RASPUTIN: A Man of Mystery
II. The Downfall of Rasputin
Rasputin Prince Yussupov
The Corruption and Death of Rasputin
The seemingly humble peasant that Nicholas and Alexandra had welcomed into their lives was now becoming more elegant and rude. He began to dress in expensive and elaborate garments. He also had an increasing number of female followers. He flirted with them often and in front of them all, picked one and led her to his bedroom which the disciples referred to as: The Holy of Holies.” While in the room alone with her he told the woman “You think that I am polluting you, but I am not. I am purifying you.” Rasputin also made advances towards the Grand Duchess Olga and caused controversy in the palace when the governess of the Tsarevnas demanded that he be barred from their rooms since she found him with the girls late at night after they had changed. Nothing inappropriate occurred but it was clearly improper. When the governess suggested this to the Tsarina she was outraged and defended Rasputin. It was the Tsar who was forced to interrupt and support the accusation of Rasputin’s inappropriate presence (Massie 208). This event clearly illustrates the hold that Rasputin had over the Tsarina.
By 1911 the controversy surrounding Rasputin was strong. Despite their former appreciation of Rasputin, the Grand Duke and Duchess who first introduced him to the Tsar and Tsarina exclaimed that they “never wanted to see the devil again.” The Russian Orthodox Church was the first organization to officially conduct an investigation into Rasputin. They received countless confessions from women who Rasputin had taken advantage of and brought this evidence to the Tsarina. She was apparently completely blind to his misdeeds, ignored all warnings, and had the man who brought the complaints to her transferred. Rasputin was again attacked by rumors of a love affair with Alexandra. Another monk named Iliodor saw Rasputin as a friend. He soon learned of Rasputin’s transgressions and urged him to change his ways. However, once Iliodor found out that Rasputin had tried to seduce and then rape a nun he was outraged and made Rasputin swear to leave women and the royal family alone. This promise was not fulfilled (Massie 210-213).
No matter what evidence was brought to the Imperial family about Rasputin’s crimes, it was not believed. His influence over the Tsar and Tsarina made them see him as a saint. Alexandra herself refusing to believe any rumors stated that “he is hated because we love him.” She was mistaken and was biased; she failed to recognize the evil in the man that she regarded as a saint. Pierre Gilliard, Alexei’s tutor, said “The fatal influence of that man [Rasputin] was the principal cause of death of those who thought to find in him their salvation” (Massie 214).
1915, during World War I, Tsar Nicholas II decided to take over command of the
troops on the Eastern Front. It is said that Rasputin suggested this in order
to leave the Tsarina to rule Russia and through her he knew he could influence
the nation. He was right. During this time Alexandra valued his advice.
Previously he was able to have people appointed to power, and he now had the
power to remove all from their positions who opposed him as well. His influence
was continually growing (Columbia).
Rasputin’s influence began to chip away at the Imperial government. The people had no faith in autocratic rule anymore and the main cause was Rasputin and his control over the Tsarina. Something needed to be done to remove Rasputin from his dangerous position of power.
On December 16, 1916, Prince Felix Yussupov invited Rasputin to his home one night to meet his wife, Irina. This meeting was much more than it seemed though. It was part of the plot to murder Rasputin. Yussupov and his conspirators all wanted to remove Rasputin’s control over the Imperial family and had chosen that night to poison him. They put the poison into cakes which Yussupov served to Rasputin. The cakes had no effect so he was served poison in his drink and still there was no sign of impending death. It was getting late and the conspirators wanted to get it over with. Finally Yussupov decided to shoot Rasputin. After the shot was fired into his back, Yussupov bent over the body to see if the job had been accomplished. Amazingly, Rasputin sprang to his feet and attacked Yussupov. He managed to get away from Rasputin and run upstairs. Rasputin followed him and the prince fired four more shots at him, hitting him twice, once in the shoulder and the other is said to have hit his head. Rasputin finally fell on the ground unable to get up, but he was still grinding his teeth. Yussupov then took up a club and beat the body until the only color to be seen was red. The conspirators then rolled Rasputin in a blue curtain and dropped his body into the Neva River (Minney 194-195). An odd fact about this murder is that when the body was found and examined, the cause of death was established as drowning, revealing that he was still alive when dumped in the river, since he breathed water into his lungs.
Even today there is controversy over Rasputin and his role in Russian history. A current debate in the Russian Orthodox Church over whether Rasputin and Ivan the Terrible should be canonized is creating arguments among the people. Those in favor of the canonization say that Rasputin’s reputation was tarnished by his political opponents and by Jewish citizens who wanted to remove his influence from the court. They also distribute pamphlets on the positive aspects of Rasputin and his “bodily wounds and a ferocious death from the Jews” (Strauss).
Those members of the Orthodox faith who are against the canonization of Rasputin and Ivan the Terrible promote the misdeeds that the two infamous figures have committed. They label Rasputin as a “mad monk” who was a womanizer that had purely selfish motives with his influence in the Russian court (Strauss).
Rasputin was an illiterate peasant who was able to find a way through the classes of Russian society and become an honored advisor to the Imperial family. His ability to impress and charm, combined with his rumored “healing powers,” led to the creation of an important role in society for him. The Tsarina Alexandra greatly admired and became attached to him because of his talent of healing the Tsarevich Alexei’s pain. Alexandra was known to have great influence over her husband, Tsar Nicholas II, who was considered a weak Tsar. Rasputin took advantage of her influence over the Tsar and used his influence over the Tsarina to indirectly manipulate the Russian court.
Some believe that Grigori Rasputin did not have any real “healing power” instead he developed a skill for hypnosis. He is said to have used hypnosis on Alexei, not healing his wounds, but subliminally convincing the Tsarevich that there was no pain and thus stopping the bleeding (Massie 200). Although this theory can never be proven, it offers insight into the mystery of Rasputin’s rise to power. There are many theories that dispute Rasputin’s skills of curing the hemophiliac child. Medical research has uncovered new information that was not known at the time about the disease, especially that of the sufferers ability to recover very quickly. Rasputin may have been a man of God who was brought to the Russia royals with an intention to aid, advise, and heal, however, he may also have been a fraud who wanted nothing more than to escape trouble, get out of Siberia and selfishly acquire power to influence Russia.
Rasputin in Povroskoe