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Gregory Rasputin

mystic, healer, royal adviser

Gregory Rasputin

Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin was born to a peasant family in Pokrovskoye, Siberia on January 10, 1869. Almost nothing is known about his early life except that he had a very limited education and was likely unable to either read or write.

When he was about eighteen, Rasputin spent three months at the Verkhoture Monastery. After leaving the monastery, he became familiar with a sect known as the Khlysty, which preached the notion that the closest relationship to God could best be achieved while exhausted from prolonged sexual engagements. At age 19 he married Proskovia Fyodorovna, who bore him three children. Sometime around 1901, Rasputin gave up family life to become a wandering holy man, reportedly travelling as far as Greece and Jerusalem while establishing a self-created reputation as a healer and fortune teller. Winding up in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1903, Rasputin soon met up with the the Bishop of Saratov, Hermogen, who subsequently introduced him to Czar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Fedorovna.

Initially little more than yet another "mystic" with whom the Romanovs were familiar, Rasputin's rise to royal influence began in 1908, when he somehow managed to stop a "bleeding attack" being suffered by Prince Alexei, a haemophiliac. Although exactly how he helped the boy has never been conclusively determined, the fact that he succeeded where traditional doctors had failed earned him the gratitude of the royal family, especially of Czarina Alexandra.

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/or cavorting with prostitutes. The Czar, informed in detail of Rasputin's scandalous conduct, initially dismissed Rasputin from court, but the influence of Alexandra ensured his rapid recall. Thereafter, both Nicholas and Alexandra declined to give credence to further reports of Rasputin's misbehavior. Since news of Alexei's condition was not allowed to be made general knowledge, the public at large, unaware of Rasputin's chief role as a healer at court, assumed that he was actively seducing Alexandra. Salacious details of his general conduct, fed and exaggerated by his many ill-wishers, became the subject of public scandal.

Rasputin's influence continued into World War I. In September 1915, Nicholas decided to take personal command of the Russian Army at the front, leaving domestic governance of political affairs in the hands of Alexandra, who relied almost exclusively on Rasputin for advice. Due in large part to Rasputin's influence, Russia went through four prime ministers, three war ministers and five interior ministers between September 1915 and February 1917. The constant government turmoil, combined with the general public assumption that Alexandra was romantically involved with Rasputin, led many to believe that the two were covertly working with Germany (it didn't help that Alexandra was German by birth). With public discontent growing, a group of nobles (Felix Yusupov, Vladimir Purishkevich, Grand Duke Dmitri Oavlovich Romanov, Dr, Stanislaus de Lazovert, and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin) decided that the best way to save the Russian Empire was to get rid of Rasputin.

On the night of December 16-17, 1916, Yusupov invited Rasputin to dinner. According to Yusupov's account, Rasputin was given wine and cakes poisoned with cyannide. When Rasputin appeared to suffer no ill effects from the cyannide, Yusupov shot him. Although he initially appeared to be dead, Rasputin suddenly sprang up and tried to escape from the house, at which time one of the other conspirators shot him again. The second shot succeeded in bringing Rasputin down, after which the conspirators dropped his body through a hole in the ice-covered Neva River. His corpse was discovered a few days later.

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The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Eastern Europe >> Russia >> House of Romanov, 1613-1917

This page was last updated on June 14, 2017.