Nicholas II: Twilight of the Empire

Dominic Lieven, Author St. Martin's Press $24 (292p) ISBN 978-0-312-10510-5
Lieven, a specialist on Imperial Russia who teaches at the London School of Economics, offers a sympathetic but not altogether persuasive rethinking of the last Romanov emperor, arguing that ``it was almost impossible to reconcile the demands of external security and domestic stability.'' Ascending to the throne in 1894 at age 26--and almost simultaneously wed to Princess Alexandra of Hesse--Nicholas II, as Lieven stresses, never doubted that his hereditary autocratic power was God-given. Nor did the obstinate and mystically religious czarina. Yet she is depicted here as virtually never meddling in her husband's governance: this is an imperial couple at variance to that met, for example, in W. Bruce Lincoln's standard work, The Romanovs . And the political influence of Rasputin is less prominent in these pages, for Lieven concentrates more on Nicholas in the international sphere and draws comparisons between him and other monarchs. Unlike them, Nicholas attempted to rule as well as reign, going so far as to assume supreme command of the military during WW I, a decision Lieven deems correct, but which other historians assess as a disaster. Photos. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
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