Grigori Efimovich Rasputin has been called a Russian mystic among other things, he was also call a "Holy Devil" by Iliodor (Sergei Trufanov) the monk-priest of Tsarytsin.
Much which is known about the early life of Rasptin may be more legend than fact, because to the Russian peasants he was a hero, their man. One thing is certain, though, he was a product of his Siberian culture.
One story is that Rasputin's father was sent to Siberia as a criminal. It seems that when he was working for the government, as a carter, a transporter of passengers and cargo. It seems that his Father got drunk one night and his horse ran off which ended him up in Siberia for horse stealing. He was eventually freed, got property by working as a carter and raised a family.
The exact year of the birth of his son Grigori is unknown. It was evidently some time between 1862 and 1875. He had an elder sister Maria, who is said to have been an epileptic and drown in a river. His older brother Dmitri had also fallen in a river once while the two boys were playing together. Grigori jumped in and rescued him and they were both pulled out by a passerby. Afterwards Dmitri took pneumonia and died which greatly affected his younger brother. Rasputin named two of his children Maria and Dmitri after his brother and sister.
There are only indications of Rasputin's paranormal powers during childhood. He loved animals, especially horses and loved playing in his father's stable. He would climb upon the horses' backs, touch them with his hand and cheek. With an invented child's language he would talk to the horses. He often told stories of his talking to the horses, to the young Tsesarvich Alesha to comfort him.
Only one incident, of Rasputin's exceptional powers seems to be recorded: On a particular night, while he was a young boy, neighbors were gathered in the home of Rasputin's parents. As was the habit in Siberian villages like Pokrovskoe, villagers would meet in eavh others homes in the evening. Rasputin was sick in bed, but heard the low conversation concerning the theft of a horse. Rasputin got up in his nightshirt and pointed to one of the guests declaring him to be the thief. His parents were embarrassed, but after the gathering broke up some of the villagers who were curious at the boy's words went to the man's lands, and saw him with the stolen horse.
The next morning many returned to the house of Rasputin's parents making the sign of the Cross and saying invocations to the Mother of God and Saint George as they marvelled over the boy's power.
Rasputin later told of playing and fighting with the village children, but he would never steal. Since he always knew when someone stole something, he thought everyone possessed this same power. At the proper age Rasputin became a carter like his father. Then at thirty-three he had a passenger who drasticly changed his life.
This passenger was a seminarian novice who was returning to the monastery in Verkhoture. On the way he introduced Rasputin to the sect of Khlysty. He convinced Rasputin to remain at the monastery and learn the teachings of the sect. Rasputin did so, and began to see his mission in life. After a stay at the monastery of only three months Rasputin felt his mission in life was to teach the Khlysty doctrines to the Russian people.
Before leaving the monastery Rasputin went to visit its holy Starets (a wisw Elder). When arriving at the man's abode, within a distant forest, the aging Orthodox priest, Father Makari, told Rasputin that he had much yet to learn of the earth. He should leave his family, wife, children and possessions because God had called him. Rasputin rejoiced at hearing the Elder's words, since this was a dream he had since childhood, to devote his life to God.
It must be pointed out that this dream did not stop him from being a normal boy. He fought with other boys of Pokrovskoe. It is said that he himself admitted playing tricks on others. It is reported he tumbled with girls and drank vodka at the age of fifteen.
But, Rasputin hurried home to bid farewell to his wife and family. His wife and father took it in the spirit that he had been called by God to do this. For years he roamed as a vagabond living among the peasants, some of whom were "Old Believers" and fought against reforms in the Orthodox Church. During his journey he learned the heart of Russia. Also he took part in their worship services called the Radenyi.
Also during this journey, rumors began to spread about this man who seemed to perform miracles of healing the sick and preaching strange and new teachings. Other rumors were that he had attracted a group of women disciples around him. Still other rumors had it that he slept with many of his followers. Some of these women would later become his disciples who joined Rasputin within his Holy of Hollies in St. Petersburg.
Upon his return to Pokrovskoe Rasputin completely abandoned his wife, children and father. He lived in a secret cellar for nights and days. When his wife and father descended the steps they found him always praying, asking God's forgiveness on his knees. His lamentations rose to roars and then sank to cries and he repeated hundreds of times "Lord have mercy on us." His body shook and trembled and then relaxed. Often his father and wife found themselves compelled to kneel with him and participate in his ritual.
Rasputin became the "Cellar Preacher" after first being visited by an old peasant who was on the local church council. Along with the whole village, he was curious about the returning Rasputin. He descended the cellar steps not knowing what to expect after hearing the lamentations from a distance. The man was determined to discover what was going on, and when he emerged from the cellar he was a changed man. His servant took one look at the man's serene face and recognized the change in his master. The servant spread this news throughout the village and on the succeeding days other villagers descended into the cellar chamber. Many were suspicious because he had played pranks on them as a boy, and they also knew that he had chased the girls and drank. But they all emerged the same way as the church councilman.
The meanings of Rasputin's new doctrines mainly took hold with the women and young girls who quickly spread them not caring about the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Such were the activities, until the village priest Father Petr, became so upset that he went to see the cellar preacher himself. Many of his parishioners saw him triumphantly enter the cellar. They heard the terrifying voice of Rasputin and then saw the priest emerge from the cellar again appearing to have been totally shaken out of his wits. Added to this was the humiliation of his parishioners seeing him in such a state. By the time Father Petr had returned home he had regained his composure and formed an opinion that the thundering voice that had came down upon his so unmercifully had been the voice of the Antichrist. He knew if he had not left when he did, he would have became one of its victims as had so many of his parishioners. It was then he wrote a letter to his bishop describing everything he knew of Rasputin's past life and finally accusing him of teaching the heresy of Khlysty. The priest asked that legal action be taken against the false prophet.
Soon the Bishop and his commission appeared in Pokrovshoe. They were going to investigate the whole matter. All that were called to testify testified to Rasputin's holiness, calling him a holy man. Even old peasants' testimonies were included. The Bishop and other commission members were about to end their interrogation when Father Petr jumped up crying that all the people testified as they did because they were under Rasputin's influence. In order to determine whether this was true the commission sent Father Petr and a policeman to the preacher's cellar. Upon entering it and finding Rasputin devotedly praying on the ground, the policeman, being also of peasant descent, was so moved that he fell to his knees saying, "Father Grigori, forgive me my sins." When the story of the policeman's miraculous conversion spread through the village Father Petr had to admit defeat and the commission went home.
Rasputin's fame quickly spread through the neighboring land. He quckly became known as Father and a "Starets". Current as well as historical Russian events soon placed Rasputin in the limelight of politics.
The marriage of Nicholas II and Princess Alexandra of Hesse occurred shortly before the death of his father Alexander III. Many considered Nicholas II, or Nikolai as he was called, a weak Tsar. Whether this was true or not is still debatable. The political climate in Russia was unstable, to say the least, at the time of his succession at the age of twenty-three.
For decades Russia had been riding the roller-coaster of more freedom toward democracy for the peasants and away from totalitarianism. Nicholas II's grandfather, Alexander II, pretty much started the political climate of unrest by starting referendums for more peasants' rights. After seeing his father assassinated Alexander III, reversed the political policies and established more totalitarian policies. Hating all ideas of reforms he established "land captains" in rural areas acted as sinister police agents and dealt ruthlessly with any type of revolutionary action. Many attempts were made on the Tzar's life. Finally he was injured in a train bombing and died shortly afterwards.
This was the Russia which Nicholas II inherited. They were a popular fairy tale couple, loved around the world. Much of the time he and Tsaritsa Alexandra, who had been nicknamed Sunshine as a child and still called so by her husband, resided at their private resident of Tsarskoe Selo and paid little attention to "politics". The couple were very much in love, they always considered their marriage an extended honeymoon. This fact itself would influenced Russian peoples attituds. Also, Tsaritsa Alexandra was from a German, Protestant country which had not set well with her mother-in-law. although the Tsaritsa converted to the Russian Orthodox religion upon her marriage, there still evolved two influential courts within the palace; Her court, and the inner-court of those devoted to her mother-in-law. Which added to the Tsar and Tsaritsa being more comfortable at Tsarskoe Selo. The Tsar conducted all the possible business that he could from there; but he was not in tune to political climate that continued to brew.
Before the Tsesarevich, Alexei was born. The couple had two daughters but no son, or Tsesarevich, who would be the heir to the Empire. Soon afterwards; it was discovered the boy was a hemophiliac and there was no cure. Alexandra knew she had given the disease to her son, one of her uncles had suffered from it; and this weighed heavily upon her. Her daughters were not affected, she was told, the mother could only give the disease to a male child.
Alexei's childhood was miserable. He was unable to run and play like other children, especially his older sisters. He was always cautioned against doing anything because the slightest bump or bruise could start him bleeding internally; and that would last for days, or not stop at all. This annoyed him. He was always asking why he could not play like others. His parents gave him every safe thing they thought of that he might play with, but he still was unhappy sitting
among the toys but not being able to play like a normal child. When undressed in bed his little body showed blue swellings, indicating internal hemorrhaging which was so dangerous to his life.
On one occasion the bleeding had continued for three days with the Tsaritsa at his bedside seeing him in agony. The doctors were called but they could not help the sick child.
Then late one night as the Tsaritsa, in night clothes, was sleeping close to her son there was an unnoticed knock on the door of the room. It was her friend, the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, affectionately called Stana. She comforted the Tsaritsa and told her that Alexei would soon be healed; and the Tsaritsa would even win the love of the court ladies. The Duchess explained to her, that a holy man had just arrived in the capitol.
She explained he had attended mass in the church of John of Cronstadt. The Duchess assured her he was a holy man, because at the beginning of the communion service Father John had stopped and said to the mostly women communicants, "Stop! to-day we have a worthier among us who must first partake of Holy Communion--the simple pilgrim who stands there in your midst." The Duchess explained how she had been told her of the incident. That Rasputin was described as more holier than Father John and possessed more divine power than the doctors attending the Tsesarevich.
The Tsaritsa was not convinced immediately. There had been others who tried to cure the Tsesarevich and failed. Some had been physicians whom the Tsaritsa and Tsar knew had tried helping the boy not only for the sake of Russia but for their own ambitions. So there was cause for skepticism. But later, the Grand Duchess told of the God-fearing, middle-classed widow Bashmakova came ahead of Father Grigori telling of the sick he had healed within his own village and other miracles he had performed.
She assured the Empress the this holy man was a true Russian. Father Feofan had brought Rasputin to the palace to meet her and her husband, He met the Tsar who also liked him. The Tsaritsa knew this for the Tsar had previously informed her. The Grand Duchess continued that she had told Rasputin of the sick Alexei and he said, "Just tell the Empress not to weep any more. I will make her youngster well again! Once he is a soldier, he will have red cheeks again."
The Grand Duchess reminded the Empress that one of her son's physicians, M. Philippe, had told her as he left unable to help the child anymore: "that God would send you a new friend to help and protect you." She assured the Empress that Rasputin was the promised friend. Two nights later he was secretly entered through a rear entrance of the palace to avoid notice of the guards. He was brought by the Grand Duchess who was a frequent visitor at Tsarskoe Selo.
When they went to the nursery quarters where the Tsar and Tsaritsa were waiting, s was his peasant custom, Rasputin vigorously embraced and kissed them both. He then knelt and prayed at the sacred icons in the corner of the room and went to the child's bed and made the sign of the cross over him. The feverish child who had suffered in pain many days woke up and looked at the stranger who began telling him that nothing would hurt him anymore and he continued rubbing his hands over the boy's body from head to toe. He had asked his governess who the strange man was, and she who was in a dreamy state answered, "A holy man who will make you well again. God Himself sent him to your papa and mama." Needless to say the Empress herself shared the same feelings. The first time Rasputin left the boy's room she burst into tears of gratitude, grabbing and kissing the peasant's hands.
Miraculously the child recovered and Father Grigori repeatedly returned to tell him stories of life in Siberia. The boy called Rasputin "little Father". Rasputin's attendance with the royal family lasted for some time. What he had done for her son made the Tsaritsa cleave to him; she knew in his protection the Tsesarevich would remain well. The Tsar also liked him, but was not struck at first by his awe of holiness as his wife was.
Those wishing to aspire and become closer to the royal family quickly made friends with Rasputin, this included the physician Dr. Badmaev, who had not been able to help the boy, and John of Cronstadlt who surely could not admit being wrong about Rasputin's holiness.
During the period of his power and influence with the Tsar and Tsaritsa, "papa" and "mama" as he affectionly called them, Rasputin's private life was not a great matter of concern. He was always surrounded by his women disciples when in St. Petersburg at the flat rented for him by the widow Bashmakova. It is thought when first arriving in the capitol Rasputin may have solely lived with her. Later his other disciples arrived, plus his two daughters and son occupied the resident. These women came and went in service of Rasputin. Many of these women claimed he healed them from various diseases, but according to Rasputin's biographers most of them were hysterical. When they gathered together, they gathered in a room called the "Holy of Hollies." The discussions ranged from the divine to sexual matters. One day Rasputin predicted his death in this Holy of Hollies.
In other rooms Rasputin received visitors and conducted business. With his influence with the royal family all Russian society called upon Rasputin. He was not above receiving expensive gifts for his services, or accepting bribes or gifts, many went to his family. He never hesitated in helping others; he was very generous, especially the poor. Many times he called for his helpers to bring more bank notes for the poor. One fact which seemed to account for his generosity was he never forgot his peasant background.
It is not clear what Rasputin really wanted. He seemed to have two personalities, if not more. He desired holiness but was not cut out for the discipline of the monastery. He also desired the world and sex. With his life in view, it would appear that Rasputin tried combining both worlds. To some he was a priest, or holy man, while to others he was a politician, one to be petitioned to receive favors. Usually most men in such a position are dangerous. Rasputin seemed not to be dangerous.
But soon gossip of Rasputin's conduct surfaced around the Court. When the Tsaritsa was told how Rasputin kissed and fondled his female disciples she brushed it off by saying this was his way of showing Christian love as the apostles had. Soon it was rumored the Tsaitsa and her daughters were darning Rasputin's shirts. It was also said he had slept with the Tsesarevich's governess. The governess of the older daughters persuaded the Tsar to stop Rasputin from going into the girl's rooms to hear their night prayers. As these rumors grew the royal family soon met Rasputin on neutral ground, a Baroness' cottage. Still others jealous or disliking Rasputin spread rumors of his scandalous lifestyle. Rumors still persisted and the Tsar asked Rasputin to leave.
Rasputin did without protest but said if the royal family listened to his enemies they would lose their son and crown within six months. Once he had claimed he held the fate of Russia in his fist. Perhaps he had; because toward the end he continually urged the Empress to tell the Tsar to keep the food trains moving to feed the people. When the Empire began to fall, the trains stopped, and the rioting people stole their food. As he had predicted Rasputin's death signalled the collapsed of the Russian Empire. But, ironically a leading member of that empire executed that death.
Young Prince Felix Yusupov was one of the wealthiest men in Russian and his marriage to the Tsar's niece Irina Alexandrovna gave him a social status. Like most of the royal society of that time Yusupov followed few intellectual pursuits. He was a bored man of leisure. To end this dull boredom of the very rich Yusupov conceived of the idea of committing a murder. Yusupov's prime candidate for his murder was Grigori Rasputin. Even though the latter tried his best to befriend the Prince, the young man disliked him. Yusupov disliked Rasputin's crude peasant ways, especially the way he so cordially addressed the high members of society, and the way he embraced and fondled women, this was especially true of Munia Golovin the woman that was to marry Yusupov's dead brother. But it was through Munia and her mother that Yusupov had met Rasputin.
At the time of the conceived murder Yusupov multiplied the reasons he had for killing Rasputin. Among his accomplices was a Dr. Purish- kevich, who was active in the Red Cross and director of his own hospital train. Another accomplice was the Grand Duke Dimitri. The later, was a member of the royal household, and not subject to local authorities He assured Yusupov freedom from the law. The only one that could subject them to the enforcement of any law was the Emperor himself. He later pardoned them all; but sent them into exile for the crime.
The murder took place when the Prince invited Rasputin to a midnight tea, on the pretext of meeting his wife Irina. He picked up Rasputin and the Doctor drove them to Yusupov's home where the Prince showed his guests into a cellar dinning room. Rasputin ate cake and drank wine laced with white cyanide; while his host played American folk songs on a guitar. The Princee made several trips upstairs to his accomplices because the poison wasn't working. Yusupov finally got tired of the whole affair and shot Rasputin. There were also rumored suggestions that Rasputin was chain whipped before he died, and his penis was severed.
To most of the Russian royalty and government; the three men were heroes. They were glad to see the crude peasant upstart, Rasputin gone.
The peasants revolted. Rasputin had been their own and their friend. It was these uncontrollable revolts that ended the Empire and ushered in Communism as Rasputin had predicted.