EUROPEAN HISTORY / BIOGRAPHY
The Interrupted TransitionHélène Carrère d'Encausse
translated by George Holoch
In 1917, the last of the Romanovs were executed in the palatial
home of an Ekaterinburg merchant, an act which sealed the success
of the Bolshevik Revolution, ushering in the Communist era of Russian history.
Now, after the Communist era has ended almost as abruptly as it began, French
historian Hélène Carrère d'Encausse offers in its wake a rich
and detailed history of the last Romanov czar, Nicholas II.
Connecting the end of the Romanov dynasty to the beginning of Russia's democratic movement, Carrère d'Encausse suggests that we understand history through the lens of current events, as events have seemingly gone full circle.
This biography of Nicholas II includes a close, critical examination of his early years growing up in the imperial court, constantly in the shadow of his father, Alexander III. The author also provides background on the Romanov dynasty as a whole, which was well into its second century at the time of Nicholas II. It was his allegiance to the past, the author argues, that formed the czar's inability to adjust to the demands of a changing Russia.
In Nicholas II, Carrère d'Encausse uses her expertise to draw a sensitive portrait of a doomed ruler whose mistakes should not be forgotten—lest history repeat itself.
"Half a dozen biographies of Nicholas have been published since 1992 and Hélène Carrère
d'Encausse's study of this doomed ruler may well be the best of them.… The translation is first
rate as it renders what undoubtedly was sophisticated prose into an equally elegant English
version. Hélène Carrère d'Encausse is to be congratulated for a fine, well-balanced study of
Nicholas II that should profe of interest both to scholarsand students of the period
as well as the intersted layman.
"It is Hélène Carrère d'Encausse's contention, advanced with the elegance and
skill one expects from a distinguished French Academician, that Nicholas had his
own concept of what was required; moreover, that it may have been better suited to
Russian realities, and to the people's outlook, than the institutional checks on the
autocratic power loudly advocated by liberals and others."
"The lucid and elegant prose, uncommon in academic publications, and provocative
views, make Hélène Carrère d'Encausse's study of Nicholas II a most readable and
highly recommended book."
Hélène Carrère d'Encausse is a leading French authority on Russian and Slavic history. She is the second woman to be admitted to the French Academy in its 350 years of existence. She is also the author of The Russian Syndrome, Big Brother, and The Great Challenge.