Imperial Legend: The Mysterious Disappearance of Tsar Alexander I
The subtitle says it all: this book attempts to prove that Tsar Alexander I did not die in 1825, but faked his death and become a starets, a wandering holy man. According to Troubetzkoy, the “Legend” of Tsar Alexander I was believed by many Russians, including the Imperial Family.
Grandson of Catherine the Great, Alexander came to the throne as so many other Tsars did – over the body of his predecessor, the semi-mad Paul I. Not an active conspirator in the plot to depose his father, assured that Paul would not be harmed, Alexander was appalled by his father’s murder. Although Alexander become one of the most famous rulers of his day, instrumental in defeating Napoleon and reshaping the map of Europe, he labored under the guilt of patricide. At last, after twenty-five years as Tsar of All the Russias, Alexander took his ailing wife to Taganrog, a remote town near the Crimea. There the 48-year-old Alexander suddenly fell and died.
Or did he? Ten years later, a mysterious starets named Feodor Kuzmich appeared in Siberia. A man with a strong resemblance to the late Alexander, Feodor lived a spartan, spiritual life, dying in 1864 without ever revealing his past. But there were many hints that the starets was far more than he seemed. Was Feodor Kuzmich really Tsar Alexander I?
This is promising material; unfortunately the writing is competent at best and its pacing poor. Far too much of the book is taken up with discussing Alexander’s life and exploits before 1825. The actual mystery of Feodor Kuzmich is covered in a very few pages. But even with these flaws, this book is definitely of interest to fans of Russian Imperial history and of royal mysteries