Tales of the Romanov Empire

Written by Tamar Anolic
Review by Peter Clenott

Few people today lived at a time when the Romanovs ruled Mother Russia. Peter the Great, the empresses Elizabeth and Catherine, as well as Nicholas and Alexandra live only in memory now. Or in works of scholarship and fine literature such as Tamar Anolic’s Tales of the Romanov Empire.

The book recounts, in short story form, the history of the Romanov tsars from the early 17th century to their demise during the Bolshevik Revolution. Author Anolic takes us into the private quarters of these rulers, unmasks these historic personages and reveals their human sides, and takes them into the darkest and most intimate rooms and halls of their lives.

Peter had to survive family in-fighting in order to survive and hold onto his throne as a child tsar, only to become a filicide himself. Catherine the Great was a German teenager who transformed from the wife of an ineffective tsar to the ruthless leader of her adopted country. Alexander III, Nicholas’s father, was a reactionary whose policies led to pogroms and the immigration of many of Russian Jews. The children of Nicholas and Alexandra never grew up to experience life as adults.

Tales of the Romanov Empire is composed of 39 separate stories of varying length. I wondered at times if author Anolic might have made even more intimate revelations. There were instances when I wanted more detail, as when Nicholas’s chief administrator Stolypin is shot. We don’t know for sure why Stolypin was shot or whether or not he survived the assassination attempt. I might have preferred 25 fuller tales than 39 that left me aching for more information; to get to know the darker side of these people, who, after all, left Russia, in the end, a nation conceived in blood and to this day still shedding it.