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The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg Hardcover – February 3, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 134 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Synthesizing a variety of sources, British historian Rappaport (Joseph Stalin) details the Romanovs last two weeks, imprisoned in a cramped private house in Ekaterinburg, a violently anti-czarist industrial city in the Ural Mountains where Nicholas II; his wife, Alexandra; and their five children were executed on July 17, 1918. The czars rescue was a low priority for the Allies, and several escape plots by Russian monarchists came to naught. A lax guard was replaced by a rigorous new regime on July 4, headed by Yakov Yurovsky, whose familys impoverished Siberian exile had fueled his burning hatred for the imperial family, and his ruthless assistant and surrogate son, Grigory Nikulin. How the last czar and his family died was one of Russias best-kept secrets for decades, and Rappaport spares none of the gory details of the panicked bloodbath (it took an entire clip of bullets to finish off the czarevitch because an undergarment sewn with jewels protected the boys torso) and botched burial of the corpses. Although parts of the Romanov saga are familiar and Rappaports sympathy for the czar often seems naïve, this is an absorbing, lucid and authoritative work. 16 pages of photos. (Feb. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Since the end of the Soviet Union, details about the murder of the Russian royal family in 1918 have emerged and inspired several accounts of the killings. Author Rappaport, a talented British writer of narrative history, telescopes the post-abdication story of the Romanovs into the two weeks preceding their deaths, during which the final elements of decision in Moscow and execution in the Siberian city of Ekaterinburg fell into place. As storyteller, Rappaport skillfully contrasts the ignorance of the family members of their impending doom with the preparations of the Bolsheviks on the scene. She renders astute personality portraits of the seven members of the family, noting especially the beauty of the daughters that, to a degree, underlies popular interest in and horror about what happened to the Romanovs. Such sentimentality was alien to Bolsheviks waging class war, however, and Rappaport describes the chain of command from Lenin to the firing squad with responsibility-fixing emphasis. Unavoidably ghastly in her last pages, Rappaport, whose research included visits to the murder and burial sites, has produced an emotionally powerful work of history. --Gilbert Taylor

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312379765
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312379766
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #136,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By S. McGee TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone picking up this book is likely to have read some of the other literature on the Romanovs or the Russian Revolution, notably the Robert Massie biography, Nicholas and Alexandra and the follow up volume, The Romanovs: the Final Chapter. This is an altogether bleaker narrative -- if you can imagine such a thing -- that revolves around the day-to-day lives of the Romanovs, their captors and, at a distance, Lenin, George V and others who helped determine their fate.

The format is straightforward: Rappaport uses each of the last 14 days of the lives of the former Tsar and his family (the unpopular Empress Alexandra, their hemophiliac son, Alexey, and four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia) as the focus of a chapter. In each chapter, she explores the state of the debate about the Tsar's future or the issues that were likely to affect that -- such as the relentless advance of Czech 'White' troops in the direction of the city of Ekaterinburg where the Romanov family now lived in almost complete isolation from the outside world. The result is a relentless "tick tock" account of how hope slipped away, of how the family lived side by side with guards who were making meticulous preparations for their deaths, of the petty indignities they suffered and the petty squabbles in which they still indulged.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since my high school years, I have been enthralled with the story of Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov and their tragic story. Every year or so, I need a Romanov-fix, and Helen Rappaport provided just that with her new book, The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg. There is much to like in this book, but also, a few detractions.

There are hundreds and hundreds of books on the last tsar and his family. Many of them just rehash the same information, over and over again. Rappaport tries to give a more in-depth look at the last 14 days that the Romanovs were in captivity in Ekaterinburg. She gives just enough background for those who may not know the entire story. Some of her descriptions and observations are first-rate. In describing Nicholas, "how had this devout, insistently dull and dogmatic little man, whose primary interest was family life, come to be demonised as the repository of all that was corrupt, reactionary and despotic about the Romanov dynasty?" When the family was descending into the basement of the Ipatiev House on that July evening, she writes "Twenty-three steps--one for every year of Nicholas's disastrous reign--now led him and his family to their collective fate." I especially liked learning more about the city of Ekaterinburg, as well as Woodrow Wilson's dilemma about aiding Russia. Rappaport's research in this respect is well done.

But what bothered me about The Last Days of the Romanovs is that there are no endnotes. There were so many times that I would read a new fact--something I had never heard before. My first instinct was to see where it came from so that I could learn more. The author gives her reasons for not including endnotes in her "Notes on Sources", but I don't agree with them.
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Format: Hardcover
With every turn of the calendar, I see the release of yet another book on the last monarch of Russia, Tsar Nicholas II, and his family, hit the bookstores. And nearly all of them have something 'new' to say on the execution of the family, and their servants, on a warm summer night in July 1918, in the city of Ekaterinburg.

This time, the focus is on the doomed family's final days of life, with each day being chronicled by a chapter in Helen Rappaport's The Last Days of the Romanovs: Tragedy at Ekaterinburg. It's a nice twist, but rather crammed, as the author, a historian specializing in Russian history, explores each member of the family in turn. Of course, there is Nicholas, the father, and once ruler of the largest empire the world had seen. By the opening chapter, he had abdicated from the throne as unrest swept Russia from the terrible results of entering the first World War. Suffering from effects of stress and confinement, the only thing that seems to be holding him together is his family and the endless smoking of cigarettes. Alexandra, his German-born, but English-trained and speaking wife, is next, herself suffering from the effects of poor overall health and constant fretting over her youngest child. Rappaport makes much of Alexandra's mental state and possibility of menopause, and conveniently forgets how devastating physical ailments alone can make a person -- Alexandra suffered since a teenager from the results of sciatica.

The daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, are as most writers do, lumped into a single mass. While it is a given that the four daughters thought of themselves as a group -- they would sign notes and make presents as 'OTMA' -- they were very much individualists as well.
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