Ray's Reviews > The Romanovs

The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 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 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.
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Reading Progress

April 14, 2017 – Shelved
April 14, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
April 14, 2017 – Shelved as: non-fiction
September 3, 2017 – Started Reading
September 3, 2017 –
10.0% "Only two Tsars in and we have had disembowelling, poisoning, impaling (whole body and torso only) and the hanging of a four year old.

Shaping up to be a good un."
September 8, 2017 –
September 11, 2017 –
55.0% "A dense read with a bewildering cast of the great and the good. Shenanigans from time to time, with the odd episode of slapping down the French/Swedes/Poles/Prussians/Ottomans thrown in for good measure.

Execution, impaling and murder rate down slightly as the dynasty is becoming semi housetrained."
September 22, 2017 –
September 24, 2017 –
81.0% "1905 The whole edifice is creaking & a sinister newcomer arrives on the scene

All together now

Lover of the Russian queen
There was a cat that really was gone
Russia's greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on"
September 25, 2017 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Ilse (new)

Ilse Sounds fairly entertaining, thanks for pithily capturing the tone and the scope of this book so one can know what to expect, Ray.

message 2: by Ray (last edited Sep 26, 2017 04:47AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ray Ilse wrote: "Sounds fairly entertaining, thanks for pithily capturing the tone and the scope of this book so one can know what to expect, Ray."

I enjoyed it. Thank you for your kind words - I am certainly full of pith.

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