Helen Azar has been interested in history of the Romanov Dynasty for many years, ever since she became fascinated with the saga of the human remains discovered outside Ekaterinburg in the 1990s, which were proven to be those of Russia’s murdered imperial family. The subsequent controversy about these bones, and Helen’s science background (she studied biochemistry), moved her to co-author several articles explaining the authenticity of the remains.
At the time, Helen was attending library school, and in summer of 2005, she got a unique opportunity to do an internship at Tsarskoe Selo Museum, where she worked with the imperial book collection – books which once belonged to the Tsars and Tsaritsas – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II.
In 2012 Helen published her first book, “The Diary of Olga Romanov“, which was based on numerous wartime diaries and letters written by the eldest daughter of the last Tsar, which she translated directly from the scans of the Grand Duchess’s own handwritten documents.
In 2014 Helen founded and became administrator of this website, where she publishes original articles and excerpts from her books.
In the following few years Helen released 7 more books based on her original translations of diaries and letters of the other Romanov family members; the latest is scheduled to be released in 2019 – “Maria Romanov: Third Daughter of the Last Tsar” – the book based on the writings of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna.
Late in 2018, Helen released a book, which is only available electronically through this website: THE PRIVATE DIARY OF MATHILDE KSCHESSINSKA, 100% of proceeds from which will go right back into running the website.
It had been Helen’s long standing dream to organise “In their steps” tour, which would allow to share her passion for the subject with others, as well as teach and learn more about this fascinating and tragic family. Their story truly represents the proverbial “truth is more interesting than fiction”, but unfortunately through the years, there has been a lot of misinterpretation and misinformation about them in secondary sources. The reason for that may be the lack of ready access to primary sources, not just during the Soviet era, but also today. There is also a strange shortage of Russian speaking historians outside of Russia who are interested in writing about this particular subject in English; and those few who know the language are not able or willing to spend months or even years deciphering the often indecipherable handwriting of the imperial family members.
Yet, in Russia there is still a mountain of untapped archival material which can give the world so much new information about that period in Russian history, as well as eliminate long standing myths and misinformation. Helen always felt that it’s very important to present this material in its almost raw form, which is why in her work she refrains from offering subjective interpretations, and allows the reader to make up his or her own mind based on the text they read.
In 2018, the hundredth anniversary year of the murders of the Romanov family, Helen published the book IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS, and created the dream tour, bringing a group of Russian imperial history enthusiasts to experience important historical events first hand, by literally following in the footsteps of the last imperial family during the last two years of their lives.
Among a number of other places, the group visited Tsarskoe Selo, Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg. A smaller group even went to Crimea and Moscow, where they ended their journey at the Russian State Archives, looking at the original documents written by the Romanovs. A six part documentary from this trip will be available later in 2019.
Here you can watch a short preview:
Currently Helen is working on creating another “In their steps” tour, which will take place in later part of 2020.
MARIA ROMANOV: THIRD DAUGHTER OF THE LAST TSAR. Diaries and Letters 1908-1918
Available in May of 2019, this latest book is based on diary entries and personal papers of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, translated into English for the first time.
In the twilight of the 19th century, a third daughter was born to Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, Russia’s imperial couple who were eager for a male heir. A pretty baby with large, soulful eyes and merry nature was Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, who became known to her family and friends simply as “Mashka”.
With her angelic looks and personality, Mashka grew into an empathetic, down-to-earth girl, unaffected by her imperial status. Often overshadowed by her two elder sisters, and later her brother and younger sister Anastasia, Maria ultimately proved to have a uniquely strong and solid personality.
“The incarnation of modesty elevated by suffering”, as Maria was described during the last weeks of her life, she was able to maintain her kindness and optimism, even in the midst of violence and degradation. Maria’s gentle character belied her incredible courage, which emerged in the darkest hours of her short life. This humble girl with simple wishes, turned out to have a great strength of spirit.
Her surviving diaries and letters offer a fascinating insight into the private life of a loving family, for whom this middle child ultimately became a pillar of strength and hope. It was no accident that Maria was chosen among her sisters to accompany her parents to Ekaterinburg, where the entire imperial family would ultimately meet their brutal end.
She was murdered along with her family members in a cellar of a house chosen for this “special purpose”, on a stuffy summer night in 1918, only a few short weeks after her 19th birthday. Two sets of charred remains, confirmed to be Maria’s and her brother Alexei’s, were not discovered until almost 90 years later, separately from those of the other victims of that massacre. Today it is still unknown if these remains will ever be allowed to be laid to rest.
In this book, Maria Nikolaevna Romanov is alive once again, and her voice is heard through her writings, revealing her as much more than a pretty princess wearing white dresses in hundreds of faded sepia photographs.
IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS: The Final Two Years of the Russian Imperial Family 1916-1918
This volume offers an accurate glimpse into the final two years of the last Imperial Family of Russia: exclusively through their own diary entries and personal correspondence, supplemented by contemporary eyewitness accounts, many of which are published here in English for the first time.
The reader will get to know on a deeper level the Grand Duchesses and the Empress, as they work at Tsarskoe Selo infirmaries; witness the imperial family’s grief for their murdered “Friend” Grigori Rasputin; experience their arrest after the outbreak of revolution, and follow them into captivity in Siberia – and ultimately the Red Ural – where they meet their tragic end in the cellar of “The House of Special Purpose”.
This already familiar unique piece of history is individually told by Nicholas, Alexandra and their five children: Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei. Their collective personal story is a portrayal of a united family bound together by love, hardship and tragedy, taking place during the twilight of an extraordinary bygone era.
The First English Translation of the Wartime Diaries of the Eldest Daughter of Nicholas II, the Last Tsar of Russia, with Additional Documents of the Period
In August 1914, Russia entered World War I, and with it, the imperial family of Tsar Nicholas II was thrust into a conflict they would not survive.
His eldest child, Olga Nikolaevna, great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, had begun a diary in 1905 when she was ten years old and kept writing her thoughts and impressions of day-to-day life as a grand duchess until abruptly ending her entries when her father abdicated his throne in March 1917. Held at the State Archives of the Russian Federation in Moscow, Olga’s diaries during the wartime period have never been compiled into English until this volume.
The Last Ruling Romanovs.. Much has been written about the life of the last Imperial family of Russia: Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children – Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Aleksei. The entire family, including their personal physician, retainers, and even their pets, became tragic victims of the Bolshevik revolution. They were arrested, exiled, and ultimately secretly murdered in a small cellar of a house in the Urals, in the summer of 1918.
In this book, you will follow the events which led up to their eventual tragic fate through personal words of each family member, as well as their close friends and associates. Their letters, diaries, and postcards – many of which have been compiled into English here for the first time – tell a unique story, and have yet a lot to reveal.
MARIA and ANASTASIA: The Youngest Romanov Grand Duchesses In Their Own Words (The Russian Imperial Family: In Their Own Words Book 2)
They were the two youngest daughters of the world’s most powerful man – Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia. Known to their family and friends as “The Little Pair”, Grand Duchesses Maria and Anastasia were born into opulence, but led modest lifestyles. They were two normal young women growing up in extraordinary circumstances, ultimately getting caught in the middle of frightening political events that would take their teenage lives. Until this volume, the two girls did not have a chance to tell the story of the last four years of their lives during the first world war and the revolution, – in their very own words.
Journal of a Russian Grand Duchess: Complete Annotated 1913 Diary of Olga Romanov, Eldest Daughter of the Last Tsar
She was the eldest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia – the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanov. In 1913, the tricentennial year of her family’s dynastic rule, Olga was coming of age – turning 18 in early November, and her life was full of romance, pageantry and fun. This volume comprises of diary entries from the full year, which allow the reader a unique glimpse into the daily domestic routines of the Russian imperial family just prior to the outbreak of the First World War.
Tatiana Romanov, Daughter of the Last Tsar: Diaries and Letters, 1913–1918
Translated for the First Time in English with Annotations by a Leading Expert, the Romanov Family’s Final Years Through the Writings of the Second Oldest Daughter.
Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia was the second of the four daughters of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Long recognized by historians as the undisputed “beauty” of the family, Tatiana was acknowledged for her poise, her elegance, and her innate dignity within her own family. Helen Azar, translator of the diaries of Olga Romanov, and Nicholas B. A. Nicholson, Russian Imperial historian, have joined together to present a truly comprehensive picture of this extraordinarily gifted, complex, and intelligent woman in her own words.
Romanov Family Yearbook: On this date in their own words
The year 2018 marks a century since the murders of the last imperial family of Russia: Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, four daughters: Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, and son Alexei. This family of seven was brutally killed in July of 1918, but continues to fascinate even a hundred years later. Helen Azar, author of several books based on her original translations of their diaries and letters, brings you “THE ROMANOV FAMILY YEARBOOK” – a unique edition which commemorates them through a collection of personal documents that recount their daily lives, ranging over a decade. This book contains 365 diary entries, letters, and photographs–one for each day of the year—including some previously unpublished material. It is essential reading for Russian imperial history enthusiasts and excellent introduction for those new to the letters and diaries of Russia’s last Romanovs.
1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna: Complete Tercentennial Journal of the Third Daughter of the Last Tsar (The Romanovs in Their Own Words) (Volume 6) Paperback– October 6, 2017
Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna was the third daughter and middle child of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, and 1913 was the tercentennial year of her family’s dynastic rule—the last full year before the outbreak of World War I. In her journal, Maria documents the ceremony and celebrations of this important date in Imperial Russian history, while at the same time showing herself to have been a remarkably ordinary young girl who happened to be the daughter of the most powerful man in the world. Maria’s journal records the daily routines of the Imperial family, from the mundane to the magnificent, allowing the reader a peek into the lost and distant world of the last Romanovs.