Nicholas: The Last Tsar

In his book, The Last Tsar, Edvard Radzinsky describes a very interesting viewpoint of the life and death of Nicholas Alexandrovich, the last Russian Tsar. Radzinsky's illustration of this ill-fated monarch follows the diaries of Nicholas from their beginning on March 1, 1881, to the final entry on July 16, 1918.1 Radzinsky mainly goes over pre-marital relationship between Nicholas and Alexandra, the medical condition of Nicholas' son, Alexei, and the imprisonment and execution of Nicholas and his family.

The relationship between Nicholas II and Alexandra began in 1884. Alexandra, the daughter of Louis IV, the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt, a tiny state in Germany, was born in 1872.2 Her grandmother was Queen Victoria of England, her oldest sister married an English prince, her second sister married a Russian Grand Duke and her third sister married a German prince. Nicholas and Alexandra met during the wedding of her second sister, Ella, to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. Alexandra was only twelve and Nicholas was only sixteen, but he stated in his diary that he fell in love with her a first sight. Nicholas' father, Tsar Alexander III, did not approve of Alexandra, because of the fact that she was the granddaughter of the English Queen. Instead, he suggested that Nicholas marry a princess from the House of Orleans. His decision was basely mainly on politics, as he was striving for an alliance between Russia and France. Alexander's suggestion did not have any effect on Nicholas, as he seemed certain to marry his childhood sweetheart, Alexandra. That day came in 1894, when Alexander was on his deathbed, suffering from a kidney disease that he had contracted in a train wreck six years earlier. On April 8, 1894, at the wedding of Alexandra's brother, her and Nicholas were engaged.3 On November 14, 1894, a month after the death of his father Nicholas married Alexandra and officially became the tsar of Russia.

Alexei Nikolaevich, the first son of Nicholas and Alexandra was born on July 30, 1904, following the births of four daughters. The problem of who would rule Russia in case of an accident to Nicholas was solved. However, there was a new problem, as Alexei was diagnosed with hemophilia. Hemophilia is a disease that weakened the walls of the arteries so that "any blow or intense pressure can cause the blood vessels to burst and can mean the end."4 Rumours of a holy man, named Grigory Rasputin, however, living in the backwoods of Siberia gave rise to Alexander's hopes that her son's hemophilia could be cured. Rasputin possessed what some called a gift of healing, as he repeatedly healed possibly fatal wounds suffered by Alexei.5 The first time he helped Alexei was when Alexei had suffered a bruise on his leg was in agonizing pain. Rasputin walked to Alexei's bed, grasped Alexei's leg and healed the possibly fatal bruise. There are many stories where Rasputin healed Alexei without physically being there. For example, in 1912, Alexei was suffering from a common cold. When he tried to blow his nose, the blood vessels burst and the blood began to gush. The doctors could do nothing to help. When all hope was fading, they received a telegram from Rasputin. It read "God will help you, be healthy,"6

Nicholas II was forced to end the Romanov rule over Russia after three hundred years, as he forfeited the throne on March 2, 1917 because of the Russian Revolution. However, the people were still so upset with him, that the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies passed a decree the day following the abdication. The Deputies ordered the arrest of Nicholas II and the members of the Romanov dynasty on March 3, 1917. The family and everyone who remained with them were to be isolated from the outside world within the confines of Alexander's Palace, complete with an inside and outside guard. However, soon after, rumours were spreading that claimed the imperial family had escaped to England. Therefore, the provisional government sent the family and their servants to Tobolsk, in Siberia, on July 31, 1917.7 After spending about nine months under heavy supervision, the family was going to be transported to Moscow to stand trial for treason against Russia. However, this plan was only a fake, as the family was never intended to make it to Moscow. The real plan was that the Uralite Bolsheviks would seize the train on its way to Moscow and take the family to the Uralite capital of Ekaterinburg.8 In Ekaterinburg, the family was put in a prison in one of the town's largest houses, the Ipatiev House. About two months later, when the Ural capital was surrounded by the Czech Legion and the White Army who were intent on overthrowing the Bolsheviks, a decision about the family had to be made. The Bolsheviks sent a telegram to Moscow containing the plans for an execution of the imperial family on July 16, 1918.9 Once the consent came from Moscow, the family was awakened in the early hours of July 17 and taken down to the cellar for what they thought was a family photograph. However, they all realized there would be no photograph, when Yakov Yurovsky, a member of the Uralites, read out the family's death sentence. As soon as he had finished, the shots began and minutes later, the family and their servants lay dead in a pool of their own blood. They loaded up the bodies into a truck and buried them in a pre-selected gravesite.

Thus, within a time span of just over a year, both the rule and lives of the imperial family were ended by revolutionaries, and one of the greatest dynasty's the world has ever known came to an end.