In another life, Grigori and I could have been friends. He was a peasant, uneducated till his late teens, yet rose to become a “Man of God”, and not as the confessor of Tsar Nicholas II as some claimed, but as a personal friend. Tsar Nicholas II, the last Romanov to rule Russia, was unpopular, over-bearing and aloof to his staff and generals, yet Rasputin was able to charm his way into the inner sanctum. For a peasant to become an apparent staret, a holy elder, is in itself a fantastic achievement, but to then be introduced by the “Two Black Princesses” of Montenegro to the Tsar, deserves respectful analysis. How does one accomplish such a feat in a short eleven years? I surely would have gladly followed him in his footsteps to such an adventure. The two sisters who married the Tsar’s cousins, were instrumental in introducing Rasputin to the Tsar and his wife, Alexandra Fyodorovna. Did they think such a move would have been beneficial to them? It wasn’t long before they turned on him. They whispered to the Tsarina, “He is having sexual dalliances with various ladies in St Petersburg. Get rid of him!”
But, Rasputin’s position in the court was safe. Alexandra believed that through his prayers, he healed their haemophiliac son, Alexei. The Romanovs’ belief in his powers gave him considerable power and undue influence over them. Others started to denounce him loudly, “He is a rapist, a paedophile, a fake holy man, he dabbles in the occult, he takes bribes, he’s the secret lover of Alexandra!” Two years before his death, Rasputin survived the first attempted assassination of him, by a beggar woman who stabbed him in the stomach.
On 16 December 1916, a ruse was arranged between some Russian nobles led by Prince Felix Yusupov, the nephew-in-law of Tsar Nicholas, and his British intelligence officer friend, Oswald Rayner whom he met at Oxford University as a student. At the Yusupov palace, Rasputin was poisoned by cyanide, but he did not die. He was then shot in the chest, but he survived that too. How does one survive three assassination attempts?! He staggered up the steps of the basement, and was shot again, in the head. Did he die of that? No one knows, so he was bundled into a bag and thrown into the Neva river. Although a post mortem was done, the report was later lost. Although he was buried, his body was later burned. No, not cremated. Burned, to get rid of any evidence. Many today believe that Rasputin was a good man, not the “Mad Monk” or “Holy Devil”.
But, Rasputin was against Russia fighting in the first World War. Some may think that was because of Alexandra’s German descent, but he was a religious man, his anti-war sentiments were clear. The war-mongers of course could not allow his influence on the Tsar to continue. Ra Ra Rasputin, he had to go. After his death, they found six roubles in his flat, no, he was no charlatan.
Two months later, after an acute food shortage due to a severe winter and loss of farm labourers to the war, the Russian people revolted against the Tsar and forced his abdication. His brother was proclaimed Emperor Michael but he deferred his accession to the throne. The Bolsheviks did not hesitate to grab power instead. Tsar Nicholas II’s cousin, King George V refused to grant asylum to the Romanovs, and so did the French. That spelt their death sentence a mere six months after Rasputin’s demise. Citizen Romanov,（that’s what the Bolsheviks called him）and his family were executed in a basement. The Romanovs may have been spurned by the populace, but today, throngs of people visit St Petersburg and form long queues to marvel at their opulent palaces, churches and royal tombs in Peter and Paul Cathedral.
In death, the Romanovs continue to serve their people. Urghhlings, they weren’t so bad after all.
I felt sad for Rasputin after stepping on his steps in St Petersburg. To my tour guide, he was a kind, well-meaning religious man, but much maligned by urghhlings vying for the Tsar’s favours.