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Ekaterinburg: The Last Days of the Romanovs Paperback – International Edition, March 1, 2009
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Short version: thumbs up. Had it read in an afternoon.
Long version: Rappaport's even-handed perspective and tight focus make Ekaterinburg a worthwhile read, even for those like me with linear feet of shelf space already devoted to dozens of Romanov titles. Rappaport's approach neither sanctifies nor demonizes the imperial family, and that in itself is refreshing. Drawing on seldom-accessed Russian sources, she gives a vivid sense of the tense political climate in Ekaterinburg, as well as the stifling mood in the Ipatiev house during the Romanovs' captivity that's lacking in other accounts. A significant amount of discussion concerns the politics behind the execution, but as I have not generally paid much attention to the Lenin vs. Ural Soviet debate, I can't judge whether the information on that topic is new.
To be perfectly frank, this volume is not a smorgasboard of new facts and evidence; it's too late in the game to realistically expect that from any author. Yet the tight chronological focus filled in some cracks that other accounts tend to gloss over, and I found a satisfying number of new tidbits regarding the Romanovs themselves -- the name of Aleksei's cat, for example, and further insight into the empress's physical/mental condition -- to feast upon.
For my money, the combination of new domestic tidbits and the author's assessment of the Romanovs' personalities and family dynamic more than made up for the cost of international postage. Those more interested in the political side of the Romanovs' exile and execution should find plenty to ponder as well. In essence, I'm glad I didn't wait.
The most valuable asset of "Ekatrinenburg, the last days of the Romanovs" is its unemotional way of telling. While making a good read, Rappaport succeeds in restricting herself to the cool facts. Given the extreme emotional charge of the subject, even nearly a hundred years later, this surely makes a very respectable performance.
After some 2000 years of royal government, by people whose passport to power came only by birth & family-ties, Europe's first break on this principle was made by the French Revolution in 1789. Thereafter the process went on, gradually eroding royal privileges more and more. It was completed in 1918, when the royal losers of World War 1 both lost their crowns and their political power.
Nicholas II, the last (Romanov) czar, was one of these losers. In her book Rappaport leaves no doubt about his incompetence, considerably worsened by the strong & wrong influence of his wife. It's not particulary them who are mourned: the Romanov-murders derive their extreme emotional charge mostly from the simultaneous murder of their four adolescent daughters. And of their thirteen year-old son, incurable sick of haemophilia. These brutal murders also finished off a harmonious family-life, based on strong religious principles. The disrespectful treatment of their corpses worsens the catastrophy even more.
The carefully taken photographs of the five Romanov-children appeal to this day. They keep on contributing considerably to the Romanov-legend. It's indeed hard to split reality from legend here: Helen Rappaport succeeds in doing so.
The book is structured as a count down, a day by day examination of the final weeks. However, as this information is fairly scant she is supplements it with accounts of what is happening outside of the Ipatiev house: the activities of the regional and central Bolshevik parties, various consuls, the overseas royal families, the British parliament and with President Wilson. There are also potted biographies including those of Nicholas, Alexandra, the girls and Alexis and some of the revolutionaries.
And yet... She faces the problem endemic to the field: sources are limited and the story has been exhausted in the telling. Her book is an overview and nothing more. It reads a little like an extended undergraduate essay. The student, having researched, has written in great detail, "all I know about the Romanovs". And I suppose that's quite a respectable activity but I still ponder: what is the point; what is it that she seeks to do in this book; why write it?
Further, is this meant to be an historical work or is an historical novel. It certainly has many of the characteristics of a novel. Indeed I wondered if the author's background was that of a novelist.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is just an amazingly well researched & poignant book dealing with the real essentials of this highly charged & extremely emotional story. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Robert
An extraordinary account of the tragic developments of the time. Seriously documented, extremely well written and above all heart braking. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Jean D.