The House of Romanov ruled over Russia for over three hundred years, from 1613 until 1917. Some of the most famous Russian rulers were from the House of Romanov: Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and the notorious Nicholas II, the last of the Russian tsars. Under Nicholas II’s rule, the Russians suffered a humiliating defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Ten years later, Russia entered World War I. Over three million Russians were killed and the high-ranking officials of the Imperial Army botched the war effort, leading to food shortages at home.
Popular opinion swayed against the royal family, which exploded into mass protests that toppled the Russian government. In February 1917, protests against the food shortages as a result of the war led to armed conflict. Nicholas II abdicated and the royal family was arrested. Initially, the new provisional government of Russia was going to send the royal family into exile, but no one would grant them asylum. In August, the new government sent the royal family to Tobolsk, Siberia, to escape the revolutionary activity. In the October Revolution a few months later, the Bolsheviks seized power from the provisional government. In April 1918, the royal family was sent to Yekaterinburg, Russia, where they were executed.
In the early twentieth century, photography became more accessible and cameras were more suited for private use. The Russian royal family enjoyed photography as a hobby and they took many pictures together. When we study the history of the Romanovs, and we learn their fate, sometimes we forget that they were a family. They laughed, played, and spent time together. They went on vacations and enjoyed spending time outdoors. The photographs of the Russian royal family that survive show that they were a family that had genuine affection for each other. Other photographs of the family that survive from the period also document their exile and imprisonment before their execution. These thirty photographs, just a few of many, give us a glimpse into the last days of the House of Romanov.