cover image The Romanovs:: The Final Chapter

The Romanovs:: The Final Chapter

Robert K. Massie / Author Random House (NY) $25 (16p) ISBN 978

In death as in life, the last imperial Romanovs cause controversy. Their bones remain in the Ekaterinburg morgue because of disagreements within the Russian bureaucracy, within the Russian Orthodox Church at home and abroad and among the Romanov descendants over burial sites, canonization and whether to inter with the family their servants who were murdered with them. The squabbling is unseemly, as Massie (Nicholas and Alexandra) shows vividly in his discerning book based on interviews and a close reading of the literature of the revolution. He recreates the slaughter of Alexandra, Nicholas and their children, Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia and Alexis, family physician Eugene Botkin, valet Trupp, maid Anna Demidova and cook Kharitonov on the night of July 16-17, 1918, at the Ipatiev House in the Siberian city of Ekaterinburg. For some 60 years, the whereabouts of their bodies remained a mystery, until a retired Siberian geologist and a Moscow filmmaker found four skulls that they kept secret until 1989, when glasnost made revelation possible. Then began the exploitation, which, as Massie relates the story, will leave readers astonished and angry: scientists who identified the bones criticized one another's expertise for questionable motives, and the cities of Ekaterinburg and Petersburg are still quarreling over custody of the remains and the Romanov descendants over the manner of burial. Although the bones of two of the royals have not been found-Alexis, and either Marie or Anastasia-the evidence Massie presents discredits the ``survivors'' of the Ekaterinburg massacre, primarily Anna Anderson, who, until her death in 1984, claimed to be Anastasia. The average Russian, at least according to Massie, may be indifferent to the bones, but readers of his account most certainly will not be. Photos not seen by PW. First serial to the New Yorker; BOMC featured selection. (Oct.)