Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The story of Robert K. Massie’s Nicholas and Alexandra is set against the backdrop of Russia’s imperial demise. To the author, Czar Nicholas II was a good man called upon to rule at the wrong time; while he was not a great czar, he manifested courage and dignity that justified the mantle of martyr that was bestowed upon him by the Orthodox faithful. The central argument of Nicholas and Alexandra is that the Russian Revolution of 1917 occurred primarily because of a tragic circumstance within the Romanov family. Alexis, the heir to the throne, suffered from hemophilia, whereby even a slight bruise could lead to extreme pain and perhaps even death. Doctors could not stop the internal bleeding associated with this disease, and young Alexis experienced many crises.

Then Alexandra became acquainted with a rather crude, coarse, debauched man named Grigory Rasputin. Massie explains how, after making a few pilgrimages and dressing like a monk, Rasputin persuaded people that he was a holy man with extraordinary powers. Having come to St. Petersburg, Rasputin managed to attract, by the hypnotic spell of his eyes, the attention of some prominent people. Anna Vyrubova introduced him to court figures, who were fascinated by this poor man who claimed supernatural gifts. Alexandra, accustomed to dabbling in the occult and conducting séances at court, was convinced of his healing powers and called upon him whenever Alexis was stricken. Massie...

(The entire section is 583 words.)