Rasputin (21 January 1869 – 30 December 1916)

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was born in Pokrovskoye, Siberia. He had a regular early life, getting married and having children. In 1897, when he was 28, he had some kind of religious experience that encouraged him to go on a pilgrimage. He wandered the country as an enigmatic holy man, and eventually his name came to the attention of church leaders. Despite nicknames like the "Mad Monk," Rasputin was never an official in the Russian Orthodox Church.

Gaining the attention of Russian royalty

The peasant's son with a holy man's mystique traveled to St. Petersburg in the early 1900s. Bishops had heard about his perceived ability to help those with religious issues or anxiety and wanted to meet the man in person. By 1905, Rasputin had attracted a number of followers, including women who were married to the Tsar's cousins. Later that year, he met the Tsar in person, but it was an uneventful meeting. However, a connection with the Tsar's son was going to change Rasputin's life...

Helping Alexei Nikolaevich with his illness

The son of the Tsar, Alexei Nikolaevich, suffered from hemophilia. Russian doctors had failed to help him, so his mother, Tsarina Alexandra, turned to the supposed mystical healing abilities of Rasputin. It appears that Rasputin at least had wise words for the boy, as his condition improved when the holy man was involved. Critics said Rasputin was using hypnosis, but his actions made him a friend of the royal family. The outbreak of war served to increase his influence...

When the cat's away...

The First World War broke out in 1914. Rasputin told Nicholas II that Russian forces would never win unless commanded by their Tsar. Nicholas left for the Eastern front, leaving Tsarina Alexandra (and therefore, Rasputin) in effective control. Rasputin had always had his critics, but they became more vocal as his power seemingly increased. Many nobles were opposed to this bizarre mystic of peasant stock having the ear of the Tsarina. Rasputin was nearly killed in 1914 when he was stabbed in the stomach. It wasn't much longer before another attempt was made to remove his influence...

Dan the Info-man
The Russian Empire suffered over three million deaths due to the First World War (military and civilian).

Murder of the "Mad Monk"

By 1916, many believed Rasputin's influence was having a hugely negative effect on the empire. A group of nobles tried to poison the man, and then eventually shot him three times (including a close-range shot to the head), which killed him. The Tsarina had Rasputin buried, although during the Russian February Revolution (1917) his body was dug up and burned to ashes.

Cynic, sinner or saint?

There is no doubt that Rasputin was a complex man, and it is very difficult to organize the truth from fabrications created by his enemies. His beliefs became conflicted as he gained power, indulging in sexual dalliances and alcohol. He was spied upon, with his detractors looking for any clue to darken his reputation and remove him from the favor of the court. It is possible that the Russian aristocracy's curiosity of mysticism enabled the man with a peasant's background to enjoy luxuries he could have only dreamed of beforehand, thus corrupting him.

A spoke on the wheel of the Russian Revolution

Some have said that Rasputin can be partly blamed for the Russian Revolution period (February Revolution and October Revolution, 1917). Obviously, there were many reasons for this incredible political upheaval but Rasputin's hold over the royal family was resented by many and was seen as an example of how out of touch the old regime had become.

Dan the Info-man
This is an image of Vladimir Lenin, who played a leading role in the Russian Revolution.
Have a comment or suggestion?