All those zany Russian history references in The Romanoffs, explained

Amazon released on Friday the first two episodes of The Romanoffs, Matthew Weiner’s highly-anticipated follow-up to Mad Men. While “The Violet Hour” and “The Royal We” are not narratively linked, like every episode in the eight-part anthology series, both are set in the modern day and center on people who believe they are exceptional because they are the surviving descendants of the Russian royal family.

The premise is so zany that only a name associated with one of the most critically-acclaimed television shows of all time could manage to secure the $50 million it took to make. Still, as outlandish as the show may be, there are ample opportunities for the writers to slip in miniature Russian history lessons for the audience. Here are a few of the best from the first two episodes.

What does Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have to do with the Russian royal family?

If there is one thing people know about the Romanov dynasty, it’s how it ended: bloodily, in 1918, when the royal family was executed by the Bolsheviks. In the aftermath of the Russian revolution, conspiracy theories arose as different imposters came forward claiming to be one of the tsar’s daughters (most famously, Anastasia) or perhaps the sickly tsarevich, Alexei. The opening credits of The Romanoffs, set to Tom Petty’s “Refugee,” quickly recap the family’s end, and likewise suggest that one of the daughters got away over the lines “you believe what you want to believe.”

The actual murder of the Romanov family, however, was a brutal and drawn-out affair. Living in imprisonment, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and their three daughters and teenage son were woken in the night by their captors under the pretense of being transported to a safer location. Having anticipated being moved, the family had earlier sewn diamonds into their clothes, but they were instead taken unsuspectingly to a cellar, where they were read their execution order and a squad opened fire. After the dust cleared, the Bolsheviks realized that all of the children had survived the initial barrage, having been protected by the jewels in their clothing; only one daughter, Maria, who had tried to escape, was shot in the leg. Ogla, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and Alexei were then bayoneted and shot point-blank. The executioners hid the family’s grave site, and for decades the Soviet Union spread misinformation about their deaths, helping fuel conspiracies that one of the children had made it out alive. Only decades later would the discovery of the graves and DNA evidence prove that indeed no one escaped.

Oh, and those portraits that start the credits? They’re of Peter the Great and Catherine the Great respectively.

Why would Russian nobility have an apartment in Paris?

In the first episode of The Romanoffs, Greg (Aaron Eckhart) and his fiancée Sophie (Louise Bourgoin) plot to inherent the gorgeous apartment owned by Greg’s aunt, Anushka (Marthe Keller). But Anushka has no plans of dying before seeing her home handed over to someone who will continue the royal line. Instead, …read more

Source:: The Week – Entertainment


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