The Mad Monk:Rasputin
In this chapter we are going to discuss a Holy man and supposed healer from Russia, yea I know it sounds boring, but hear me out. This holy man is not your average praying type, lying prostrate at the foot of a cross or something, this holy man is a drunk womanizer who, quite literally, caused one of the largest political overthrows in world history.
For roughly 400 years from 1600 to the early 1900s, Russia was ruled by one dynasty, the Romanovs. The lineage of Czars had many impressive leaders and forgettable ones, but everyone remembers the last Czar of Russia, Czar Nicholas II. Nicholas and his wife Alexandria were happily married and had four daughters and one son, the heir to the Russian Throne, Alexei. Alexei was a sickly boy and spent much of his childhood seriously ill from hemophilia which is a disorder where the blood does not clot properly, meaning the smallest injury can lead to massive blood loss. Throughout his young life, Alexei had many scrapes with death that left his mother and father in constant fear for their son and the fate of the Romanov dynasty.
Czarina Alexandria was always looking for people to help with her son’s condition, and in 1906, she had a chance meeting with a Holy Man from Siberia, Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin was an intimidating figure, tall, with dark piercing eyes, Rasputin was a renown healer throughout the country and was in St. Petersburg to meet well-connected individuals. The Czar and Czarina meet the Holy Man and eventually get to talking about Alexei, and soon after that Rasputin becomes the de facto healer to the Romanov family.
Rasputin held power over the Royal couple because it truly seemed like he could heal Alexei. On one occasion in 1912, Alexei was injured in a carriage accident and was near death for days. In desperate need of help, the Czarina telegraphed Rasputin who was away in Siberia, through telegram, the healer told the Czarina what to do and to have the doctors leave the young boy alone. Within days, the boy went from near death, to perfectly fine. Historians have debated and attempted to figure out what exactly happened with Alexei, but it remains a mystery.
What isn’t a mystery though was the power that Rasputin held over the Royal family, they listened to everything he said. This was dangerous because Rasputin was not everything he claimed to be, while he professed holy devotion, his favorite past times were drinking himself into a drunken stupor and sleeping with as many women as he could. His actions around the city caused massive amounts of embarrassment for the Royal Couple, and many times they had a falling out with Rasputin.
After the outbreak of World War I, the Czar turned to Rasputin for guidance, with Rasputin telling the Czar to go to the front and take command. While the Czar was gone, the Czarina allowed Rasputin to make monumental decisions of national importance on her behalf. This was the final straw for many in Russia, and soon three prominent men decided to kill Rasputin. Prince Felix Yusupov invited Rasputin over to his house for wine, food and womanizing one night. The Prince gave Rasputin cakes and wine laced with cyanide, with Rasputin eating three cakes and drinking three glasses of wine.
The cyanide food did nothing do the holy man, which freaked out the three men waiting for him to die. Eventually, the Prince shoots Rasputin point-blank in the chest and runs out of the house. Hours later the three men return and walk down the stairs to the basement where Rasputin’s body was. As the Prince walked in, Rasputin jumped off the floor and attacked him, running up the stairs and out the front door.
This is bonkers stuff here, this crazy healer has had six servings of cyanide and a bullet to the chest with no damage done, he is like the final boss on those hard as hell video games I played as a kid. Well, finally the three killers chase down Rasputin in front of the house, and shoot him in the head, ultimately killing the raging priest. With Rasputin dead, attention turned to the Royal Family and their failure to rule decisively and adequately during the World War. Eventually, all the distrust with the Czar and Czarina led to the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of the entire Royal Family. The fall of the last dynasty in Russia, and the rise of the Communist regime, all began over the distrust of a crazy holy man and the family he served.