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Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar

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Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar Cover

ISBN13: 9780743273329
ISBN10: 074327332x
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Evocative of the great biographies of its time, this is a riveting new biography of Alexander II, the Tsar Liberator.

Review:

"It's difficult to reform Russia, as popular historian Radzinsky shows in this lively examination of the czar best known for emancipating the serfs in 1861. Viewed as the most liberal of Russia's 19th-century czars, Alexander II (1818 — 1881) came to power in 1856 with the idea of bringing Russia into the modern age. But as Radzinsky (The Last Tsar) shows, his liberal reforms brought him nothing but trouble. Alexander came under attack from the right for being too liberal, and the left for not going far enough. He also had to curtail his reforms when faced with the need to fight foreign enemies. Radzinsky focuses much of the latter half of the book on the rise of left-wing populist movements — the book covers in depth the intellectual currents that swirled around Russia during Alexander's reign. Some frustrated leftists eventually turned to violence. After many failed attempts to assassinate Alexander, they eventually succeeded in 1881. Some readers may think Radzinsky provides too much familial background before launching into the czar's life, but his well-translated, readable prose will win over most readers interested in European history, and those looking for a cautionary tale on what Russia could face in the future. (Oct. 18) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Synopsis:

Alexander II was Russia's Lincoln, and the greatest reformer tsar since Peter the Great. He was also one of the most contradictory, and fascinating, of history's supreme leaders. He freed the serfs, yet launched vicious wars. He engaged in the sexual exploits of a royal Don Juan, yet fell profoundly in love. He ruled during the "Russian Renaissance" of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev — yet his Russia became the birthplace of modern terrorism. His story could be that of one of Russia's greatest novels, yet it is true. It is also crucially important today.

It is a tale that runs on parallel tracks. Alexander freed 23 million Russian slaves, reformed the justice system and the army, and very nearly became the father of Russia's first constitution and the man who led that nation into a new era of western-style liberalism. Yet it was during this feverish time that modern nihilism first arose. On the sidelines of Alexander's state dramas, a group of radical, disaffected young people first experimented with dynamite, and first began to use terrorism. Fueled by the writings of a few intellectuals and zealots, they built bombs, dug tunnels, and planned ambushes. They made no less than six unsuccessful attempts on Alexander's life. Finally, the parallel tracks joined, when a small cell of terrorists, living next door to Dostoevsky, built the fatal bomb that ended the life of the last great Tsar. It stopped Russian reform in its tracks.

Edvard Radzinsky is justly famous as both a biographer and a dramatist, and he brings both skills to bear in this vivid, page-turning, rich portrait of one of the greatest of all Romanovs. Delving deep into the archives, he raises intriguing questions about the connections between Dostoevsky and the young terrorists, about the hidden romances of the Romanovs, and about the palace conspiracies that may have linked hard-line aristocrats with their nemesis, the young nihilists.

Alexander's life proves the timeless lesson that in Russia, it is dangerous to start reforms, but even more dangerous to stop them. It also shows that the traps and dangers encountered in today's war on terrorists were there from the start.

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Eric Langager, January 21, 2009 (view all comments by Eric Langager)
I think this is the second book I have read by this author. Not positive, but I'm quite sure that one of the books on tape I went through back when I was a truck driver was written by this author.

He's good. The author makes the book. That may seem to be an obvious statement, but there are books that survive in spite of who wrote them. To be sure, the subject of this book is interesting, too. But the usefulness of this book in understanding Russian history is definitely enhanced by the thorough research of the author, combined with the readability of his writing.

Who is Alexander, and why is he important? Would he not have some great significance by mere virtue of being a Czar of Russia? Perhaps, but there is one specific thing that, I believe, sets him apart: He freed the serfs. For this reason, he has sometimes been referred to as the "Abraham Lincoln" of Russia, but let the comparison stop there. He was no Lincoln. He simply did not posses the greatness of character that Lincoln had. But the fact that he freed the serfs combined with the way he did it does make his story important, and perhaps helped to bring about his ultimate demise.

The serfs were given freedom and a little land, but not really enough of it. Their lives were still quite difficult. So there remained a fair amount of unrest among the peasant community. Alexander’s reforms did not really bring in democracy, and even though he himself did want to give people more latitude, he allowed for repressive measures in order to control an increasingly restive population. So what can we say about 19th Century Russia? Was it just a crazy place that was destined to cause trouble for any leader, or were there certain elements of his reign that generated needless animosity? Read the book and see what you think. And when you do, let me know if you can figure out why he refused to leave the scene of his assassination after the first bomb (which did not hurt him) went off. If he had been a U.S. president guarded by Secret Service agents, he would have been immediately hustled away from the scene, and would have survived.

It's a fascinating story. But it leaves unanswered one question that always puzzles me when I read Russian history or literature: Do the Russian people survive in spite of autocratic leaders, or do they tend to adopt autocratic leadership because that's the only way they can survive?

If you're new to Russian history, this book will do as a starting point, although I wouldn't wait too long before you read Robert K. Massie's biography of Peter the Great. Alexander was a contemporary of the great 19th Century Russian writers, so this book will also help you to understand the background for the works of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780743273329
Subtitle:
The Last Great Tsar
Translator:
Bouis, Antonina W.
Translator:
Bouis, Antonina
Translator:
Bouis, Antonina W.
Translated by:
Antonina Bouis
Author:
Bouis, Antonina
Author:
Radzinsky, Edvard
Author:
Edvard, Radzinsky
Publisher:
Free Press
Subject:
General
Subject:
History
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Emperors
Subject:
Europe - Russia & the Former Soviet Union
Subject:
Eastern Europe - General
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Biography & Autobiography-Historical - General
Subject:
Fiction : Science Fiction - General
Copyright:
Publication Date:
October 2005
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
480
Dimensions:
9.08x6.34x1.41 in. 1.50 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Biography » Historical
History and Social Science » Russia » Romanovs

Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar Used Hardcover
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$7.50 In Stock
Product details 480 pages Free Press - English 9780743273329 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "It's difficult to reform Russia, as popular historian Radzinsky shows in this lively examination of the czar best known for emancipating the serfs in 1861. Viewed as the most liberal of Russia's 19th-century czars, Alexander II (1818 — 1881) came to power in 1856 with the idea of bringing Russia into the modern age. But as Radzinsky (The Last Tsar) shows, his liberal reforms brought him nothing but trouble. Alexander came under attack from the right for being too liberal, and the left for not going far enough. He also had to curtail his reforms when faced with the need to fight foreign enemies. Radzinsky focuses much of the latter half of the book on the rise of left-wing populist movements — the book covers in depth the intellectual currents that swirled around Russia during Alexander's reign. Some frustrated leftists eventually turned to violence. After many failed attempts to assassinate Alexander, they eventually succeeded in 1881. Some readers may think Radzinsky provides too much familial background before launching into the czar's life, but his well-translated, readable prose will win over most readers interested in European history, and those looking for a cautionary tale on what Russia could face in the future. (Oct. 18) " Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , Alexander II was Russia's Lincoln, and the greatest reformer tsar since Peter the Great. He was also one of the most contradictory, and fascinating, of history's supreme leaders. He freed the serfs, yet launched vicious wars. He engaged in the sexual exploits of a royal Don Juan, yet fell profoundly in love. He ruled during the "Russian Renaissance" of Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, and Turgenev — yet his Russia became the birthplace of modern terrorism. His story could be that of one of Russia's greatest novels, yet it is true. It is also crucially important today.

It is a tale that runs on parallel tracks. Alexander freed 23 million Russian slaves, reformed the justice system and the army, and very nearly became the father of Russia's first constitution and the man who led that nation into a new era of western-style liberalism. Yet it was during this feverish time that modern nihilism first arose. On the sidelines of Alexander's state dramas, a group of radical, disaffected young people first experimented with dynamite, and first began to use terrorism. Fueled by the writings of a few intellectuals and zealots, they built bombs, dug tunnels, and planned ambushes. They made no less than six unsuccessful attempts on Alexander's life. Finally, the parallel tracks joined, when a small cell of terrorists, living next door to Dostoevsky, built the fatal bomb that ended the life of the last great Tsar. It stopped Russian reform in its tracks.

Edvard Radzinsky is justly famous as both a biographer and a dramatist, and he brings both skills to bear in this vivid, page-turning, rich portrait of one of the greatest of all Romanovs. Delving deep into the archives, he raises intriguing questions about the connections between Dostoevsky and the young terrorists, about the hidden romances of the Romanovs, and about the palace conspiracies that may have linked hard-line aristocrats with their nemesis, the young nihilists.

Alexander's life proves the timeless lesson that in Russia, it is dangerous to start reforms, but even more dangerous to stop them. It also shows that the traps and dangers encountered in today's war on terrorists were there from the start.

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