"The Fall of the Romanovs" by Mark D. Steinberg

The Fall of the Romanovs Political Dreams and Personal Struggles in a Time of Revolution Mark D. Steinberg, Vladimir M. Khrustalëv

Annals of Communism Series
Publication date:
27 Feb 1997
Yale University Press
498 pages: 229 x 152mm
46 b-w illus.
Sales territories:


"All around me is treachery, cowardice, and deceit!"—diary of Nicholas II, on the day he abdicated

"Behave with dignity; do not allow the former tsar and his family to be insulted or treated rudely."—Commissar Vasily Pankratov's instructions to the guard, September 1917

"The bullets...ricocheted off [the jewels in the daughters' corsets] and jumped around the room like hail."—Yakov Yurovsky, commissar in charge of the execution of the tsar and his family

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.

This deeply moving book is based on documents and photographs from recently opened Russian archives and from Western collections. The documents, which appear for the first time in English (the language in which some of them were originally written), include correspondence between Nicholas and Alexandra during the February 1917 revolution; portions of their diaries; minutes of government meetings, telegrams, and other official papers concerning the arrest, confinement, and execution of the Romanovs; letters written by the captive tsar and his family to friends and relatives; appeals from Russian citizens concerning the fate of the Romanovs; and testimonies by the revolutionaries who guarded and executed them.

Mark D. Steinberg sets the stage for this dramatic saga of revolution in a text that provides engrossing narrative and sensitive exploration of ideas and values and that draws on the whole range of archival and published documents. He and Vladimir M. Khrustalëv also provide notes identifying people and explaining terms. Together, the text and documents challenge the conventional image of Nicholas as weak and witless and of Alexandra as either the preoccupied mother of a hemophiliac heir or as the treasonous "German empress." Instead they tell an ironic tale of individuals whose fatalistic spirituality and unbending faith in an archaic political culture allowed them to fall victim to revolutionaries whose political dreams had yet to be proven false.

"Documents on the fate of the Romanov dynasty, including official orders, personal letters, diaries, and recollections,...reveal the tsar and his family alternately oblivious to the mood of the times,...pathetic,...and noble....Most chilling is the recollection of the commissar who murdered them....With first-class analysis from Steinberg. "?Kirkus Reviews

"Useful?lucid analysis?.Contains several important never-before-published accounts of the assassination."?Joseph Finder, Washington Post Book World

"This valuable documentary record recreates the arrest, captivity, and execution of the imperial Romanov family."?Publishers Weekly

"The reader gleans vivid facts and impressions about how the imperial family lived in incarceration and died in a deplorable fashion. . . . Students of European history will be thrilled to have access to what's included here."?Booklist

"The organization of the book is superb: Brief, pithy, well-written chapters are followed by extravagantly lengthier collections of first-hand documents, from published and especially new archival materials, all copiously annotated. . .This is documentary history at its very best."?Max J. Okenfuss, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"[The] book presents a portrait of the political exigencies and passions that determined the family's fate. The documents themselves are of primary interest, but the judicious tone of the introductions to each section offers a welcome contrast to the overheated speculation that has long surrounded the last Tsar."?Susan Jacoby, Newsday

"The third entry in Yale's Annals of Communism series consists of documents on the fate of the Romanov dynasty, including official orders, personal letters, diaries, and recollections, interspersed with a commentary by Steinberg. . .He concludes that the version closest to the evidence is that the Urals Soviet was authorized to execute the tsar and his family without trial if the military situation deteriorated. . .[This is] first-class analysis from Steinberg."?Kirkus Review

"This work is scholarly, well written, and suitable for academic and public libraries."?Library Journal

"This is one of the best, perhaps the best book we are likely to see on the collapse of the dynasty. . . . The Fall of the Romanovs can be read on many levels. Taken simply as a collection of material which none of us has ever seen before, it is valuable and interesting enough, but this is a book designed to make you think."?Charlotte Zeepvat, Royalty Digest

"Steinberg and Krustalev have put together an unrivalled collection of letters, diary extracts, government telegrams and even secret messages delivered to the imperial family by conspirators offering to help them escape from captivity. Many have been hidden away in the Soviet archives for decades, with no hope of ever being published?until now. The commentary on the documents is the most astute, concise account to date of the Romanovs' tragic demise."?The Sunday Telegraph

"This is history at its most intensely personal, its most vividly exciting."?Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

"A compelling read even for the non-specialist. Its presentation and style are a model of scholarly elegance."?Victor Swoboda, The Gazette, (Montreal)

"Scholarly . . .exciting. . . . A sumptuous piece of historical tourism."?Michael Ratcliffe, The Observer Review

"A fascinating account of the end of Russian royalty."?Paul LaRocque, The Morning Star

"A superbly edited collection of documents illuminating the personality and actions of Nicholas II and his family."?Nikolai Tolstoy, The Daily Telegraph

"The Fall of the Romanovs is without question the most illuminating volume I have seen on the circumstances surrounding the Romanov's demise. . . . The book has been edited with meticulous care and the documents translated skillfully."?Andrew Solomon, London Review of Books

"One of the best of the many books on this subject to appear in recent years. . . . Unlike so much of the literature, it presents this tale without moral prejudice, allowing both the victims and the perpetrators to recount their parts in it in their own words."?Orlando Figes, Times Literary Supplement

"All future accounts of Nicholas II will benefit from this collection of documents and the judicious commentaries which accompany them."?R.C. Elwood, Canadian Journal of History

"This handsome and remarkable affordable volume should become standard reading for specialists and undergraduate students of Russian history, but it will be enjoyed by the general public as well."?Michael C. Hickey, Slavic and East European Journal

"An impressive addition to the literature, especially valuable for its scholarly credibility. It offers a reliable and objective antidote to the 'romantic, hagiographic, apologetic, accusatory, or gossipy and trivial' writings that have enjoyed public favor.?Robert D. Warth, Russian Review

"[A] marvelous collection. . . . This carefully assembled work is most likely aimed at students; nevertheless, a wide variety of readers can profit from it. While teachers may find it especially useful, all those who want to be pulled into this tumultuous and important era of history and feel as if they are reliving it, as well as those who want to be provoked by new questions and ideas, should read this book."?Lesley A. Rimmel, Annals of the American Academy

"Steinberg and Khrustalev have achieved that rarest of things: they have produced a work of outstanding scholarship which is also an unputdownable read. It is not only the unwritten sequel to The Brothers Karamazov. As a bona fide 'royals' book, it is also the perfect antidote to Andrew Morton."?Niall Ferguson, The Sunday Times

"If one wishes to live vicariously those last fateful years, almost day to day, with those pathetic people and ponder their fate and the reasons for it, this is a remarkable guide."?Patricia Herlihy, The Historian

"An extraordinary book. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Western history."?Francine du Plessiz Gray, New York Times Book Review

"This volume, which is both extremely well researched and well written, is now the best account of the tragic end of the Romanov dynasty in English and it is good to have it in paperback."?Contemporary Review