But in 1918 both [the Catherine and Alexander Palaces] were nationalized, transformed into ‘object lessons in ‘the aesthetic decay of the last of the Romanovs’. In June the state rooms located on the ground floor of the Alexander Palace were opened to the public… People paid their 15 kopeks to enter and gawp—not at what they had anticipated would be the lavish style in which their former tsar had lived, but rather in disbelief that such a homespun environment could have been the residence of the last Tsar of All the Russias. The interiors were unexpectedly modest by former imperial standards—no grander perhaps than those of a public library or museum in the capital, or the country house of a moderately well-off gentleman. But for the Romanov family, the Alexander Palace had been a much loved home.

The well-drilled official [Soviet] guides did their best to decry the decidedly bourgeois tastes of Russia’s last tsar and his wife. The old-fashioned, art-nouveau-style furniture, the cheap, outmoded oleographs and sentimental picture, the English wallpaper, the profusion of knick-knacks scattered around on every available surface (predominately factory-made goods of the most ordinary kind), reminded visitors of the ‘typical parlour of an English or American boarding house’ or a ‘second-class Berlin restaurant’. The family themselves were dismissed in the glib phrases of Soviet-speak as an historical irrelevance.

As visitors were conducted from room to room…they could not avoid an increasing sense of Nicholas II, not as the despotic ruler painted to them but rather as a dull family man, who had crammed his study and library…with photographs of his children at every stage of their development from babyhood to adulthood: children with dogs, on ponies, in the snow, by the seaside, a happy family smiling to the camera for home-made photographs taken on the Box Brownies that they took with them everywhere. … This, the hub of now defunct tsarist power, could not have appeared more unremarkable, more domestic and child-friendly. Was it really the last home of ‘Nicholas the Bloody’?

—  Helen Rappaport, The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra