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Russia's Last Tsar.

One of the sidebars to the 1991 fall of the Soviet empire was the growing nostalgia among the Russian people for the family of Tsar Nicholas II, slain with his family in 1918 in the wake of the Russian Revolution. The story of the ill-fated Romanovs is narrated by Jeremy Irons as archival film and scenes from various feature movies, as well as still photos and home movies shot by the Tsar, recount this engrossing cross of historical splendor and a gripping murder mystery.

Watching the Tsar, Tsarina, their four beautiful daughters, and their hemophiliac son, the heir to the throne, at play and in ceremonial occasions, it is hard to imagine the oppressiveness of Nicholas' reign and the political turmoil roiling beneath the surface. Then come films of workers marching to the Winter Palace in 1905 demanding free speech and the right to vote, only to be fired on by imperial troops, with hundreds dying on the notorious "Bloody Sunday"; strikes paralyzing the empire -- at that time covering one-sixth of the world; and vicious repression, with 5,000 leftists condemned to death and thousands more shipped to Siberia.

Seemingly oblivious to the revolutionary currents overtaking his country, Nicholas and his family continued on their imperious ways until 1914 brought World War I. As Russian troops perished by the thousands, many of them ill-equipped and ill-fed, Nicholas took command at the front, leaving Tsarina Alexandra running the empire under the influence of the mad monk, Rasputin. By 1917, the troops had deserted en masse and the Russian Revolution had overthrown the Romanovs. Nicholas abdicated on March 2 of that year, and the family was kept under house arrest until they were executed on July 16, 1918.

In counterpoint to the historical footage, the video follows various historians and an ex-policeman as they attempt to unravel the mystery of the murder and the location of the unmarked grave of the Tsar's family. Ultimately, it was exhumed and the bones shuttled around the country, the story suppressed by the communist regime. With its downfall and the new openness, the fate of Russia's last Tsar finally has entered the historical record.
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Author:Rothenberg, Robert S.
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Video Recording Review
Date:Jul 1, 1997
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