The Romanovs: Ruling Russia 1613–1917 by Lindsey Hughes - review by Nikolai Tolstoy

Nikolai Tolstoy

Tale of the Tsars

The Romanovs: Ruling Russia 1613–1917

By

Hambledon Continuum 308pp £13 order from our bookshop
 

Pushkin once illustrated the ancestry of the Romanov tsars by pouring a small amount of wine into a large glass. This, he explained, represented the purely Russian blood of Peter the Great. To this he added for each succeeding dynast of non-Russian ancestry an equivalent amount of water. By the time he reached the contemporary Nicholas I the content was tinged a faint pink. The moral, of course, was that the Romanovs were not Russian at all – a view carried to absurdity by subsequent adversaries of the regime who claimed that in consequence Alexander III spoke Russian with a German accent.

It is true that by this criterion the last wholly Russian ruler was the Empress Elizabeth (reigned 1740–61), while the greatest of all the ‘Romanovs’, Catherine II, was a purely German princess related to the dynasty only by marriage. However, the slur is effectively meaningless when one considers the extent

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter