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Grigori Jefimovich

Rasputin is known as the Siberian mystic healer, whose life has been retold countless number of times throughout history. One of the major problems is the 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. Some facts have been confirmed by historians though. 

There is a general consensus that Rasputin was born between 1864 and 1865. His birth place and home (when he was not wandering) was the village of Pokrovskoe, presently Tiumen' Oblast. Located in Siberia, Pokrovskoe can be found on the Toura River and is not far from the Ural Mountains. In the other direction, to the west, almost 1500 miles fall between the Urals and St. Petersburg. In the late 1800's, when Rasputin lived in Pokrovskoe, the village had only a few streets, lined with spacious wooden houses. Depending on a family's wealth, the houses were either one or two stories. The homes were not simple wooden abodes, rather their decoration included ornate carving, as well as painted beams and window frames. At the village's center stood a large white church with a guilded dome, a symbol of Russia's strong religious history.The Encyclopedia Britannica reports that at the age of 18, Rasputin went through a religious transition, eventually traveling to the monastery at Verkhoture. Here, he was introduced to the Khlysty sect. 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. Rasputin.gif (25546 byte) At the age of 19 Rasputin returned to Pokrovskoe and married Praskovia Fyodorovna. They had three children: Dimitri in 1897, Maria in 1898, and Varvara in 1900. The picture to the left, shows Rasputin with his three children, circa 1910. Marriage did not settle 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.

 

He had no long period of religious or spiritual training and he had only a limited academic education (he was not literate), thus his theatrical abilites became useful. While explaining his training, Alex de Jonge, the author of The Life and Times of Grigorii Rasputin , says "mystics, holy men, gurus, indeed certain kinds of creative artists, devote years to the disciplined development of their gifts; a sense of the spiritual alone is not enough" (27). One element of Rasputin's talents that everyone who sought his healing powers remarked upon was his great ability to calm people in distress.

A Revelation

While plowing one day, he was suddenly dazzled by an apparition. The story is that he was touched by the Heavenly Mother. She told him of the young Aleksei, the tsarevich and instructed him to appear at the boy's side to stop his bleeding- a result of hemophilia.

Rasputin's first move towards St. Petersburg was in 1902, when he visited the city of Kazan near the Volga river. He learned his first lessons about European culture and tradition when he spent his first time in a European house. Once he made this initial trip, he rapidly began to build a ever expanding group of disciples and acquaintances among the upper classes. Among this group, the "polite society," he was viewed "as a man of God and a starets [religious elder]."(de Jonge, 58)
 

St. Petersburg

Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg at a very lucky time. At this point, church leaders were in search of people of his type. They wanted people with religious influence, who had power over the people. Rasputin was both an ordinary peasant - simple, forceful and direct - while at the same time, he held the power to captivate people with his healing powers and insight into the future. There are several different perspectives of Rasputin's behavior and actions. Not everyone had a positive view of Rasputin, his "enemies charged that he was nothing but cynical, and that he used religion to mask his drive for sex, money, and power" (de Jonge, 14).

The Romanovs

Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg in 1905, and the Great Soviet Encyclopedia reports that he was not invited to the czar's palace until 1907. When Rasputin finally met the Tsar and Tsarina, he was needed as a healer for the young Aleksei who was having a bleeding episode. Nicholas and Alexandra were very secretive about their son's condition for fear that, if made public, he would never become tsar. Reluctant to invite Rasputin, they finally realized the extent of their son's infliction and the powerlessness of his doctors. The Tsarevich's disease, hemophilia, was common throughout European royalty and was passed on to him by his mother. Upon leaving from this bleeding episode, having temporarily cured Aleksei, Rasputin warned that the destiny of both the Tsarevich and the Romanov dynasty were "irrevocably linked to him" (Goetz, 948).

Rasputin's life in St. Petersburg, though based on the Tsarevich's need, was not totally centered around the Romanov family. He remained an accessible holy monk and healer. His days consisted of a leisurely breakfast with family and close friends. Between 10 am to 1 pm, he had calling hours, open to any St. Petersburg citizen. Later in the afternoon, he called at the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, the family's favorite residence, for the family's news. He only went to the palace when he was needed for healing or spiritual support. While in St. Petersburg, Rasputin did stay in touch with his family in Pokrovskoe, and in 1910 his daughter Maria moved to the city to attend the Seminary Academy. Soon after Maria's move, Rasputin's other daughter Varvara arrived and the girls attended the prominent Steblin-Damensky Gymnasium. Praskovia, Rasputin's wife, now made yearly voyages to the city to visit her daughters and husband.

Leading up to Death

Beginning soon after his daughters moved to St. Petersburg, Rasputin went through different stages of acceptance with the Romanovs, other high standing officials and socialites. Nicholas and Alexandra, worried about rumors of Rasputin's mistresses and his life in the city, began some research on his past. For more information about him, they asked close friends whose judgments they respected. There was also general consensus among officials that Rasputin was negatively influencing Alexandra, and in turn affecting the entire country.

Rasputin is as famous for his death as he is for his life. One evening at a meeting of Russian officials, it was decided that Rasputin was putting the entire nation in danger. Three men, Prince Feliks Yusupov (husband of the Tsar's niece), Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich (a member of the duma) and the Grand Duke Dimitry Pavlovich (the Tsar's cousin) took control of the situation. With 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, the men fed Rasputin poisoned wine and tea cakes. They did not affect him. Dismay came over Yusupov and he shot Rasputin. Miraculously, Rasputin staggered out into the courtyard where Purishkevich and Pavlovich were preparing to leave the palace. Purishkevich shot the staggering Rasputin again, but it was only when they bound his body and threw it into the Neva River that he died.

There is much controversy over Rasputin's life, from his mistresses to his mystical healing powers. But what is certain is that he had an irrefutable affect on the Romanov family and the Russian Empire.

RASPUTIN'S LAST LETTER
 

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. Words written by Grigory Rasputin in a letter to the Tsarina Alexandra, 7 Dec 1916 23 days later, Rasputin was killed, by two relatives of the Tsar Nicholas II 19 months after Rasputin's death, the Tsar and his family lay dead.

 

 

Updated Tuesday, 07 April 2015

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