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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.
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
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)
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).
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,
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
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.
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.