Monday, 23 February 2015

The diary of Olga Romanov

In the 19th century most members of Royal houses kept a diary. This was not a diary for describing feelings, but an account of what they did that day. Keeping a diary was an exercise in discipline and a form of archiving, royal diaries were part of the state papers.

The Imperial family in Russia also kept diaries and although many were lost during the Revolution, quite a few remain. Parts of these diaries and their letters are published.
The latest publication is that of the diary of Olga Romanov, the eldest daughter of tsar Nicolas II and tsarina Alexandra. She started writing in her diary when she was nine years old and each evening she wrote down what she did that day.

Grand duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanov was an intelligent young woman who could have accomplished a great deal, if things would have gone differently. Because women could not inherit the throne, Olga did not play an important part in history. She could only have become important due to her marriage, only that never happened.

She and her sisters were brought up very protected and although her parents tried to give her a normal life, this did not quite work. Olga had little knowledge of the world outside the palace, for example when she was young she was astonished that people who travelled by train only had one seat on the train, and not their own carriage.

Only during WWI she had the chance to escape protocol when she, her sister and her mother became nurses and looked after wounded officers.

Many of Olga’s diaries survived the revolution. She wrote her first entry on January 1, 1905 (I went to church with papa and mama) and her last entry dated from March 15th 1917, a few days after her father abdicated.

Grand Duchess Olga Romanov
In this publication of the diaries we start in 1914. It looked like it would become a year like any other, but in the Summer, WWI broke out. Olga’s diaries are supplemented with her letters and diaries and memories from other people, like tsar Nicolas II or Kerenski.
This ensures we get a very interesting perspective on the Russian Revolution. Olga was in the middle of things, but also looked at it from a very special angle. Many events are not understood by her at the time, or not found important. This makes it very sad sometimes for us, because we know what will happen in the end.
And Olga is of course also just a young girl, who falls in love with one of the officers she nurses. A love she must hide and write in code about, for a man whom she could never marry.

Olga and her sisters are often seen as one, but this diary makes Olga step out of the shade and lets us read her own words. This makes her diary a very interesting document and a must have for everyone who wants to know more about Russian history.

Full title: The diary of Olga Romanov, Royal witness to the Russian Revolution
Translated and edited by Helen Azar

Published in 2014

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