It is incredible to think that of all the great figures from Russian history, the man known universally as the Mad Monk, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, is arguably the most notorious. Outside of Russia itself, this mythical and mystical figure is perhaps the first to come to mind when you think of those who have shaped the history of this great country.
Rasputin was born into a peasant family on 10th of January 1869 in the tiny Siberian village of Pokrovskoye. Although he did briefly attend school he was unable to read or write and his life took him to the Verkhoture Monastery. However, after initial training he decided against becoming a monk and at the age of 19, he returned to his home village and was married. He had three children with his wife Proskovia Fyodorovna.
These ‘powers’ were first claimed by Rasputin when he left home to travel around Greece and the Middle East. There he made money from donations given to him in return for his attempts to tell fortunes and to heal the sick.
A Return to Russia
The real pivotal point of Rasputin’s life and in the history of early twentieth century Russia came in 1903 when he arrived in St Petersburg. Upon arrival he met Hermogen the Bishop of Saratov who introduced with to Tsar Nicholas the Second and the rest of the Royal family.
The family, and Nicholas’ wife Alexandra in particular, seemed to fall under his spell very quickly but in 1908 he really made a lasting impression on their lives. The Tsar’s son Alexis has suffered from haemophilia from birth and when Rasputin managed to stop the boy’s bleeding after a particularly severe attack, he was immediately taken in to the Royal entourage.
Over the course of the next few years, Rasputin’s influence in the Royal family grew at a steady rate but the final and most crucial turning point came in 1915, shortly after the outbreak of World War One.
Nicholas followed a rather romantic notion that he should lead his own troops into battle and while he was away at the front, Alexandra became almost hypnotised by Rasputin. Not only was he influencing personal issues but he became involved in matters of state which saw many ministers dismissed upon his advice.
The murder of Rasputin has an indelible place in legend and folklore. As unrest grew, Monarchist leaders hatched a plot to rid Russia of the man who was shaming their Royal Family.
Much of the story remains a mystery but it is known that a group of nobles led by Felix Yusopov lured Rasputin to Yusupov’s Palace. It is claimed that he was fed cake and wine which was laced with enough Cyanide to kill five men but he showed little sign of ill effects.
Undeterred, Yusupov then shot his victim through the back with a revolver but after laying inert, Rasputin lunged at his assailant when Yusupov went to check on the body. Ultimately, Rasputin was thrown into the Neva River where his body gave clues to the fact that he was poisoned, shot four times and badly beaten.
The Rasputin era was finally at an end but a whole new period in the dramatic history of Russia was on the brink of being ushered in.