The holidays provide a great opportunity to catch quality documentaries, and this BBC special, now available via Netflix, explores the fascinating history of Russia under the Romanov dynasty. They ruled the Eurasian colossus from the seventeenth century to their downfall during World War I. Host Lucy Worsley examines the notable reigns: from dynamic (and ruthless) Peter The Great to enlightened (but sensuous) Catherine The Great to Alexander I, who led the empire to victory over Napoleon. The series then covers the ill-starred Alexander II, who freed the serfs, and finally the tragedy of Nicholas II, whose attachment to autocracy doomed the dynasty once it became embroiled in the first global war.
During the recent US presidential election Russia featured more prominently in the public discourse than it has at any time since the end of the Cold War. This three part series, with great visuals and engaging narration, sheds a lot of light on the history and culture of one of the world’s most important powers.