Who Was Known as Rasputin?
Grigori Efimovich, called Rasputin, (1872-1916) was a Russian peasant and mystic who became a powerful and notorious favorite at the court of Tsar Nicholas II. He received virtually no education, but had an extraordinary magnetic personality. Rasputin underwent a religious transformation around the age of 18 and spent three months in the Verkhoturye Monastery.
When he returned to Pokrovskoye he was a changed man. Though he married Proskovia Fyodorovna and had three children with her (two girls and a boy), he began to wander as a strannik (“pilgrim” or “wanderer”). During his wanderings, Rasputin traveled to Greece and Jerusalem. Though he often traveled back to Pokrovskoye, he found himself in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) in 1903. By then he was proclaiming himself a starets, a holy man, who had healing powers and could predict the future.
Assuming the role of a holy pilgrim, he left his family in Pokrovskoye, Western Siberia, and in 1903 arrived in the Russian capital, St. Petersburg (now Leningrad). There he was befriended by high churchmen, and his hypnotic powers made him the centre of a circle of admirers, particularly women. His claim to have a divinely inspired power of healing by physical contact gave him an excuse for sexual excesses.
In 1908 he was presented to Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra. Their son, the young Crown Prince Alexis, suffered from hemophilia, a physical weakness that leads to severe bleeding. Rasputin’s powers of suggestion seemed to have a remarkable healing influence on the boy, and he came to be regarded by Alexandra as a saint sent by God to save the royal family and the country.
Unlike his predecessors, Rasputin was able to help the boy. How did he do it? That is still greatly disputed. Some people believe Rasputin used hypnotism; others say Rasputin didn’t know how to hypnotize. Part of Rasputin’s continued mystique is the remaining question as to whether or not he really had the powers he claimed to have.
But his arrogance, debauchery and interference with the government made him many enemies. Parliament denounced him in 1912 as “a mysterious tragic-comic figure, an apparition of the Dark Ages” and he was sent into exile. Two years later, however, he was allowed to return to St. Petersburg. In 1915 when the Tsar assumed supreme control of his armies on the battlefields against Germany, Rasputin, who was against the war, exploited his influence over the Tsarina to control affairs in the capital.
A group of aristocrats, jealous of his power, disgusted with his scandalous behavior and suspecting him of treachery, determined to kill him. On the night of December 29-30 1916, he was trapped in a house to which he had been invited, poisoned, shot, and finally, it is told, bound and dropped through a hole in the ice on the Neva River where he eventually froze to death.