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The Romanovs: 1613-1918

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  13,046 ratings  ·  1,379 reviews
The Romanovs were the most successful dynasty of modern times, ruling a sixth of the world’s surface for three centuries. How did one family turn a war-ruined principality into the world’s greatest empire? And how did they lose it all?

This is the intimate story of twenty tsars and tsarinas, some touched by genius, some by madness, but all inspired by holy autocracy and im
Hardcover, 784 pages
Published January 28th 2016 by W&N
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Lesley-anne Brewster Loving reading about 'The Romanovs' - really a very different world from ours here in modern Scotland. How did you get on with the other books?
I'm fin…more
Loving reading about 'The Romanovs' - really a very different world from ours here in modern Scotland. How did you get on with the other books?
I'm finding Catherine the Great and Potemkin incredibly interesting. (less)

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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  13,046 ratings  ·  1,379 reviews

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Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
History is WILD
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
May 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian-history
“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. ...more
“'Everything is turned upside down at once,’ he wrote to one of his best friends. 'Absolute power disrupts everything. It is impossible for me to enumerate all the madness' in a country that had become 'a plaything for the insane.’” (p. 266)
—Tsar Alexander I (reigned 1801 – 1825) on his father, Paul I, assassinated 1801

A dramatis personae at the start of each chapter helps track the actors and reemphasizes the idea of the intense melodrama here. This was not a group of subtle people. Even the oc
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
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-history
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
Brett C
Dec 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: russian-history
This was an excellent account of the Romanov dynasty covering just over 300 years of history. I've read "Peter the Great" and "Nicholas and Alexandra" by Robert K. Massie (both great by the way) but this one goes further in-depth. I felt this was a well-researched and well-written filled with tragedy and brutality but rich in human nature and intrigue.

First there's a brief history of the Rus and Rurikid lineage and Vladimir converting to Orthodoxy in 988. The Romanov's history starts with the fi
Jun 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible
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.
Steven Fisher
Sep 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russian
Putin asked his courtiers who where Russia's "greatest traitors". Before they could answer, he replied "The greatest criminals in our history were those weaklings who threw power on the floor- Nicholas ll and Mikhail Gorbachev- who allowed power to be picked up by hysterics and madman".Putin promised, "I would never abdicate". The Romanovs are gone but the predicament of Russian autocracy live on. ...more
BAM the enigma “Ask me if you need help with a book”
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, bu
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian
Montefiore covers the 304 years of the Romanov line of tsars from 1613 to 1917. His presentation gives us a different perspective than that provided by individual biographies. We are able to judge the individual tsars and empresses in the context of the traditions they inherited and the flow of history. We see how each dealt with similar circumstances. We learn how the differing personalities, capabilities and temperament of each autocrat changed history. From the pinnacle of the bold ruthless P ...more
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history-general
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) ...more
Maria Espadinha
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Hell Gardeners


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 li
Jan 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The focus on the juicy stories surrounding the many idiosyncratic Romanovs obscures a deeper understanding of the dynasty and Russia in its day and age
During the reign of the Romanovs Russia expanded 142 km per day

In general I feel that the Revolutions podcast about the Russian revolution is much more in depth/helicopter view than this book:

That being said, The Romanovs: 1613-1918 is a gripping read with many characters being bigger than life. Sex is an in
Micah Cummins
Sep 22, 2022 rated it it was amazing
An engaging, thoroughly enjoyable book providing the reader with a well rounded look into the Romanov dynasty. Given the great scope of the subject, the book is not able to cover every aspect of the dynasty, but rather, focuses on the big picture, and presents a very understandable narrative that allows the reader to become fully immersed in the story. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for an introduction to the history of the Romanovs.
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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 betwe
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
E. G.
List of Illustrations
Map: The Expansion of Russia, 1613-1917
Family Tree: The House of Romanov
Acknowledgements and Sources

--The Romanovs


(The full and extremely extensive references for this book, which were included in the hardback edition, are available on the author's website at: To make the paperback a manageable and readable size, the author and publishers have decided not to include them in the paperback. We hope the reade
History as long-running soap - revelling in the lurid and dramatic; personality-focused, deliberately emotive. This was another popular history on a semi-familiar subject which I chose for audio because I wouldn't feel the need to take lots of notes, the way I would with something more academic or newer to me.

It's also yet another of these bottom-heavy survey histories with far more detailed coverage of later periods, frustrating for readers who would rather hear more about the earlier stuff. In
May 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Gary Inbinder
Feb 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, russia
“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
― William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2
The story of the Romanovs begins and ends in troubled times. The Romanov Dynasty was established in 1613 following a period of fifteen years known as the Time of Troubles, which began with the death of Feodor (1598), the last Rurik Dynasty tsar. It was a time of famine, war, civil unrest, usurpers and imposters. No wonder the teenage Michael Romanov, son of Fyodor (later Patriarch and Great Sovereign Filaret) and gr
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 M
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it

Dave Cullen
May 13, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
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
Jun 22, 2022 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed, history
This book was a disappointment. In a weird way its failing was concentrating too much on the Romanovs. I know, weird criticism of a book literally called "the Romanovs", but you can't understand historical figures by merely looking at just them.

Historical figures are important for the change (for better or worse) they affect on the world. George Washington isn't important because he is George Washington, he is important because of the effect he had on history. The Romanovs were extremely impact
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Jan 05, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2016
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 plot
Nadhira Satria
Nov 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Amazing!!!! This book gave me sooo much knowledge on the old tsars and tsarinas of Russia. I have an obsession with Russian history and this book quenched my thirst for more knowledge about imperial Russia and the Romanovs
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: five-stars, read-2016
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.
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Goodreads Librari...: Correction 3 20 Apr 27, 2019 11:20AM  
Which Romanov book should I read ? 2 47 Jul 05, 2018 04:51PM  
British Royal Family Biography ala The Romanovs 1 9 Jan 07, 2018 03:10PM  

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Simon Sebag Montefiore is the author of the global bestsellers 'The Romanovs' and 'Jerusalem: the Biography,' 'Stalin: the Court of the Red Tsar' and Young Stalin and the novels Sashenka and One Night in Winter and "Red Sky at Noon." His books are published in 48 languages and are worldwide bestsellers. He has won prizes in both non-fiction and fiction. He read history at Gonville and Caius Colleg ...more

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