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Power and Corruption in Russian History - an Editorial Review of "Tales of the Romanov Empire"

Author Bio:

Tamar is a writer who specializes in historical fiction and military fiction. Her short stories have been published in The Copperfield Review, The Sandy River Review, The Helix, Foliate Oak, Frontier Tales, Pen In Hand, Evening Street Review, Every Day Fiction and The Magazine of History and Fiction.

Her historical books focus on the Romanovs and include The Russian Riddle, a nonfiction biography, and the novels Triumph of a Tsar, Through the Fire, and The Imperial Spy. Her military fiction includes the novel The Last Battle, about a female veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and The Fledgling’s Inferno, science fiction about a gene that runs in military families and causes superpowers.

To learn more about Tamar:

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Editorial Review:

“It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here today, and to act as the Tsar's representative for this tercentenary. Three hundred years of the Romanov dynasty – it's an incredible thing to witness, to lead, to celebrate.”

And that is what this novel does, leads the reader through the 300 years of the Romanov dynasty in small vignettes of each progressive Tsar beginning with the young 16-year-old Mikhail Feodorovich and ending with the tragic deaths of Tsar Nicholas II and his family at the hands of the Bolsheviks.

Each tale, or vignette, is done in a clever way, with rich, enticing prose which sweeps a reader into the effluent and sometimes turbulent world of Russian nobility. As with most noble families throughout history, and in many other countries, Russia had its fair share of power-hungry family members seeking the throne and finding ways of usurpation in sometimes rather bloody ways.

This book is very educational, giving slices of the Romanov's lives and leading a reader by the hand through time without the passage of time feeling jarring or unsatisfying as each story closes and a new one begins. Rather, you are intrigued to do a little research on your own to look further into the different episodes, and Ms Anolic's skill as a researcher shines forth in the way she combines the history with the storytelling with such ease. Along with some wonderful scene setting, such as:

The Arctic wind that swept over the Russian capital made the air feel even colder than its minus eight degree temperature. Everything – from the previously turbulent waters of the Neva to the city's stately square – was covered in thick ice. Sentries wore heavy black cloaks to their ankles, and still they shivered in the winter air. There was little color to be found in the city. The sentries' boxes were normally white, black, and yellow beacons that shone out even in the darkest of nights. Now they were obscured by the white of the winter that surrounded them. When fog swept in from the sea and a thick mist descended from the heavens, St. Petersburg became a city of ghosts.

Some of the unknown aspects of the Romanov's lives are very obscure historical tidbits that any historical reader will enjoy learning about, such as the 'bride shows' designed to help Tsar Alexei find his wife, and the behind-the-scenes political wranglings during the time that Napoleon Bonaparte sought to invade Russia. Another feature to enjoy along this path is the author's own family history inserted into the narrative, revealing the struggle of the Jews during the time of the Russian pogroms against the Jewish people, and the desperation to find ways of escaping the oppression of the reigning Tsar at the time.. Ms Anolic adds the story of one Jewish man's escape to the United States and his desire for freedom.

One of my favorite stories in the selection is the story of the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich's visit to the United States during the presidential term of Grant, and his adventures alongside Buffalo Bill and General Custer as he journeys out West to participate in a buffalo hunt. Here is a selection from this story, which left me with such a visual to imagine all these vastly different men coming together on this day.

The next day, the Sioux joined the festivities. The hunting party rode out shortly after first light. The frozen ground sparkled after the previous night's frost but the sun was bright overhead. They spotted a herd of buffalo a good fifteen miles from the camp, and Alexei, General Sheridan and General Custer rod out in front of the rest of the party. The long canyon was surrounded by high hills, and the three men were so stealthy in their approach that the buffalo only saw them when they were very close. They scattered, but Alexei had already fixed his gaze on one cow in particular.

This along with the cordial greeting given to him by Major General John Dix entailing the relationship between Russia and the United States was incredibly enlightening... a time in history, unlike today, when the two countries were more amenable to each other.

“Your illustrious father has done so much for the cause of human civilization, and your visit here today continues the long and uninterrupted bonds of friendship that have existed between Russia and the United States. Our nation shall not forget the assurances of friendship that the Tsar extended at the breakout of our recent war, and expression of hope that we would emerge a stronger nation from it.”

How vastly different from the current situation in today's modern world. And yet, this novel shows a country rife with its own political agendas and greed and power-seeking individuals throughout the centuries, shining a spotlight on how 'absolute power corrupts absolutely', and 'man's inhumanity to man' stretches throughout human rulership, each Tsar attempting to bring about order and peace... and failing.

In conclusion, I think the words of the character, Maxim, resonated through the narrative. “Your predictions about the future may well come to pass, Stepan,” he said. “The most I've learned about the future in my 63 years on this planet is that it's not guaranteed. We need to make the most of the time we have.”

Which the Romanov's, indeed, did; each making the most of the time they had in ruling the Russian empire. Lesson learned? To be sure, and yet, history repeats itself over and over as rulers come and go, and continue the same endless and mindless quest for power and oppression of the people over whom they rule. Russia is not unique in this, by any stretch of the imagination, but for this brief and enjoyable read, Ms Anolic's book takes us on a wintry journey into the Russian past and soul.


“Tales of the Romanov Empire” by Tamar Anolic receives 4 stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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