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Rasputin and the Royal Family

No name is quite as synonymous with debauchery and mysticism as that of St Petersburg’s ‘mad monk’ Grigory Rasputin (1869-1916), the Siberian peasant who became one of the most powerful men in the Russian Empire due to his enormous influence over Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra during the
last days of the Russian empire.

Rasputin was born into poverty in a small village east of the Urals and after a dissolute boyhood and a marriage that was soon over, he discovered religion and, more importantly, the controlling power it could have over its devotees. Becoming a ‘fool in God’ and wandering through Russia, Rasputin had a school of Christianity that engaged in a practice euphemistically called radeniye (joy), which entailed group sex and general promiscuity for the sake of the guilt and ensuing repentance that would follow.

Rasputin

Rasputin

Coming to St Petersburg, he met with Nicholas and Alexandra in 1905 after becoming fashionable among the ladies at court. He began (apparently successfully) to control Tsarevitch Alexei’s haemophilia, quickly becoming a member of the Romanov inner circle, something that scandalised all St Petersburg given his origins and filthy appearance (he never took to wearing fine clothing or washing despite his wealth and power).

Attempts to turn the imperial family against him failed and by 1916, with Nicholas overseeing the disastrous war effort and often out of Petrograd, Rasputin assumed day-to-day control of Russia.
Prince Felix Yusupov and the tsar’s cousin Grand Duke Dmitry were leaders of a plot to dispatch Rasputin by poisoning him while he was a guest at the Yusupov Palace. The plot, which can be re-enacted in gory detail by taking a Rasputin Tour at the Yusupov Palace, misfired somewhat.

The first attempt on his life was through poison, which had no visible effect. Next Yusupov shot Rasputin at close range, which seemed tc do the job, although shortly afterwards the plotters noticed Rasputin hobbling out of the palace. Next Rasputin was bound and beaten repeatedly before being thrown through a hole in the ice on the Moyka. When police found him two days later, he had broken free of the rope and had drowned in the river, despite the gang’s best efforts at killing him themselves.

Rasputin was buried secretly at Pushkin, although apparently not before his penis was removed and preserved in a jar – the highly impressive results of which can be seen at the Museum of Erotica. Yusupov was exiled for his crime, although to avoid scandal given the gang’s immense popularity and the public loathing for Rasputin, the tsar avoided a big trial. The aura of mysticism remains, however, and there is an enormous number of books about this strangest of players in Russian history.

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