European Royalty: Russia

Russian has over its long history had onlybhad two principal dynasties: the House of Rurik and the House of Romanov. The Rurik dynasty was founded by Rurick and his son Oleg, Swedish Vikings known as the Rus. It is from their name that the name of Russia is derived. Few European families have dominated their country's history for such an extensive period as the Ronanovs. The Romanovs followed the Ruriks, but it is the Romanovs that are generally associated with Russia because they ruled in modern tomes. The Romanov dynasty was founded by Michael Romanov (1613-45). The first great Romanov Tsar was Michael's grandson who we know of today as Peter I or Peter the Great (1696-1725).

The Ruriks

Oleh during the mid-8th century became the first prince of Kiev and founded the Rurick Dynasty. Oleh employed mercenary troops to unite the Eastern Slavs for the first time. He introduced a complex system combining tribute and military democracy. Oleh also led impressive military operations against Khozzars, a nation of Jewish origin residing on Volga. Oleh led and even larger army against Byzantium and assaulted Constantinople. This was the first Western introduction to a Slavic power in the East--the Kievian Rus. After Oleh's death, his relative Ihor became the Great Prince of Kiev. Thor's greed and cruelty led to his downfall. and his management of this newborn empire infuriated some of his subjects. When. His wife, Olga, replaced him as the Great Princess. She accepted Christianity and this becan tge Christianization of the Eastern Slavs. Olga also sought to establish more cooperative relations with Byzantium. Olga's son Svyatoslav, was a superb military leader. He fought predatory nomadic tribes like Pechenigy and conquered Bulgaria. SvyatoslavHe was killed by a group of Pechenigy after his victory over Byzantium. Kiev declined as a result of a debilatating feud among his sons. This period of instability was finally ended when Vladimir the Red Sun, seized Kiev and became the fifth Great Prince. He baptised the Rus' into Christianity (988) and repulsed a Byzantine army. His son, Yaroslav the Wise, enacted the first legal code which came to be known made up the first set of laws, came to be known as Rus's Truths. An internl power stuggle and an invasion by the Cumans folloed.

Time of Troubles (1598-1613)

The death of Fedor left Russia without any legitimate heirs to the crown (1598). The result was what has become known as "The Time of Rouvles" which brought Russia to its knees. Several powerful princes and boyars attempted to seize the crown. The resulting wars devestated the countryside bringing famine to Russia. Ivan IV's reign had weakened Russian institutions. Many weak rulers after Feodor's death attempted to govern, but with little succcess. The best known is Boris Godunov, a boyar who had gained power during Feodor's reign. He had, however, no blood connection to the ruling family. Godunov was elected tsar by a zemskii sobor. His reign proved short (1598-1605). His reign was beset with both Church and boyar opposition--a powerful combination in Russia. Serfs fleed the great estates and the Cossacks in the south rebelled. After Boris Godunov died, a pretender to the crown claiming to be Dmitrii (a younger son of Ivan IV who died mysteriously), seized control of the crown. He was soon murdered by dissatisfied boyars. Prince Vasilii Shuiskii reigned from 1606-10 as Vasilii IV, but he was unable to prevent either domestic strife or foreign invasion. Moscow was threatened by a Cossack rebellion. There was another rebellion by a second fale Dmitrii. This was followed by 2 years of debilitating civil war. The Poles occupied Moscow (1610). They occupied the city for 2 years. Two Russian fighters become prominent--Minin and Prince Pozharsky. They led an army that retook the Kremlin in (1612). It is after this that the boyars conclude that they had to put asided constant infighting and support a new tsar.


Figure 1.--Nicholas II and his family in 1915. The Tsarevich Alexis was about 11 years old and dressed in a sailor suit, his most common attire to that point. Subsequently he increasingly dressed in an army uniform.

The Romanov's

Few European families have dominated their country's history for such an extensive period as the Ronanovs. The Romanovs followed the Ruriks, but it is the Romanovs that are generally associated with Russia because they ruled in modern tomes. The Romanov dynasty was founded by Michael Romanov (1613-45). The first great Romanov Tsar was Michael's grandson who we know of today as Peter I or Peter the Great (1696-1725). The Romanovs include two remarkable Tsaeinas, Elizaneth and Catherine. Alexander II freed the slaves. The last Romanov was Nicholas II who led Russia into World War I and was force to abdicate. He and his family was killed by the Vomminists (1918), ending thecRimanov family. This page provides historical background on the Romanov family. Not a lot of information yet on how the princes in early historical periods were dressed, but I do hope to acquire some eventually. The background history, is also useful in understanding Nicholas II and his family.

Nicholas II

Nicholas II, the last Russian Emperor, was the eldest son of Alexander III and was born on May 6, 1868. Nicholas was born on the Alexander Palace, as the eldest son of Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, of the House of Romanov-Holstein-Gottorp, in the small town of Tsarskoe Selo ("The Tsar's Village" in Russian), near St. Petersburg. Nicholas and his siblings were brought up very simply. They were brought up in the Imperial Palace of Gatchina, their father's favorite residence. Despite the palace having 900 rooms, their quarters were located on the mezzanine level, firstly destinated for servants. They slept in army camp beds without pillows or mats and they took cold showers every morning. Their father didn't want them spoiled. Being Tsarevitch and as a rule in the family of a Tsar, Nicholas was brought up by tutors and private teachers, the best of their time. Nicholas and his siblings attended classes in separate rooms but the same curriculum was given. Nicholas ascended the throne after the untimely death of his father on October 20, 1894, and was crowned on May 14, 1896. Nicholas was only 28 years old and probably not yet read for the emense responsinbilties he faced. According to contemporaries, Nicholas was gentle and approachable. Those who met him easily forgot that they were face to face with the Emperor. In private life, he was undemanding but had contradictions in his character, tending to weakness and inconsistency. A stubborn supporter of the right of the sovereign, despite growing pressure for revolution, he did not give way on a single issue, even when common sense and circumstances demanded it. Nicholas married the daughter of Grand Duke Ludwig of Hessen, Alice Victoria Eleanor Louisa Beatrice (Alexandra Feodorovna). The story of Nicholas and Alexander is one of the great love stories of the 20th Century. The two were devoted to each other throughout their lives. They had five children. The youngest child, Alexis Nicolaievich, was born August 12, 1904. The Czarevich Alexei suffered from hemophilia and was a permanent invalid. There were four daughters. Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. The First World War sealed the fate of Nicholas and his family. Without the War, Russia may have been able to have evolved into a democratic government. It would have been difficult, but not impossible. The War made such a transition virtually impossible. Horendous losses were suffered in World War I, which Russia entered on the Allied side on August 1, 1914. Russian participation forced the Germans to divide their forces, probably saving France on the western front. Russia's loss of territory, massive casualties and confusion at home were the main reasons for the Second Russian Revolution in February 1917. Nicholas II abdicated on March 2, 1917, in favor of his brother Michael. Lenin ordered them to be shot on July 17, 1918. The bodies were hidden and have only recently been found and identified. They were given a Christian burial in 199?. A good-hearted man, he was not capable of guiding his huge empire into the modern world and the disaster of World War I.

Alexis

The Zareivitch Alexis was one of the most phitographed boys of his age. Photography by the time of Alexis' birth had been perfected. George Eastman had popularized photography with his Brownie and virtually anyone could take snapshots. Photography was very popular with the royal family. There are not only many official portraits, but the Tsar and his family liked to take family snap shots, at least in the pre-World War I era. Thus a lot images of Alexis and his sisters exist. Sailor suits appear to have been the principal outfit, but once the war began he mostly wore an army uniform.

Exile

While the Tsar's immediated family was mascred by the Bolshevicks, several nephews and nieces survived.

Claimants

Nicholas and Alexandra and all their children were executed by the Bolshevicks at Ekterinburg in 1918. There were no surviving family members, only grand nephews and nieces. Some claimed that Anastasia survived the masacre, but her claim has since been disproven by DNA testing. Another individual claims to be the grandson of Nicholas through a morganatic mairrage.

The Nobility

The royal family set the styles for the Russian nobility as well as for the middle class. Some information is available on the clothes worn by nobel Russian boys:

Prince Obilinski

The Prince was born in 1890. Like other Russian boys he wore sailor suits. His mother, however, preferred long, shoulder-legth hair to the closely cropped hair worn by other Russian boys. The Prince hated his long hairs as his boy cousins used to pull it. (His girl cousins liked to comb it.) His mother also had the Prince wear his sailor suit with skirts rather than the kneepants his cousins of the same age were wearing.

Sofka Koutouzoff

This cousin of Prince Obilinski at the age of about 4 wore wide-brimmed sailor hats, long shoulder-length hair and knee-length knickers.

Sources

Some good sources of information include:
The Romanovs: John van der Kiste book The Romanovs centers on the life of Tsar Alexander II (1818-81) and all his Romanov and Yourievski children, the last of whom died in 1959--Princess Catherine Alexandrovna Yourievsky. The interesting aspect of this new book is the fact that it centers on the life of many Romanovs who had previously been ignored by royal historians!






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Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 3:38 PM 3/20/2009