Grigori Rasputin was a Siberian starets (faith healer) who arrived in St Petersburg around 1904 and became an important friend and spiritual advisor to the Romanov royal family. In early 20th century Russia, still dominated by religion and infected by spiritualism and superstition, men like Rasputin commanded enormous interest and respect. Rasputin was a paradox: a holy man in the guise of an unwashed, foul-mouthed peasant. By day he was a spiritual advisor to royals and aristocrats, at night he crawled the streets of the city, guzzling cheap wine and seeking out sexual conquests. That such a creature could work his way into the palaces of the Romanovs was remarkable and worrying enough. But by 1916 Rasputin appeared to many as a malevolent puppeteer, pulling the strings of the tsarina and manipulating the government. He had to be stopped – and stopped he was, though not without bringing considerable shame and discredit to the tsarist regime.
Rasputin was born in Siberia in 1869. Almost nothing is known of his childhood except for the members of Rasputin’s immediate family. Later accounts tell of the young Rasputin demonstrating psychic or telepathic powers, however these stories are apocryphal and not supported by evidence. Rasputin married at a young age and later embarked on a pilgrimage, traveling by foot to Greece and the Holy Lands. In late 1904 Rasputin journeyed to St Petersburg, possibly inspired by stories that the newborn tsarevich Alexei was sickly and unlikely to live. He arrived in the capital, won over the local bishop and soon acquired a reputation as a preacher, a spiritual counsellor and a faith healer. One of Rasputin’s clients, and probably also one of his lovers, was Anna Vryubova, a lady-in-waiting and confidante to the tsarina, Alexandra Fyordorovna. Though she later denied this, Vryubova recommended Rasputin to the tsarina sometime in early 1905, suggesting that his prayers might benefit her son.
Rasputin’s ministrations had an immediate effect on the ailing tsarevich and he became a regular fixture in the Romanov court. The tsarina was convinced that Rasputin’s presence reduced the frequency and intensity of Alexei’s haemophiliac episodes. Whether this was truly the case – and if so, how it was done – remains a matter of historical debate. Some have claimed that Rasputin hypnotised the boy or simply put him at ease; either might have benefited his condition. Rasputin also pushed away several doctors, whose interference may have been worsening Alexei’s haemophilia rather than improving it. Whatever the reality, the tsarina came to associate Rasputin’s presence with her son’s health and happiness. The tsar was somewhat more sceptical about Rasputin but he was not inclined to question or challenge a religious figure. There was also the impact on his wife to consider (“better one Rasputin than ten fits of hysterics a day”, Nicholas once said in private).
The Romanovs supplied Rasputin with an apartment in St Petersburg and he became a regular visitor to both the Winter Palace and Tsarskoye Selo. When not with the royal family Rasputin provided spiritual advice – and sometimes sexual services – to at least two dozen upper-class women. When not with them he could be found drinking heavily in the city’s bars and cafes, dancing the kasachok and cavorting with prostitutes. Rasputin’s connections to the royal family were no secret, in fact he openly boasted that the tsarina and the throne were in his hands. This information was fodder for the city’s scandal sheets and socialist propagandists. Rumours of a sexual relationship between Alexandra and Rasputin worsened in 1912, when one of her letters was leaked to the press. “I kiss your hands and lay my head upon your blessed shoulders”, Alexandra wrote to Rasputin. “All I want is to sleep, sleep forever on your shoulder, in your embrace”.
The situation worsened in September 1915, when the tsar left to take command of the army, asking Alexandra to manage domestic affairs in his absence. The German-born tsarina was already the target of scurrilous rumours that questioned her loyalty to Russia. She was variously accused of selling Petrograd’s food supplies to the Germans through an intermediary; and of having a radio transmitter under her bed so she could communicate with Berlin. Though there is no concrete evidence of treachery, Alexandra was a political incompetent who was spellbound by Rasputin and prepared to do anything he proposed. Rasputin’s most visible impact on the government was to demand the replacement of ministers, usually to curry favour with his benefactors and drinking partners. Between September 1915 and February 1917 Russia went through four prime ministers, three war ministers and five interior ministers – most of them replaced at Rasputin’s behest. This ministerial leapfrogging destabilised an already foundering government.
Rasputin was a godsend for socialists and reformists, who pointed to his political interference and lurid nocturnal activities as evidence that tsarism was rotten to the core. Articles and cartoons depicted the tsar under Rasputin’s spell or dancing to his music; coarser examples played on the possibility of a sexual relationship between Rasputin and the tsarina. Consternation about Rasputin was particularly strong in the Duma and among conservative aristocrats, who were fearful that the ‘mad monk’ might single-handedly bring down the dynasty. In late 1916 a trio led by Prince Felix Yusupov, a minor royal, concocted a plan to murder Rasputin as a means of protecting the Romanovs. Rasputin was lured to Yusupov’s Petrograd palace, plied with wine and fed cakes baked with large amounts of cyanide. When this failed to work, the three conspirators stabbed and shot Rasputin then threw his body into the icy Neva River. Rasputin’s murder was intended to save tsarism – but the end of tsarism was already imminent, perhaps even inevitable.
1. Rasputin was a Siberian preacher, spiritual advisor and faith healer who arrived in St Petersburg in 1904.
2. He became a regular counsellor to the tsarina because of his ability to ease the suffering of her haemophiliac son.
3. In time Rasputin won the tsarina’s trust, while acquiring a reputation as a notorious drunk and philanderer.
4. From late 1915 he provided Alexandra with political advice, leading to the sacking and turnover of ministers.
5. Rasputin was also the focus point of tsarist propaganda and his presence threatened to bring down the dynasty. As a result he was assassinated by a conservative clique in December 1916.
This page was written by Jennifer Llewellyn, John Rae and Steve Thompson. To reference this page, use the following citation:
J. Llewellyn et al, “Grigori Rasputin” at Alpha History, http://alphahistory.com/russianrevolution/grigori-rasputin/, 2014, accessed [date of last access].
Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin is known as the Siberian Mystic Healer, whose life has been retold numerous of times and almost each time it is told it is retold in a different way. Since Rasputin lived in a civilization not that advanced, little is know of his first forty years of life. So most information on the man are normally from stories families have passed on. Some say he is a holy monk with great powers, on the other hand he may be known as a phony with a false connection to God.
Rasputin was born between 1864 and 1865 in his own home of Pokrovskoe. It is now known as Tiumen Oblast. It is located in Siberia on the Toura River. This was a small city located near the Ural Mountains. At the center of the village stood a large white church with a guilded dome, which was a symbol of Russias strong religious background.
At the age of eighteen Rasputin went through a religious transition. He eventually went to the monastery at Verkhoture. At this place he became aquatinted to the Khlysty sect. After spending some time at this monastery he did not become a monk. When he came to this monastery he had no intentions of becoming a monk. But this even eventually leads to fame and power for Rasputin.
At the age of nineteen, Rasputin returned to his home in Pokrovskoe. There he fell in love and married Praskovia Fyodorovna. Together the two had three children. They had Dimitri in 1897, Maria in 1898, and Varvara in 1900.
Marriage wasnt enough to keep Rasputin in one place. He continued to wander to places of religious significance suck as Mt. Athos, Greece, and Jerusalem. He was a self-proclaimed holy man. He had the power to heal the sick and the power to predict the future. His fame grew greatly. Soon people traveled from long distances in search of his well heard about abilities and insight. For Rasputins help, people would repay him with food, presents, and money. Rasputin has had no long period of religious or spiritual training. He also had very limited education so he was left illiterate. This made his theatrical abilities become very useful.
One day while Rasputin was plowing in the fields he had a revelation. The story states that a Heavenly Mother touched him. She told him of young Aleksei, the tsarevich and she instructed him to appear at the boys side to stop his bleeding. His bleeding was a result of his hemophilia. He made his initial move towards St. Petersburg in1902, when he visited the city of Kazan near the Volga River. After this trip he had a rapidly growing group of disciples and acquaintances in the upper class, and he was known as a man of God.
The City of St. Petersburg
Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg at a time when church leaders were really vulnerable. They wanted people with religious influence, and who had power over the people. Rasputin was both an ordinary peasant simple, forceful, and direct while at the same time he possessed the power to astonish people with his healing powers and his insight into the future. People in the city had different views on the man. One was that he was a very holy man who possessed great powers. The other is that he was just a cynical, and that he used religion to mask his drive for sex, money, and power.
Rasputin had a very active sex life. He was reported to hold orgies in the basement of his house at the same time he lived with his wife around 1900. Later, after Rasputin had a rise to fame he attracted a large crowd of female followers. Many of the pictures of Rasputin are with him surrounded by women. There are reports of Rasputin raping women. These reports are untrue because Rasputin really didnt have to rape the to get them into bed. All of these activities did not conflict with Rasputins religious beliefs. He did not particularly care for the orthodox religion. He was a member of the Khlisti sect. Followers of the Khlisti sect believed that all of the desires of the man should be fulfilled, and man of its members held orgies to fulfill their needs. Some people claim that Rasputin thought that he vitally derived from having sex. There are reports of Rasputin having sex with the tsarina, but the are totally false.
Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg in 1905 and he was not invited to the czars palace until 1907. When Rasputin met the Tsar and the Tsarina, he was needed as a healer for Aleksie to stop one of his bleeding episodes. Nicholas and Alexandra were very secretive about their sons condition for fear that, if made public; he would never become tsar. Reluctant to invite Rasputin, they finally realized the extent of their sons infliction and the powerlessness of his doctors. The Tsarevichs disease, formally know as hemophilia, was common throughout European royalty and was passed on to him by his mother. Upon leaving the palace after curing Aleksie this time, Rasputin warned that the Trarevich and the Romanov dynasty are irrevocably linked to him.
It is said that Raputin had a special way with the tsars. The tsar would often give Rasputin input on very important royal decisions. Some think he had some sort of hypnosis over them.
The End of Raputin
There were multiple attempts to kill Rasputin. Once a religious fanatic gutted him and he nearly died. However Rasputin was not invincible. A group of conspirators who included Prince Felix Felixovitch Yussupov finally got to him. The prince invited Rasputin to a party at his home where he was going to show him his beautiful niece. The other conspirators had prepared some chocolate cakes and wine heavily laced with potassium cyanide. Rasputin reluctantly ate a few cakes and complained of a dry throat and guzzled down the wine. At this point Rasputin had had enough potassium cyanide to kill six men. Rasputin said he felt a burning sensation in his stomach and appeared to be sleepy for a few moments, then suddenly became alert and asked the prince to sing a son for him. The nervous prince did so and then ran upstairs to tell his fellow conspirators of that the poison had no effect. He then got a pistol and went downstairs, where Rasputin was looking at a piece of artwork. The prince asked Rasputin to take a closer look, then proceeded to shoot him point blank in the chest. The prince then checked Rasputins vital signs that indicated that he was dead. The prince then went and got his friends to show them. When the prince was leaning over Rasputin, he regained conciousness and reached up and grabbed the prince with an enormous grip. The prince finally got away (probably by knifing him). Rasputin then got up and ran out the door where he was shot again. The men then proceeded to tie him up and beat him. They then took him to the Neva River and threw him in. When Rasputin was found the ties around his body were broke, and the autopsy states that he died from drowning.
I write and leave behind me this letter at St. Petersburg. I feel that I shall leave life before January 1st. I wish to make known to the Russian people, to Papa, to the Russian Mother and to the children, to the land of Russia, what they must understand. If I am killed by common assassins, and especially by my brothers the Russian peasants, you, Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear, remain on your throne and govern, and you, Russian Tsar, will have nothing to fear for your children, they will reign for hundreds of years in Russia. But if I am murdered by boyars, nobles, and if they shed my blood, their hands will remain soiled with my blood, for twenty-five years they will not wash their hands from my blood. They will leave Russia. Brothers will kill brothers, and they will kill each other and hate each other, and for twenty-five years there will be no noblers in the country. Tsar of the land of Russia, if you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Grigory has been killed, you must know this: if it was your relations who have wrought my death then no one of your family, that is to say, none of your children or relations will remain alive for more than two years. They will be killed by the Russian people…I shall be killed. I am no longer among the living. Pray, pray, be strong, think of your blessed family.
This letter was written to Tsarina Alexandra on December 7, 1916. Twenty-three days later Rasputin was killed and nineteen months later after Rasputins death the Tsar and his family lay dead.
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