Romanov (rō´mənŏf, Rus. rəmä´nəf), ruling dynasty of Russia from 1613 to 1917. The name Romanov was adopted in the 16th cent. by a family of boyars (great nobles) that traced its beginnings to the 14th cent. Czar Ivan IV took as his first wife Anastasia Romanov. Anastasia's brother, Nikita, was a regent for her son, Czar Feodor I. Nikita's son, Philaret, whom Boris Godunov forced to take monastic vows, was patriarch of Moscow from 1619 until his death in 1633. Michael, Philaret's son, was chosen in 1613 as czar of Russia; his election ended a turbulent period in Russian history. Except for the period from 1722 to 1797, the succession was thereafter regulated by the law of primogeniture.
The direct successors of Michael were Alexis (1645–76) and Feodor III (1676–82). Ivan V and Peter I (Peter the Great) reigned jointly under the regency of their sister Sophia Alekseyevna until 1689, when Peter assumed sole rule. In 1721, Peter took the title emperor of Russia in addition to that of czar; the new title was borne by all his successors. His succession decree of 1722 denounced the law of primogeniture and declared that the choice of a successor lay solely with the ruling emperor.
In 1723, Peter made his consort joint ruler as Catherine I, and after his death (1725) she continued to rule until she died in 1727. Peter's son by his first marriage, Czarevich Alexis, had been executed in 1718. His second marriage, with Catherine, produced two daughters: Anna, who married Duke Charles Frederick of Holstein-Gottorp, and Elizabeth. They were bypassed in the succession of 1727 in favor of Peter II (1727–30), son of Czarevich Alexis.
Peter II was the last of the direct male Romanov line, and on his death Anna, duchess of Courland, a daughter of Ivan V, ascended the throne. She died without heirs and was succeeded (1740) by Ivan VI, a great-grandson of Ivan V. He was a German, son of the duke of Brunswick and of Anna Leopoldovna, a princess of Mecklenburg.
The rule of foreigners was unpopular, and Peter I's daughter Elizabeth executed a coup in 1741 and was proclaimed czarina. Her nephew Peter III succeeded her in 1762 but was deposed (and probably assassinated) that year in a coup that made his consort, a princess of Anhalt-Zerbst, empress as Catherine II (Catherine the Great). There was some argument as to the paternity of Catherine's son and successor, Paul I (1796–1801), but it is now generally believed that he was the son of Peter III.
Paul, who was assassinated, restored the succession by primogeniture in 1797. His successors reigned as Alexander I (1801–25), Nicholas I (1825–55), Alexander II (1855–81; assassinated), Alexander III (1881–94), and Nicholas II (1894–1917). The marriage of Nicholas II to Princess Alix of Hesse (Czarina Alexandra Feodorovna) brought hemophilia into the family; their son, Czarevich Alexis (1904–18), was afflicted with the disease. In 1918, after the Russian Revolution, Nicholas II and his immediate family were executed. The members of the Romanov family who escaped execution fled abroad.
See D. Lieven, Russian Rulers before the Revolution (1989); R. K. Masie, The Romanovs (1995), M. D. Steinberg and V. M. Khrustaëv, The Fall of the Romanovs (1995); J. Van der Kiste, The Romanovs, 1818–1959 (1998), and J. C. Perry and C. V. Pleshakov, The Flight of the Romanovs (1999).