For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Terrible Tsarinas
Five Russian Women in Power
  • Henri Troyat
Reviews Table of Contents Introduction «Back
Terrible Tsarinas . Five Russian Women in Power
Sound Bite
Peter the Great was a tough act to follow. Who could possibly take the place of  that gigantic reformer, that despotic visionary? He died in 1725, leaving Russia with one  foot in the modern world and one foot in obscurity - and entirely caught up in a snarl of  conspiracies and betrayals. 

In the next 37 years, five women would make history, calling the shots as their  nation became a player in the major-league games of Europe. Brains and brass, gluttony  and glory. . . these passionate women responded to the challenges - some for better, some  for worse. 

Henri Troyat paints a dazzling tableau with all the glitter of a St. Petersburg wavering  under the competing influences of Prussia and Versailles. In this intimate view of history,  we eavesdrop on family quarrels, lovers' trysts and diplomatic conspiracies.  Troyat is the perfect author to bring us this real-life fairytale. Born in Moscow in  1911, he experienced Russia's turbulent history himself before making his way to France.  In Paris, he achieved extraordinary success as a biographer and lyrical novelist, and was  rewarded for his beautiful prose with acceptance into the exclusive Académie Française  and with the Prix Goncourt. 

About the Author

Henri Troyat is a prolific and extremely popular French novelist and biographer.

Born in Moscow, he fled the Revolution and started over in Paris, where his talent and perseverance eventually earned him admission to the Academie Francaise.

He has won many prestigious literary prizes.

About the Book

Four Tsarinas and one "lady" Regent came to power in Russia through intrigue or palace coups; and their accomplishments and shortcomings alike made 18th century Russia what it was.

These five powerful women were major figures in Russian...

Four Tsarinas and one "lady" Regent came to power in Russia through intrigue or palace coups; and their accomplishments and shortcomings alike made 18th century Russia what it was.

These five powerful women were major figures in Russian history, leaders of their country during a period of tumultuous growth and a struggle towards modernization. As the prominent French biographer and novelist Henri Troyat depicts in this colorful narrative, they were all "full-blooded women" at the same time.


Introduction
A despondent hush fell upon the Winter Palace. While the stupor that marks the death of a sovereign is usually followed of an outburst of joy when the name of the successor is proclaimed, this time the minutes ticked by and the courtiersÂ’ dejection, their uncertainty, stretched until the verge of alarm. It was as though Peter the Great were...
A despondent hush fell upon the Winter Palace. While the stupor that marks the death of a sovereign is usually followed of an outburst of joy when the name of the successor is proclaimed, this time the minutes ticked by and the courtiersÂ’ dejection, their uncertainty, stretched until the verge of alarm. It was as though Peter the Great were still dying. Some people even seemed to think that, without him, Russia had no future. Contemplating the enormous corpse, its hands clasped and eyes shut forever, all the notables who had come running at the news were astonished that this man of monstrous energy and audacity, who had pried the country out of its age-old lethargy and provided it with an administration, a police force, and an army worthy of a modern power, who had sloughed off the weight of Russian traditions and opened the nation to Western culture, and built a capital of endless splendor on a wasteland of mud and water, had not taken the trouble to name a successor.

It is true that, even a few months before, there had been nothing to suggest that he might meet such a sudden demise. As usual, the reformist tsar had fallen victim to his own impetuosity. Diving into the icy waters of the Neva to rescue sailors from a sinking ship, he contracted the pneumonia that was to carry him off. The fever very quickly triggered the after-effects of his venereal disease, with complications including gangrene, gravel in the kidneys, and retention of urine. January 28, 1725, after painful days of delirium, he called for writing materials and, with a trembling hand, traced on the paper the words: “Pass everything on to. . .” The name of the beneficiary was left blank. The failing fingers were already contracting, and his voice trailed off in a death rattle. He was gone.

Collapsing at his bedside, his wife Catherine sobbed and queried the mute, deaf and inert body — in vain. This instantaneous bereavement left her both desperate and disabled, weighing her down with a grief and an empire that were equally crushing. All around her, every thoughtful person in the realm shared the same anguish. In reality, despotism is an indispensable drug not only to the one who exerts it but to those who are subjected to it, as well. The megalomania of the master is matched by the masochism of the subjects. People who have become accustomed to the injustices of a policy of force are frightened when it is abruptly removed. They feel as though the master (whom they had just been complaining about), in loosening his embrace, has withdrawn at the same time his protection and his love. Those who used to quietly criticize the tsar now did not know which foot to dance on. They even wondered whether this was the time to “dance” at all, and whether they would “dance” again some day, after this long wait in the shadow of the tyrannical innovator.

 However, life must go on, whatever the cost. While shedding copious tears, Catherine kept sight of her personal interests. A widow can be sincerely afflicted and at the same time reasonably ambitious...
Reviews
Russian Life Magazine | More »
Library Journal | More »
\"Lire\" | More »
Madame Figaro | More »

Pages 256
Year: 2001
LC Classification: DK127.T76613
Dewey code: 947'.05'0922
BISAC: BIO006000
BISAC: BIO014000
BISAC: BIO022000
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-1-892941-54-1
Price: USD 18.95
Ebook
ISBN: 978-1-892941-34-3
Price: USD 25.95
Available from

Search the full text of this book
Related Books
• A History of Russian Christianity, Vol. I —   From the Earliest Years through Tsar Ivan IV
• Russian Intelligence Services —   The Early Years (AD 882-1054)
• Konstantin Tsiolkovsky —   The Pioneering Rocket Scientist and His Cosmic Philosophy