Was Rasputin a holy man or a devil? He was hated by everyone to Court, with the exception of the tsar family that doted on him. He seemed immortal, survived two attacks. He was poisoned and then shot in the last plot to kill him
In April 1907 a severe hemorrhagic crisis struck the prince Alexei, only son and heir to the throne of Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra Romanov. The prince was suffering from hemophilia B, a serious disease that prevents blood clotting, therefore the small wound could be fatal. Hemophilia of the little heir to the throne had been gave by his mother, but it was a “legacy” of the English great-grandmother Queen Victoria of England, which, as it was found later, was a carrier of the abnormal x chromosome (instead of X). Various other descendants of the queen Victoria had suffered of this illness.
Grigori Rasputin was called at the bedside of Alexei, in the Royal Palace in Tsarskoye Selo (now Pushkin), near St. Petersburg, a holy man of Siberian origin, which had been introduced at the palace a few months before. The intervention of Rasputin brought an improvement in the patient’s condition. Today we are inclined to believe that the improvement was simply happened because Rasputin had to interrupt the treatment with aspirin which the prince was submitted, an anti-inflammatory that has the effect of slowing blood clotting, aspirin properties that was not known at time, which therefore was totally counterproductive in the clinical situation. Of course, the improvement was attributed to the care of Rasputin based on magnetism and on the prayers. Thus the adventure of Rasputin began to the Czar’s court.
Grigori Rasputin Efimovich Nových was born in Prokovskoe, a town in southwestern Siberia, on January 9, 1869. His father was a postman and his mother was a peasant. Only two children survived to youth, Grigori and sister Feodosiya, on 8 children had of the couple. Grigori did not attend regular schools but managed, self-taught, to give himself a certain culture, especially religious. He had a certain attraction for the mystical life, perhaps because of an incident that happened to him at a young age, when he and his brother Misha, while taking a bath in a river, they found themselves in difficulty. They managed to save themselves from drowning, but his brother became ill with pneumonia and died shortly after.
He was equipped with a hieratic appearance (tall, robust and with a long black beard) and he had a great sexual appetite, it was said to be very physically gifted, he had embraced the theories of Khlysty sect, which seemed specially made for him. These theories provided for the salvation of the soul through a journey of sins, from which they redeem themselves, to meet the eternal life. The first phase was intensely experienced by Grigori Efimovic (Rusputin was a nickname that meant “depraved”). The sect was not officially recognized by the Orthodox Church, which considered the sect as schismatic.
In 1887 he married with Praskovja Fedorovna Dubrovina. Seven children born in marriage, Three children survived only at the young age. Rasputin left his family for three months shut himself a monastery. Left the monastery he continued his mystical life traveling through Europe, arriving in the Holy Land and visited the symbol places of Christianity. Occasionally he came home to help his peasant family in the collection periods. In the native village he was considered a holy man and received visits from his fellow villagers to whom he gave advice on care for sick family members.
In 1902, during a trip to Kiev he met the bishop of the place. Later he went to St. Petersburg to collect donations to build a church in his native village, where he intended to retire permanently, and to meet the dean of the theology faculty with which to deepen his religious knowledge. In St. Petersburg, where he was a guest of a monastery, he met the princess of Montenegro Milica from which he was introduced at Court in November 1905. He was presented to Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra.
Nicholas II Romanov was the firstborn of Czar Alexander III, he had weak character, he was not properly prepared to take his father’s place. At 16, he met his future wife, the German Princess Alice of Hesse. In the following years he had an affair with a dancer of Mariinsky theater. In 1894 Nicholas is officially engaged to his first love Alice despite parental opposition. On November 1, 1894 Alexander III died, leaving the throne to his son who took the name of Nicholas II. On 26 November of that year he married Alice of Hesse who changed his name, acquiring that of Alexandra Feodorovna.
Czarina Alexandra, previously Alice of Hesse and by Rhine, was the daughter of Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse-Darmstadt and Alice of Great Britain, the second daughter of Queen Victoria. She became orphan of her mother and her father in early age, this situation disturbed her deeply, so much so that her character became melancholic and shady. She was greeted by grandmother Queen Victoria who took an interest in her education. Grandma wanted Alice married her first grandchild destined to the throne of Great Britain, Albert Victor, but she refused, having already met Nicholas Romanov, his who was her second cousin. After the wedding of Alice with Czar, she adopted the name Alexandra, she had four daughters, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia, and an only son Alexei, heir to the throne.
Alexei Romanov was born on August 12, 1904, a few years after his birth parents discovered that he was suffering from a terrible disease, hemophilia B. They kept secret the news so as not to reveal to the people the weakness of their only son. The children of the Czar were raised in rigid atmosphere and dedicated to the study in their palace in Tsarskoye Selo. The daughters and the son of the Czar shared rooms without comfort, furnished with cots and modest furniture. The little Alexei, after the discovery of the disease, was treated by his sisters and parents with attention to avoid inadvertent trauma and subsequent bleeding.
After the first intervention of Rasputin which had brought an improvement in the health of the Czarevich Alexei, the holy man was convened more and more often in the royal palace, as the Czar and Czarina trusted in him for the healing of his son. The figure of holy man was as important that there were many who believed the royal family completely brainwashed by the same.
In 1912 another episode strengthened the power of Grigori Rasputin. One day, during a carriage ride in the Bialowieza Forest, the prince had a bruise to the knee because of the jolts. The hematoma did not heal despite treatment practiced by the Court physicians, even the leg of the little Czarevich swelled ever more. The Czarina, desperate, wrote a telegram to Rasputin, who at the time was in his native village, asking for help. The healer replied to terminate treatment, advising to wait with confidence and to pray. After a long convalescence Alexei healed. The care of Rasputin seemed miraculous but it was based on the simple assumption that the medical care that were used by the Court physicians were counterproductive, better to leave only to resources of the human body cope with the disease.
Rasputin, spiritual adviser of the Czar’s family, aspired to the role of political adviser. While the Czar, although he appreciated the healing qualities, was trying to break free from the link with the monk, the Czarina appeared completely dependent of holy man. Rasputin managed to obtain confidential information about the misdeeds of politicians and nobles by his personal relations with the nobility and the people, he informed the Czarina, who was referring to her husband. In practice Rasputin influenced heavily by the government choices of the Czar.
Then also rumors started spreading of sexual relations between the Czarina and her daughters with Rasputin, rumors sent out by those who felt damaged by the influence of holy man on the state government. Rasputin was deeply hated by the aristocracy, as it was loved by the people and farmers who saw him as one of them. Rasputin counted among his enemies the Orthodox church, which had never ordained. The ceremony of the 300 years of the Romanov reign, Rasputin was even expelled from Kazan Cathedral.
At the outbreak of First World War Russia entered war against Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Czar personally took charge of the army as commander, leaving the assignment to govern to the Czarina. The power of Rasputin increased enormously in this context, since the Czarina government decisions were increasingly influenced by the guru.
Rasputin was the subject of several attempts at assassination organized by his enemies. In 1914 Rasputin was on a visit to his native country; June 29, as he returned to his father’s house, he was confronted by a woman, Hionija Guseva, who, armed with a knife, put it in his stomach. The holy man managed to get away a few steps from the woman, he seized a stick and hit her violently. He was rescued and lying on the bed at home. A doctor of the place gave him first aid, then he was treated by the physician of the Czarina. Despite the severity of the wound, he was able to heal. The woman was locked up in a mental hospital, the alleged instigator, the monk Iliodor, already years before had threatened Rasputin, fled from Russia and did not undergo any process.
One day, during a party attended by some politicians, a member of the Duma stood in front of Rasputin and, with a revolver pointed at guru, accused him of alleged misdeeds and shot him, but the shot misfired. Rasputin invited him to still pull the trigger, but the gun misfired again, at this time Rasputin took away the weapon from his hand and pointing to the ceiling pulled the trigger a third time, the gunshot went off noisily. This incident contributed to the belief on the immortality of Rasputin.
Towards the end of 1916 a real plot was organized. Prince Felix Yusupov, married to a niece of the Czar, invited Rasputin to his palace for a private little party, promising to introduce him to his beautiful wife, Princess Irina. On the evening of December 16 Yusupov, with Dr. de Lanzovert, went to Rasputin’s house to accompany him in his palace. He was made to sit in a ground-floor room where Madeira wine was offered to him, of which the monk was greedy, waiting for the return the Princess Irina, Yusupov said, she was due to go out for a urgent question of family . Princess Irina, the plan current, had refused to participate in the plot absenting from home. Upstairs the other organizers of the assassination were awaiting: the cousin of the Czar, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Vladimir Puriskevic; Sukhotin, Prince Fedor Romanov and Prince Nikita were added at last moment.
The Madeira wine that was offered to Rasputin was accompanied by petit fours poisoned with abundant dose of cyanide. The holy man drank and ate asking Yusupov to play him some songs with a guitar. Time passed, but the poison did not effect, the monk complained only of a slight stomachache. Felix Yusupov went upstairs with an excuse, to consult with others. It was decided to finish him by gunshots. Dmitry Yusupov and Pavlovic went down to ground floor armed with revolvers. Yusupov shot Rasputin hitting him in the stomach. Believing him dead the two went back upstairs to report to others. Then they went down to throw the body of Rasputin in the river Malaya Nevka not yet completely frozen. When Yusupov approached the body, Rasputin suddenly stood up, rushing against the prince, then he tried to get to the gate of the palace to escape. At the gate, Puriskevic hit him again with numerous shoots, bringing him down permanently. Some policemen came, having heard the shots, but they were invited to get away, they excuted promptly, given the importance of persons; however, they informed his superiors about what they had seen. Meanwhile Rasputin’s body was thrown into the river, but since it had not been ballasted, returned to the surface shortly after and it was found the next day.
The trend of the facts and who had fired was established with a rapid investigation of authorities. Czar returned precipitously in St. Petersburg ordered that no trial was made merely. He condemned to the exile Prince Felix Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. This exile saved the lives of two in the following Bolshevik revolution.
Rasputin had sent a letter to the Czar shortly before his death. He wrote in his letter that if his death, that he considered imminent, had been provoked by the peasants and the poor people, the Czar could be sure that everything would remain unchanged for at least a century. If his death had been provoked by the nobles and the aristocrats, then everything would be lost for the Czar, infighting and exile would hit the royal family. Once again Grigori Rasputin divined the future. In fact the events were much harder than predicted, the Bolshevik revolution was near.
Vladimir Puriskevic: Comment j’ai tué Raspoutine, J. Povolozky & Cie, 1923
Maria Rasputin, My father, 1934.
it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grigorij Efimovic Rasputin
Angelo Solmi, Nicola e Alessandra di Russia, Rusconi, 1989
Marzia Sarcinelli, Nicola, Alessandra e Rasputin, Milano, Mursia, 2008,