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The Murder of Rasputin


Grigory Rasputin

Grigory Rasputin, the Mad Monk of Russia.

(Public domain)

The mysterious Grigory Efimovich Rasputin, a peasant who claimed powers of healing and prediction, had the ear of Russian Tsarina Aleksandra. The aristocracy could not stand a peasant in such a high position. Peasants could not stand the rumors that the tsarina was sleeping with such a scoundrel. Rasputin was seen as "the dark force" that was ruining Mother Russia.

To save the monarchy, several members of the aristocracy attempted to murder the holy man. On the night of December 16-17, 1916, they tried to kill Rasputin. The plan was simple. Yet on that fateful night, the conspirators found that Rasputin would be very difficult to kill.

The Mad Monk

Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Aleksandra (the emperor and empress of Russia) had tried for years to give birth to an heir. After four girls were born, the royal couple was desperate. They called in many mystics and holy men. Finally, in 1904, Aleksandra gave birth to a baby boy, Aleksei Nikolayevich. Unfortunately, the boy who had been the answer to their prayers was afflicted with "the Royal disease," hemophilia. Every time Aleksei began to bleed, it would not stop. The royal couple became frantic to find a cure for their son. Again, mystics, holy men and healers were brought in. Nothing helped until 1908, when Rasputin was called upon to come aid the young tsarevich during one of his bleeding episodes.

Grigory Efimovich Rasputin was a peasant (muzhik), born in the Siberian town of Pokrovskoye on January 10, probably in the year 1869. 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.

When Rasputin was summoned to the royal palace in 1908, he proved he had a healing power. 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.

Having proven to Aleksandra his holy powers, Rasputin did not remain just the healer for Aleksei; Rasputin soon became the confidante and personal advisor of Aleksandra. To the aristocrats, having a peasant advising the tsarina, who in turn held a great deal of influence over the tsar, was unacceptable. In addition, Rasputin was a lover of alcohol and sex - both of which he consumed in excess. Though Rasputin appeared a pious and saintly holy man in front of the royal couple, others saw him as a dirty, sex-craved peasant who was ruining Russia and the monarchy. It didn't help that Rasputin was having sex with women in high society in exchange for granting political favors. Nor that many in Russia believed Rasputin and the tsarina were lovers and wanted to make a separate peace with the Germans (Russia and Germany were enemies during World War I).

Everyone was talking about the need to get rid of Rasputin. Attempting to enlighten the royal couple about the danger they were in, many influential people approached both Nicholas and Aleksandra with the truth about Rasputin and with the rumors that were circulating. To everyone's great dismay, they both refused to listen. So who was going to kill Rasputin before the monarchy was completely destroyed?

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