Thursday, March 8, 2012

Truth and History of Grigori Rasputin (Russia 1869 - 1916)

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (22 January 1869 – 29 December 1916) was a Russian mystic who is perceived as having influenced the latter days of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their only son Alexei. Rasputin had often been called the "Mad Monk", while others considered him a "strannik" (or religious pilgrim) and even a starets (ста́рец, "elder", a title usually reserved for monk-confessors), believing him to be a psychic and faith healer.

It has been argued that Rasputin helped to discredit the tsarist government, leading to the fall of the Romanov dynasty, in 1917. Contemporary opinions saw Rasputin variously as a saintly mystic, visionary, healer and prophet or, on the contrary, as a debauched religious charlatan. There has been much uncertainty over Rasputin's life and influence as accounts of his life have often been based on dubious memoirs, hearsay and legend

Early Life
Rasputin was born a peasant in the small village of Pokrovskoye, along the Tura River in the Tobolsk guberniya (now Tyumen Oblast) in Siberia. The date of his birth remained in doubt for some time and was estimated sometime between 1863 and 1873.

Not much is known about his childhood and what is known was most likely passed down through his family members. He had two known siblings, a sister called Maria and an older brother named Dmitri. His sister Maria, said to have been epileptic, drowned in a river. One day, when Rasputin was playing with his brother, Dmitri fell into a pond and Rasputin jumped in to save him. They were both pulled out of the water by a passerby but Dmitri eventually died of pneumonia. Both fatalities affected Rasputin and he subsequently named two of his children Maria and Dmitri.

The myths surrounding Rasputin portray him as showing indications of supernatural powers throughout his childhood. One ostensible example of these reputed powers was when Efim Rasputin, Grigori's father, had one of his horses stolen and it was claimed that Rasputin was able to identify the man who had committed the theft.

When he was around the age of eighteen Rasputin spent three months in the Verkhoturye Monastery, possibly as a penance for theft. His experience there, combined with a reported vision of the Mother of God on his return, turned him towards the life of a religious mystic and wanderer. It also appears that he came into contact with the banned Christian sect known as the khlysty (flagellants), whose impassioned services, ending in physical exhaustion, led to rumors that religious and sexual ecstasy were combined in these rituals. Suspicions (which have not generally been accepted by historians) that Rasputin was one of the Khlysts threatened his reputation right to the end of his life. Alexander Guchkov charged him with being a member of this illegal and orgiastic sect. The Tsar perceived the very real threat of a scandal and ordered his own investigations but did not, in the end, remove Rasputin from his position of influence; on the contrary he fired his minister of the interior for a "lack of control over the press" (censorship being a top priority for Nicholas then). He then pronounced the affair to be a private one closed to debate.

Shortly after leaving the monastery, Rasputin visited a holy man named Makariy whose hut was nearby. Makariy had an enormous influence on Rasputin and he modelled himself after him. Rasputin married Praskovia Fyodorovna Dubrovina in 1889 and they had three children; Dmitri, Varvara and Maria. Rasputin also had another child with another woman. In 1901 he left his home in Pokrovskoye as a strannik (or pilgrim) and, during the time of his journeying, travelled to Greece and Jerusalem. In 1903 he arrived in Saint Petersburg where he gradually gained a reputation as a starets (or holy man) with healing and prophetic powers.

Healer to Alexei
Rasputin was wandering as a pilgrim in Siberia when he heard reports of Tsarevich Alexei's illness. It was not publicly known in 1904 that Alexei had haemophilia, a disease that was widespread among European royalty descended from the British Queen Victoria, who was Alexei's great-grandmother. When doctors could not help Alexei, the Tsaritsa looked everywhere for help, ultimately turning to her best friend, Anna Vyrubova, to secure the help of the charismatic peasant healer Rasputin in 1905. He was said to possess the ability to heal through prayer and was indeed able to give the boy some relief, in spite of the doctors' prediction that he would die. Every time the boy had an injury which caused him internal or external bleeding, the Tsaritsa called on Rasputin, and the Tsarevich subsequently got better. This made it appear that Rasputin was effectively healing him.

Skeptics have claimed that he did so by hypnosis, which, in one study, actually has proven to relieve symptoms because it lowers stress levels and therefore diminishes the symptomatology of haemophilia. However, during a particularly grave crisis at Spala in Poland in 1912, Rasputin sent a telegram from his home in Siberia, which is believed to have eased the suffering. His pragmatic advice include suggestions such as "Don't let the doctors bother him too much; let him rest." This was thought to have helped Alexei to relax and allow the child's own natural healing process some headroom. Others have made the less likely suggestion that he used leeches to attempt to treat the boy. As leech saliva contains anticoagulants such as hirudin, this treatment would most likely have exacerbated his haemophilia instead of providing relief. Diarmuid Jeffreys has pointed out that Rasputin's healing suggestions included halting the administration of aspirin, a then newly-available (since 1899) pain-relieving (analgesic) "wonder drug". As aspirin is also an anticoagulant, this intervention would have helped to mitigate the hemarthrosis causing Alexei's joints' swelling and pain.

The Tsar referred to Rasputin as "our friend" and a "holy man," a sign of the trust that the family had placed in him. Rasputin had a considerable personal and political influence on Alexandra, and the Tsar and Tsaritsa considered him a man of God and a religious prophet. Alexandra came to believe that God spoke to her through Rasputin. Of course, this relationship can also be viewed in the context of the very strong, traditional, age-old bond between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian leadership. Another important factor was probably the Tsaritsa's German-Protestant origin: she was definitely highly fascinated by her new Orthodox outlook — the Orthodox religion puts a great deal of faith in the healing powers of prayer.

Rasputin soon became a controversial figure, becoming involved in a paradigm of sharp political struggle involving monarchist, anti-monarchist, revolutionary and other political forces and interests. He was accused by many eminent persons of various misdeeds, ranging from an unrestricted sexual life (including raping a nun) to undue political domination over the royal family. Some of these allegations of sexual misconduct were no doubt encouraged by his frequently embarrassing drunken behavior, on one occasion documented by a History Channel documentary he is said to have opened his pants and waved his penis in front of shocked diners at a Saint Petersburg restaurant whilst inebriated.

While fascinated by him, the Saint Petersburg elite did not widely accept Rasputin: he did not fit in with the royal family, and he and the Russian Orthodox Church had a very tense relationship. The Holy Synod frequently attacked Rasputin, accusing him of a variety of immoral or evil practices. Because Rasputin was a court official, though, he and his apartment were under 24-hour surveillance, and, accordingly, there exists some credible evidence about his lifestyle in the form of the famous "staircase notes" — reports from police spies which were not given only to the Tsar but also published in newspapers.

According to Rasputin's daughter, Maria, Rasputin did "look into" the Khlysty sect but rejected it. One Khlyst practice was known as "rejoicing", a ritual which sought to overcome human sexual urges by engaging in group sexual activities so that, in consciously sinning together, the sin's power over the human was nullified. Rasputin is said to have been particularly appalled by the belief that grace is found through self-flagellation.

Like many spiritually minded Russians, Rasputin spoke of salvation as depending less on the clergy and the church than on seeking the spirit of God within. He also maintained that sin and repentance were interdependent and necessary to salvation. Thus, he claimed that yielding to temptation (and, for him personally, this meant sex and alcohol), even for the purposes of humiliation (so as to dispel the sin of vanity), was needed to proceed to repentance and salvation. Rasputin was deeply opposed to war, both from a moral point of view and as something which was likely to lead to political catastrophe. During the years of World War I, Rasputin's increasing drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and willingness to accept bribes (in return for helping petitioners who flocked to his apartment), as well as his efforts to have his critics dismissed from their posts, made him appear increasingly cynical. Attaining divine grace through sin seems to have been one of the central secret doctrines which Rasputin preached to (and practiced with) his inner circle of society ladies.

During World War I, Rasputin became the focus of accusations of unpatriotic influence at court; the unpopular Tsaritsa, meanwhile, was of German descent, and she came to be accused of acting as a spy in German employ.

When Rasputin expressed an interest in going to the front to bless the troops early in the war, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Duke Nicholas, promised to hang him if he dared to show up there. Rasputin then claimed that he had a revelation that the Russian armies would not be successful until the Tsar personally took command. With this, the ill-prepared Tsar Nicholas proceeded to take personal command of the Russian army, with dire consequences for himself as well as for Russia.

While Tsar Nicholas II was away at the front, Rasputin's influence over Tsaritsa Alexandra increased immensely. He soon became her confidant and personal adviser, and also convinced her to fill some governmental offices with his own handpicked candidates. To further the advance of his power, Rasputin cohabited with upper-class women in exchange for granting political favours. Because of World War I and the ossifying effects of feudalism and a meddling government bureaucracy, Russia's economy was declining at a very rapid rate. Many at the time laid the blame with Alexandra and with Rasputin, because of his influence over her. Here is an example:

Vladimir Purishkevich was an outspoken member of the Duma. On November 19, 1916, Purishkevich made a rousing speech in the Duma, in which he stated, "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 tsaritsa ... who has remained a German on the Russian throne and alien to the country and its people." Felix Yusupov attended the speech and afterwards contacted Purishkevich, who quickly agreed to participate in the murder of Rasputin.

Rasputin's influence over the royal family was used against him and the Romanovs by politicians and journalists who wanted to weaken the integrity of the dynasty, force the Tsar to give up his absolute political power and separate the Russian Orthodox Church from the state. Rasputin unintentionally contributed to their propaganda by having public disputes with clergy members, bragging about his ability to influence both the Tsar and Tsaritsa, and also by his dissolute and very public lifestyle. Nobles in influential positions around the Tsar, as well as some parties of the Duma, clamored for Rasputin's removal from the court. Perhaps inadvertently, Rasputin had added to the Tsar's subjects' diminishing respect for him.

Grigori Rasputin
Scribd: Minister of Evil by William Le Queux

Grigori Rasputin Documentary - Part 1 of 3

Grigori Rasputin Documentary - Part 2 of 3

Grigori Rasputin Documentary - Part 3 of 3

The murder of Rasputin has become legend, some of it invented by the very men who killed him, which is why it becomes difficult to discern exactly what happened. It is, however, generally agreed that, on December 16, 1916, having decided that Rasputin's influence over the Tsaritsa had made him a far-too-dangerous threat to the empire, a group of nobles, led by Prince Felix Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (one of the few Romanov family members to escape the annihilation of the family during the Red Terror), apparently lured Rasputin to the Yusupovs' Moika Palace, where they served him cakes and red wine laced with a massive amount of cyanide. According to legend, Rasputin was unaffected, although Vasily Maklakov had supplied enough poison to kill five men. Conversely, Maria's account asserts that, if her father did eat or drink poison, it was not in the cakes or wine, because, after the attack by Guseva, he had hyperacidity, and avoided anything with sugar. In fact, she expressed doubt that he was poisoned at all.

Determined to finish the job, Yusupov became anxious about the possibility that Rasputin might live until the morning, which would leave the conspirators with no time to conceal his body. Yusupov ran upstairs to consult the others and then came back down to shoot Rasputin through the back with a revolver. Rasputin fell, and the company left the palace for a while. Yusupov, who had left without a coat, decided to return to grab one, and, while at the palace, he went to check up on the body. Suddenly, Rasputin opened his eyes and lunged at Prince Yusupov. When he grabbed Prince Yusupov he ominously whispered in Yusupovs ear "you bad boy" and attempted to strangle him. As he made his bid to kill Yusupov, however, the other conspirators arrived and fired at him. After being hit three times in the back, Rasputin fell once more. As they neared his body, the party found that, remarkably, he was still alive, struggling to get up. They clubbed him into submission and, after wrapping his body in a sheet, threw him into an icy river, and he finally met his end there — as had both his siblings before him.

Three days later, the body of Rasputin, poisoned, shot four times and badly beaten, was recovered from the Neva River. An autopsy established that the cause of death was hypothermia. His arms were found in an upright position, as if he had tried to claw his way out from under the ice. In the autopsy, it was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him. Yet another report, also supporting the idea that he was still alive after submerging through the ice into the Neva River, is that after his body was pulled from the river, water was found in the lungs, showing that he didn't die until he was submerged.

Subsequently, the Tsaritsa Alexandra buried Rasputin's body in the grounds of Tsarskoye Selo, but after the February Revolution, a group of workers from Saint Petersburg uncovered the remains, carried them into the nearby woods, and burned them. As the body was being burned, Rasputin appeared to sit up in the fire. His apparent attempts to move and get up thoroughly horrified bystanders. The effect can probably be attributed to improper cremation; since the body was in inexperienced hands, the tendons were probably not cut before burning. Consequently, when the body was heated, the tendons shrank, forcing the legs to bend and the body to bend at the waist, resulting in its appearing to sit up. This final happenstance only further fueled the legends and mysteries surrounding Rasputin. The official report of his autopsy disappeared during the Joseph Stalin era, as did several research assistants who had seen it.

The Assassination of Grigori Rasputin

The storyline of the film follows the final months of 1916 up to the murder of Rasputin; some events have been telescoped into this time though they actually happened earlier, during the war. Rasputin's effect on people around him is shown as almost hypnotic, and the film avoids taking a moral stance towards him—breaking not only with Soviet history but also with how he was regarded by people near the court at the time, some of whom regarded him as a debilitating figure who disgraced the monarchy and hampered the war effort.

Grigory Rasputin "The Agony" - Part 1 of 14

The movie chronicles the events of history's "man of mystery," Rasputin. Although not quite historically accurate and little emphasis is put on the politics of the day, Rasputin's rise to power and eventual assassination are depicted in an attempt to explain his extraordinary power and influence. Written by Mark J. Popp

Rasputin - Dark Servant of Destiny (1996) - Part 1

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