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Rasputin: The Man and the Myth
Few people in the 20th Century have been more notorious, yet more
mysterious, than the Siberian peasant who burst upon the world’s stage in 1905,
Gregory Yefimovich Novykh. Gregory is better known today as ?Rasputin.?
Rasputin literally translates to ?the debauched one,? a moral corrupter. To the
Imperial Family of Russia, he was simply ?Father Gregory.? Rasputin was known
for seeming to dominate the last Tsar of Russia, causing the downfall of both men.
Gregory Rasputin, the man was anything but simple. There still exists considerable
controversy amongst scholars as to who he was, what his influence over the tragic
Romanov dynasty really was, and perhaps most of all, what power he possessed to
heal Nicholas and Alexandra’s only son. ( Massie 490-495).
Rasputin is known as the Siberian mystic healer, whose life has been retold
countless number of times throughout history. People often talk of Rasputin?s
mystery and discrepancies associated with the depiction of Rasputin’s life. Because
he lived in a world beyond the reach of the written word, little is known about the
first 40 years of Rasputin’s life. What is known, has been retold through family
stories and mysterious tales of his healing powers and visions. This means that,
depending on the teller of the story, Rasputin might be a holy monk on one
occasion, then an actor or phony without any connection to God on
another. (Pathy, Rasputin par. 7-9). Some facts have been confirmed by historians
though. There is a general understanding that Rasputin was born between 1864
and 1865. His birth place and home was the village of Pokrovskoe, presently
Tiumen’ Oblast. Located in Siberia, Pokrovskoe can be found on the Toura River.
As a child Rasputin was often considered mischievous, however he was not
very intelligent. He acquired very little education as a child and even as an adult
he was illiterate. However like many aspects of Rasputin?s life there is little
history known of his early years, especially his childhood. (Pathy, Rasputin par.
At the age of 18, Rasputin went through a religious transition, eventually
traveling to the monastery at Verkhoture. Here, he was introduced to the Russian
religion Skoptsy. Skoptsy is a religion in which people believe the only way to
reach God is through sin; ?sin to drive out sin.? (Massie 495). Rasputin became
extraordinarily fascinated with this religion, however he did not take further
interest in it because of it?s lack of popularity. After traveling to the monastery
and spending some time there, he did not become a monk. Even though he did not
stay at the monastery to become a monk, this trip already set him on the path to
power and fame. (Massie 495).
At the age of 19 Rasputin returned to his hometown of Pokrovskoe and married
Praskovia Fyodorovna. They had three children: Dimitri in 1897, Maria in 1898,
and Varvara in 1900. Rasputin?s first son died at infancy and his youngest son had
a mental illness. Both of the girls were surprisingly healthy and lived with
Gregory in St. Petersburg most of their young lives. (Pathy, Rasputin par. 12-13).
To support his family Rasputin, like most men, turned to farming. It was said
Rasputin chose the ?employment? of farming over any other options because of
the peaceful time he had to think about his life and where he was going in life.
One day, while working in the fields, Rasputin claimed to have seen a vision of the
Virgin Mary. According to his vision, she instructed him to become a pilgrim. He
did not delay this pilgrimage and only a few short hours later bid his young family
farewell and set out on his journey, eventually walking some two thousand miles,
to the Orthodox monastery at Mount Athos in Greece. (Pathy,Rasputin par. 17;
Massie 496-497). When he returned to his village, his semi-religious beliefs
appeared to be very impressive. He attracted large crowds when he preached,
although his version of the Gospel, containing only half-learnt truths about sin and
salvation, was considered un-Orthodox. Also Rasputin also allegedly began to
practice what he preached as well. (Pathy, Rasputin par. 18).
Marriage did not settle Rasputin. Rasputin was a womanizer and although
Praskovie knew of this womanizing she never complained; ?He has enough for
all,? she would say. (Massie 498). And so since the married life obviously did not
satisfy Rasputin he continued to wander, traveling to places of religious
significance such as Mt. Athos, Greece and Jerusalem. A self proclaimed holy
man, Rasputin held the power to heal the sick and predict the future. His fame
grew far and wide, and soon people traveled from long distances in search of his
insight and healing powers. In return for his services, people brought presents of
food and money. While Rasputin paved his road to success little did he know
what lay ahead of him. (Massie 498; Clarson 505-506).
In late 1903 Empress Alexandra found herself pregnant with her second child.
Intense praying and spiritualism accompanied her throughout the pregnancy, she
prayed for a healthy baby. Finally on July 30, 1904, a little boy was born,
Alexandra was overjoyed. Nicholas and Alexandra called him Alexis in memory
of the second Romanov Tsar. The heir became the center of the family’s attention
as a delighted Imperial couple reveled in the joy of finally having an heir they
could call their own. Despite the couple’s delight, within months of Alexis’ birth a
dark cloud settled over the Imperial nursery. Alexis’s body, once injured, would
not stop bleeding. The Tsarevich was another victim of the dreaded disease
inherited from his great-grandmother Queen Victoria, hemophilia. Nicholas
accepted this new trial with stoic fatalism, Alexandra blamed herself for her son’s
affliction. The Tsar’s brother-in-law, Grand Duke Alexander Michaelovich, once
said that ?Alexandra refused to surrender to fate…she talked incessantly of the
ignorance of the physicians. She professed an open preference for medicine men.?
( Baker 76). She turned toward religion…but her prayers were tainted with a
certain hysteria. The stage was set for the appearance of a miracle worker
In the midst of this tragedy within the Imperial family, Rasputin appeared in St.
Petersburg. Initially, Rasputin moved prudently in the Russian capital’s
aristocratic circles. He tried, unsuccessfully, to restrain his debauched,
womanizing ways, yet temptation was overwhelming. Within months, Rasputin,
the saintly sinner, had achieved recognition and a small following in St.
Petersburg. Besides gaining the friendship of Grand Duchess Militza and
Anastasia, Rasputin also gained the trust of Anna Vyrubova, Empress Alexandra’s
trusted companion. It was under the recommendation of the Grand Duchesses and
Anna Vyrubova that Rasputin was summoned to appear before. (Massie 506-508).
Alexandra. Rasputin was introduced to Nicholas and Alexandra by Grand
Duchess Militza on October 31, 1905. Militza, a daughter of the King of
Montenegro who had married into the Russian Imperial Family, was renowned for
her interest in spiritualism and the newest holy men who constantly paraded
through the capital. She was eager to show off her latest discovery. “Today we got
to know a man of God, Gregory, from Tobolsk Province the Emperor recorded
simply in his diary.(Massie 507). He had no way of knowing how fateful the
meeting would be. (Massie 506-508).
Rasputin does not appear to have made much of an impression at first. Nicholas
and Alexandra had far more to worry about that this new holy peasant. Several
years after their first meeting with Gregory, during one of their son’s crisis, they
first turned to Rasputin, asking for his prayers. Rasputin prayed daily, and their
son, deathly ill and overcome with the devastating effects of the disease, quickly
recovered. This was to be a pattern repeated over and over again: Alexis fell ill,
Rasputin prayed, Alexis recovered. (Pathy, Rasputin par.26).
Faced with such incontrovertible evidence, Nicholas and Alexandra came to
believe that God had sent Rasputin to save their only son. Their dependence on the
Siberian peasant grew greater with each passing year, as cure after cure built one
upon the other into a seemingly undeniable record of divine intervention. (Clarson
As Rasputin’s fame, and, in many cases, disgrace, spread across St. Petersburg
and the Empire, Russia was left in disbelief. Wild tales of his drunken excesses
and orgies kept gossips busy for hours. He himself possessed a peasant’s love of
the tall tale, and greatly embellished his own accounts of his dealings with the
Imperial Family. Although his visits to the Alexander Palace were infrequent, no
one was prepared to believe the truth, preferring rumor to fact. And, because
Alexis?s hemophilia remained a carefully guarded secret within the Imperial
Family, no one understood why Nicholas and Alexandra continued to tolerate the
presence of this ill-mannered, vulgar, filthy man at Court. (Pathy, Rasputin par
29-30; Clarson 513).
Nicholas’s secret police quickly informed the Tsar of these rumors. An atoning
Rasputin was summoned to appear before the infuriated Tsar, however Alexandra
defended him in fear her son would die. Nicholas punished Rasputin by sending
him back to the provinces, but no sooner had Rasputin left when another bleeding
crisis almost killed Alexis. Rasputin’s influence over the boy guaranteed the
monk’s return to St. Petersburg. His position within the imperial circle was never
again challenged. Alexandra grew completely dependent on the man, who not only
became her son’s faith healer, but also the Empress’ confidant. The evil monk’s
presence among the Tsar and his family would further alienate them from the
capital and all those circles that had traditionally been the mainstay of tsarism.
Nicholas and Alexandra were doomed from that point on. ( Pathy, Rasputin par.
The outbreak of the First World War, and the Emperor’s decision to take
command of the Army himself, left the Empress – and, many believed, Rasputin -
at the head of the Government. Although Rasputin rarely offered political advice
(he had no understanding of politics) and often only echoed the views of the
Empress herself, everyone believed that he was now the power behind the Throne,
hiring and firing ministers and ordering the Emperor and Empress to do his evil
bidding. As the situation with the war worsened, and public dissatisfaction grew,
the rumblings against Rasputin became louder; it was only a matter of time before
those who believed Rasputin evil would try to seek their vengeance. (Baker 88).
This is the letter Rasputin wrote before his horrible death he foresaw. He
predicted that if he should happen to die because one of the Romanov or Romanov
relatives killed him, the entire Romanov family, including the children, would die
within 1 or 2 years. Two months later, the Romanov family was murdered by the
Bosheviks. No one knows how Rasputin’s so-called curse worked, he had no
affiliation with neither Lenin or the Revolutionists. Many Russian Gypsies thought
Rasputin might have made a pact with the devil for the curse. (Pathy, Rasputin par.
“I write and leave behind me this letter at St. Petersburg. I feel that I shall leave
life before January 1…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…if it was your relations
who have wrought my death, then no one in the 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…You must reflect and act prudently. Think of your safety
and tell your relations that I have paid for them with my blood. I shall be killed. I
am no longer among the living.”
Pray, pray, be strong,
think of your blessed family.
Gregory ( Pathy, Rasputin par. 37).
Rasputin is as famous for his life as well as for his death. Frustrated by their
inability to break down the walls built by Nicholas and Alexandra, some members
of the Romanov family took events into their own hands. How many of the
Romanovs were involved in the actual plotting to assassinate Rasputin will never
be known for certain. What is widely accepted is that the Tsar’s cousin, Grand
Duke Dimitri Pavlovich and Prince Felix Youssoupov, husband of Nicholas II’s
niece Princess Irina Alexandrovna of Russia, were among the leaders of the plot to
strike against Rasputin. The monk, always frustrated by the Romanov’s opposition
to his role in Russia, was invited by Youssoupov to attend an evening gathering at
his vast Petrograd palace. Felix promised Rasputin that his wife Irina would be
there to greet him. The monk fell in the trap and willingly arrived at the
Youssoupov palace in the evening of December 16, 1916. He did not survive the
evening. (Clarson 512-513; Massie 510-511; Krieger 596; Baker 96).
The three men, Prince Feliks, Vladimir Mitrofanovich, and the Grand Duke
Dimitry Pavlovich devised an intricate plan, the three invited Rasputin over to the
Yusupov Palace on December 30, 1916 to meet the Tsar’s beautiful niece. While
waiting for her to appear Rasputin was led to the cellar and fed cakes and wine
laced with poison, but these had no affect on him. Yussupov then shot Rasputin at
point blank range and Rasputin collapsed on the floor. When Yussupov went to
tell his fellow conspirators Rasputin was dead, they sent him back to make sure.
On returning to inspect the body, Rasputin suddenly regained consciousness. The
Prince fled the cellar, screaming for help. When Yussupov and Grand Duke Dmitri
returned, Rasputin was gone. They found him in the yard crawling towards the
gate and proceeded to shoot and bludgeon him. They then bound him and tossed
him into the Neva river. When Rasputin’s body was found the next day, his ties
were broken and his lungs were filled with water, showing that he didn’t actually
die until he was submerged in the frozen waters. (Clarson 512-513; Massie
510-511; Krieger 596; Baker 96
By the next day Prince Felix Youssoupov was under questioning by the
Petrograd police. So messy had been the assassins that proof of their deed was
found all over the Youssoupov palace. Within hours of the report concerning
Rasputin’s disappearance, the Petrograd police by orders of Alexandra, forbid the
conspirators from leaving the Russian capital. As soon as he received news of
events in Petrograd Nicholas boarded his train and hurriedly returned to the
capital. Rasputin’s corpse was discovered under the ice of the Neva on December
19. The fury and outrage expressed by Nicholas and Alexandra knew no bounds as
they sought to punish all of the conspirators. At the same time, news of Rasputin’s
death caused widespread eruptions of rapture in Petrograd. Dimitri and Felix were
heralded as heroes and many believed that the “alleged” German influence
represented by Alexandra was going to stop.(Clarson 512-513; Massie 510-513;
While the Petrograd elite enjoyed their supposed liberation from Rasputin’s
clutches, the vast majority of the Russian population saw the events in a
completely different light. For 80% of the Russian population Rasputin was a
“man of the people.” He was their hope that the imperial couple would never
forget the plight of the peasantry. His assassination at the hands of aristocrats, and
even members of the imperial family, robbed the upper classes of much support
among the inhabitants of their estates. ( Massie 514).
In the end, Nicholas sent his two wayward relatives into exile. Ironically
enough, it was this punishment what allowed Dimitri and Felix to avoid falling in
the hands of Bolsheviks during the revolution. Within three months of Rasputin’s
death, Nicholas lost his throne, the imperial family were imprisoned and many of
the Romanov cousins arrested. In then end almost twenty members of the
Romanov family were massacred by Bolshevik firing squads. No other epitaph to
Rasputin’s death better exemplifies the repercussions of the monk’s death than that
written by Grand Duchess Maria Pavlova, sister, in her Memoirs: “His death came
to late to change the course of events. His dreadful name had become too
thoroughly a symbol of disaster. The daring of those who killed him to save their
country was miscalculated. All of the participants in the plot, with the exception of
Prince Youssoupov later understood that in raising their hands to preserve the old
regime they struck it, in reality, its final blow?. (Pathy Rasputin par. 41).
Although many true facts about Rasputin have been lost what now remains is
the undying ledgened and myth of Rasputin. When People speak of Rasputin?s
myth they talk of the curse that he laid upon the Romanov family, some say he
sold his soul to the devil in order to place that curse on the family… (Rasputin par.
The dreadful night of July 16, 1918, at midnight the chief executioner Yakov
?dark man? Yurovsky, went upstairs to awaken the Romanov family. In his pocket
he had a Colt pistol with a cartridge clip. Dr. Bortkin, the family doctor was alert,
he was already awake writing a letter which would turn up to be his last letter.
Yurovsky explained his intrusion saying, ?Because of unrest in the town, it has
become necessary to move the family downstairs,? he said. ?It would be dangerous
to be in the upper rooms if there was shooting in the streets.?(Rasputin par. 16-17).
Botkin understood and went to awake the family and tell them to get dressed
quickly. Nicholas, 50, and Alexis, 13, dressed in simple military shirts, trousers,
boots, and cap. Alexandra, 46, and Olga, 22, Tatiana, 21, Marie, 19, and
Anastasia, 17, quickly dressed. From there Yurovsky led all of them downstairs,
to a bare room with no furniture. Then he announced;
“In view of the fact that your relatives are continuing their attack on Soviet Russia,
the Ural Executive Committee has decided to……execute you.” ( Rasputin par.
Yurovsky then used Colt in his pocket and fired at the Tsar. Soon the entire
squad began to fire at the family, each of the soldiers had been told beforehand
whom they were assigned to shoot and ordered to aim for the heart to avoid
excessive quantities of blood. The empress and Olga each tried to make a sign of a
cross as a prayer but they did not have time. Now Alexis and Tatiana, Marie and
Anastasia remained alive. It is said bullets fired at the daughters? chest but they
seemed to bounce off, (later Historians found out the daughters sowed jewels on
their dresses to act as a shield). While Alexis grasping for support was kicked in
the head by a executioner. Then the executioners stabbed Alexis, Marie, and
Anastasia. Blood was everywhere. (Rasputin par. 19-21).
Sheets off the beds were collected to drag out the bodies. When they picked
up Anastasia?s body and put her on a sheet she cried out. She was still alive. But
then she got still and they continued, till they got to a abandoned place in the
dense forest called the Four Brothers. There they undressed the family and
collected their items and the jewels from the duchesses to resell them in a
market.(Rasptin par. 23).
To get rid of any evidence of carnage, bones, and a rotting corpse they
chopped the bodies up into fine pieces which looked like chopped meat, …then the
bodies were destroyed with sulfuric acid and by burning on the bonfires with the
aid of gasoline. The fatty matter in the corpses melted and spread over the ground
where it became mixed with the earth. (Rasputin par. 25).
Now, ever since the night of the Romanov massacre took place, there has
been two missing corpses which is that of Anastasia and her brother Alexis.
Anastasia was the one who executioners claimed was still alive when they put her
on the sheet to drag her out. When they dumped the bodies, the executioners could
not find Anastasia?s. So they left the situation alone and moved on. So,…if
Anastasia was still alive from the shooting, and was not buried alive because they
didn?t find her body, then…..what could have happened? (Rasputin par 27-29).
Some say Anastasia burns in the fiery pits of Hell alongside Rasputin
answering his every whim. No matter where Anastasia did go and whether or not
she survived her soul will never lay at rest peacefully for it is tainted, as are her
families, with the harsh regrets of a single mystical myth known only as Rasputin;
the cause for the downfall of the Imperial government, the cause for the collapse
of her family. (Rasputin par. 31; Clarson 517).
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