on January 29, 2003
I'm guessing that most people buying "The Romanovs: The Final Chapter" have already read Massie's "Nicholas and Alexandra" (first published in 1967) but if you haven't, I highly recommend it as "The Romanov's" is basically a final update to the family's tragic tale. Also, Massie's first book on Russia's last Tsar will make this book more personal to the reader as one gets a sentimental appreciation of who Nicholas and his family were from "Nicholas and Alexandra."
This book is far different than Massie's other historical epics as he takes on the role of an investigative journalist rather than a historian. Massie is on the front-lines, from DNA labs to court rooms, searching for a final answer as to whose skeletons were unearthed by an Ekaterinburg resident in the late 70's.
Massie leaves the reader with a plethora of factual information that all but ends one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century. Using DNA tests, Massie proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Russia's royal family and servants are the ones that were buried beneath the road outside Ekaterinburg. He also proves beyond a reasonable doubt, that Anna Anderson, who was the 20th century's greatest con artist, was not Anastasia, Tsarevna of Russia, but a mere Polish peasant.
With all the crime solving, the book at times gets bogged down into quotes, lengthy (but pertinent) explanations of scientific facts and petty arguments between scientists and lawyers, which limits Massie's masterful writing-style to a minimum. After reading all his books, the only sections that come close to capturing his colorful and accomplished style of prose are the first and last chapters.
That said, I'm very glad Massie was the one to tell the Tsar's final story and I highly recommend it to any reader of "Nicholas and Alexandra."
Here's a few items of note:
- A previous reviewer said that Massie does not explain what happened to the last two bodies, presumably of Alexei and either Anastasia or Marie, but in fact, Massie does with quotes of Yurovsky's writings on page 31 and again on page 68. By burning the two bodies and spreading the ashes and embers around, their remains were not preserved like the remaining nine bodies by being entombed in clay, so the final two missing family members in all likelihood will never be found. Another reviewer wished they had a family tree to keep the Romanovs straight. In my edition of "Nicholas and Alexandra", there is a family tree that shows all of Nicholas II's brothers and sister and one could make a photo copy from that book and add in all the nephews, nieces, cousins, etc.
- Also, since this book was published in 1995, a few things have happened in Russia regarding the Romanovs. On July 17, 1998, Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, three of their children and four family servants were buried in the Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul in St. Petersburg. The Russian Orthodox Church still questions the legitimacy of the bones as being the Tsar but the church did partake in the funeral march and burial. In a poll taken at the time, only 47 percent of Russians believed they remains were of Nicholas II and his family. And in 2001, the Dowager Empress Marie Fedorovna, was exhumed in Denmark and reburied alongside her husband, Tsar Alexander III, in the same cathedral.
Nicholas and Alexandra is the definitive book about the last rulers of Russia, and Robert Massie's The Romanov's: The Final Chapter is a fitting sequel to this venerable book. N & A ends with the execution of Nicholas and his family, but we discover in The Final Chapter that much has happened since the original was published in 1967. Lots of new information has become available due to perestroika, the fall of the Soviet Union, the opning of many long-sealed records and archives, and a renewed interest in the monarchy. All of these changes make us realize that there are many more chapters to the Romanov story, and this book is filled with mystery, tragedy, science, bickering, intrique, and above all, a profound sadness.
We read about the discovery of the Romanov remains and how and why this was kept secret for so long. We learn about the DNA testing to determine the authenticity of the remains and the subsequent fighting over that. Of course, there is the problem of the two missing skeletons and the controversy this causes. We are introduced to a number of Romanov imposters including Anna Anderson. We learn about the fates of the true surviving Romanov's and their battle over who should be claimant to the throne. We also are informed of the destruction of the Ipatiev House by Brezhnev so that it wouldn't become a monarchist shrine. And finally, we hear about the rumors of a vast Romanov fortune that is supposed to be in foreign banks and has never been found.
Since this book has been published, the Romanov remains have finally been reburied in St. Petersburg. But even this could not be accomplished without the bickering of the surviving Romanov's (as characterized in The Final Chapter). Some of them even boycotted the event. It is not always a pretty story.
The Final Chapter is also filled with fascinating tidbits of information. For instance, Prince Philip (husband of Queen Elizabeth) provided blood samples for DNA analysis as his grandmother was the Empress Alexandra's older sister.
All in all, this is a fabulous book! Those who expect this to be a boring, dry history will be pleasantly surprised. No author has told the Romanov story with as much style, passion and completeness as Robert Massie. It is no wonder that the story of Nicholas and Alexandra refuses to die, and why new generations of readers become enthralled with this tragic story--even 85 years after their deaths.
on October 20, 1999
Massie relates two fascinating stories: the first involves finding the remains of the family of Russia's last Czar, and the second recounts the assertion of Anna Andersen to be the Czar's youngest daughter, Anastasia.
In order to find the remains, layers of lies and bureaucracy must be untangled. Once unearthed, the task of identifying the bodies becomes a test of both science and diplomacy.
The question of whether Anastasia survived the Russian Revolution proves to be fiercely debated. Personalities from all over the globe are involved in the discussion. Massie relates the various positions in an even-handed fashion and brings compelling scientific evidence to bear.
The final chapter of the Romanovs proves that non-fiction can be more spellbinding than fiction. A must-read for anyone interested in Russia, forensic science, or well-crafted non-fiction. I liked Massie's _Nicholas and Alexandra_, but I LOVED this book.
on February 22, 2005
Robert K. Massie does it again by writing a superb "sequel" to his 1967 historical account "Nicholas and Alexandra". The book "The Romanovs: The Final Chapter" was written in response to the affirmation of the discoveries of the bones of the Romanov family. The book is divided into two parts. The first part addresses the discovery and verification of the bones. The discovery of the bones had after all, led to several debates. One debate naturally dealt with the authenticity of the bones. Along those lines there had arisen a rivalry between the various scientists that tested the authenticity of the bones. Furthermore there was a question as to whether the Russian Orthodox Church would recognize the remains of the Romanov family and thus give them a fitting burial. It was eventually through various tests, that the remains of nine people were proven to be in fact the royal family. However the final problem was that the remains of Alexei the heir to the throne and that of one of his youngest sisters were still missing. But scientists were also unsure which sister it was that was still missing. Most scientists believed that it was the youngest daughter Anastasia. There were nonetheless a substantial amount of scientists who concurred that it was Maria and not Anastasia who was missing. Finally there were questions as to the whereabouts of the remains of the two children regardless of their identity. It is from here that the second part of the book begins: The Pretenders.
The second half of the book mainly addresses the claims of Anna Anderson, the alleged surviving Grand Duchess who was better known as Anastasia. R.K. Massie goes through the pains of briefly recounting the life of Anna Anderson from her attempted suicide to the time of her death over fifty years later. Although there were many people who would claim to be a surviving member of the royal family, none would ever achieve the level of notoriety of Anna Anderson, who ultimately was proven to being a fraud through DNA testing after her death. It was through the claims of Anna Anderson that Hollywood took liberties in making full use of the legend of Anastasia and thus produced at least two well-known films on the subject. The films were the 1956 movie starring Ingrid Bergman (in which she won a Oscar for the title role) and the 1997 cartoon feature with the same title. While the popularity of the two films has served to make the legend of Anastasia mainstream, they have also further distorted the aftermath of the Romanov dynasty. It is thus fair to say that Massie's latest book serves to set the record straight and remove any belief in Anna Anderson's claims of royal lineage.
Finally R.K. Massie briefly addresses the various squabbles among the descendants of the Romanov family as to the issue of who is presently the legitimate head of the family. It is this last section of the book that many reviewers (myself included) find to be tiresome and superfluous. It is unfortunate that this final section of the book can really ruin its overall appraisal. Nonetheless I highly recommend the book not only for its subject matter but also for Robert K. Massie's fluid and engaging writing style. Robert K. Massie is after all not a historian, but a journalist and therefore he is capable of writing to the common reader. "The Romanovs: The Final Chapter" is in short a book worthy of its predecessor "Nicholas and Alexandra" and therefore it is a must-read.
on January 11, 1997
The book has some good, interesting narrative but it is
buried between sections that were not so interesting. The
first three chapters deal with the death of Tsar Nicholas
II and his family, the disposition of their remains, and
their discovery in 1979. So far, so good. Next comes nine
chapters of how the remains were identified, political
wrangling over who could do what with them, DNA testing, and
final interment of the remains. If you look selectively
in these chapters, you can find some interesting things.
Part II, which deals principally with the woman Anna
Anderson, who claimed to be Princess Anastasia, is arguably
the most interesting part of the book, although, again, you
have to slog through much detail to find much of interest.
The book concludes with a study of the remaining members
of the Romanov royal dynasty, and the internecine squabbles
afflicting that once-proud line. A true study in elitism.
Unless you're really keen on Romanov history, especially
modern Romanov history, you might want to try something
on January 14, 2000
A very well-researched and extremely interesting book that provides many answers to what really happened after the massacre of the Romanov family. The book is fascinating simply for its chapters on Anna Anderson alone. Massie, however continues to do what he did in his previous book about the Romanovs: he tends to sugar-coat their lives, giving them an unrealistic, fairy-tale existence, rather than letting the family's true personality shine through. I also agree with the previous reviewer who said that a family tree would have been a nice addition! Still, very interesting and well-worth the investment.
on August 19, 2006
Massie is a master historian and storyteller, and this book is nearly impossible to put down. Though reading Massie's prequel, 'Nicholas and Alexandra', is not essential to understandng 'The Romanovs: The Final Chapter', it is highy recommended. Beginning with the murder of the Romanov family, then moving to the discovery and exhumation of their remains, forensic and DNA analysis and the ensuing religious and political debate over their disposition and burial, Massie weaves an accurate historical narrative that reads like the finest detective thriller. Throughout, he carefully explains-in laymen's terminology-basic aspects of genetics, DNA analysis and forensic medicine. The true identity of 'Anastasia' claimant Anna Anderson is finally revealed in this book through a careful analysis of her life and the historical and genetic evidence. A wonderful read, and extremely informative-highly recommended!
In 1967 Robert K. Massie published his magnificent Nicholas and Alexandra, a biography of the last Tsar and Empress of Russia. That book was for me, like many others, a transformative experience, leading to a lifelong interest in Russian history and royal biography. At the time Massie wrote the Cold War still raged and there was little chance that anything more would ever be known about the final days and resting place of the Imperial Family.
Then in the 1990s came the end of the Cold War and the beginning of DNA research. With the Soviet Union dead and buried, researchers began to probe the area around Ekaterinburg, trying to discover the last remains of the Romanovs. Bodies were discovered which appeared to be those of the last Tsar and his family and servants, but proof was needed. Massie does an excellent job describing the search for and discovery of the remains, and then outdoes himself in clearly and comprehensively describing the technicalities of DNA reseach. Samples were taken from living relatives of the Romanovs, and DNA matches were made with five of the recovered bodies. The servants who died with the Romanovs were also identified, but the Tsar's only son Alexis and one of his younger daughters remained missing.
Massie describes these events clearly and concisely. He also includes an interesting section dealing with the Romanov relatives and their family feud over who is and who is not entitled to call themselves a Romanov. While this work does not have the same emotional reach of Nicholas and Alexandra, it still fascinates.
In 2007 two bodies were discovered near Ekaterinburg which appear to be those of Alexis and his missing sister. Once their identity is definitely established and the two bodies are allowed to join their parents and siblings in their new, more appropriate resting place in St. Petersburg, I hope that Massie will provide us with a new, absolutely final chapter in the Romanov saga.
on August 21, 2001
In the early morning hours of July 17, 1918, in Ekaterinburg (formerly Tobolsk), Siberia, the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, and his immediate family and three close friends were killed in a cellar room. It happened to destroy the past, to pave way toward a new future, as a new order was sweeping through Russia. In that cellar room in the Ipatiev House, where the Romanovs had been held captive for 78 days and later executed, a new mystery was born, for no one knew what really happened to the last Tsar of Russia and his family. Rumors soon began spreading: there were survivors, there were sightings of people in the Imperial family. The investigations of the day, carried out in good faith by a legal expert named Nicholas Sokolov, made it clear that no remains of the Romanovs were ever found. Robert K. Massie, in this phenomenal book, writes about these mysteries, beginning with an account of what happened to the Romanovs on that fateful night, when they were roused from their sleep by the man who turned out to be their executioner, Yakov Yurovsky. He later examines the events and efforts of several key personalities of the early 1990s that culminated in solving this old mystery.
The bulk of his book is devoted to two issues: (1) An account of what happened to the remains of the Romanovs, and the efforts of post-Communist Russia and the West to scientifically determine if nine skeletons exhumed from a mass grave in Siberia in July 1991 really were the remains of the Imperial family (pp. 3-139). (2) The issue of Anna Anderson, the woman who claimed, for over sixty years, that she was Grand Duchess Anastasia and had escaped from the carnage at the Ipatiev House. Was she really a Romanov? Massie recalls the secluded and bizarre life of Anna Anderson (one of her many known names) and the efforts to do DNA testing on a sample of her tissue and with those of the real Romanovs. The scientists' and Massie's conclusion is shocking...sorry to break this news: this woman perpetrated the biggest and longest lie in the 20th Century - she was not even remotely related to the Romanovs! (pp. 144-251).
Throughout the book, Massie places a lot of emphasis on the academic and legal bickering that took place over these controversial efforts to solve this mystery. It makes for very frustrating reading, to learn about the stubbornness and bizarre grounds upon which different parties based their agendas and stances in the form of legal wrangling. What is satisfying, however, is the happy ending in this story: ghosts of the past are laid to rest and the ongoing mystery is solved, even though there remain those who refuse to accept this fact.
In the last two parts of the book, Massie addresses the Romanov émigrés throughout the world and their stances on these controversial issues. Many of them are current pretenders to the Russian throne; a source of even more infighting among the existing descendants of the Imperial family. The book tops off with an account of what the Imperial family did and experienced in their 78-day stay at the Ipatiev House, leading up to that fateful night when the end came for them all. In all, Massie's book is a wonderful combination of history and current events (now to be called `recent history' in light of when the book came out, in 1995), a perfect tribute to the history of Russia and the benefits and meaning of science in unraveling issues long thought dead.
on May 26, 2000
The recovery of the Romanovs' remains was bedeviled by political infighting on every level. Churches, governments, and scientists turned what should have been a solemn homecoming into a backdrop for petty internecine fights. Massie cuts through all this petty bickering and provides the reader with a clear, concise account of the recovery of the bones and their eventual interment.
Those who enjoyed _Nicholas and Alexandra_ will find this book the perfect companion, but I recommend this book to anyone interested in Russian history, politics, or religion.