The best books on Imperial Russia and the Romanovs

Who am I?

I developed a fascination for Imperial Russia in childhood when I learned that my great-grandmother was born in St Petersburg, an almost exact contemporary of Nicholas II. I have studied the Romanovs and Imperial Russia for over 40 years and lectured in England (including the Victoria & Albert Museum), America, Denmark, The Netherlands, and Russia. My many books include To Free the Romanovs and Queen Victoria and the Romanovs.


I wrote...

Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of Empress Marie Feodorovna

By Coryne Hall,

Book cover of Little Mother of Russia: A Biography of Empress Marie Feodorovna

What is my book about?

Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia lived one of the most dramatic lives of anyone to mount the steps of the Russian throne. Her husband Alexander III died in his prime and two of her sons died young. During the First World War she watched in despair as her son Nicholas II refused to heed her advice and the country she loved was governed by her daughter-in-law Empress Alexandra and Rasputin, with disastrous results. In the revolution that followed she lost two of her sons and five of her grandchildren, murdered by the Bolsheviks. She escaped on a British warship having lost her home, her country, her church and many of her family. She died in her native Denmark – the tragic relic of a bygone age.

The books I picked & why

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Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia

By Suzanne Massie,

Book cover of 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.

Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia

By Suzanne Massie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Land of the Firebird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Details the history of Russia from the religious revolution of 987 to the political revolution of 1917, graphically describing Russia's political and cultural environments under Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great


A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story

By Sergei Mironenko, Andrei Maylunas,

Book cover of 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.

A Lifelong Passion: Nicholas and Alexandra: Their Own Story

By Sergei Mironenko, Andrei Maylunas,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Lifelong Passion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In the darkest days of the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union, when all talk of the Romanovs was punishable at the very least by banishment to Serbia, a group of archivists were exempt. They sorted and filed the thousands of letters and photographs of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria), and their five children. In all, some 13,000 letters have survived. Those between 1889 and 1914 have never before been published. They run the gamut from matters of state to intimate expressions of love and longing. In addition there are…


Romanoff Gold

By William Clarke,

Book cover of 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.

Romanoff Gold

By William Clarke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Romanoff Gold as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When World War I broke out in 1914 Russia's Romanov dynasty was among the world's richest families. Yet ever since the Bolsheviks executed Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their children at Ekaterinburg, the mystery of what happened to their wealth has remained unsolved. This book is an account of the authors' answers to the Tsar's lost fortune.


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

By Robert K. Massie,

Book cover of 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.

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

By Robert K. Massie,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Nicholas and Alexandra as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A superbly crafted and humane portrait of the last days - and last rulers - of the Russian Empire.

Complementing his Pulitzer prize-winning Peter the Great, in this commanding book Robert K. Massie sweeps readers back to the extraordinary world of imperial Russia to tell the story of the decline and fall of the ruling Romanov family: Tsar Nicholas II's political naivete; his wife Alexandra's obsession with the corrupt mystic Rasputin; and their son Alexis's battle with haemophilia.

Against a lavish backdrop of luxury and intrigue, Massie unfolds a family tragedy played out on the brutal stage of early twentieth-century…


The Fate of the Romanovs

By Greg King, Penny Wilson,

Book cover of 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.

The Fate of the Romanovs

By Greg King, Penny Wilson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Fate of the Romanovs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Abundant, newly discovered sources shatter long-held beliefs

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 revealed, among many other things, a hidden wealth of archival documents relating to the imprisonment and eventual murder of Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their children. Emanating from sources both within and close to the Imperial Family as well as from their captors and executioners, these often-controversial materials have enabled a new and comprehensive examination of one the pivotal events of the twentieth century and the many controversies that surround it.

Based on a careful analysis of more than 500 of these previously…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Russia, the Romanov family, and the Russian Empire?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Russia, the Romanov family, and the Russian Empire.

Russia Explore 257 books about Russia
The Romanov Family Explore 14 books about the Romanov family
The Russian Empire Explore 7 books about the Russian Empire

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Last Grand Duchess, Thirteen Years at the Russian Court, and The Romanov Empress if you like this list.