What IS it about the Romanov Family?

Romanov family, Tsar Nicholas II, Russia, Bolsheviks, Communists, regicide, Alexandra, OTMA, hemophilia, Helen Rappaport, Dawn PhillipsI’ve just set aside everything to read a new book about the Romanov family.

It’s only about the thirtieth book on the Romanovs to capture my imagination over the years.

Nearly 100 years after the regicide of  Tsar Nicholas II, his Tsaritsa Alexandra and five children Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia and Alexei, still attract writers and readers.

A friendly chat with friends from all over the country reveals they, too, are intrigued by the family and the story.

Indeed, over on Pinterest, a 1300+ pins Romanov board by Dawn Phillips displays nearly every photo imaginable. Phillips refers to the daughters  by an acronym: OTMA.

For the few people on the planet who don’t know the story, Nicholas II, a grandson of Queen Victoria, married the beautiful Alix of Hesse shortly after he became tsar in 1894. They had four daughters in a row and finally a son–stricken with hemophilia.

The sickly Alexandra worried constantly about the heir to the throne. Alexei’s prognosis for adulthood seemed unlikely.

The Imperial doctors tried everything to little avail. One day a mysterious “priest” from Siberia came to see them, Rasputin, and he calmed down the boy’s bleeding.

He also unduly influenced the nervous Alexandra. Rasputin’s meddling in Russian affairs played a part in the dynasty’s downfall.

300 years of rule

Romanov family, Tsar Nicholas II, Russia, Bolsheviks, Communists, regicide, Alexandra, OTMA, hemophilia, Helen Rappaport, Dawn Phillips

Engagement official picture of Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna ( Wikipedia)

The Romanov family celebrated 300 years of dynastic rule in 1913.

Four years later following the February Revolution, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated. Owing to Alexei’s ill health, he abdicated for both himself and his child. The crown went to his brother, but not for long.

Held under house arrest for over a year at the Alexandra Palace outside of St. Petersburg, the entire family savored their time together, sustained by their devotion to the Russian Orthodox Church.

In 1918, the Bolsheviks moved the family to Ekaterinburg in western Siberia. They were kept under close guard in the Ipatiev House and finally shot to death in a horrific nightmare of a basement room on July 17, 1918.

Not content to have simply murdered the family, the Bolsheviks took the bodies to a pit outside of the city. They poured sulfuric acid over the bodies and set them on fire.

Stories abound for many years that the youngest daughter, the spirited Anastasia, survived. When a mysterious woman named Anna Anderson turned up many years later, she claimed to be the long lost Anastasia.

Many believed her–family members perhaps because they wanted to believe her–but  DNA testing later proved her to be a Polish peasant.

In 1991, Soviet authorities found and exhumed the Romanov bodies.

In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church proclaimed the Romanov family  passion-bearers. (According to Wikipedia, a  passion-bearer is a saint who died in faith at the hand of murderers.)

What a story!

Why am I interested?

But why would an average girl of Sicilian-British-French-Danish nationality who grew up in Los Angeles be fascinated by the Romanov family? Click to Tweet

What would intrigue her so much she would write a story about them (in which Anastasia survives) and win a national writing contest in high school?

And why am I still reading about them now?

Why not?

Romanov family, Tsar Nicholas II, Russia, Bolsheviks, Communists, regicide, Alexandra, OTMA, hemophilia, Helen Rappaport, Dawn Phillips

Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia as children

The Romanov story has all the elements of an opera with the added sadness of being true: kings, doomed empire, beautiful young daughters, cruel politicos, fabulous  jewelry and heartbreaking illness, not to mention a world war. Click to Tweet

For me, as a fourteen year-old reading Robert K. Massie‘s epic Nicholas and Alexandra for the first time, the pathos was overwhelming–and there were so many events to cry about.

Perhaps its the lot in life for teenage girls to become passionate about love stories that transcend time or even logical thought. Perhaps it was the pageantry? Maybe the gorgeous girls (my then-age) impeccably dressed in matching white? Or the tragedy of a boy who could die from falling while playing a game?

I’m not so enraptured by the story now I’ve read more history. When my mother asked  if I named my son Nicholas in honor of the tsar, I flinched.

“I’d never name a child for him. While well meaning, he was a weak autocrat whose choices doomed his national to seventy years of Communism.”

I surprised my mother with my vehemence!

Still, the fascination continues.

A new book to me

Tonight I’m reading Helen Rappaport‘s The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg. I thought I knew everything about this story, but Rappaport is providing insights about Ekaterinburg I’d missed. Beautifully written, heartfelt and headed to that horrible ending, I’ll be savoring this one for a few days.

UPDATE: Finished the book in two days. Excellent. Well written, full of a different angle and insight, I learned a lot. Well worth reading.

Still pondering, though, why the story continues to capture my attention.

What do you think?

Why are we still sobbing over the Romanov story nearly 100 years after their death?

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You can hear Tsar Nicholas speak here.

You can watch the Tsar and three daughters enter a carriage here.


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