BOOK REVIEW / Paperbacks: Nicholas II: Emperor of all the Russians by Dominic Lieven, Pimlico pounds 10

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The Independent Culture
Previous books on the last Tsar were about the family man, the victim of a terrible crime. This is a sympathetic 'study of the reign as much as the man', aiming to show how different the Russian monarchy was from those of other countries, how many of the problems faced by Nicholas II were structural, and how antiquated his position was. He had absolute power over 150 million subjects, commanded them in a world war, yet stamped his own letters. A 'sensitive man with high ideals', Nicholas tried almost everything to make his rule work - autocracy, reform, constitutionalism - but wasn't up to it. He and his family paid for these pains and mistakes in a hail of bullets in Ekaterinburg.