“THE ROMANOVS 1613-1918” By Simon Sebag Montefiore, Alfred A. Knopf, $35, 784 pages

Washington Times on May 11, 2016, published a review of a new book on the Romanov royal family of Russia by prominent historian Sebag Montefiore. Excerpts below:

Everyone knows of the ruling Romanovs of Russia, if only through the last of them — Nicholas II and Alexandra. In 1918 they and their four daughters and hemophiliac son were executed in the basement of a modest house in Yekaterinburg. Eighty years later, when the remains of Nicholas, Alexandra and their family were interred in the St. Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg, Russian President Boris Yeltsin admitted, “For many years, we kept quiet about this monstrous crime, but the truth has to be spoken.” Speaking loudest of all, in 2000 the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Nicholas, Alexandra and their children citing their “humbleness, patience and meekness.”

Nicholas‘ distrust of advice, faith in autocracy, failure to learn about conditions in his country, anti-Semitism, severity to real or supposed enemies, and imperial ambitions were typical of many of his forebears. Indeed, one explanation of his folly is that his father Alexander III was equally benighted. He declined to educate Nicholas for his future role, so though he was an excellent linguist, in other respects Nicholas was quite simply ignorant.

In general…reading Simon Sebag Montefiore’s history of the family affirms the belief that absolute power corrupts.

Indeed, it is hard to study Romanov rule without drawing analogies to modern structures of power…

Claire Hopley is a writer and editor in Amherst, Mass.

Comment: From a Swedish and Ukrainian standpoint two Romanovs were especially brutal: Peter I and Catherine.

The reviewer could have brought up the dramatic circumstances around the election of the first Romanov. When Sweden was attacked in 1700 by a secret coalition of states headed by Russia that wanted put to an end to the Swedish domination of the Baltic Sea area Swedish troops led by King Charles XII defeated the Russian Army at Narva in Estonia in 1700. A few years later a Swedish army defeated the Russians at Saladen on the border between Latvia and Lithuania. Thousands of Russian battle flags were captured by the victorious Swedish troops. In 1708 Sweden joined with Ukraine in an alliance against Russia.

Furthermore Swedish troops in 1609 captured Moscow. This was on invitation of one of the Russian pretenders to the throne during the “Time of Troubles” to prevent a Polish capture of the capital.

There was also a dynastic conflict a few years later involving Swedish Prince Charles Philip (brother of Gustavus Adolphus) for a future as tsar of Russia. But Moscow chose a Romanov instead. Russo-Swedish wars (there have been quite a few) have mainly been of a defensive nature on the part of Sweden.

Prince Charles Philip, son of King Charles XVI and Queen Sylvia (of Germany), is most likely named after the Charles Philup that could have been tsar of Russia.

These aspects of quite an interest in Russian history are not brought up in the review of Mrs. Hopley.


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