On May 5 (see also), at the kind invitation of American University, I attended "The Romanovs 1613-1918: A Talk with Simon Sebag Montefiore" at the Russian Cultural Center, an event "Organized by the Center on Global Interests"; see also.
Image from, with caption: Princess Catherine Dolgorukova photo by Sergei Lvovich Levitsky and Rafail Sergeevich Levitsky 1880
Montefiore's main points during the hour-long discussion, as I hope I understood them properly:
--His new book is essentially a study in power. The Romanovs were "successful" in holding on to power for so long because of (1) their alliance with the nobility (2) a "cheap" army (serf soldiers) (3) the weakness of geographical entities around their empire (4) the vast Eurasian area they managed to control;
--In the 19th century, the idea of an "imperial" Russia embracing many nationalities was replaced by a "nationalist" Russia marked by anti-Semitism;
--Rasputin [see], essentially a house serf for the imperial household during Nicholas II's reign, tried to reassure the autocracy that it still had links with the narod -- the people -- (a word not used by Montefiore in his talk, if my memory serves me right) at a time when revolutionaries were questioning the Romanovs' legitimacy;
--Nicholas II and Lenin had, in common, an intolerance for those who questioned their authority;
--Alexander II (tsar, 1855-1881) wrote sexy, largely unexamined, letters to his mistress [pictured above; see].