IMPERIAL LEGEND: The Mysterious Disappearance of Tsar Alexander I

Alexis Troubetzkoy, Author . Arcade $25.95 (312p) ISBN 1-55970-608-2

Russian history is full of legends about faked deaths, among them the story of Tsar Alexander I, who officially died in 1825 at the age of 48, though many believe that he only pretended to die so that he could disguise himself as the wandering holy man Feodor Kuzmich. Troubetzkoy, who spent over 20 years researching the case, is one of those believers. The first section of the book focuses on what's long been known about Alexander. He ascended to the throne in 1801 following a palace coup that led to the death of his father, Paul, and became increasingly interested in mysticism. For Troubetzkoy, as for others, these facts fit together into a neat package: Alexander's guilt over the death of his father, as well as his spiritual interests, made him want to be a starets, a holy man who does good deeds. But the evidence Troubetzkoy marshals in support of the Kuzmich theory rests largely on their physical resemblance, plus rumors that Alexander carried a tormenting secret to his death, some crime that he presumably tried to redeem by becoming Kuzmich. While an absorbing read for those interested in Russian history, this book may leave many readers unconvinced. Troubetzkoy argues that Alexander's tomb should be exhumed to discover the "truth." From a scholarly point of view, an examination of the these types of legends and their cultural significance in Russian history might be more fruitful. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/04/2002
Release date: 02/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
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