The Romanovs ruled Russia for more than three centuries. How did they do it? According to Simon Sebag Montefiore’s new account of the 20 monarchs and several regents who stood atop what would become the world’s largest-ever state, the better question might be: How did they not do it?
Known as the Liberator, Alexander II forced through what are known as the Great Reforms, including granting serf emancipation, local self-government and jury trials. “Weary from these efforts,” Mr. Montefiore surmises, “the tsar probably hoped now to enjoy his pleasures—hunting, family holidays in Germany, and his mistresses.” Bingerles and more bingerles, “on top of every piece of furniture” and “in every room,” as the author gleefully narrates. Alexander’s troops, meanwhile, win another victory on the battlefield in Bessarabia in the late 1870s, and he promotes his younger brother, Nikolai, who—you guessed it—“also happened to be a raging sex-addict.”
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