrates how they were pressured by other people’s need for ambition and power. The tragedy reaches a crescendo in 1918 with cold-blooded murder of Nicholas II’s family. As the book wraps up Montefiore says in 1998, under Yeltsin, Russia finally gave this family a royal funeral, it was attended by Romanov’s descendants This is a non-fiction, it surveys the Roman dynasty that ruled Russia for just over 3 centuries, the first and last both with the name Michael. It’s a tragic tale as Montefiore illustrates how they were pressured by other people’s need for ambition and power. The tragedy reaches a crescendo in 1918 with cold-blooded murder of Nicholas II’s family. As the book wraps up Montefiore says in 1998, under Yeltsin, Russia finally gave this family a royal funeral, it was attended by Romanov’s descendants. In less than 800 pages, Montefiore draws on the impact the ruling style of different emperors and empresses had on Russia. In his tale he shows how the weak are manipulated and easy led by hungry-ambitious advisors, whilst the strong were ruthless, verging on barbaric to our modern sensibilities. This is a huge read, for over half of it, as it jumps from one ruler to the next, I was not sure how to relate to this read. And for that part it seemed sensationalist later but I would wonder if this because the story was told without social context. I found the narrative jumped to life when it came to war and military action and when Rasputin entered the scene. I was disappointed and could not help feeling that it lacked substance for lack of cultural accounts, like Peter the Great’s interest in the Assyrians (a race that is mentioned in Homer and Ovid) or The Hermitage Museum founded by Catherine the Great who loved collecting art. However, this book did point to writers like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky but only in small glimpses to highlight Russia’s political landscape. In comparison to Nicholas and Alexandra, which I read a few years back, Montefiore’s style is matter of fact that verges towards the flat. However, he showed a very different Alexander, married to Nicolas II, compared to Massie Montefiore showed her in a more sympathetic light. Also, in its neutral tones I was left with the impression that Montefiore researched his subjects thoroughly and only recounted where he could find factual evidence. This for me negates the occasional boredom that seeped in when reading this book. I was also impressed with how he ends the book with an irony and how the book is organised in Acts and Scenes rather than parts and chapters. Also, how every chapter starts with a cast of characters followed by helpful description showed a sensitivity towards to his readers. The number of people Montefiore covers is huge, at a guess I would say 500 so I found the cast list, with helpful descriptions, useful to keep referring back to. I also liked the photo section – a good 100 plus included. I cannot say if this book has an index as I read it on kindle and this is not listed, which is not a problem as kindle makes it easy to do searches through the book. Overall, I found this to be a challenging read but weeks after I am still recalling small bits here and there so there is something about this that has left an impression on me.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Figgy

    The Romanovs inhabit a world of family rivalry, imperial ambition, lurid glamour, sexual excess and depraved sadism; this is a world where obscure strangers suddenly claim to be dead monarchs reborn, brides are poisoned, fathers torture their sons to death, sons kill fathers, wives murder husbands, a holy man, poisoned and shot, arises, apparently, from the dead, barbers and peasants ascend to supremacy, giants and freaks are collected, dwarfs are tossed, beheaded heads kissed, tongues torn out, The Romanovs inhabit a world of family rivalry, imperial ambition, lurid glamour, sexual excess and depraved sadism; this is a world where obscure strangers suddenly claim to be dead monarchs reborn, brides are poisoned, fathers torture their sons to death, sons kill fathers, wives murder husbands, a holy man, poisoned and shot, arises, apparently, from the dead, barbers and peasants ascend to supremacy, giants and freaks are collected, dwarfs are tossed, beheaded heads kissed, tongues torn out, flesh knouted off bodies, rectums impaled, children slaughtered; here are fashion-mad nymphomaniacal empresses, lesbian ménage à trois, and an emperor who wrote the most erotic correspondence ever written by a head of state. Yet this is also the empire built by flinty conquistadors and brilliant statesmen that conquered Siberia and Ukraine, took Berlin and Paris, and produced Pushkin, Tolstoy, Tchaikovsky and Dostoevsky; a civilization of towering culture and exquisite beauty.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scott Hitchcock

    This got better as it went along. I think part of the problem is there's just too many Alexander's, Catherine's, Nicholas's, Peter's......After the Great ones they all blend together a bit. My favorite parts involved the Napoleonic Wars and WWI because there were a lot of other characters from other countries. Then of course the end of the dynasty. Some of the stuff about Rasputin's penis was hysterically funny.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    This is not good; in fact it’s so bad that I’ve decided not to finish it. God knows I love reading history and I love reading about Russia, so that’s how bad this book is. Three hundred pages, I think, are more that enough to tell if something is good or not. Basically this is just the sexual antics of the Romanovs, of their lovers and mistresses, with a little bit of actual politcs told in a very confusing way, so much so that at times I couldn’t understand what was going on one paragraph to th This is not good; in fact it’s so bad that I’ve decided not to finish it. God knows I love reading history and I love reading about Russia, so that’s how bad this book is. Three hundred pages, I think, are more that enough to tell if something is good or not. 
 Basically this is just the sexual antics of the Romanovs, of their lovers and mistresses, with a little bit of actual politcs told in a very confusing way, so much so that at times I couldn’t understand what was going on one paragraph to the next; plus, minute details of tortures and executions. The back cover of this paperback edition says it’s an “intimate history” which, sure, I guess, although it won’t help you understand much of who these people were because it’s literally only interested in talking about sex, affairs and various deviances, without ever taking into account how the personality and the personal relationships of the tsars and tsaritsas fitted into the role they had as rulers; but then the back cover also says it’s “an essential portrait of an empire”, which no, it’s not: it barely ever discusses politics aside from court bickerings and plots, it doesn’t say anything about what was going on in the country at any given time in terms of what society looked like, how the economy was going, or what was going on in the arts, so you don’t learn anything about Russia. 
Sometimes it does go into foreign politics, but it does so quickly and confusingly, sometimes leaving the most important things to the footnotes, with an extra layer of confusion because at times these notes have absolutely nothing to do with what was being discussed in the main text. For instance, the partition of Poland during the reign of Catherine II (who, by they way, is only talked about through the list of the men in her life) takes a single sentence, and in the same paragraph the author deems important letting us know that she fainted that one time when she discovered her lover was cheating on her. Or, another example: Montefiore says empress Anna Ivanovna was judged negatively by her contemporaries because of sexism, but a few sentences later he says she was "lazy, vicious and weak". 
 The writing style is pretty awful: I kinda knew beforehand that Montefiore was not a great author, having read one of his novels, but I naively thought he was going to tone it down in a history book. No such luck, the style is lazy (he loves to describe people and families as “super-rich”, for instance), never clear (he likes to talk about people using their nicknames, so much so that after a few pages you’ve completely forgotten what their real names were). He often uses dialogue to recount stuff that happened three hundred years ago, and at one point he even uses quotation marks to report thoughts, while not bothering to use notes to signal the sources. I’ve only managed to get through half of this book, but I’m confident it’s not going to get better; so far I haven’t learned a single thing about the Romanovs and all I know about them comes from previous reads. It's been a waste of time, and I don't intend to waste any more. The only good thing I can say about it is that the cover's pretty? 


  28. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    Simon Sebag Montefiore might be an expert in chronological detail, but he is not a story-teller. This book with its epic ambition therefore at times turned into a blur of day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour accounts of court plotting, military activity and the intimate lives of some of the emperors. The Romanovs were shown to be unattractive, cruel and excessive monsters with a no-holds-barred approach to torture, murder and intrigue. The book certainly does a lot to explain Russia, but at times Simon Sebag Montefiore might be an expert in chronological detail, but he is not a story-teller. This book with its epic ambition therefore at times turned into a blur of day-by-day, sometimes hour-by-hour accounts of court plotting, military activity and the intimate lives of some of the emperors. The Romanovs were shown to be unattractive, cruel and excessive monsters with a no-holds-barred approach to torture, murder and intrigue. The book certainly does a lot to explain Russia, but at times I just wanted to say "too much information!" And another book, written from the point of view of the female pawns in the game, would be interesting. But preferably not by this writer, who does not seem able to enter into the emotional heart of his protagonists. Nor does he (or indeed his editor) seem able to recognise dangling modifiers, of which there are many throughout the book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kathrin

    Every year for the past couple years I promise myself to read more non-fiction books. There are numerous topics I find interesting and want to know more about, however, I'm not always lucky when it comes to choosing a book. Some are tedious to read, others just not what I expected them to be. History (in general) is a big interest of mine. I took some courses at university years back but there are still more things to discover. Now, ever since reading 'Anna Karenina' I wanted to know more about Every year for the past couple years I promise myself to read more non-fiction books. There are numerous topics I find interesting and want to know more about, however, I'm not always lucky when it comes to choosing a book. Some are tedious to read, others just not what I expected them to be. History (in general) is a big interest of mine. I took some courses at university years back but there are still more things to discover. Now, ever since reading 'Anna Karenina' I wanted to know more about Russia. Over the course of time, I discovered more author that I liked and there are still way more to check out. When reading those novels I noticed that I hardly knew anything about Russian history. The small samples of knowledge concern the interaction with other European powers over the last couple of centuries. When I started reading this book I wanted to close some gaps, get to know more about Russian history and culture but still be entertained. The last part will always be important to me as I've left my school/university days behind and don't look back to being forced to read something. 'The Romanovs' delivered exactly what I asked for. I noticed early that the author would focus on the more scandalous side of the family and there is a lot of sex and gore in this book. I didn't mind because it was quite obvious - literally advertised on my cover. I'm also aware of the fact that the author was by no means impartial. If I remember correctly he managed to implement his own family into the book. Keeping all of this in mind, I still think that the book is brilliant. Montefiore managed to keep me interested for nearly 700 pages but never lost me. I was able to follow his tellings (supported with numerous family trees, pictures and cast lists for each chapter) and learned something new. Looking back, the book was a great starting point allowing me to delve further into Russian history now. I recommend it to people looking for a broad overview - for more detailed information you probably have to seek books that focus on less than 300 years.

  30. 4 out of 5

    A.L. Sowards

    I enjoyed this look at the Romanov Dynasty. When it comes to Russian history, most of what I’ve read has been about the twentieth century, so it was good to reach back a little further into the past. I listened to the audiobook, so that makes it a little difficult to write a review because I can’t flip back through the book. I liked the narrator, but found myself wishing my listening app (Overdrive) had 1.5 speed because he had long pauses. The tsars were autocrats, and successful aut I enjoyed this look at the Romanov Dynasty. When it comes to Russian history, most of what I’ve read has been about the twentieth century, so it was good to reach back a little further into the past. I listened to the audiobook, so that makes it a little difficult to write a review because I can’t flip back through the book. I liked the narrator, but found myself wishing my listening app (Overdrive) had 1.5 speed because he had long pauses. The tsars were autocrats, and successful autocracy requires a genius, so perhaps it’s no surprise that they often fell short. Sometimes the Romanovs were great (Peter and Catherine, of course), frequently they were inept, often they were scandalous, but they were never boring. Note: this isn't a great audio book to listen to when children are in the house due to the author's frequent focus on his subjects' sex lives. I found myself skipping ahead a few times to protect young ears (and because that's not something I was interested in).

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