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Tales of the Romanov Empire by Tamar Anolic

Short stories following a dynasty from 1600 to 1900

Tales of the Romanov EmpireTales of the Romanov Empire by Tamar Anolic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved these short vignettes, many deeply moving, describing the absolute power of Romanov Tsars, who themselves were flawed. We see Peter the Great and how his traumatic childhood influenced his harsh rule, as well as Catherine the Great and how she pushed her way into power with Potemkin’s help. Yet they were also people, and Anolic brings out their humanity. You feel Peter the Great’s passion in his love for his horse “an Arabian whose dull grayish-brown coat hid a fiery interior and a bravery that Peter fancied matched his own.”

There are equally enthralling pictures of life for the oppressed serfs, one of whom was sold into slavery along with his sister: “He gripped Anna’s hand for as long as he could. Then they were both shoved forward, into the hot stare of the adults around them. Vladimir was sure he was going to melt from the attention.”

There are also stories of various attempts to wrest power from the Romanovs by revolutionaries, and stories of people trying to escape the tyranny of the empire.

The story moves through the centuries and we catch glimpses of modernisation and a foreshadowing of the end to serfdom, at the same moment when the Romanovs are celebrating 300 years of rule. There is a juxtaposition of constancy and permanence with the fragility of life and power.

I highly recommend this book for its sweeping overview of the rule of the Romanov family in Russia, told in entertaining snapshots.

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