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9 Things You Need to Know About the Romanovs of Russia
A refresher in world history.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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The second dynasty to rule Russia, the Romanov family reigned for a total of 300 years. The end of their rule in 1917, saw the rise of the Russian Revolutions and the execution of Tsar Nicholas II. Even with the family’s demise, they remain one of the most memorable names in Russian history today. While it is sometimes difficult to separate myth from reality, here are some of the more interesting facts about the family that has, over the years, become fodder for romanticized fiction.

1. The first Romanov was elected into power.

Following the end of the Rurik Dynasty and the havoc that the 15-year political crisis called the “Time of Troubles” wreaked upon Russia, the first Romanov, Michael, took the throne. A gathering of officials, landowning classes, and urban freeman would usually convene at those times at a “zemsky sobor or assembly of the land. It was the 1613 assembly that elected Michael Romanov as tsar of Russia. The newly-elected tsar was related to the last ruling Rurik, Fyodor I, through his grandfather.


The Romanov coat of arms

2. The Romanovs acquired great wealth during their reign.

The Romanovs owned excessive amounts of land, jewels, art, and cash. They often dressed up to show their worth, with even their male courtiers wearing diamonds on their clothes and hats. In 1917, all the property and assets owned by the imperial family had an estimated value of over $45 billion.


During the murder investigation of Nicholas II and his family, these topaz stones were found among their belongings.

3. The Romanovs had no stable rule of succession during the first century of their reign.

The ruler would first pass on the throne to the eldest son or the closest senior male relative. In 1682, brothers Ivan V and Peter I assumed the throne together. When Ivan died, Peter created a law of succession, which allowed the monarch the right to choose his heir. This was later amended by Paul I in 1797 when he declared a definite order of succession for future generations.

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4. The last reigning Romanov, Tsar Nicholas II, was related to King George V of England.

Queen Victoria believed that intermarriage was the solution to creating peace within the kingdoms of Europe so she played matchmaker to her children and grandchildren. Her grandson, the future King George V, was then related to almost every royal family and was the first cousin of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. The two cousins were very close and oddly looked very similar to each other.


Tsar Nicholas II of Russia


Identical Rulers: George V and Nicholas II together in Berlin

5. They were carriers of a royal disease.

Queen Victoria was a carrier of hemophilia, a hereditary disease which does not allow the blood of the inflicted to coagulate properly. She passed this on to her youngest son, Prince Leopold, who died of it at the age of 30. It seemed that her daughter was also a carrier and during intermarriage, had spread the gene mutation to the Russian royal family. Tsar Nicholas II married Princess Alexandra Feodorovna of Hesse, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter through Princess Alice. Their only son, Alexei, was also diagnosed with hemophilia.


Grand Duchesses Maria, Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia, and Tsarevich Alexei of Russia in 1910.

6. The last Romanov royals were greatly influenced by the mystic, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, whose surname means “debauched one” in Russian.

Desperate during one of Alexei’s bleeding episodes, Nicholas and Alexandra summoned Rasputin, who was a “holy man” in their eyes. He was successful in easing the pain of the young royal and then declared that the fate of their child and the family was linked to him. They continued to seek his counsel, despite it displeasing many of those in the royal court and their subjects.

7. World War I weakened the reign of the Romanovs.

Nicholas did little to strengthen his image during the outbreak of World War I. A string of political miscalculations—dismissing his commander in chief, assigning ministers and officials recommended by Rasputin, and the inability to contain protests in St. Petersburg—led the Tsar to abdicate his throne in favor of a republic.

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8. A royal family executed.

Tsar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra, their children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Tsarevich Alexei, and their servants were executed on July 17, 1918. After the abdication, they were taken to Yekaterinburg, where Bolshevik Russian forces seized them. They were roused from their sleep and were taken to a cellar. The entire family was then executed by armed men. This event shocked the world, as it was the bloody end of a dynasty that had lasted for 300 years.


The Romanov entourage Catherine Schneider, Count Ilya Tatishchev, Pierre GilliardCountess Anastasia Hendrikova and Prince Vasily Dolgorukov, who, all but Gilliard, were murdered.


The cellar where the Romanov family was murdered


The skull of Nicholas II

9. The Russian Revolution led to the rise of the Soviet Union.

The Russian revolution dismantled the Tsarist autocracy and led to the rise of the Soviet Union. With Nicholas II stepping down, the Russian Empire collapsed. After the first revolution in February of 1917, a provisional government replaced the old regime. During the second revolution in October of 1917, all of the power was given to the Soviets.


A gathering during the Russian Revolution

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Cristina Zobel Elizalde
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Hannah Lazatin
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