The compelling and poignant story of the arrest, captivity, and execution of the last tsar of Russia and his family during the revolution of 1917-1918 has been recounted-and romanticized-for decades. Now a new book explores the full range of events and reveals the thoughts, perceptions, and judgments of the individuals involved-Nicholas and Alexandra, their children, and the men who guarded and eventually killed them.
Based largely on previously classified materials from Moscow and Russian regional archives released only since the late 1980s, this valuable documentary record recreates the arrest, captivity and execution of the imperial Romanov family. It draws on letters, diary excerpts, telegraphs, minutes of government meetings and official orders, woven together by the authors' interpretive commentary. Tsar Nicholas II's personal writings reveal an autocrat of fatalistic spirituality who believed that the common people would ``come to their senses'' and rescue him. His reactionary wife, former German princess Alexandra, reinforced his perception of the Russian people as simple, devoted and childlike. Yale history professor Steinberg and Khrustalv, historian at Russia's State Archive in Moscow, dispute the widely held view that orders to execute the Romanov family came personally from Lenin and the top party leadership. They argue that the inconclusive, circumstantial evidence favors a different scenario: party leaders in Moscow and Bolsheviks in the Urals agreed to put the Romanovs on trial, with execution as an alternative if the military situation dictated. Illustrated with photos, maps and facsimiles, this documentary sets the Romanovs' ordeal in the context of the Bolshevik crushing of liberal attempts to ensure the royal family's safety and aborted rightist conspiracies to free the Romanovs. History Book Club selection. (Oct.)