Treasures of the World
© Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)
◦ Mementos of a Doomed Dynasty
◦ Nicholas and Romanov Russia
◦ Nicholas and Alexandra
◦ The tragic events that followed the coronation of Nicholas II
◦ Bloody Sunday
◦ Signs of revolution
◦ The inventive young Faberge
◦ Faberge's growing fame
◦ The Faberge Imperial Easter eggs featured in the Series
◦ The House of Faberge
◦ The workshops and workmasters
◦ Faberge the man
◦ Outrageous opulence
◦ Fragile remembrances
◦ The fate of the eggs ◦
Nicholas and Romanov Russia
The Romanov dynasty ruled Russia for three
centuries, from 1613 until the Russian Revolution in 1917. Descended
from Ivan the Terrible, Mikhail Fedorovich became the first Romanov
Czar, reigning from 1613-1645. Under Peter the Great, who ruled from
1682-1725, numerous scientific, technological, cultural and political
advances were made. But also under his rule, Russia became a totalitarian
It was during the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-1796) that Russia
truly attained the stature of a great European power. She was a capable
politician, great intellect, winning personality, skilled diplomat and
generous patron of the arts. Though initially she furthered the liberal
reforms begun during the reigns of her predecessors, in the end, she
reversed many of them, further centralizing the government and escalating
the distress of the peasantry.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the contrast between the very
rich and very poor in Russia could not have been more absolute. Over
eighty million peasants scratched a meager existence from the land.
In the cities' developing industries, working conditions were intolerable.
While democratic freedoms took hold elsewhere in Europe, no constitutional
restraints limited the power of the Czar, who ruled by divine right.
It was a brutal time to be a Russian under an autocrat.
Yet the Czar had much to fear, as the very real threat of terrorism
loomed over the Romanovs. In 1881, Czar Alexander II was felled by an
assassin's bomb, leaving the throne to his son, Alexander III. A great
big bear of a man, Alexander III governed with an iron will for thirteen
years, determined to preserve the power of the monarchy in the face
of appeals for social reform. But at his death, after nearly three hundred
years of Romanov rule, Russian history would change drastically in the
hands of Alexander's son, Nicholas II.
Nicholas grew up in a very protected environment. He neither enjoyed
politics, nor did he understand it. Once, when it was suggested to Alexander
that the already twenty-five-year-old Nicholas supervise the completion
of the Trans-Siberian railway, his own father remarked incredulously:
"Have you ever tried to discuss anything of consequence with him?
He is still absolutely a child!"
According to author Lynette Proler: "Nicholas was very quiet
and very gentile in his manners, and Alexander III, his father, was
completely the opposite. So perhaps they couldn't relate to each other,
and perhaps the Czar couldn't see the Czarevich coming up to the throne,
so he did not prepare him at all. Of course nobody was expecting Alexander
to die at such a young age (49 years old), so they didn't involve Nicholas
in learning how to rule."
It would prove to be a tragic error in Imperial judgment for the Romanov