Book of the Week

The Family Romanov


Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia





by Candace Fleming
Schwartz and Wade
292 pages



Were we all, the whole upper crust of Russian society, so totally insensitive, so horribly obtuse, as to not feel that the charmed life we were leading was in itself an injustice and hence could not possibly last?” Insensitive and ignorant; most of the nobility had no idea how completely impoverished their non-noble countrymen were. Foremost, they were starving. Peasant housewives didn’t have enough of their staple (dark bread) to go around the table, and often stretched the loaves by adding clay, ground straw, or birch bark into the flour. Their other staple (watery cabbage soup) was usually without meat. By 1903, each peasant family farmed small strips of land spread here and there. Their sections didn’t produce enough to feed their own family, let alone make a living. In desperation, their eyes began to wander to the nobility’s plush estates which covered half of the Empire. Some gave up and went to the cities but unfortunately there was no escape from suffering and starvation. Factory workers toiled long hours at dangerous jobs for almost no pay.

Such was the estate of Russia when tender, young Nicholas became Tzar. His Grandfather had been a great and good ruler to the people, but his Father had been mean and ruled with an iron fist. Nicholas was afraid to lead Russia until Alexandra came along. Her confidence, love and devotion to religion aided Nicholas, but she was steely, uncomfortable and paranoid with everyone else, except the mystic Rasputin. Although a professional conman, Rasputin was able to provide medical relief to their long-awaited hemophiliac heir, Alexei. The abomination of Rasputin and the deaf ear Nicholas continued to turn towards his people despite years of attempted negotiations finally caught up with him. Russia’s war against Germany turned into a civil revolution against the Tsar and his German wife. The people wanted a democracy. However, Lenin and the Bolsheviks set up a new “red” Russia before “white” Russia was organized and the imprisoned Romanov family was executed. Their bodies were finally located and matched with DNA in 1979 and 2007.

This title provides a dynamic documentation of the disparity between the opulent, secluded lives of the imperials, the disillusioned plight of the poor Russian peasants, democracy, and the duplicitous rise of communism. It includes the Romanov Family Tree, map of the Russian Empire, black and white photographs, a Bibliography, The Romanov’s Online, Notes and an Index. It is recommended for readers 12 years and up.

Kristi Halberg

Education Resource Center