Rasputin, the So-Called Mad Monk Who Brought Down the Romanov Dynasty
Often referred to as the "Mad Monk,” many believe Rasputin possessed psychic abilities and the gift of miraculous healing. Always described as an unwashed and sexually promiscuous self-styled holy man, history reflects Rasputin’s apparent part in helping to bring down the empire of the Russian Tsars, leading to the fall of the Romanov Dynasty in 1917.
- Psychic abilities and the gift of miraculous healing
- The Romanov Dynasty
- Nicholas, Alexandra, and Alexis
- Outspoken and charismatic
- The assassination plot
- “My hour will soon come"
Psychic abilities and the gift of miraculous healing
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (January 1869–December 1916) was born in the small village of Pokrovskoye along the Tura River in the Tobolsk guberniya (now Tyumen Oblast) in Siberia.
Often referred to as the "Mad Monk,” Rasputin was considered by many of his time to be a "strannik" (religious pilgrim), and even a “starets” or "elder,” a title generally reserved for monk-confessors, believing him to possess psychic abilities and the gift of miraculous healing. One often cited example of these reputed powers occurred when Grigori's father, Efim Rasputin, had one of his horses stolen and Rasputin was able to identify the man who had committed the theft simply by sensing it.
When Rasputin was around eighteen years of age, he spent three months in the Verkhoturye Monastery. His experience there, combined with a reported vision of the Virgin Mary, apparently influenced him to follow the life of a religious mystic and wanderer. Many historians believe that he also came into contact with the banned Christian sect known as the khlysty (flagellants) whose ecstatic rituals end in physical exhaustion, which may account for Rasputin’s reported extreme sexual attitudes.
The Romanov Dynasty
Always described and depicted as an unwashed and sexually promiscuous self-styled holy man, history reflects Rasputin’s apparent part in helping to bring down the empire of the Russian Tsars (leading to the fall of the Romanov Dynasty in 1917) after first becoming the personal confidant of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra, and personal spiritual healer to son Alexei. But despite his seeming influence on Russian history, there has been much uncertainty over Rasputin's actual involvement as accounts are based on dubious memoirs, hearsay, and a growing legend which favors the fantastic.
Nicholas, Alexandra, and Alexis
Already notorious for his many sexual affairs with aristocratic women (and later rumors that he had intimate knowledge of the Tsarina as well), Rasputin came to the attention to Tsar Nicholas and his wife when he successfully healed the favorite hunting dog of a member of the royal family. Tsarina Alexandra, said to have believed heavily in faith healing, became interested in his reputation because their only son (and heir) Alexis suffered from hemophilia, a painful malady which doctors has warned would end in death at a young age. Summoning Rasputin to the royal court, he is said to have helped the boy recover by prayer and the laying of hands. Rasputin’s influence over the royal family apparently stemmed from this seemingly miraculous act.
Outspoken and charismatic
An outspoken opponent of war, Rasputin voiced his condemnation of Russia’s involvement in WWI at every opportunity--in the restaurants, bars, and halls, and in the bedrooms of the aristocratic women he bedded.
The poor decisions made by the Tsar during the time of Rasputin's influence, coupled with the contempt his very presence in the Royal Palace brought to the Russian people, seems to have contributed significantly to the fall of the Tsar in the last days of the dynasty. The Russian people had lost confidence in their ruler at a time of grave crisis; the war was going badly, and there were severe food shortages at home. And as public confidence waned, the revolutionary ideas that had already been fermenting across the Russian countryside over the past fifty years began to bubble to the surface.
The assassination plot
Seeking to distance the Russian government from Rasputin and his influence, Minister of War Alexander Guchkov charged him with being a member of the illegal and orgiastic sect, the khlysty. The Tsar, however, continued to refer to Rasputin as "our friend" and a "holy man,” refusing to alienate the healer.
Taking matters into their own hands, on December 16, 1916, a group of nobles led by Prince Felix Yusupov, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and right-wing politician Vladimir Purishkevich, lured Rasputin to the Yusupovs' Moika Palace by intimating that Yusupov's wife, Princess Irina, would be present and receiving friends. (In point of fact, she was away in the Crimea.)
Once there, the conspirators led Rasputin down to the cellar where they served him cakes and red wine laced with a massive amount of cyanide. According to legend, Rasputin was unaffected although Vasily Maklakov had supplied “enough poison to kill five men.” Two hours later, although Rasputin appeared tired, he was still very much alive. In frustration, Prince Felix Yusupov then got his revolver and shot him once in the heart, after which Rasputin appeared lifeless and Yusupov could find no pulse. But then suddenly, first one eye opened, and then the other and then Rasputin leaped to his feet and attacked Yusupov, attempting to strangle him, all the while said to be "foaming at the mouth."
“My hour will soon come"
Fleeing the palace on his own power, Rasputin was moving across the courtyard warning that he was going to tell the Tsarina, when Purishkevich shot him, striking him in the back. When Rasputin stopped, Purishkevich fired again, sending him to the ground. He then kicked the body in the temple, leaving a large gash.
When the body was brought into the palace, Yusupov is said to have lost control, repeatedly clubbing Rasputin on the head with a blackjack. (Some accounts say his killers even sexually mutilated him, severing his penis.) Binding his body and wrapping him in a carpet, they then threw him into the icy Neva River where the body was eventually discovered about seven hundred and fifty feet downstream, where it had apparently traveled under the ice. The autopsy revealed that Rasputin had water in his lungs, meaning he was still alive when he was thrown into the water. A photograph from the autopsy suggests that he was still trying to free himself from his bonds with his final breath.
Subsequently, the Tsaritsa Alexandra buried Rasputin on the grounds of Tsarskoye Selo, and a short time later, the Russian Revolution eliminated Nicholas and his family forever.
While many legends follow the life and death of Rasputin, one of the most poignant is evidence that he apparently had premonitions of his own death, as well as the fall of Russia. In a letter written by Rasputin he states, “My hour will soon come. I have no fear but you must know that the hour will be bitter. I will suffer a great martyrdom. I will forgive my torturers and will inherit the kingdom." In a conversation said to have taken place on the day of his death (with the Tsarina), he said, "Little mother, I feel my end is near. They'll kill me and then the throne won't last 3 months."
After the "February Revolution," a group of workers from Saint Petersburg uncovered Rasputin's remains, carried them into the nearby woods, and burned them. As the body was burning, Rasputin is said to have sat up in the fire, his attempts to stand thoroughly horrified bystanders. This final event only further fueled the legends and mysteries surrounding Rasputin which continue to live on to this day.
Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs, Colin Wilson
images via wikipedia.org unless credited otherwise (with my thanks)
H. H. Holmes
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