Book Club: The Romanovs
DESPITE A CENTURY OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES TO THE CONTRARY, NO ONE SURVIVED THE 1918 KILLING OF NICHOLAS AND HIS FAMILY. IN THE RACE TO SAVE THE ROMANOVS, HELEN RAPPAPORT WONDERS: COULD ANYONE HAVE RESCUED THEM FROM THEIR FATE?
Why do the Romanovs still fascinate us?
This was one of the most extensively photographed families in the world. You only have to look at the pictures of those four lovely sisters in their white dresses to understand why the murder of these innocent children sticks in people’s imaginations. The 100th anniversary of the October Revolution in 1917 passed almost unnoticed in Russia— many now consider the revolution a crime—but I think there will be a mass veneration of the Romanovs on the anniversary of their deaths in July.
Could anyone have saved them?
The Germans had the best shot when they negotiated the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Bolsheviks in March 1918. But I don’t think they would have accepted the Germans’ help. The Romanovs thought their place was with the Russian people. It would have been hard for them to leave.
How did the other monarchs in Europe react to the Romanovs’ plight?
A lot of their royal relatives were not sympathetic until the children got caught up in this. They felt that the family could have prevented or diffused the situation. The Romanovs were a political hot potato, so for all the monarchs it was “Let’s try and keep out of it. Let’s pass the buck to someone else.”
How would history be different if the family had fled?
If they had left Russia, they would have lived in exile and obscurity. The bigger question is, what if there hadn’t been a revolution? If Nicholas had taken the advice he was given he might have been able to initiate reforms before war broke out. Maybe Russia could have become a constitutional monarchy. It would have been a radical move away from the old autocratic system but just imagine a truly democratic Russia with a benign monarch like Queen Elizabeth II!