Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin is has been described as one of the most scandalous figures in Russian history. A semi-literate peasant from Siberia, he arrived in St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia, and within a few years had become one of the most influential men in the Russian government. This is his story.
Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg in the robes of a monk, as a self-styled 'holy man', or 'staretz', with a reputation as a reckless drunkard, a healer, and a womanizer. He had created his own 'theology' from different cults and sects, and believed that a person had to sin in order to become holy. He acquired the name Rasputin as a nickname ...it means 'dissolute' or 'debauched' in Russian ... and he certainly lived up to his name. In addition to his less than up standing ways, he was also dirty and unkempt. He never washed or changed clothes, and his greasy hair and ragged appearance helped convince his followers that he was a 'man of God'. He was also known for his intense personal magnetism, which was augmented by his piercing, (some said hypnotic) blue eyes.
In the first decade of the 1900's Russia was ruled by a Royal family. Nicholas II, the head of the Romanov family and the reigning Tsar, was surrounded in the palace by his family, including his wife Alexandra and their youngest son Alexis. The Tsar's youngest son Alexis suffered from a genetic disease called hemophilia, which resulted in uncontrolled bleeding and hemorrhaging, often leaving him weak and bedridden. The disease was incurable; doctors could do little except prescribe rest.
Rasputin had, through friends of the Royal family, been invited to the palace,and it wasn't long before he became a confidante, telling stories to the children and giving Biblical advice to Alexandra. She became taken with him.
Strangely,Rasputin's presence at Alexis' bedside often left him dramatically improved, to the great astonishment of the doctors. Alexandra requested Rasputin's presence whenever Alexis was overcome with the disease. At one point, Alexis suffered severe hemorrhaging, and Rasputin's presence seemed to miraculously help the boy recover.
At thispoint (after about 1910), Rasputin's standing in the Russian community improved. As a favoured friend of the Royal family, he became the centre of attention at many social gatherings, and even managed to dress in clean clothes.
But he wasover bearing, disrespectful, obnoxious, and rude, and did not make many friends outside the Royal family. In fact, people outside the palace began to suspect he was a fraud, but Alexandra would not believe it when people told her this.Nicholas attempted to send Rasputin away, but Alexandra brought him back. Rasputin remained in favour at the palace.
He took advantage of his hold over Alexandra by becoming involved with politics. He appointed people to government positions, and fired others. Many of the people he held influence over were corrupt, lazy, or incompetent. Anyone who objected to his behaviour was removed from office. Complaints to Nicholas fell on deaf ears, as Alexandra always stood up for Rasputin. Rasputin was becoming unpopular, and making enemies. Scandal after scandal ocurred in the government because of the actions of the unscrupulous people he had appointed.
Nicholas's popularity as Tsar was suffering as well, since Rasputin was seen to be in his favour.
Meanwhile, the First World War had begun, and Russia was at war with Germany. In 1915 Nicholas took command of the Russian troops fighting the Germans. He left Alexandra, as Tsarina, to act as ruler in his absence. Of course, she had Rasputin at her side, acting as advisor, and giving advice on how to run the country, and how to conduct the war. Nicholas, regrettably, went along with her decisions. In a short time, the country was in chaos.
Since Alexis' hemophilia had always been a state secret, St. Petersburg society could not understand the Royal family's fascination with 'the Mad Monk', Rasputin. Rumours started that, with Nicholas away at the front, Rasputin had seduced the Tsarina and even her daughters. The Royal couple's position was becoming increasingly weak. There were suspicions that Rasputin and the 'foreigner' Alexandra (who was German) were secretly plotting to defeat Russia. Both the Russian nobility and the general population came to believe that Rasputin and Alexandra were destroying their country, and that Rasputin must go.
Several members of the Russian nobility, including Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich and Prince Felix Yussoupov, blaming all of Russia's troubles on the 'MadMonk', began plotting to kill Rasputin. Prince Yussoupov invited Rasputin to a party at the Prince's palace. The assassins offered him cakes and wine, both heavily dosed with cyanide. After eating a few cakes with no ill effect, Rasputin complained of a dry throat and guzzled down the wine; at this point he had taken enough cyanide to kill several men! But he was still alive! Panicking, Yussoupov got a pistol and shot him in the chest. Rasputin was beaten, shot again, tied up, and eventually thrown into the freezing river.
Amazingly, three days later when an autopsy was performed on his recovered body, it became evident that Rasputin had died of drowning. He had been still alive when he hit the water!
Rasputin was buried in secrecy by the Royal family. The assassins had assumed that, with Rasputin dead and no longer able to influence Alexandra, his control of Nicholas would cease, and the Tsar would be free to choose competent officials who would be able to restore the fortunes of the country.
But it was too late. Nicholas, apparently on the verge of a nervous breakdown, lost interest in governing the country, and Alexandra continued to make the political decisionson her own. But labour unrest, and her unpopular rule, were setting the stage for a revolution. Less than two years later, Nicholas hadlost his throne, and the Imperial family were imprisoned and ultimately murdered at the hands of the revolutionary Bolsheviks.
Other Fascinating FactsAbout Rasputin and the Romanovs:"Alexandra was one of the favourite grand-daughters of Queen Victoria of Great Britain, who was third cousin to Nicholas. Alexandra was one of Victoria's many grand-daughters who passed on hemophilia, which ran in the family, to their children. Tsar Nicholas II and Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, with whom Russia went to war, were cousins. Seventies pop group Boney M summed up Rasputin's exploits very nicely: 'Most people looked at him with terror and with fear / But to Moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear'. The instrumental version of that song is what you hear playing in the background. One theory regarding Rasputin's ability to stop Alexei's bleeding is that he used a sort of hypnosis to slow the boy's heartbeat, reducing the force with which the blood was circulated in his body News of Rasputin's death was celebrated, and the murderers were seen as heroes who had saved Russia from the influence of the German Alexandra and the mad monk Rasputin. Nicholas sent Rasputin's murderers into exile. Ironically, this punishment eventually saved them from imprisonment and assassination by the Bolsheviks. Rasputin's corpse was exhumed and burned by a mob during the February Revolution of 1917."