family ruled Russia from 1613 to 1917. They ascended the throne at
the end of one of the most critical periods of Russian history, known
as the Time of Troubles (1589 Ü 1613). The last tsar of the previous
dynasty, a weak son of Ivan the Terrible, died in 1589. After which
followed a period of foreign invasion and internal strife, and the
throne was occupied by a series of usurpers and pretenders.
in 1613 a zemsky sobor (national assembly) was called to reestablish
a firm government and especially to elect a new, legitimate tsar.
The assembly consisted of more than five hundred members, including
representatives of all classes: clergy, boyars (nobility), gentry,
townspeople, and the free peasantry (but not serfs). After much noisy
and contentious debate, Mikhail Romanov was selected to lead Russia
into a new civilized era. He was crowned in the Uspensky Cathedral
in the Kremlin on July 11,1613.
family was popular with all classes of people, including the lower
ranks of the gentry and city dwellers, though the new tsar was only
17 at the time of his coronation and without any political experience.
MikhailÍs son Alexis, "the Quiet One", ascended to the throne after
his fatherÍs death, and son followed father generation after generation
until Peter the Great took the title of emperor and declared that
his wife Catherine I would succeed him.
ruled from 1682 to 1725 and was author of the great reforms that westernized
Russia. He brought the country, through his new capital at St. Petersburg,
directly into the family of European nations. Catherine ruled after
his death and was succeeded by several weak relatives until the last
was ousted by Peter the GreatÍs daughter Elizabeth (ruled 1741-1761),
who began the Asian conquests that enlarged the Russian Empire to
one-sixth of the worldÍs surface.
II, or Catherine the Great , (ruled 1762 Ü1769) brought European neoclassical
art and architecture to Russia, and French culture and language dominated
the life of the nobility and the Russian court. Her son Paul I restored
the succession of oldest sons to the throne, which continued through
Alexander III and Nicholas II, the last tsar.
III (ruled 1881 Ü 1894) began a web of railroads that united the Far
East with the rest of the nation and greatly facilitated the administration
of so large a realm. Economic development followed and the growth
of the arts encouraged. Nicholas II ascended to the throne after his
fatherÍs death on October 20, 1894.
Empire at the turn of the century was huge. The United States could
be dropped into it and still leave room for China and India. That
last tsar, Nicholas II, ruled an empire that bordered Turkey, Persia,
Afghanistan, Mongolia, and China while Poland, the Baltic States,
and Finland were Russian territories. More than a hundred nationalities
owed allegiance to the tsar, though Nicholas II himself was less than
one-hundredth-part Russian due to generations of Romanovs marrying
other Western royal families. His wife Empress Alexandra was part
English, part German, and inherited from her grandmother Queen Victoria
the defective gene that made her son Alexei a hemophiliac.
hundred years of Romanov rule came to an end with Nicholas IIÍs abdication
in 1917. After the Bolshevik Party came to power in October of that
year, many powerful Romanovs were assassinated, including Nicholas,
Alexandra, their children Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei.
The bodies of two of their children, Anastasia and the heir to the
throne Tsarevich Alexei, have not been found. Recently, modern scientific
DNA testing has identified their remains allowing for a royal burial
in 1998 in the Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersburg. The relationship
of Nicholas II and Alexandra, their love and their final end, and
the mystery surrounding the missing children has inspired novels,
poetry, and films and continues to fascinate people around the world.