Poet. Magician. Healer. Prophet. Holy Monk.
Rasputin is known as the Siberian mystic healer, whose life has been
retold countless number of times throughout history. One of the major
problems is the mystery
and discrepancies associated with the depiction of Rasputin's life.
Because he lived in a world beyond the reach of the written word, little
is known about the first 40 years of Rasputin's life.
What is known, has been retold through
family stories and mysterious tales of his healing powers and visions. This
means that, depending on the teller of the story, Rasputin might be a holy
monk on one occasion, then an actor or phony without any connection to God
on another. Some facts have been confirmed by historians though.
There is a general consensus that Rasputin was born between 1864 and 1865.
His birth place and home (when he was not wandering) was the village of
Pokrovskoe, presently Tiumen' Oblast. Located
in Siberia, Pokrovskoe can be found on the Toura River and is not far from
the Ural Mountains. In the other direction, to the west, almost
1500 miles fall between the Urals and St. Petersburg. In the late 1800's,
when Rasputin lived in Pokrovskoe, the village had only a few streets,
lined with spacious wooden houses. Depending on a family's wealth, the
houses were either one or two stories. The homes were not simple wooden
abodes, rather their decoration included ornate carving, as well as
painted beams and window frames. At the village's center stood a large
white church with a guilded dome, a symbol of Russia's strong religious
Rasputin on the Path to Power and Fame
The Encyclopedia Britannica reports that at the age of 18, Rasputin went
through a religious transition, eventually traveling to the monastery at
Verkhoture. Here, he was introduced to the Khlysty sect. After traveling
to the monastery and spending some time there, he
did not become a monk. Even though he did not stay at the monastery to
become a monk, this trip already set him on the path to power and fame.
At the age of 19 Rasputin
returned to Pokrovskoe and married Praskovia Fyodorovna.
They had three children: Dimitri in 1897, Maria in 1898, and Varvara in 1900.
The picture to the left, shows Rasputin with his three children, circa 1910.
Marriage did not settle Rasputin, he continued to wander, traveling to
places of religious significance such as Mt. Athos, Greece and Jerusalem.
A self proclaimed holy man, Rasputin held the power to heal the sick and predict
the future. His fame grew far and wide, and soon people traveled from long
distances in search of his insight and healing powers. In return for his
services, people brought presents of food and money.
He had no long period of religious
or spiritual training and he had only a limited academic education
(he was not literate), thus his theatrical abilites became useful.
While explaining his training, Alex de Jonge, the author of The Life and
Times of Grigorii Rasputin , says "mystics, holy men, gurus, indeed
certain kinds of creative artists, devote years to the disciplined
development of their gifts; a sense of the spiritual alone is not enough"
(27). One element of Rasputin's talents that everyone who sought his
healing powers remarked upon was his great ability to calm people in distress.
While plowing one day, he was suddenly dazzled by an apparition.
The story is that he was touched by the Heavenly Mother. She told him
of the young Aleksei, the tsarevich and instructed him to appear at the
boy's side to stop his bleeding- a result of hemophilia.
Rasputin's first move towards St. Petersburg was in 1902, when he visited
the city of Kazan near the Volga river. He learned his first lessons about
European culture and tradition when he spent his first time in a European
Once he made this initial trip, he rapidly began to build a ever expanding
group of disciples and acquaintances among the upper classes. Among this
group, the "polite society," he was viewed "as a man of God and a starets
[religious elder]."(de Jonge, 58)
Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg at a very lucky time. At this point,
church leaders were in search of people of his type. They wanted people
with religious influence, who had power over the people. Rasputin
was both an ordinary peasant - simple, forceful and direct - while at the
same time, he held the power to captivate people with his healing powers
and insight into the future. There are several different perspectives of
Rasputin's behavior and actions. Not everyone had a positive view of
Rasputin, his "enemies charged that he was nothing but cynical, and that he
used religion to mask his drive for sex, money, and power" (de Jonge, 14).
Tzar Nicholas, Tsarina Alexandra and their children in a family portrait.
Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg in 1905, and the Great Soviet
Encyclopedia reports that he was not invited to the czar's palace until
1907. When Rasputin finally met the Tsar and Tsarina, he was needed as a
healer for the young Aleksei who was having a bleeding episode. Nicholas and
Alexandra were very secretive about their son's condition for fear that,
if made public, he would never
become tsar. Reluctant to invite Rasputin, they finally realized the
extent of their son's infliction and the powerlessness of his doctors. The
Tsarevich's disease, hemophilia, was common throughout European royalty and
was passed on to him by his mother. Upon leaving from this bleeding
episode, having temporarily cured Aleksei, Rasputin warned that the
destiny of both the Tsarevich and the Romanov dynasty were "irrevocably
linked to him" (Goetz, 948).
Rasputin's life in St. Petersburg, though based on the Tsarevich's need, was
not totally centered around the Romanov family. He remained an accessible
holy monk and healer. His days consisted of a leisurely breakfast with
family and close friends. Between 10 am to 1 pm, he had calling hours, open
to any St. Petersburg citizen. Later in the afternoon, he called at the
Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, the family's favorite residence,
for the family's news. He only went to the
palace when he was needed for healing or spiritual support. While in
St. Petersburg, Rasputin did stay in touch with his family in Pokrovskoe,
and in 1910 his daughter Maria moved to the city to attend the Seminary
Academy. Soon after Maria's move, Rasputin's other daughter Varvara
arrived and the girls attended the prominent Steblin-Damensky Gymnasium.
Praskovia, Rasputin's wife, now made yearly voyages to the city to visit
her daughters and husband.
Leading up to Death
Beginning soon after his daughters moved to St. Petersburg, Rasputin went
through different stages of acceptance with the Romanovs, other
high standing officials and socialites. Nicholas and Alexandra, worried
about rumors of Rasputin's mistresses and his life in the city, began some
research on his past. For more information about him, they asked close
friends whose judgments they respected. There was also general consensus
among officials that Rasputin was negatively influencing Alexandra, and
in turn affecting the entire country.
Rasputin is as famous for his death as he is for his life.
One evening at a meeting of Russian officials, it was decided that Rasputin
was putting the
entire nation in danger. Three men, Prince Feliks Yusupov (husband of the
Tsar's niece), Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich (a member of the duma)
and the Grand Duke Dimitry Pavlovich (the Tsar's cousin) took control of
the situation. With an intricate plan, the three invited Rasputin over to
the Yusupov Palace on December 30, 1916 to meet the Tsar's beautiful niece. Whi
le waiting for
her to appear, the men fed Rasputin poisoned wine and tea cakes. They
did not affect him. Dismay came over Yusupov and he shot Rasputin.
Miraculously, Rasputin staggered out into the courtyard where Purishkevich
and Pavlovich were preparing to leave the palace. Purishkevich shot the
staggering Rasputin again, but it was only when they bound his body and
threw it into the Neva River that he died.
There is much controversy over Rasputin's life, from his mistresses to his
mystical healing powers. But what is certain is that he had an
irrefutable affect on the Romanov family and the Russian Empire.
Last Updated: 12/16/97
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