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The Romanovs summary

Simon Sebag Montefiore

1613-1918

4.6 (120 ratings)
29 mins

Brief summary

The Romanovs by Simon Sebag Montefiore is a comprehensive history of the Russian imperial dynasty, from its origins in the 1600s to its tragic end in 1918. The book is full of fascinating details about the private lives and political machinations of the Romanov family.

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    The Romanovs
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    The Romanov dynasty had a shaky start.

    It’s 1613. The Russian court has a problem. The rightful heir to the throne, Michael Romanov, has vanished. The nobility, known as Boyars, want Michael to become tsar. Poland, with whom Russia is in near-constant conflict, wants him dead. Roving mercenary Cossack militias are on the look out for the young prince. They want to claim the bounty the Poles have placed on the 17-year-old’s head. But no one – neither friend nor foe – can find Michael.

    To put it bluntly, it’s a complete mess. How did this happen?

    To understand, we need to travel all the way back to 1547. This is the year that Tsar Ivan the Terrible decides to marry. Ivan is a Rurikid prince. The Rurikids have ruled Russia since 862 AD and Ivan is desperate to continue the dynasty. For his wife, he chooses the daughter of a favored Boyar. Her name? Anastasia Romanovna.

    The key message is: The Romanov dynasty had a shaky start.

    Anastasia gives birth to two sons: Ivan and the sickly Fyodor.

    Here’s where things get dramatic. Ivan the Terrible dies in 1584, but not before killing his power-hungry son Ivan with a spear through the head. Fyodor becomes tsar, but, in 1598, he dies – childless. There’s only one other Rurikid heir to the throne, Dmitri. But no one knows where he is: He hasn't been seen since he mysteriously disappeared aged two. 

    In the power vacuum, Boris Godunov, a powerful Boyar, is appointed tsar. But his hold on power is weak. Tsar Fyodor’s cousin – another Fyodor – has a claim to the throne, too. Boris acts quick to neutralize his rival. He accuses Fyodor of witchcraft, and banishes him to the Arctic.

    Tsar Boris reigns until 1605, but soon after his death the throne becomes vacant again. 

    Next in line is a man claiming to be the long-lost heir Dmitri. He has the throne for all of nine days before the Boyars turn on him, stabbing him 21 times.

    Now, the battle for the throne is really on. More than ten armies are raised, all led by supposed heirs. The Polish army rallies around yet another false Dmitri. They storm the Kremlin and take the Boyars and another claimant – Michael Romanov – hostage. The Russians fight back and, when the Poles are defeated, they pick Michael Romanov as tsar. But he and his mother are nowhere to be seen.

    We’ve finally caught up with where we began. Russia has a new tsar, but he’s missing.

    It took Russian forces weeks, but they finally found him hiding in a monastery. They bring him back to Moscow. Finally, the Romanovs have taken the throne.

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    What is The Romanovs about?

    The Romanovs (2016) charts the stunning rise and dramatic fall of one of the world’s great dynasties. The Romanov family helmed the Russian empire for three centuries filled with family dramas, power struggles, political upheaval, and opulent spending.

    The Romanovs Review

    The Romanovs (2016) is a captivating historical account that explores the rise and fall of the Russian royal family from the 1613 to their brutal execution in 1918. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Uncovering a wealth of intrigue, power struggles, and scandals, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the turbulent lives of the Romanovs.
    • Through meticulous research, Montefiore presents a comprehensive and balanced narrative that brings the characters and the era to life.
    • By highlighting the personal stories behind the historical events, the book engages readers on an emotional level, ensuring it is far from a dry history lesson.

    Who should read The Romanovs?

    • Russophiles and Romanov fans
    • Fans of history with a taste for juicy drama
    • Revolutionaries brushing up on old-school socialist revolts

    About the Author

    Simon Sebag Montefiore is a prolific author and popular historian. His work has been translated into 48 languages and he has written books on Stalin, Catherine the Great, the city of Jerusalem, and more. As well as authoring numerous best-selling books, Sebag Montefiore also works as a television presenter.

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    The Romanovs FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Romanovs?

    The main message of The Romanovs is the turbulent and astonishing history of Russia's most influential family.

    How long does it take to read The Romanovs?

    The reading time for The Romanovs varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Romanovs a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Romanovs is an absorbing read that sheds light on one of the most intriguing dynasties in history. A must-read for history enthusiasts.

    Who is the author of The Romanovs?

    The author of The Romanovs is Simon Sebag Montefiore.

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