There is a world of mystery and fascination lying within the name Rasputin. Many people might have heard about his terrible death, others might know about his purported magical powers and some might wonder just how powerful this man truly was. The reality is that while many people have written tales, accounts and stories about Rasputin, there is just too much mystery surrounding the man to fully know what his influence was or wasn’t. We seek to present to you today the most agreed upon account of Rasputin’s life and will at times, share where there is conjecture and theory present. The man himself had many mythic qualities and even due to his own boasting, stories about his life seem to always be a little bit more than the truth.
Grigori Rasputin was born in Siberia in 1869. His family was well off but were peasants and his life wasn’t particularly well documented in his early years. There were stories of him being somewhat of a troublesome boy, someone who was prone to fighting and had spent a few days in jail due to his violent behavior, but otherwise, there isn’t much to know about him in his early days. He might have been illiterate due to the fact that he had no formal education and most Russian peasants were unable to read or write.
Rasputin would go on to find fascination with religion and spent quite some time in monasteries across the countryside, seeking out religious advice and desiring to learn from the holy men about faith and the Scriptures. In his time of seeking out God, he claimed that a religious vision had initially started him on his quest to become a mystic. He eventually became known as a wandering mystic, a man who would often travel across the countryside, meeting people and teaching on faith. His strong personality made it easy for the people whom he encountered to believe his words and even when he would challenge the priests in the area, they would end up coming in awe of his teachings. He grew his following as he spent time teaching and preaching, so much so that eventually he would set out to build his own little church so that he could house the people who had come to listen to him.
Rasputin was a mystic and had a powerful personality, one that easily allowed him to affect those around him, usually making them feel quite at ease and safe around him. Whether or not he was truly a man gifted with magical talents is a matter for the theologians and philosophers to argue about, but it can be said that he commanded a certain aura of respect when he walked the earth. Eventually he reached Saint Petersburg in 1904. The capitol of Russia was in a state of disrepair and unrest due to many of the poor decisions made by the ruler, Tsar Nicholas, who had to deal with labor strikes, war, revolutions and governmental reform. It was in this time that Rasputin found himself inside the courts of the Imperial family.
The temperature of the time was very much so in favor of things like spiritualism, the occult, mysteries and powers beyond mortal comprehension, making it quite easy for Rasputin to make a favorable impression upon the Imperial family. His intense gaze, strange demeanor and mystical words were easy enough to impress those around him and soon he found himself being invited to the court to pray on matters and even being sent to the Prime Minister to pray as well. Rasputin himself did well to integrate himself into the court, gaining the trust of the Imperial family one day by ministering to their sick son.
Alexei, the heir to the Russian throne and a young boy, was rather ill due to the fact that he had incurred an unfortunate injury to his foot. Alexei suffered from hemophilia, a disease characterized by anemia and an increase of bleeding, which can be fatal to a person. Rasputin was called forth to attend to the boy and the man had a profound effect on the kid, causing him to calm down to the point where the blood-flow ceased. He also might have stopped the use of aspirin by the court physicians, something that would have made the hemophilia even worse due to the fact that it is a blood thinner and causes blood to flow even faster. How Rasputin calmed the boy down is disputed, some say it was mystical power, others believe it was because he had a very warm and reassuring personality and many believe it was because Rasputin learned hypnotism, enabling him to put the boy into a trance and reduce his bleeding. We’ll never know how the Tsars came to believe that Rasputin was directly responsible for the boy’s healing, but they certainly did believe it.
Rasputin was invited to stay with the Imperial Family long term after that point, his influence with the child seemed to be the only thing that could calm his health issues down and his reassurance to the Tsarina, Alexandra, proved to be helpful as well. He never had any kind of major role within the Romanov’s regime, after all he was a healer and a mystic, but he generally gave advice when asked upon and held a good level of trust between the Tsar and his wife.
The public’s perception of Rasputin grew suspicious, however. The nobles and elite within the courts began to view Rasputin with envy due to the fact that he had such easy access to the Tsar and soon they began to spread vicious rumors about the man’s life. Stories of his debauchery, falsehoods and schemes began to emerge. The name “Rasputin” was even rumored to mean “debauched one” despite the fact that it just meant “where two rivers join” probably due to the geography of where he was born. Accusations of him being associated with a religious group known as the Khylists began as well. The Khylists were a Christian sect that was rumored to believe that in order to understand the grace of God more fully, a Christian needed to truly descend into debauchery and sinfulness. This belief kept the Khylists underground and when Rasputin gained a reputation as a member (despite the fact that he was not) his favorability in the eyes of both the public and the church began to suffer.
Rasputin’s life continued to be a center of scandal and caught the public’s eye many a time. There was belief that he was a wicked man, a mad monk or a devil worshipper. While it seems that Rasputin was nothing more than a political scapegoat for those who were critical of the Tsar’s rule, the outcries and smears against him did lead to an assassination attempt on his life. In 1914, as Rasputin was in transit to the post office, he was accosted by a woman disguised as a beggar. This woman stabbed him but he managed to escape. The wound was severe and he spent several weeks in recovery after surgery due to the damage that his body had sustained. The attack was most likely orchestrated by a political rival who sought to damage the Tsar’s by taking out one of their key advisors.
Rasputin’s actual influence on the court is more or less disputed, but most historians can agree that while he did the Imperial Family a great service by praying with them, assisting with the ill children and giving advice, he was not a political force of any sort. All Rasputin provided was a controversial figure that would cause the people to gain a general distrust of the Tsar and would allow for political rivals to continue to plot the downfall of the Imperial Family. The Romanovs were in an intense struggle due to the various political pressures surrounding them and each day it seemed that they were growing closer and closer to political revolution.
Rasputin’s relationship with Alexandra was an influential one, while public opinion had soured greatly on Grigori, her relationship with him was one of respect and care. The other members of the Imperial Family were growing more and more disconcerted with Rasputin due to the fact that there was a great uproar about him, but she made certain that he was permitted to stay. This caused more tension as many people’s imaginations continued to run wild with the idea of Rasputin being the real controller of the Imperial Family. The reality was that Tsar Nicholas wasn’t particularly good at being a ruler and the tides of political pressure were unrelenting. They kept the hemophilia of their son to be a secret, making Rasputin’s purpose for being in the court to be somewhat hazy at best.
Still, with the idea that Rasputin was a political force to be reckoned with, many who sought to preserve the Romanovs and prevent the revolution began to look at Rasputin with murderous intent. They reasoned that his influence was running the show. And so, a conspiracy was hatched, a conspiracy that would end in the brutal murder of the Mad Monk.
The actual murder of Rasputin is a widely disputed and heavily fictionalized story involving all sorts of crazy antics and stories about the man’s purported ability to survive death. It has been very difficult for historians to find the actual facts behind the death of the man, as it had been done in secret by the conspiracy, making it difficult to determine what exactly had happened. Some accounts are embellishments, exaggerations or just complete fabrications. We’re going to go ahead and provide the traditional account of Rasputin’s death, but please note that this is simply a tradition, it very well may or may not be true.
Rasputin was invited to dine and enjoy some wine at the Moika Palace by Felix Yusupov. It was there that Rasputin consumed copious amount of wine and food. The food was heavily poisoned, however, yet it didn’t seem to affect Rasputin at all. The man ate and drank quite happily, unaffected by the powerful poison that should have been coursing through his veins. When it became clear that the poison wasn’t doing its job, Felix drew out his gun and shot the man through the chest, causing Rasputin to fall to the ground. Moments passed and it seemed that the man was dead, but he was not. Rasputin came to his senses a few minutes later and stood up, his wound from the bullet not as bad as it had looked. He made an exit but was caught by several members of the conspiracy who opened fire upon him, one bullet shot him in the spine, dropping him immediately. Upon reaching him, they saw that he was still moving and so they shot him in the head. Then, they bundled his corpse up and threw him in the icy Malaya Nevka River.
Eventually his body was found and an investigation began, but those who had murdered the man were able to get away without paying any kind of price, due to the perception that Rasputin had caused immeasurable damage to the country. While Rasputin’s life was a strange one, filled with many odd stories, controversies and lies, it is equally as important to note that his influence was never really as great as the world around him made it out to be. Yes, he had sway with the Imperial Family and yes, there was something to be said about the way his personality could put people at ease, but the reality is that the man was nothing more than a symbol to the Russian people. A few months later, matching a prediction that he had made, the Russian Revolution occurred and the entire Romanov family was brutally massacred in an uprising. The tides of political change can be very powerful, and few people in this world can truly stop them. Rasputin will forever live on in history as a controversial figure, to some a holy man, to some a political entity and to others, a charlatan. Who really was Rasputin? That is probably the biggest mystery of them all.
The Murder of Rasputin: http://history1900s.about.com/od/famouscrimesscandals/a/rasputin.htm
First World War Biography: http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/rasputin.htm