Biography of Grigory Rasputin

Rasputin
Rasputin. Wikimedia Commons

Rasputin was a self proclaimed ‘Mystic’ who gained great influence over the Russian royal family because they believed he could cure their son’s haemophilia. He caused chaos in the government, and was murdered by conservatives seeking an end to his humiliations. His actions played a small part in the onset of the Russian Revolution.

Early Years

Grigory Rasputin was born into a peasant family in Siberian Russia in the late 1860s, although the date of his birth is uncertain, as are the number of siblings, even those who survived.

Rasputin told stories and kept his facts confused. He claimed he developed mystical skills at age 12. He went to a school, but failed to become academic, and after adolescence earned the name ‘Rasputin’ for his actions drinking, seducing and engaging in crime (violence, theft and rape); it derives from the Russian for ‘dissolute’ (although supporters claim it derives from the Russian word for crossroads, as his village and his reputation is unwarranted).

Around the age of 18 he married and had three surviving children. He may have experienced some sort of religious epiphany and travelled to a monastery, or (more likely) he was sent as a punishment by the authorities, although he didn’t actually become a monk. Here he encountered a sect of masochistic religious extremists, and developed the belief that you became closest to God when you had overcome your earthly passions, and the best way to achieve this was through sexual exhaustion.

Siberia had a strong tradition of extreme mysticism which Grigory fell straight into. Rasputin had a vision (again, possibly) and then left the monastery, married, and began to travel around Eastern Europe working as a mystic who claimed prophecy and healing while living off donations before returning to Siberia.

Relationship with the Tsar

Around 1903 Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg, near a Russian court that was deeply interested in the esoteric and the occult. Rasputin, who combined a dirty, scruffy appearance with piercing eyes and evident charisma, and who proclaimed himself a wandering mystic, was introduced to court by members of the church and the aristocracy, who were looking for holy men of common stock who would appeal to the court, and who would thus boost their own importance. Rasputin was perfect for this, and was first introduced to the Tsar and Tsarina in 1905. The Tsar’s court had a long tradition of holy men, mystics and other esoteric people, and Nicholas II and his wife were heavily involved in the occult revival: a succession of con people and failures went through, and Nicholas thought he was in contact with his dead father.

1908 saw arguably the crucial event of Rasputin’s life: he was called to the royal palace while the Tsar’s son was experiencing haemophiliac bleeding. When Rasputin appeared to have aided the boy, he informed the royals that he believed the future of both the boy and the ruling Romanov dynasty were deeply connected to him. The royals, desperate on behalf of their son, felt desperately indebted to Rasputin, and allowed him permanent contact.

However, it was in 1912 when his position became unassailable, due to a very lucky coincidence: the Tsarina’s son fell almost fatally ill during an accident and then a coach ride and experienced a sudden recovery from a near fatal tumour, but not before Rasputin was able to telephone through some prayers and claims to have interceded with god.

During the next few years, Rasputin lived something of a double life, acting life a humble peasant while around the immediate royal family, but outside living a debauched lifestyle, humiliating and seducing noble women, as well as drinking heavily and consorting with prostitutes. The Tsar rejected complaints levelled against the mystic, even exiling some of his accusers. Compromising photographs were hushed up. However, in 1911 the dissent became so great Prime Minister Stolypin issued the Tsar with a report on Rasputin’s actions, which prompted the Tsar to bury the facts.

  The Tsarina remained both desperate for aid for her son and in Rasputin’s thrall. The Tsar, also afraid for his son, and pleased that the Tsarina was placated, now ignored all complaints. 

Rasputin also pleased the Tsar: Russia’s ruler saw in him the sort of simple peasant rusticity they hoped would support them in leading a return to a more old fashioned autocracy. The royal family felt increasingly isolated and welcomed what they thought was an honest peasant friend. Hundreds would come to see him; even his blackened finger nail clippings were taken was relics. They wanted his magical powers for their ills, and his powers over the Tsarina for more earthly issues. He was a legend across Russia, and they bought him many gifts. They were the Rasputinki. . He was a huge fan of the phone, and could almost always be reached for advice. He lived with his daughters.

Rasputin runs Russia

When in 1914 World War 1 began, Rasputin was in hospital after he’d been stabbed by an assassin, and he was against the war until he did a U-turn having realised the Tsar was going ahead anyway. But Rasputin began to have doubts about his abilities, he felt he was losing them. In 1915 Tsar Nicholas personally took over the military operations to try and halt Russia’s failings, replacing a man Rasputin had arranged to have replaced. He traveled to the front, leaving Alexandria in charge of internal affairs.

Rasputin’s influence was now so great he was more than simply the Tsarina’s advisor, and he began to appoint and fire people to and from positions of power, including the cabinet.

The result was a carousel which depended entirely on Rasputin’s whims than any merit or status, and a swift succession of ministers who were sacked before they could learn the job. This created massive opposition to Rasputin and undermined the entire ruling Romanov regime

Murder

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 – including a Prince, a Grand Duke and a member of the Duma – joined forces to kill the mystic and save the government from any further embarrassment, and stop calls to replace the Tsar. 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 he was shot. Although injured Rasputin tried to flee, where he was shot again. Then the group bound Rasputin and threw him into the Neva River. He was twice buried and dug up, before being cremated by a roadside.

Kerensky, a man who led the provisional government in 1917 after the revolution replaced the Tsar, and who knew a thing or two about failing to govern the divided nation, said that without Rasputin there would have been no Lenin. (Other causes). The Romanov rulers weren't just deposed, but executed by the Bolsheviks falling as Rasputin predicted.