Onscreen portrayals of the Romanov family often get many things wrong, but the one thing they do tend to get right is that the Romanov grand duchesses loved dancing. All four Romanov sisters regularly mentioned dancing in their diaries and letters.

Romanov grand duchesses dancing on deck of imperial yacht.


From Warner Brothers cartoon “Anastasia”


From "Romanovs: The Imperial Family" film
From “Romanovs: The Imperial Family” film


From the 1913 diary of Olga Romanov:

“Sunday. 23 June…  [T]here was dancing, first to an accordion, then musicians played. Lots of Finns came over from the villages with little children. The crew had a lot fun and danced a lot… by the end of dinner the singers came out, and they sang and danced and every other thing one can imagine… [they] danced folk dances in different [ways], the way they dance them in various provinces. Then we returned to the old spot and danced again. We danced with the officers. Then Allaverdov, etc. Datzoev danced the ‘lezginka’ very well and did not even get tired. When he finished, Artemiev started mimicking him – [it was] unbelievably funny. The last dance was the polonaise to the “Old Ranger” march. I danced with Pavl. Al…  It was so nice and fun.”


From the 1913 diary of Tatiana Romanov:

“10 November. Tuesday…   At 9 ½ Olga, Papa and I went to Princess Baryatinskaya’s ball. A lot of people were [there]. Olga and Mama were there. [I] danced the first quadrille with [illeg] from Mama’s Crimean regiment. Cotillion, mazurka and the second quadrille with Knyazhev.  During the cotillion there were masses of interesting Tatar things in [illeg.]. Earlier [I] sat with Mama. She danced two or three times! P.A., N.P. were there too. It was terribly merry. At 7 o’cl. [we] left from there. It was so nice there… ”  


From the 1916 diary of Maria Romanov:

11 July…  Had tea at the 3rd Hundred Convoy camp. All the officers were there. The Cossacks danced, sang, and played various games…”  “4 October… . Went to the First and Second Hundred parade, the infantry row… At this time the Cossacks sang and then danced very well…”


From a letter of Anastasia Romanov:

“4 September, 1915. Tsarskoe Selo…  This afternoon we went to our infirmary. There was a concert. Delazari sang with some three [people], then a young lady danced alone, who danced and sang and also the little man who was at Anya’s in the winter… The soldiers loved it so they applauded with all their might and our funny officer made them yell out ‘bis’ …”  


The “lezginka” Grand Duchess Olga mentions in her diary above is a popular national dance from the Caucasus Mountains region. Below is a video of Cossacks dancing the lezginka.


From the books:

Journal of a Russian Grand Duchess: Complete Annotated 1913 Diary of Olga Romanov, Eldest Daughter of the Last Tsar

Tatiana Romanov, Daughter of the Last Tsar: Diaries and Letters, 1913–1918

MARIA and ANASTASIA: The Youngest Romanov Grand Duchesses In Their Own Words: Letters, Diaries, Postcards.


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