When Robert Massie wrote Nicholas and Alexandra
in 1967, he could never have dreamt that, in his lifetime, there would be answers to the many questions surrounding the deaths of the Romanovs. But with the fall of the Soviet government and the help of modern medical technology, such as DNA matching, that final chapter is now able to be written. Unfortunately, as with so many things, the mystery of the unresolved questions holds more fascination than the reality of the definitive answers. Not that there isn't plenty of new news here. Massie answers several big questions: how the Romanovs died and how their bodies were eventually identified; whether the woman known as Anna Anderson was in fact the grand duchess Anastasia, youngest daughter of the czar; and who, among several pretenders, would inherit the throne if the Russian people decide to restore the monarchy. The discussion of this last topic is particularly arcane, full of the knotted strings of Romanovs that only the most dedicated royalist or an editor at Burke's Peerage
would want to untangle. More interesting is the trail of bones unearthed at Ekaterinburg and how, using blood samples from Prince Philip of England (a cousin of the Romanovs) and others, identifications were finally made. Similar DNA tests were used to prove that Anna Anderson was not Anastasia but was in fact a Polish peasant. How she managed to pull off such a successful charade for so many years is one mystery that remains unsolved. Despite the book's regrettable dryness, the inquiring minds of royalty watchers will ensure demand. Ilene Cooper
From Library Journal
The fall of Soviet communism has sparked a renewed interest in detailing the real history of Russia. Recently opened archives and the decreasing likelihood of personal punishment have allowed historians unparalleled access to information hidden since World War I. Steinberg (history, Yale) and Khrustalev, a Russian historian-archivist, recount the arrest and life under guard of the Romanovs, with reproductions of many letters between Nicholas and Alexandra and documents of primary research. This work is scholarly, well written, and suitable for academic and public libraries. Pulitzer Prize winner Massie (Peter the Great, LJ 9/15/80) takes up where Steinberg leaves off. Massie's work chronicles the events from the death of the Romanovs at the hands of the Bolsheviks until the discovery and recent identification of their remains. Massie does a good job of exposing Romanov imposters, including Anna Anderson, but DNA research does not lend itself to readableness. The short chapters make the book more accessible, but this work does not compare favorably with the best of Massie's works. Together, these books bring to completion the lives of Nicholas and Alexandra. Communist revisionism has been replaced by academic research. [Massie's book was previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/95.]?Harry Willems, Kansas Lib. System, Iol.-?Harry Willems, Kansas Lib. System, Iola
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.