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The Last Days of the Romanovs Summary and Reviews

The Last Days of the Romanovs

Tragedy at Ekaterinburg

by Helen Rappaport

The Last Days of the Romanovs

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Book Summary

On the sweltering summer night of July 16, 1918, in the Siberian city of Ekaterinburg, a group of assassins led an unsuspecting Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, his wife, the Tsarina Alexandra, the desperately ill Tsarevich, and their four beautiful daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia, into a basement room where they were shot and then bayoneted to death.

This is the story of those murders, which ended three hundred years of Romanov rule and set their stamp on an era of state-orchestrated terror and brutal repression.

The Last Days of the Romanovs counts down to the last, tense hours of the family’s lives, stripping away the over-romanticized versions of previous accounts. The story focuses on the family inside the Ipatiev House, capturing the oppressive atmosphere and the dynamics of a group—the Romanovs, their servants, and guards—thrown together by extraordinary events.

Marshaling overlooked evidence from key witnesses such as the British consul to Ekaterinburg, Sir Thomas Preston, American and British travelers in Siberia, and the now-forgotten American journalist Herman Bernstein, Helen Rappaport gives a brilliant account of the political forces swirling through the remote Urals town. She conveys the tension of the watching world: the Kaiser of Germany and George V, King of England—both, like Alexandra, grandchildren of Queen Victoria—their nations locked in combat as the First World War drew to its bitter end. And she draws on recent releases from the Russian archives to challenge the view that the deaths were a unilateral act by a maverick group of the Ekaterinburg Bolsheviks, identifying a chain of command that stretches directly, she believes, to Moscow—and to Lenin himself.

Telling the story in a compellingly new and dramatic way, The Last Days of the Romanovs brings those final tragic days vividly alive against the backdrop of Russia in turmoil, on the brink of a devastating civil war.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Solid political and social history, related with the vigor of a true-crime thriller." - Kirkus Reviews.

"Poignant but never maudlin, this book is an absorbing read, though the more serious reader might wish for more detailed notes on sources." - Library Journal.

"Although parts of the Romanov saga are familiar and Rappaport's sympathy for the czar often seems naïve, this is an absorbing, lucid and authoritative work." - Publishers Weekly.

"...Rappaport does not manage to elucidate the exact role of Lenin or the Kaiser in the fate of the Tsar. Nor does she convince when she claims that the execution of a family "laid the foundations" for the Holocaust and genocide in Rwanda." - Scotland on Sunday.

"The book is essentially a compassionate account of a close-knit, deeply devout and surprisingly ordinary family caught up in quite extraordinary circumstances." - The Independent (UK).

"Were the imperial couple heroically stoic or staggeringly unimaginative? Helen Rappaport follows the principal characters over the 13 days leading up to the murders. She skilfully weaves together the grimly repetitive routine of the doomed family with the high drama engulfing the killers as they add the finishing touches to their terrible plan. Though some of the material is familiar, Rappaport's countdown format makes Ekaterinburg freshly compelling." - The New Statesman (UK).

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Author Information

Helen Rappaport Author Biography

Photo: Stephen Bristow

Helen Rappaport studied Russian at Leeds University and is a specialist in Russian and nineteenth-century women's history. Her books include A Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert, and the Death That Changed the British Monarchy and The Last Days of the Romanovs. She lives in Oxford.

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