Synopses & Reviews
Chapter One Setting the Stage
Chaos and Fear
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Romanov dynasty had ruled Russia for 300 years and Tsar Nicholas II was considered one of the wealthiest men in the world. Russia was an immense country comprising one-sixth of the world's land mass. The Tsar's recent construction of a railway across Russia had met with great enthusiasm. The Trans-Siberian Railway from European Russia to Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean was thought to be the key to unlocking the vast mineral treasures of Siberia, thereby leading to economic expansion that would be similar to that of the American west.
However, the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5 ended disastrously for Russia. On the domestic front, the mishandling of street demonstrations resulted in the bloody massacres of December 1905 which severely damaged Nicholas's reputation. These events generated a feeling of great unease during the last years of Nicholas's reign and even caused his allies to start questioning his ability as a successful political and military leader of Russia. Yet we shall see that once the Bolsheviks had taken power, these same individuals in various governments would find themselves working secretly to save the Tsar and his family, almost as if that would have been the lesser of two evils. Some however did act out of fidelity for a loyal ally, while still others acted out of family and personal considerations. But first, to comprehend further Russia's gradual slide into revolution, the Tsar's abdication and the uncertain future of Nicholas and his family during their last days in Ekaterinburg, let us return to the years just before the February Revolution. During the war yearsthe Russian government, as well as the personal lives of Nicholas and Alexandra, were becoming more tumultuous and contentious with each passing day.
Courtiers, Germans and Bolshevik propagandists of every ilk had launched a barrage of unrelenting criticism against the Tsar and Tsarina. Nicholas had been weakened during the Great War and the universal enthusiasm and exuberance that had greeted the announcement of the war in August of 1914 had been replaced by despair, disgust and disillusionment among those upon whom Nicholas had relied in the past. This reversal was being felt throughout Europe but even more so in Russia, where millions of soldiers, badly equipped and frequently unarmed, had been slaughtered by German 'pounders' in the horrible trenches of the Eastern front. Nicholas's decision, in August of 1915, to assume the role of commander-in-chief and more or less to exile the former military commander, his uncle Grand Duke Nicholas, to Tiflis, Georgia led to inefficiency and military disasters.
These military disasters and the intense propaganda resulted in cementing the overwhelmingly negative portrait of the Romanovs. Many Russians believed that the peasant and self-styled 'holy man' Gregory Rasputin and the Tsarina, rather than the Tsar, were now running the country. Both the Bolsheviks and the Germans used these rumours as the basis of their assaults aimed at destabilising the Tsar and Tsarina in the hope they would force Russia out of the war. All Nicholas's and Alexandra's antagonists made great use of this negative perception and prevailing atmosphere. The regime was crumbling around the Imperial family.
Nicholas and Alexandra were not without blame and theirrefusal to sever their relationship with Rasputin did continue to fuel the ever-increasing intrigues surrounding them. The Romanovs' image of insensitivity was seized on and enhanced. The concern over Rasputin's influence on the Imperial family had created an environment where the palace intrigues among the Tsar's courtiers, and even some members of his family, were more prevalent and vicious than at any time in his reign.
Yet Alexandra, motivated by the love of her child, and Nicholas, who appeared to want nothing more than to be a 'family man', continued to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to most of the criticism. What the detractors did not know -- and what only a few within Nicholas's and Alexandra's inner circle knew -- was that the heir apparent suffered from a life-threatening illness diagnosed as haemophilia. Nicholas and Alexandra were desperate to save him -- by any means -- and Rasputin had convinced them that he and he alone, through God's help, could quell the tragic course of the disease that held their son in its grasp. It remains an enigma to this day as to how the 'mad monk' was able to assuage the symptoms of the disease and bring relief to a child who was obviously in physical pain and whose life was imperilled. Over the years this close relationship led to rumours, that the 'holy man' had an undue political influence over, if not a sensual relationship with, the Tsarina. While there appears to be no basis in fact to the sexual innuendo, it was maintained that this 'relationship' had the tacit approval and even the blessing of Nicholas.
Ultimately the tongue-wagging and unrest were so widespread that some members of the court felt compelled to take action.Prince Felix Yusupov, scion of one of Russia's wealthiest families, masterminded a plan to murder Rasputin in order to end his perceived domination over Alexandra and the Tsar. He was aided by one of the Tsar's closest relatives: his nephew Duke Dmitrii Pavlovich. Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich, who had publicly called to 'get rid of Rasputin', completed the triangle. A letter cited by Richard Pipes in one of his many books about the Russian Revolution offers insight into the state of mind of Yusupov. His correspondence to Vasilii Alekseevich Maklakov, a Duma member, speculates about the Tsarina and in the end he asserts: 'Her spiritual balance depends entirely on Rasputin: the instant he is gone, it will disintegrate. And once the Emperor has been freed of Rasputin's and his wife's influence, everything will change: he will turn into a good constitutional monarch."
Yusupov was to administer Rasputin's death sentence on the night of 16 December, 1916. The plan was executed, but not without complications ...
On July 17, 1918, the Tsar, his wife, and their four daughters and ailing heir were led down to a basement in Ekaterinburg, Russia, and murdered in cold blood by a Bolshevik firing squad. The DNA analysis and identification of the bones were the conclusive proof the world was waiting for, and the case was considered closed. But is that the real story of the Romanovs?
In Shay McNeal's controversial and groundbreaking account, she presents convincing new scientific analysis questioning the authenticity of the "Romanov" bones and uncovers an extraordinary tale of espionage and double-dealing that has been kept secret for more than eighty years. Based on extensive study of American, Allied, and Bolshevik documents, including recently declassified intelligence files, McNeal reveals the existence of a shadowy group of operatives working to free the Imperial family and guide them to safety.
Most controversial of all is McNeal's belief that one of the plots to rescue the Tsar and his family may, possibly, have succeeded -- and she has compelling evidence to support it.
About the Author
Shay McNeal, as President of Smith McNeal, built her firm into a multi-million-dollar business. After selling it, she became a political consultant and retired in 1992 to pursue her passion for history and writing. She is now a highly respected historical researcher who has contributed to both the BBC and the Discovery Channel on colonial American history.