Empire of the Tsars: Romanov Russia
History Documentary hosted by Lucy Worsley, published by BBC in 2016 – English narration
Lucy Worsley travels to Russia to tell the extraordinary story of the dynasty that ruled the country for more than three centuries – the Romanovs.
1) Reinventing Russia
Lucy investigates the beginning of the Romanovs’ 300-year reign. In 1613, when Russia was leaderless, 16-year-old Mikhail Romanov was plucked from obscurity and offered the crown of Russia, with absolute power. Lucy also charts the story of Peter the Great, the ruthless and ambitious tsar who was determined to modernise Russia at the end of the 17th century. Throughout his reign, Peter would demonstrate an unwavering commitment to establishing Russia as a naval power, including the creation of a new maritime capital, St Petersburg. Lucy shows how the Romanovs embraced and sponsored the arts on an astonishing scale – from building spectacular palaces to commissioning grand artworks – and also considers the impact the Romanovs had on the lives of ordinary Russians, who were often little better than slaves to the elite.
2) Age of Extremes
Lucy examines the reign of Catherine the Great, and the traumatic conflict with Napoleonic France. Catherine seized the Russian throne from her husband Peter III in 1762 and became the most powerful woman in the world. Lucy visits the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, once the home of Catherine’s vast art collection. She tells how Catherine expanded her empire through military victories overseas, while at home she encouraged education and introduced smallpox inoculation to Russia. But Catherine struggled to introduce deeper reforms, and the institution of serfdom remained largely unchanged. All she had achieved looked set to be undone when Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812. Lucy relives the pivotal battle of Borodino, when the Russian army finally confronted the French forces; the traumatic destruction of Moscow; and the eventual victory over the French.
3) The Road to Revolution
Lucy Worsley concludes her history of the Romanov dynasty, investigating how the family’s grip on Russia unravelled in their final century. She shows how the years 1825-1918 were bloody and traumatic, as four tsars tried and failed to deal with pressure for constitutional reform and revolution. Lucy finds out how the Romanovs tried to change the system themselves – in 1861, millions of enslaved serfs were freed by the Tsar-Liberator, Alexander II. But Alexander paid the price for opening the Pandora’s box of reform when he was blown up by terrorists. Elsewhere, there was repression, denial, war and – in the case of the last tsar, Nicholas II – a fatalistic belief in the power of God, with Nicholas’s faith in the holy man Rasputin being a major part in his undoing. Lucy traces the growth of the intelligentsia, writers and thinkers who sought to have a voice about Russia. Anger against the Romanov regime created a generation of radicals committed to overturning the status quo.
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Published on: Jan 21, 2016 @ 10:38