The best books on Imperial Russia

The Books I Picked & Why

Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia

By Suzanne Massie

Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia

Why this book?

To understand Imperial Russia, you have to understand its culture. From the early days of conversion to Christianity in 987, through to Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, Suzanne Massie takes us on a wonderful journey through the customs and culture of this enigmatic land. We see the colourful markets and fairs, the carnival season and the traditions of Easter and Christmas, as well as the great artists, composers, writers, and dancers that Russia has produced. This is one of the most beautiful (and useful) books I have ever bought.


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A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story

By Sergei Mironenko, Andrei Maylunas

A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story

Why this book?

Access to the State Archives of the Russian Federation is something that many can only dream about. The story of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna is well-known, but here we have it through letters and diaries in the State Archives, as well as extracts from memoirs. Reading the story in the words of Nicholas, Alexandra and the members of the wider Imperial family has added greatly to our knowledge of these turbulent times and is the closest many will come to researching in the archives.


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Romanoff Gold

By William Clarke

Romanoff Gold

Why this book?

This is an updated version of William Clarke’s Lost Fortune of the Tsars with additional information added since first publication. It gives a detailed, comprehensive account of the immense wealth of the Imperial family before the revolution and what happened to the money, jewels, palaces, and other riches in the chaos that followed. Faced with bank confidentiality and reluctance to talk, it reads like a detective story as the author investigates bank accounts, vaults, and jewels spirited away. The result is a fascinating account of what belonged to the Tsar’s family and what belonged to the state.


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Nicholas and Alexandra: The Classic Account of the Fall of the Romanov Dynasty

By Robert K. Massie

Nicholas and Alexandra: The Classic Account of the Fall of the Romanov Dynasty

Why this book?

This is the book that started the whole Romanov industry. It was the first work to tell the story of the last Tsar and Tsarina through contemporary memoirs and, although now largely superseded by other works with access to the Russian archives, it still stands the test of time. This intimate portrait of Nicholas and Alexandra struggling to cope with their son’s haemophilia, the rise of Rasputin, and the fall of the monarchy is sympathetic and is the book that really hooked me into Imperial Russia when I was in my teens.


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The Fate of the Romanovs

By Greg King, Penny Wilson

The Fate of the Romanovs

Why this book?

This is a comprehensive account of what happened to Nicholas, Alexandra, and their family from the fall of the monarchy to their last days in Ekaterinburg. It covers fully all the details of their confinement, their brutal murder, the discovery of the Romanov grave outside Ekaterinburg in 1989, and the controversy over the bones, using many previously unpublished Russian archival documents. If you think you know what happened, then read this because there are some surprising revelations.


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