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25 January 2018: Asprey, Zaehnsdorf and the Romanovs

 

 The fall of Imperial Russia and the Russian Empire is a fascinating part of twentieth century history. A dynasty that lasted little over four-hundred years came toppling down at the hands of Tsar Nicholas II. The communists took hold of the once great Empire and changed Russia following the fallout of the end of the Great War.

There has been a lot of interest surrounding Imperial Russia, the empire, and specifically, the last Tsar and his family. The haemophilia that tainted the last Tsar and Tsarina’s son Alexei, and their relationship with mystic Grigori Rasputin have captivated audiences during the twentieth century. This, alongside the mystery of the whereabouts of their daughter Anastasia has been the subject of numerous films, documentaries and books.

We have a selection of beautiful books in our library on Russia that are published both pre and post-World War One. This collection, in beautiful Asprey by Zaehnsdorf bindings, provide a picture into Russian affairs and the Romanov dynasty, from the view of both historians and personal acquaintances. These twentieth century works about to be discussed are from the library of Count R L Sangorski, a prominent art collector. Sangorski is best known for contributing to the John Marriot collection of Chinese Art.

In this collection, we currently have three works published before the Bolsheviks came to power. This includes Donald Mackenzie’s famous work on Russian Civilisation aptly titled Russia. Wallace was a foreign correspondent for The Times and lived in Russia during the late nineteenth century. This work was originally published in 1876-7 on the brink of the Russio-Turkish war. Click here to view our listing. The second work is Angelo Rapporport’s The Curse of the Romanovs; A Study of the Lives and Reigns of Two Tsars Paul I and Alexander I of Russia 1754-1825. Rappoport was fiercely anti-Romanov and this work mirrors that sentiment. Published in 1907, a decade before the Russian Revolution, the work anticipates it. As the author writes in his preface: "The eyes of Europe are directed towards Russia, the European China, where the scion of the house of Romanov is seated on his tottering throne, frightened at the phantom of an approaching revolution." This work is a fascinating read due to the insight into contemporary sentiment leading up to the revolution. Click here for our listing. The third work we have published prior to the Romanov fall is a look into Russian Society during the Imperial reign. The Fair Ladies of The Winter Palace is another work by anti-Romanov Dr Angelo S Rappoport. The author provides a rather salacious history of Imperial Russian women from their seclusion in the 17th century to their extravagant domestic dominion of the 19th century. Click here for the listing.

To provide further contextual knowledge on the Romanov dynasty and typical Russian court life, we also have an English translation of a collection of letters between Alexander I and his Sister Catherine. This collection of letters were edited and introduced by Grand Duke Nicholas and have been translated into English by Henry Havelock. Click here for our listing.  Another good contextual work in our collection is the 1971 work The Romanovs The Rise and Fall of A Russian Dynasty by Ian Grey. This work has a different chapter for every member of the Romanov family beginning with Mikhail Fedorovich and ending with the final Tsar, Nicholas II.

The several works from this collection published very soon after the revolution tell an even more interesting tale. They are all written by individuals who were directly involved with the Russian court.  From 1923 we have a personal account of pre-revolutionary Russia by Meriel Buchanan titled Recollections of Imperial Russia. Buchanan was the daughter of British diplomat Sir George William Buchanan. Sir George was the British ambassador to the Russian imperial court and remained there throughout the First World War and until the 1917 uprising. During her time in Russia Meriel was a nurse for wounded soldiers. This particular work provides a contemporary experience of someone involved in the Russian Court at the time of the revolution.

Another two works of note are by Princess Catherine Radziwill. Radziwill, a notable Polish aristocrat, was a prominent figure at the Imperial courts in both Germany and Russia. She wrote several works on the fall of the Russian Empire speaking from her own personal experiences in court and giving her own opinions. One of these is The Taint of the Romanovs. To the preface she notes ‘This is not a historical book. This must be made clear at once. Neither is it a work of fiction. It is simply the story of a legend, translated by Fate into grim reality.’ Radziwill also penned a biography of the last Tsarina. To this preface Radziwill controversially writes 'This is neither an apology nor an indictment of the last Empress of Russia... it is impossible not to defend her from baseless accusations which have been held at her head, yet it is equally out of the question to absolve her from a very large share of responsibility in regard to the terrible collapse of Russia.' 

We have a more objective work on The Empress Alexandra from later in the twentieth century by E M Almedingen.  The work is titled The Empress Alexandra. Almedignen was a British author of Russian origin who wrote many novels and biographies. This work examines Alexandra’s life, her marriage to Nicholas II, her haemophilia, and the fall of the Empire.

Another work written by a contemporary of the court is Gleb Botkin’s The Real Romanovs. Botkin was the son of the Romanov court physician Dr. Yevgeny Botkin. Dr. Botkin was murdered by the Bolsheviks alongside the Imperial family he served. The author of this work was an interesting character who supported Anna Anderson in her claim to be the surviving Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. Botkin gives a fascinating insight into the family from another contemporary perspective.

The final work we have written by a contemporary, but issued later in the twentieth century, is the first English translation of Prince Felix Youssoupoff’s memoir. Youssoupoff was married to the Tsar’s only niece and is probably best known for his role in the assassination of the mystical faith healer, Rasputin. This memoir discusses the prince’s justification for his actions and his role in the assassination. Rasputin was trusted by the Tsar and Tsarina and therefore had great influence in the control of late imperial Russia. During the First World War in particular, Rasputin had great influence due to Nicholas II’s absence. He was assassinated by a group of conservative noblemen who opposed his influence. Many regard Rasputin as a large contributing factor to the fall of the Romanov dynasty. Click here to see our listing.

This post is only a small sample of the many works we have regarding Russian history, we have more in these beautiful bindings and an even larger range of works focussing on a wider period of the country’s fascinating story so far. 

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