21 January 1869 (|
Pokrovskoye, Siberia, Russian Empire
|Died||30 December 1916 (aged 47) (New Style)
Cause of death
|Occupation||peasant, wanderer, healer, advisor|
|Spouse(s)||Praskovia Fedorovna Dubrovina (1866-1936)|
|Parents||Efim Vilkin Rasputin (24.12.1841-autumn 1916); Anna Parshukova (1839/40-30.01.1906)|
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (Russian: Григорий Ефимович Распутин; IPA: [ɡrʲɪˈɡorʲɪj jɪˈfʲiməvʲɪtɕ rɐˈsputʲɪn]; 21 January [O.S. 9 January] 1869 – 30 December [O.S. 17 December] 1916) was a Russian peasant, mystical faith healer and private adviser to the Romanovs. He became an influential figure in Saint Petersburg, especially after August 1915 when Tsar Nicholas II took command of the army at the front.
There is much uncertainty over Rasputin's life and the degree of influence he exerted over the Tsar and his government. Accounts are often based on dubious memoirs, hearsay and legend.[note 1] While his influence and role may have been exaggerated, historians agree that his presence played a significant part in the increasing unpopularity of the Tsar and Alexandra Feodorovna, his wife, and the downfall of the Russian Monarchy. Rasputin was killed as he was seen by both the left and right to be the root cause of Russia's despair during World War I.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Turn to religious life
- 3 Healer to Alexei
- 4 Controversy
- 5 Assassination attempt
- 6 Yar restaurant incident
- 7 World War I
- 8 Government
- 9 Murder
- 10 Perception
- 11 In popular culture
- 12 Gallery
- 13 Notes
- 14 References
- 15 Bibliography
- 16 External links
Grigori Rasputin was born the son of a well-to-do peasant and coachdriver in the small and sleepy village of Pokrovskoye, in the Tobolsk Governorate of the Russian Empire (now Yarkovsky District in the Tyumen Oblast) in the immense West Siberian Plain. The parish register contains the following entry for 9 January 1869 [O.S.]: "In the village of Pokrovskoye, in the family of the peasant Yefim Yakovlevich Rasputin and his wife, both Orthodox, was born a son, Grigory." The next day he was baptized and named after St. Gregory of Nyssa, whose feast day is on 10 January.
Grigori was the fifth of nine children. Only two survived - Grigori himself and his sister Feodosiya. He never attended school; according to the census of 1897 almost everybody in the village was illiterate. In Pokrovskoye, the young Rasputin was regarded as an outsider, but one endowed with mysterious gifts. "His limbs jerked, he shuffled his feet and always kept his hands occupied. Despite physical tics, he commanded attention." The little that is known about his childhood was passed down by his daughter Maria.
On 2 February 1887 Rasputin married Praskovia Fyodorovna Dubrovina, who was three years older than he was, and together the couple had three children: Dmitri, Varvara and Maria; two earlier sons died young. In 1892  Rasputin abruptly left his village, his wife, children and parents. He spent several months in a monastery in Verkhoturye; Spiridovich suggested after the death of a child, but the monastery was enlarged in those years to receive more pilgrims. Outside the monastery lived a hermit by the name of Brother Makary. Makary had a strong influence on Rasputin, which led to Grigori's giving up drinking and eating meat. When he arrived home he had become a zealous convert.
Turn to religious life
Rasputin's claimed vision of Our Lady of Kazan turned him towards the life of a religious mystic. Around 1893 he travelled to Mount Athos, but left shocked and profoundly disillusioned, as he told Makary.
By 1900 Rasputin was identified as a strannik, a religious wanderer, although he always went home to help his family with sowing and the harvest. He was regarded as a starets ("elder") or a yurodiviy ("holy fool") by his followers. Rasputin did not consider himself to be a starets, who were usually older and lived in seclusion and silence. According to Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden he was a starets in making.
According to Lili Dehn, Rasputin spoke an almost incomprehensible Siberian dialect. According to Andrei Amalrik, Rasputin "never produced a clear and understandable sentence. Always something was missing: the subject, the predicate or both." It is obvious the strannik seldom preached or spoke in public.
Around 1902 private gatherings in his house had to be disbanded. In 1903 Rasputin spent some time in Kiev, where he visited the Monastery of the Caves. In Kazan he attracted the attention of the bishop and members of the upper class. Rasputin then travelled to the capital to meet with John of Kronstadt and acquire donations for the construction of the village church. Pierre Gilliard writes that Rasputin arrived in 1905, Nelipa thinks it was in autumn 1904, Iliodor believed it was as early as December 1903. He carried an introduction to Ivan Stragorodsky, the rector of the theological faculty. Rasputin stayed at Alexander Nevsky Lavra; there he met with Hermogenes and Theophanes of Poltava who was amazed by his tenacious memory and psychological perspicacity. He was invited by Milica of Montenegro and her sister Anastasia, who were interested in Persian mysticism, spiritism and occultism. On 1 November 1905 (O.S.) Milica presented Rasputin to Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra.
Prior to his meeting with Rasputin, the Tsar had to deal with the Russo-Japanese War, Bloody Sunday, the Revolution of 1905, bombs and a nation-wide railway strike. In a city without electricity, the Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias was forced on the 17th by Sergei Witte to sign the October Manifesto, to agree with the establishment of the Imperial Duma and give up part of his unlimited autocracy. For the next six months Witte was the Prime Minister. The real ruler of the country seems to have been though general Dmitri Trepoff.
Healer to Alexei
In October 1906, at the request of the Tsar, Rasputin paid a visit to the wounded daughter of the next Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin. A few weeks before, 29 people had been killed after a bomb attack, including one of Stolypin's children. On December 15
|“||... Rasputin petitioned the Tsar, seeking to legally change his name. Grigory explained that six families in Pokrovskoye bore the surname Rasputin, and this was producing "every sort of confusion." Rasputin asked Nicholas "to end this confusion by permitting me and my descendants to take the name Rasputin-Novyi (Новый)," which means "Rasputin-New" or the "New Rasputin."||”|
In April 1907 Rasputin was invited again to Tsarskoye Selo, this time to see Tsesarevich Alexei. The boy had received an injury which caused him painful bleeding. It was not publicly known that the heir to the throne had hemophilia B, a disease that was widespread among European royalty.[note 2] When the doctors could not supply a cure, the desperate Tsarina looked for other help; she had already lost her mother, her brother, her younger sister when she was young. Rasputin was said to possess the ability to heal through prayer and was able to calm the parents and to give the boy some relief, in spite of the doctors' prediction that he would die. On the following day the Tsesarevich showed significant signs of recovery.
The French historian Hélène Carrère d'Encausse and Diarmuid Jeffreys, a journalist, speculated Rasputin's healing practice included halting the administration of aspirin, a pain-relieving analgesic available since 1899. Aspirin has also blood-thinning properties; it prevents clotting but promotes bleeding which could have caused the hemarthrosis. The "wonder drug" would have worsened Alexei's joints' swelling and pain.
On 8 October 1912, the careless Alexei received the last sacrament during another and particularly grave crisis (a swelling in the groin). The Romanovs were visiting their hunting retreat in Spała (then in Russian Poland). The desperate Tsarina turned to her lady-in-waiting and best friend Anna Vyrubova to secure the help of the peasant healer, who at that time was out of favor. The next day, on 9 October, Rasputin responded and sent a short telegram, including the prophecy: "The little one will not die. Do not allow the doctors (Eugene Botkin and Vladimir Derevenko) to bother him too much." His temperature dropped and the hematoma disappeared. Alexandra, like Rasputin and Vyrubova obsessed with religion, believed that he had cured her son through the power of prayer.
Court physician Botkin believed that Rasputin was a charlatan and his apparent healing powers arose from his use of hypnosis, but Rasputin was not interested in this practice before 1913 and his teacher Gerasim Papandato was expelled from St. Petersburg. Felix Yusupov, one of Rasputin's enemies suggested that he secretly drugged Alexis with Tibetan herbs which he got from the quack doctor Peter Badmayev, but his drugs were politely rejected by the court. For Maria Rasputin, it was magnetism. For Greg King, these explanations fail to take into account those times when Rasputin healed the boy, despite being 2600 km (1650 miles) away. For Fuhrmann, these ideas on hypnosis and drugs flourished because the Imperial Family lived such isolated lives. (They lived almost as much apart from Russian society as if they were settlers in Canada.) For Moynahan, "There is no evidence that Rasputin ever summoned up spirits, or felt the need to; he won his admirers through force of personality, not by tricks."
Even before Rasputin's arrival, the upper class of St Petersburg had been widely influenced by mysticism. Individual aristocrats were reportedly obsessed with anything occult. Alexandra had been meeting a succession of Russian "holy fools," hoping to find an intercessory with God. Papus had visited Russia three times, in 1901, 1905, and 1906, serving the Tsar and Tsarina both as physician and occult consultant. After Papus returned to France, Rasputin came into the picture. In those days Imperial Russia was confronted with a religious renaissance, a widespread interest in spiritual-ethical literature and non-conformist moral-spiritual movements, an upsurge in pilgrimage and other devotions to sacred spaces and objects. The "God-Seeking" were shaping their own ritual and spiritual lives (sometimes in the absence of clergy).
In his religious views Rasputin was close to the so-called Khlysts, an obscure Christian sect with strong Siberian roots. In September 1907 the "Spiritual Consistory" of Tobolsk accused Rasputin of spreading false doctrines, kissing and bathing with women. During the enquiry Rasputin disappeared it seems and "the effort of local priests to discipline their most troublesome parishioner failed." According to Oleg Platonov: "The case was fabricated so clumsily that it ‘works’ only against its own authors. No wonder the documents were never published. Nothing but allusions were made to its existence." In 1908 Theofan traveled to Siberia and examined all the documents from the Tobolsk inquiry, but failed to find anything of interest.
While fascinated by Rasputin in the beginning, the ruling class of St Petersburg became envious and turned against him; he had privileges no one else had. In 1909, within four months, Rasputin had visited the Romanovs six times. The press started a campaign against Rasputin, claiming he paid too much attention to young girls and women. When Rasputin arrived in the capital, he returned within three weeks to his home village, according to Spiridovich. Theofan lost his interest and Stolypin wanted to ban him from the capital. Early 1911 the Tsar instructed Rasputin to join a group of pilgrims. From Odessa he sailed to Constantinople, Patmos, Cyprus and Beirut. Around Lent 1911 Rasputin paid a visit to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. On his way back he visited Iliodor who gathered huge crowds in Tsaritsyn and met with a woman, called Guseva.
In early 1912, Hermogen, who told Rasputin to stay away from the palace, repeated the rumours that Rasputin had joined the Khlysty. Iliodor, hinting that Rasputin was Alexandra's paramour, showed Makarov a satchel of letters, one written by the Tsarina and four by her daughters. The given  or stolen letters were handed to the Tsar. Rodzianko requested Rasputin to leave the capital. When Vladimir Kokovtsov became prime minister he asked the Tsar permission to authorize Rasputin's exile to Tobolsk, but Nicholas refused. "I know Rasputin too well to believe all the tittle-tattle about him." Kokovtsov offered Rasputin 200,000 rubles, equaling $100,000, when he would leave the capital. Rasputin had become one of the most hated people in Russia.
There is little or no proof that he was a member of the Khlysty, but Rasputin does appear to have been influenced by their practices. He accepted some of their beliefs, for example those regarding sin as a necessary part of redemption. He believed that those deliberately committing fornication and then repenting bitterly, would be closer to God. Suspicions that Rasputin, a good dancer, was one of the Khlysty tarnished his reputation right until the end of his life. The basis for the denunciation of Rasputin as a Khlyst was mixed bathing, a perfectly usual custom among the peasants of many parts of Siberia.
After the Spała accident, where the Tsesarevich climbed into a boat and fell, Rasputin regained influence at court and also in church affairs. His position as an intermediary had been dramatically validated, but the Holy Synod frequently attacked Rasputin, accusing him of a variety of immoral or evil practices. Rasputin was variously accused of being a heretic, an erotomaniac or a pseudo-khlyst. On 21 February 1913 Rodzianko ejected Rasputin from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan shortly before the celebration of 300 years of the Romanov rule over Russia. He had established himself in front of the seats which Rodzianko, after great difficulty, had secured for the Duma.
Rasputin's behaviour was discussed in the Fourth Duma, and in March 1913 the Octobrists, led by Alexander Guchkov and President of the Duma, commissioned an investigation, but "Anyone bold enough to criticize Rasputin found only condemnation from the Tsarina." Worried with the threat of a scandal, the Tsar asked Rasputin to leave for Siberia. Nicholas accepted investigations on Rasputin being a Khlyst, but then quickly decided to criticize the politicians and the investigations were stopped. He and his wife referred to Grigori as our "Friend" and a "holy man", emblematic of the trust that the family had placed in him. The Tsar dismissed Kokovtsov on 29 January 1914. He was replaced by the absent minded Ivan Goremykin, and Pyotr Bark. According to Pavel Milyukov, in May 1914 Rasputin had become an influential factor in Russian politics. Probably Alexander Krivoshein was the most powerful figure in the Imperial government.
On 27 June 1914 Rasputin arrived from the capital in Pokrovskoye. Around three o'clock in the afternoon  of Sunday 12 July [O.S. 29 June] 1914, Rasputin went out from the house in reply to a telegram he had received. Returning to his house he was suddenly attacked by one Khionia Guseva. This woman, who had her face concealed with a black kerchief, approached him and pulled out a dagger. She stabbed Rasputin in the stomach, just above the navel. Rasputin asserted that he ran down the street with his hands on his belly. Guseva claimed that she chased him, but Rasputin grabbed a stick from the ground and hit her on the head. Covered with blood, Rasputin was brought into his house. After ten hours a doctor arrived from the neighboring village and operated on him in the middle of the night. Rasputin was transported by boat on Thursday to Tyumen, accompanied by his wife and daughter. The Tsar sent his own physician and after a laparotomy and more than six weeks in the hospital, where he had to walk around in a gown, unable to wear ordinary clothes, Rasputin recovered. On 17 August 1914 he left the hospital; mid September he was back in Petrograd. His daughter Maria records that Rasputin believed that Iliodor and Vladimir Dzhunkovsky had organized the attack, and that he was never the same man afterwards. According to her, he started to drink (Georgian or Crimean) dessert wines. 
After the attack, Iliodor, dressed as a woman, fled with the help of Maxim Gorki all the way around the Gulf of Bothnia to Oslo.[note 3] Guseva, a fanatically religious woman, had been his adherent in earlier years "denied Iliodor's participation, declaring that she attempted to kill Rasputin because he was spreading temptation among the innocent." On 12 October 1914 the investigator declared that Iliodor was guilty of inciting the murder, but the local procurator decided to suspend any action against him for undisclosed reasons, Guseva was locked in a madhouse in Tomsk and a trial was avoided.
Most of Rasputin's enemies had by now disappeared. Stolypin was dead, Count Kokovtsov had fallen from power, Theofan was exiled, Hermogen [illegally] banished and Iliodor in hiding.
Yar restaurant incident
Since October 1914 Stepan Petrovich Beletsky, head of the police, exercised 24-hour surveillance of Rasputin and his apartment. Two sets of four detectives were attached to his person, two were to act undercover. From 1 January 1915 modified reports from Ochrana spies – the "staircase notes" – had to provide evidence about Rasputin's lifestyle. They were given to the Tsar in an attempt to convince him to break with Rasputin. In reading it, the Tsar observed that on the day and hour at which one of the acts mentioned in the document was alleged to have taken place, Rasputin had actually been in Tsarskoe-Selo. For Bernard Pares, it was taken that the police were the enemies of Rasputin, and that the many stories which reached the public were simply their fabrications.
On 25 March 1915 (O.S.) Rasputin left for Moscow by train, accompanied by his guards. On the next evening he is said, while inebriated, to have opened his trousers and waved his "reproductive organ" in front of a group of female gypsy singers in the Yar restaurant. What happened is not exactly clear as the original police report is missing. Nelipa argues that this story was fabricated by Vladimir Dzhunkovsky in order to discredit Rasputin. According to his daughter he was petrified of going to unknown places after the attack by Guseva. For Nelipa, Rasputin partying with a 78-year-old rich woman with whom he stayed, only leaving her house to attend a church, is not very credible. Besides, he seems to have been accompanied by a journalist, people he usually did not trust. An unreliable report was presented in June; the police did not interview any witness in the restaurant. A waiter assessed the story as bunkum. Dzhunkovsky and Stepan Beletsky verified later that Rasputin never visited the Yar restaurant.
World War I
After the First Balkan War, the Balkan allies planned the partition of the European territory of the Ottoman Empire among them. During the Second Balkan War the Tsar tried to stop the conflict, since Russia did not wish to lose either of its Slavic allies. Rasputin warned the Tsar not to become involved and promoted peace negotiations. It seems Rasputin became the enemy of Grand Duke Nicholas, a panslavist, his brother Peter and their wives Milica and Anastasia of Montenegro, eager to go to war and push the Austrians out of the Balkans.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, Rasputin spoke out against Russia going to war with Germany. He begged the Tsar to do everything in his power to avoid war. From the hospital Rasputin sent quite a few telegrams to the court, expressing his fears for the future of the country. "If Russia goes to war, it will be the end of the monarchy, of the Romanovs and of Russian institutions." During the July Crisis the Tsar ordered first general and then partial mobilization to support the Kingdom of Serbia. He expected Germany would never attack Russia, France and England combined.[note 4] On 1 September, St Petersburg by ukase changed its name to Petrograd, in order to remove the (German) words 'Sankt' and 'Burg'. Russia expected that the war would last until Christmas, but after a year the situation on the Eastern front had become disastrous; more than 1,5 million Russian soldiers had died. When the German army occupied Warsaw in August 1915 the situation looked extremely grave, because of a shortage in weapons and munitions due to bad rail connections. As a result the Russian army had to withdraw. Vladimir Sukhomlinov left on charges of abuse of power and treason. It caused a scandal. In the big cities there was a shortage of food and high prices and the Russian people blamed all on "dark forces" or spies for and collaborators with Germany. In May 1915 shops in Moscow, owned by foreigners, were attacked. In July Lenin published an article calling for the defeat of the Russian government. He rejected both the defence of Russia and the cry for peace.
On the eve of the war the government and the Duma were hovering round one another like indecisive wrestlers, neither side able to make a definite move. The Great Retreat made the political parties more cooperative and practically formed into one party. When the Tsar announced his departure for the front in Mogilev in August, the Progressive Bloc, a combination of Octobrists, Kadets, and Nationalists, was formed, fearing Rasputin's influence over tsarina Alexandra would increase. Alexandra loathed the Duma because of its discussion of Rasputin. On 19 August 1915, after an unsuccessful attempt to discredit Rasputin and the Tsarina in a newspaper, Prince Vladimir Orlov and Vladimir Dzhunkovsky were discharged from their posts. The Tsar then pronounced the relationship between Rasputin and the Romanovs to be a private one, closed to debate.
Tsar Nicholas took supreme command of the Russian armies on 23 August 1915 (O.S.), hoping this would lift morale. He was undoubtedly led to this fateful decision by the insistence of the Tsarina and of Rasputin who, according to Maklakov, seem to have been the only ones who supported the Tsar in his decision. "Having one man in charge of the situation would consolidate all decision making." However, there proved to be dire consequences for himself as well as for Russia. All the ministers, even Ivan Goremykin, realized that the change would put Rasputin in charge and threatened to resign. In September the Progressive bloc demanded the forming of a "government of confidence". The Tsar rejected these proposals. The Imperial Duma was sent into recess and would not gather again until 9 February 1916. Vasily Maklakov published his famous article, describing Russia as a vehicle with no brakes, driven along a narrow mountain path by a "mad chauffeur", a reference to the Tsar.
While seldom meeting with Alexandra personally after the debate in the Duma, Rasputin had become her personal adviser through daily telephone calls or weekly meetings with Vyrubova. This was especially the case after August 1915 when the Emperor left Petrograd for Stavka at the front, leaving his wife Alexandra Feodorovna to act in his place. It appears that Rasputin's personal influence over the Tsarina had become so great that it was he who ordered the destinies of Imperial Russia, while she compelled her weak husband to fulfill them. According to Fuhrmann a symbiotic relationship developed between the Tsarina and Rasputin, in which "each fed from the other". According to Pierre Gilliard "her desires were interpreted by Rasputin, they seemed in her eyes to have the sanction and authority of a revelation."
|“||The Tsar had resisted the influence of Rasputin for a long time. At the beginning he had tolerated him because he dare not weaken the Tsarina's faith in him – a faith which kept her alive. He did not like to send him away for, if Alexie Nicolaievich had died, in the eyes of the mother he would have been the murderer of his own son.||”|
At the beginning of 1916, Boris Stürmer was appointed as Prime Minister. Stürmer was not opposed to the convening of the Duma, as Goremykim had been, and was inclined toward peace negotiations. The Duma gathered on 9 February, but the deputies were disappointed when Stürmer made his speech. Because of the war, he said, it was not the time for constitutional reforms. For the first time in his life, the Tsar made a visit to the Taurida Palace, which made it practically impossible to hiss at the new prime minister Stürmer.
Alexei Khvostov and Iliodor concocted a plan to kill Rasputin. Khvostov created the rumour suggesting that Alexandra and Rasputin were German agents or spies. Evidence that Rasputin actually worked for the Germans is flimsy at best. According to Kerensky people around Rasputin (his secretaries) were interested in strategic information. Rasputin himself never cared much about money and gave it away as soon he had received it. He had built up a reputation of being at once a generous and a disinterested man. Besides alms Rasputin spent large sums in restaurants, cafes, music halls and in the streets...
Rather paranoid, Rasputin went to Alexander Spiridovich, head of the palace police, on 1 March. He was constantly in a state of nervous excitement. Khvostov had to resign within a week and Boris Stürmer was appointed in his place. In the same month Minister of War Alexei Polivanov, who in his few months of office had brought about a recovery of the efficiency of the Russian army, was removed and replaced by Dmitry Shuvayev. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Sazonov, who had pleaded for an independent and autonomous Russian Poland, was replaced in June. In July Aleksandr Khvostov, not in good health, was appointed as Minister of Interior. In September Alexander Protopopov, had been appointed as his successor. Protopopov, an industrialist and landowner, raised the question of transferring the food supply from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of the Interior. A majority of the zemstvo leaders announced that they would not work with his ministry. His food plan was universally condemned. In October Sukhumlinov was released from prison on instigation of Alexandra, Rasputin and Protopopov. (On 24 October (O.S) the Kingdom of Poland was established by its occupiers, without Russia's consent.) This time the public was outraged and the opposition parties decided to attack Stürmer, his government and the "Dark forces". A strongly prevailing opinion that Rasputin was the actual ruler of the country was of great psychological importance.
From 1905–1917 the Council of Ministers collectively decided the government's policy, tactical direction, and served as a buffer between the Emperor and the national legislature. The politicians tried to bring the government under control of the Duma. For the Octobrists and the Kadets, the liberals in the parliament, Rasputin, who believed in autocracy and absolute monarchy, was one of the main obstacles.
On 1 November (O.S.) the government under Boris Stürmer  was attacked by Pavel Milyukov in the Imperial Duma, not gathering since February. In his speech he spoke of "Dark Forces" to avoid the name of Rasputin and Alexandra. He highlighted numerous governmental failures, including the case Suchomlinov, concluding that Stürmer's policies placed in jeopardy the Triple Entente. After each accusation – many times without basis – he asked "Is this stupidity or is it treason?" and the listeners answered "stupidity!", "treason!", or "both!"; Stürmer, followed by all his ministers, walked out. Milyukov's speech was spread in flyers on the front and at the Hinterland. Stürmer and Protopopov asked in vain for the dissolution of the Duma. Ivan Grigorovich and Dmitry Shuvayev declared in the Duma that they had confidence in the Russian people, the navy and the army; the war could be won. Grand Duke Alexander and his brother George Mikhailovich requested the Tsar to fire Stürmer. Sir George Buchanan also attempted to influence the Tsar, but the latter did not appreciate the British ambassador's advice.
Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich, according to M. Nelipa one of the key players, prince Lvov and general Mikhail Alekseyev, who believed secret strategic information had gone through the hands of Alexandra and Rasputin, attempted to persuade Nicholas to send the Empress away either to the Livadia Palace in Yalta or to England. Zinaida Yusupova, Alexandra's sister Elisabeth, Grand Duchess Victoria, Prince Michael and the Tsar's mother tried to influence the Emperor or his stubborn wife to remove Rasputin, but without success. Also Rodzianko told Nicholas the truth, after being urged by the Tsar's mother and sisters.
On 19 November (O.S.) the popular Vladimir Purishkevich held a two-hour speech in the Duma, accusing the government of “Germanophilism” and stifling “public initiative.” The trouble was that the different ministries did not cooperate. The government was the problem. The monarchy – because of what he called the "ministerial leapfrog" – had become "fully descredited".
|“||The Tsar's ministers who have been turned into marionettes, marionettes whose threads have been taken firmly in hand by Rasputin and the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna—the evil genius of Russia and the Tsarina ... who has remained a German on the Russian throne and alien to the country and its people.||”|
Purishkevich, a buffoon character, stated that Rasputin's influence over the Tsarina had made him a threat to the empire: "an illiterate moujik shall govern Russia no longer!" "While Rasputin is alive, we cannot win".
Prince Felix Yusupov was impressed by the remarkable speech. Two days later he visited Purishkevich, who quickly agreed to participate in the murder of Rasputin. Yusupov approached the lawyer Vasily Maklakov, who agreed to advise Felix. Then he approached Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin (1887-1926) who served the Guards Rifle Brigade, Life Guards Infantry, and recuperating from injuries. Also Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich received Yusupov's suggestion with alacrity, and his alliance was welcomed as indicating that the murder would not be a demonstration against the [Romanov] dynasty. His father, Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, had tried to persuade the Tsar, to change his policy and accept a new constitution in order to save the monarchy.[note 5] The Progressive Bloc demanded a responsible government, but Guchkov came to the painful conclusion the situation could only improve when the Tsar was sent away. In short, there was practically no one ... who did not see the need for a fundamental change in the structure of the government, but the Tsar and his wife were convinced of upholding their autocracy, against the influence of the Duma, and not accessible for any advice.
Alexander Guchkov reported that five members of the Progressive Bloc, including Kerensky, Konovalov, Nekrasov and Tereschenko would consider a coup d'etat, but did not undertake any action. Grand Duke Nikolai refused, saying that the army would not support a coup. Alexandra suggested to her husband to expel Guchkov, Prince Lvov, Milyukov and Polivanov to Siberia. In December 1916 Felix Yusupov became extremely worried about the tsarina as regent; the Duma would lose and Rasputin would gain influence. A separate peace between Russia and Germany could become reality (a few months before the USA, preparing itself, stepped into World War I.)
Trepov and Protopopov
On 10 November (O.S.) the bellicose Alexander Trepov, but promoting a parliamentary system, had been appointed as the new prime minister, but made the dismissal of Alexander Protopopov (who obviously had problems making decisions), an indispensable condition of his accepting the presidency of the Council. The Tsarina tried to have Protopopov appointed from his influential position as manager of the ministry to minister of interior. Both Trepov and Alexandra traveled to Stavka; the latter to convince her husband to have the exceedingly nervous Protopopov appointed. Rasputin and Vyrobova each sent five telegrams to support her. Trepov then threatened to resign.
On 17 November (O.S.) Nikolai Pokrovsky was appointed minister of foreign affairs. On 31 November Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg tried to initiate a peace-making process and to end the war on base of his Septemberprogramm (1914). The 'peace offensive' was bound to fail; the terms too vague to be taken seriously. On 2 December (O.S.) Pokrovsky said that Russia would never sign a peace treaty with the Central Powers, which caused a storm of applause in the Duma.
The appointment of Protopopov wasn't approved until 7 December 1916. Trepov, having failed to eliminate Protopopov, tried to bribe Rasputin in the next days. With the help of general A.A. Mosolov, his brother-in-law, Trepov offered a substantial amount of money, a bodyguard and a house to Rasputin, if he would leave politics.
Rasputin apparently feared that he would die before the end of the year. It seems he accepted his destiny. His death might be expected at any time. According to Simanovich he burned his correspondence and moved money to his daughters from his bank account on 13 December. Simanovich also published a strangely prophetic letter "The Spirit of Gregory Efimovich Rasputin of the village of Pokrovskoe", intended for the Tsar. According to Edvard Radzinsky the prophecy is not by Rasputin.
On Friday afternoon, 16 December, Rasputin returned from the bathhouse at 3 p.m. Around 8 p.m. he told Anna Vyrubova, who presented him a small icon, signed and dated at the back by the Tsarina and her daughters, of a proposed midnight visit to Yusupov in his palace. Protopopov, a late visitor that evening to Rasputin's flat, had begged him not to go out that night. Nelipa thinks what happened next was intentionally timed; both Grand Duke Dmitry and Purishkevich, assisting at the front, had arrived in the city. The recess (until 14 January) would eliminate the otherwise predictable uproar from any of the delegates at the Tauride Palace, had the murder been arranged a few days earlier.
There are very few facts between the night he disappeared and the day his corpse was dredged up from the river. "Unfortunately, after the Soviets came to power, many of the documents that formed part of the official secret investigation have either been destroyed, or have disappeared." The murder of Rasputin has become something of a legend, some of it invented, perhaps embellished or simply misremembered.
On the night of 16/17 December (O.S.) Rasputin had been invited to the Yusupov palace at an unseemly hour, intimating Yusupov's attractive wife, Princess Irina, would be back from Koreiz and Rasputin could meet her. (Yusupov later denied his wife was involved.) Yusupov, who had visited Rasputin in the past few weeks or months for treatment, went with Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert to Rasputin's apartment. Yusupov didn't use the main staircase, but a private one in the courtyard. Shortly afterwards they drove to the recently refurbished palace. A sound-proof room (in the east wing), part of the wine cellar, had been specially prepared for the crime. According to Purishkevich they had placed four bottles, containing different kind of sweet wines in a window. It is highly likely Yusupov offered Rasputin top wines from the Crimea, or from his own vineyard.[note 6] Waiting in his study on another floor were the fellow conspirators: the young Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Purishkevich, Lazovert and Sukhotin. It seems some women were invited but Yusupov did not mention their names. (Radzinsky suggested Marianne Pistohlkors and film star Vera Karalli.)
According to Yusupov he offered tea to Rasputin and petit fours laced with a large amount of cyanide. Purishkevich, a teetotaler, writes he could hear bottles were opened. Paléologue, who in later years rewrote his memoirs, seems to know they discussed spirituality and occultism; Alfred Stopford writes politics was the issue. Within an hour or so Rasputin was quite drunk. Yusupov went upstairs and came back with Dmitri's revolver. Rasputin was shot at close quarters by Felix sitting next to him. The bullet entered his left chest penetrated the stomach and the liver; it left the body on the right side. Then Rasputin fell onto a white bearskin. After a while "Rasputin opened his eyes and became aware of his predicament." He struggled the stairs to reach the first landing, opening an unlocked door to the courtyard, which had been - not long before - used by Yusupov's conspirators. Alarmed by the noise Purishkevich went down and fired at Rasputin four times while missing three times (according to Nelipa). The bullet entered the back and penetrated the right kidney. Rasputin probably never reached the gate, but fell into the snow, just outside the door. A nervous Yusupov severely hit his victim, afterwards changing his uniform. The body was carried back inside. Both shots were fatal; he would have died within 10–20 minutes, but when the body made a sudden movement, one of them (Puriskevich?) placed his revolver on the forehead and pulled the trigger. According to Nelipa the third gunshot will never identify Rasputin's killer in the manner Cook proposed.
Two city policemen on duty heard the shots, and screams; besides they had seen cars coming and leaving. They discussed the issue on the Pochtamtsky Bridge. One of them rang at the door and questioned Yusupov's butler, but was sent away. Twenty minutes later he was re-invited to the palace. Purishkevich boasted he had shot Rasputin, and asked the policeman, aware of his mistake, to keep it quiet for the sake of the Tsar. However, this policeman told his superiors everything he had heard and seen.
The conspirators had planned to burn Rasputin’s possessions; Sukhotin put on Rasputin’s fur coat, his rubber boots, and gloves. He left together with Dmitri Pavlovich and Dr. Lazovert in Purishkevich's car, to imply that Rasputin had left the palace alive. Because Purishkevich's wife refused to burn the fur coat and the boots in her small fireplace in Purishkevich's ambulance train, the conspirators went back to the palace with these large items. When the body was wrapped in a broadcloth, four conspirators drove in the direction of Krestovsky island and after a 15 minute drive they threw the corpse from the bridge into an ice-hole in the Malaya Nevka River. They drove back, without noticing that one of Rasputin's galoshes, a rubber boot (size 10), was stuck between the pylons of the bridge.
The next morning the police came to Rasputin's apartment, and asked Maria where her father was. At eleven he still had not shown up. Then Rasputin's disappearance was reported by his daughter to Vyrubova. When Vyrubova spoke of it to the Empress, Alexandra pointed out that Princess Irina was absent from Petrograd. When Protopopov mentioned the story reported by the police at the Moika, they began to believe that Rasputin had been lured into an ambush. On the Empress' orders, a police investigation commenced and traces of blood were discovered on the steps to the backdoor of the Yusupov Palace. Prince Felix disposed the blood with a story that during a housewarming party by accident one of his dogs was shot by Grand Duke Dmitri. They both tried to gain access to the empress on Sunday. The Tsarina refused to meet the two, but said they could explain to her what had happened in a letter. Purishkevich assisted them writing the letter left the city at ten in the evening, heading to the front. The next day Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri were placed under house arrest in the Sergei Palace when an Uhlenhuth test showed the blood was of human origin.
On Saturday afternoon, traces of blood were detected on the parapet of the Bolshoy Petrovsky bridge and one of Rasputin's boots was found under the bridge. In the middle of night Maria and her sister affirmed it belonged to their father. It was late, but the police knew where to investigate. On Monday morning, 19 December (O.S.), Rasputin's beaver-fur coat and the body were discovered in the frozen river, 140 meters away from the bridge. In the late afternoon it was decided the frozen corpse had to be taken to the desolate Chesmensky Almshouse. On the next day in the evening an autopsy on the thawed corpse by Kosorotov in a poorly lighted mortuary room established that the cause of his instant death was the third bullet in his frontal lobe, according to Nelipa with strong evidence there was an exit wound at the back of the head. The first and third shots were made at close range, but had exited his body. The second bullet was extracted. There was alcohol in his body, no water found in his lungs and no cyanide in his stomach. (Maria Rasputin asserts that, after the attack by Guseva, her father suffered from hyperacidity and avoided anything with sugar. She and her father's former secretary, Simanovich, doubted he was poisoned at all.) There were a number of injuries, most of them supposedly caused after his death. His right cheek was shattered when the body was thrown from the bridge.
On 21 December Rasputin's body was taken in a zinc coffin from the Chesme Church to be buried in a corner on the property of Vyrubova  and adjacent to the palace. The burial at 8.45 in the morning was attended by the Imperial couple with their daughters, Vyrubova, her maid, and a few of Rasputin's friends, such as Lili Dehn and Colonel Loman. It is not clear whether Rasputin's two daughters were present, although Maria Rasputin claimed she was there. Later that day Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich wrote the Tsar to close the case. Without a trial the Tsar sent Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich, and Yusupov into exile the next day. On 23 December Dmitri left for Qazvin in Persia, Felix for Rakitnoye, his estate near Belgorod; the police were ordered to stop their inquest.
Towards the February Revolution
|“||In the seventeen months of the `Tsarina's rule', from September 1915 to February 1917, Russia had four Prime Ministers, five Ministers of the Interior, three Foreign Ministers, three War Ministers, two Ministers of Transport and four Ministers of Agriculture. This "ministerial leapfrog", as it came to be known, not only removed competent men from power, but also disorganized the work of government since no one remained long enough in office to master their responsibilities.||”|
More and more people came to the conclusion that the problem was not Rasputin but the weak-willed Emperor, who had secluded himself in Tsarskoye Selo, unable to react on what happened. The struggle between the Tsar and the Duma became more bitter than ever.
|“||"On the Russian front," Paléologue wrote, "time is not working for us now. The public does not care about the war. All the government departments and the machinery of administration are getting hopelessly and progressively out of gear. The best minds are convinced that Russia is walking straight into the abyss. We must make haste."||”|
After the February Revolution, when the monarchy was deserted by all the élites of the old society, the landowners, the army officers, the industrialists, and politicians of the Duma (as Vasily Shulgin and Guchkov), the Tsar resigned in the company of Vladimir Freedericksz and Grand Duke Nicholas on 2 March 1917 (O.S.). On 6 March David Lloyd George gave a cautious welcome to the suggestion of the Russian Foreign Minister Pavel Milyukov that the toppled Tsar and his family be given sanctuary in Britain (although Lloyd George would have preferred that they go to a neutral country).
The investigation on Rasputin had been stopped on 4 March (O.S.) by Kerensky and extended an amnesty to the three main conspirators. All the movements of the imperial family were restricted on the 8th as the grave of Rasputin had become a place of worship for the Tsarina and her daughters. After Rasputin grave site was found the coffin was transported to the town hall, where a curious crowd gathered, and secured under guard over night on 8 March. According to Moynahan:
|“||Rasputin’s face was found to have turned black, and an icon was found on his chest. It bore the signatures of Vyrubova, Alexandra, and her four daughters. The body was put into a packing case that once held a piano and was driven in secret to the imperial stables in Petrograd. The next day it was loaded onto a truck and taken out of Petrograd on the Lesnoe Road.||”|
Authors do not agree what happened on the night of 10/11 March after the truck drove on its way north in the direction of Piskarevka in the Vyborgsky District. The truck broke down or the snow forced them to stop (between 3 and 7 in the morning). The corpse is supposed to be taken into a field and burned, or cremated in the cauldrons of in the nearby boiler shop of the Saint Petersburg State Polytechnical University including the coffin, without leaving a single trace. Anything that had to do with Rasputin disappeared permanently.
The official police report, with details gathered in two days, and stopped with the idea the murder was solved, is unconvincing. What is left are the memoirs of the murderers, the 29-year-old Felix Yusupov and 47-year-old Vladimir Purishkevich. The theatrical details on the murder given by Felix Yusupov have never stood up to scrutiny. He changed his account several times; the statement given to the Petrograd police, the accounts given whilst in exile in the Crimea in 1917, his 1927 book, and finally the accounts given under oath to libel juries in 1934 and 1965 all differ to some extent.
When asked [in 1965] by his attorney as to his motive killing Rasputin, he announced that he was motivated by his "distaste for Rasputin's debaucheries". This represented a major shift from his argument since 1917 that emphasized that he was motivated solely by patriotism for Russia.
Yusupov's role in the murder has been called into question being consumed by the thought that "not a single important event at the front was decided [during the war] without a preliminary conference" between Alexandra and Rasputin.
Concerning the details of the murder, not even the murderers could give consistent accounts. Differing opinions ranged from the colour of shirt he wore or even where he was finally wounded. Purishkevich said he fired at Rasputin from behind at a distance of twenty paces and hit Rasputin in the back of the head. However, there is no photo of the rear of Rasputin’s head.
Neither Purishkevich nor Yusupov mention the close quarter shot to the forehead. The caliber of the weapon that was used cannot be measured. Nelipa thinks it is not very likely a Webley .455 inch and an unjacketed bullet was used, because its impact would have been different. "The hypothesis that the gunshot to the head was caused by an unjacketed bullet (of British origin) is not supported by the forensic findings or police forensic photographs."
According to the 1916 autopsy report by Dmitri Kosorotov one bullet had passed through the body, so it was impossible to tell how many people were shooting and to determine whether only one kind of revolver was used. "Kosorotov never stated that different caliber weapons were responsible."
Rasputin was more multifaceted and more significant than the myths that grew up around him:
- Rasputin was neither a monk nor a saint; he never belonged to any order or religious sect, but he impressed many people with his knowledge and ability to explain the Bible in an uncomplicated way.
- It was widely believed that Rasputin had a gift for curing bodily ailments. "In the mind of the Tsarina, Rasputin was closely associated with the health of her son, and the welfare of the monarchy" and eager to see him as a holy fool, but his enemies saw him as a debauched religious charlatan and a lecher.
- Brian Moynahan describes him as "a complex figure, intelligent, ambitious, idle, generous to a fault, spiritual, and – utterly – amoral." He was an unusual mix, a muzhik, prophet and [at the end of his life] a party-goer.
- "At first sight Rasputin looks like a symbol of decadence and obscurantism, of the complete corruption of the imperial court in which he was able to float to the top. And so he has usually been treated in the history books. The temptation to wallow in the rhetoric of the lower depths in describing him is almost irresistible. And yet the truth is somewhat simpler: Rasputin was only able to play the part he did because of the dispersal of authority which very much deepened after Stolypin's death, and because of the bewildered and unhappy isolation in which the royal couple found themselves."
- Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated on Sunday 28 June 1914 (New Style); two weeks later Rasputin was attacked in his home village on 29 June 1914 (Old Style), so it is not "... one of the great coincidences of history...".
- "To the nobles and Nicholas’s family members, Rasputin was a dual character who could go straight from praying for the royal family to the brothel [bathhouse] down the street."
- In Summer 1916 Anna Vyrubova, Lili Dehn and Rasputin went to Tobolsk, Verkhoturye and his home village. Most of the villagers were strongly against Rasputin's returning to Petrograd. This he refused to do. Even the Tsarina was wondering why Rasputin came back to the capital.
- The conspirators, who did not accept a peasant being so close to the Imperial couple, had hoped that Rasputin's removal would cause the Tsarina to retreat from political activities. They also believed that Rasputin was an agent of Germany, but he was more of a pacifist, and opposed to all wars.
- The date of Rasputin’s death is sometimes recorded as being 16 December 1916 (Old Style) or 13 days later on 29 December 1916 using New Style,[note 7] but the murderers left after midnight for Rasputin's apartment, when his guards were gone. The initial attempts to kill Rasputin began on the 17th and it is supposed he died, within two hours, between 3 and 4 o'clock in the early morning.
- The "drowning story" became a fixed part of the legend. Rasputin was already dead when thrown into the water. "There is no evidence that Rasputin swallowed water after being pushed into the Neva or that he had freed his arm to make the sign of the cross."
- In Russia, Rasputin is seen by many ordinary people and clerics, among them the late Elder Nikolay Guryanov, as a righteous man. However, Alexy II of Moscow said that any attempt to make a saint of Rasputin would be "madness". In 2004 any picture of Rasputin in a Russian-Orthodox church had to be removed.
- According to Dominic Lieven "more rubbish has been written on Rasputin than on any other figure in Russian history".
- In 1920 Maria Rasputin and her husband Boris Soloviev fled to Vladivostok and they settled in France. In 1935 she moved to the United States, where she worked as a tiger-trainer in the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. In her three memoirs – it is hard to find out which one is the most reliable, certainly not the last one – she painted an almost saintly picture of her father, insisting that most of the negative stories were based on slander and the misinterpretation of facts by his enemies.
In popular culture
After his death the memoirs of those who knew Rasputin became a mini-industry. The basement where he died is a tourist attraction. Numerous film and stage productions have been based on his life. He has appeared as a fictionalized version of himself in numerous other media, as well as having several beverages named after him.
- In a lost silent film, The Fall of the Romanovs (1917), Iliodor played himself.
- Rasputin and the Empress is a 1932 film about Imperial Russia. The film's inaccurate portrayal of Prince Felix and Irina Yusupov as Prince Chegodieff and Princess Natasha caused a major lawsuit against MGM.
- Rasputin's End (1958) an opera in three acts; (libretto by Stephen Spender, music by Nicolas Nabokov).
- "Rasputin: The Mad Monk" (1966) a horror film by Hammer Film Productions with Christopher Lee as Grigori Rasputin.
- In 1975 Elem Klimov finished a film about Rasputin called Agony. The story has most of the myths and legends. The road to screening took him nine years and many rewrites. The final edit was not released in the USSR until 1985, due to suppressive measures partly because of its orgy scenes and partly because of its relatively nuanced portrait of Tsar Nicholas II.
- The disco single "Rasputin" (1978) by the German-based pop and disco group Boney M references Rasputin's alleged affair with Alexandra Fyodorovna. The tune is based on the Turkish song "Kâtibim". This song was later covered by the band Turisas.
- Rasputin was depicted as the vengeful antagonist in the 1997 American animated film Anastasia.
- 2003 Einojuhani Rautavaara composed Rasputin, an opera in three acts
- In 2011 Josée Dayan directed a French-Russian produced a film on Rasputin for television called Raspoutine starring Gérard Depardieu in the role of Rasputin and Vladimir Mashkov as Nicholas II
- Rasputin was the subject of the BBC Radio 4 series Great Lives, first aired on 1 January 2013.
- Rasputin is the subject of a musical theatre production, Ripples to Revolution, by Peter Karrie
- With the aim of casting Leonardo DiCaprio as Rasputin, Warner Brothers have bought the rights to a screenplay by Jason Hall.
- Saint Martyr Grigori Rasputin the website of Oleg Molenko
- The new Russian series "Grigorii R", directed by Andrey Malyukov, began on Russian TV Monday 27 October 2014. With Vladimir Mashkov as Rasputin and Andrei Smolyakov as the investigator Switten, etc.
More than 150 items on Rasputin like bands, comics and other products that bear his name in:
Everyone who met Rasputin remarked on his eyes and how hypnotic they were. His "shining steel-like" or "bright and brilliant" and "intelligent" eyes became legendary. According to Theofan, Paul Kurlov and Count Kokotsov he had "piercing" eyes; to Yusupov his eyes were "phosphorescent"; to Tamara Karsavina he had the eyes of a maniac; Elena Dzhanumova wrote in her diary: “What eyes he has! You cannot endure his gaze for long.”
- Colin Wilson said in 1964 that "No figure in modern history has provoked such a mass of sensational and unreliable literature as Grigori Rasputin. More than a hundred books have been written about him, and not a single one can be accepted as a sober presentation of his personality. There is an enormous amount of material on him, and most of it is full of invention or willful inaccuracy. Rasputin's life, then, is not 'history'; it is the clash of history with subjectivity."
- For more information see Haemophilia in European royalty.
- The former monk Iliodor had written a book on Rasputin, entitling it "The Holy Devil" (1914). It was an appalling and libelous account alleging amorous ties between Grigori Rasputin and the Empress.
- For more details on Causes of World War I see A.J.P. Taylor and R.J. Evans.
- In the Russian Constitution of 1906 the Tsar retained an absolute veto over legislation, as well as the right to dismiss the Duma at any time, for any reason he found suitable.
- The Yusupov family owned a private vinyard in Massandra, near Yalta, where since 1892 sweet or semi-sweet fortified wines as Madeira, Port, Sherry, but also Champagne was produced. His palace in Koreiz had two wine cellars.
- This discrepancy arises due to the fact that the Gregorian calendar was not introduced into Soviet Russia until February 1918, see Old Style and New Style dates.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rasputin.|
|Wikisource has the text of a 1922 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Grigori Rasputin.|
- Short and correct biography in Saint Petersburg Encyclopaedia
- Rasputin: Between Virtue & Sin. Short documentary by Russian TV
- Photographs and films about Grigorii Yefimovich Rasputin
- The Alexander Palace Time Machine Bios-Rasputin – bio of Rasputin
- The Murder of Rasputin
- BBC's Rasputin murder reconstruction
- Grigori Efimovich Rasputin "My Ideas and Thoughts"
- Documentary: Last of the Czars (II) – The shadow of Rasputin
- Rare pictures on Getty Images