The man who wouldn’t die: Rasputin
This is the story of a man who claimed to be holy and possess mystical powers. Russian history is incomplete without the eccentric life of Rasputin; the man who refused to die.
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was born to a Siberian peasant family around 1869, Rasputin received little schooling and probably never learned to read or write. In his early years, some of his village said he possessed supernatural powers due to his deep gaze with his fierce blue eyes, his appearance and rumors while others cite examples of extreme cruelty. Rasputin perverted pagan beliefs into the doctrine that one was nearest God when feeling “holy passionlessness” and that the best way to reach such a state was through the sexual exhaustion that came after prolonged debauchery.
After failing to become a monk, he wed Proskovia Fyodorovna at age 19 and they later had three children (two others died shortly after birth). In his early 20s, however, Rasputin left his family and traveled to Greece and the Middle East, making several pilgrimages to the Holy Land. He later wandered to Mount Athos, Greece, and Jerusalem, living off the peasants’ donations and gaining a reputation as a starets (self-proclaimed holy man) with the ability to heal the sick and predict the future.
In 1905 Rasputin was introduced to the royal family, and in 1908 he was summoned to the palace of Nicholas( the Czar) and Alexandra(the Czarina) during one of their hemophiliac son’s bleeding episodes. Rasputin succeeded in easing the boy’s suffering (probably by his hypnotic powers) and, upon leaving the palace, warned the parents that the destiny of both the child and the dynasty were irrevocably linked to him, thereby setting in motion a decade of Rasputin’s powerful influence on the imperial family and affairs of state.
Between 1906 and 1914, various politicians and journalists used Rasputin’s association with the imperial family to undermine the dynasty’s credibility and push for reform. In truth, however, Rasputin’s influence at this time was limited to the health of Alexis. Rasputin’s returned to his ‘unholy self’ outside the court by preaching that physical contact with his own person had a purifying and healing effect therefore he acquired mistresses and attempted to seduce many other women.
Moreover, when accounts of Rasputin’s conduct reached the ears of Nicholas, the Czar refused to believe that he was anything other than a holy man and Rasputin’s accusers found themselves transferred to remote regions of the empire or entirely removed from their positions of influence.
By 1911 Rasputin’s behaviour had become a general scandal. The prime minister, P.A. Stolypin, sent the Czar a report on Rasputin’s misdeeds. As a result, the Czar expelled Rasputin, but Alexandra had him returned within a matter of months. Nicholas, anxious not to displease his wife or endanger his son, upon whom Rasputin had an obviously beneficial effect, chose to ignore further allegations of wrongdoing.
As Russia entered World War I, Rasputin predicted that calamity would befall the country. The Czar took command of the Russian Army in 1915, and Alexandra took responsibility for domestic policy. Always Rasputin’s defender, she dismissed ministers who were said to be suspicious of the “mad monk.” Government officials tried to warn her of Rasputin’s undue influence, but she continued to defend him, giving the impression that Rasputin was her closest advisor. There were rumors that Alexandra was getting too close to the mad monk and there might have been an affair.
Rasputin’s influence ranged from the appointment of church officials to the selection of cabinet ministers (often incompetent opportunists), and he occasionally intervened in military matters to Russia’s detriment. Though supporting no particular political group, Rasputin was a strong opponent of anyone opposing the autocracy or himself.
There were several attempts on Rasputin’s life, including a stabbing and soldiers with swords, but they failed until 1916, when supporters of the autocracy joined forces to kill the mystic and save the government from any further embarrassment. Also crucial to the plot was a personal matter: the ringleader may have been a self-hating gay man who had asked Rasputin to ‘cure’ him, but who became involved in an unusual relationship with him. Rasputin was invited to Prince Yusupov’s house, where he was given a poisoned meal, but as he failed to die immediately although the dose was supposed to be lethal in seconds so he was shot. As injured Rasputin tried to flee, he was shot again. Suprisingly, he was still on the run when they caught up with him and bound Rasputin and threw him into the Neva River. He was twice buried and dug up, before being cremated by a roadside.
The death of the mad monk was among the other causes of the Russian Revolution. The Czar’s family and the whole imperial regime weren’t just deposed, but executed just as Rasputin predicted.
Do you think Rasputin truly had mystical powers or was just a con-artist?