“Aristocrats viewed Rasputin as engaging and modest, traits that allowed him to mix amongst them. Despite his clothing and unusual appearance, it was his sincerity that appealed to them. His pragmatic thoughts became wisdom, which contrasted with the esoteric mysticism that pervaded high society. The problems stemmed from rumors that spoke of Rasputin’s divine gift of healing and prophesizing. Those supposed qualities made him immensely popular.”
Those very qualities later became questionable and it wasn’t long before he was seen as vulgar, beneath the very people who first were enthralled by Rasputin. That he was a character is partially due to myths, rumors and the mysteries surrounding his life, as well as his death. I’ve always had an interest in the doomed Romanov family and the man that they welcomed into their bosom. A wandering msytic, self-proclaimed holy man, healer, or was he a dirty, ignorant peasant not fit to lick the boots of high society? It depends on which books you read, whose stories you believe. Here, Margarita Nelipa skips speculation and studies sold evidence. From his humble beginnings to befriending Emperor Nicholas II and his family, the murder of Rasputin and the ever changing tumult history and revolution that followed, this book explores it all. Who wanted Rasputin dead? Who didn’t?
How fast his fall, media campaigns against him, exposing him as a charlatan, questioning his belief in natural remedies. Of course Rasputin was a part of a political storm, simply being a part of high society during a hot time in Russia’s history. With lies circling about Rasputin’s sexual ‘exploits’ as noted in this book, the Empress too was smeared. Gossip, however whispered, can be the downfall of many. The truth was that the young Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich was better when Rasputin was near, and what mother, desperate to keep her child healthy and of this earth wouldn’t have faith in his presence?
Taking fabrications and using common sense and logic to find truth, much of what was said to damage Rasputin were impossibilities, simply for his station in life. Unfortunately Rasputin wasn’t one to challenge the falsities written about him, being a holy man. Maybe he wasn’t all the amazing, colorful, wild things he has been accused or praised (depending who you ask) of being, but he has held our fascination for over a century.
Which version is to be believed of his murder? Who masterminded the crime? What brought these conspirators together? Was Rasputin lured to his death, believing he was meeting with Nikolai II’s niece? With accounts, eye witnesses, Nelipa finds the holes and shares them with the reader. What did the British have to do with anything? Did they really believe Rasputin was an ‘evil influence’ on Russia and it’s people? As stated in the book, “Once the Russians eliminated Rasputin, they allegedly steered back onto the correct (British) course and continued fighting the war.” Who murdered him is known, but what were the triggers?
The people were turning on the emperor, as were the aristocrats, feeling the rupture between the dynasty and the Russian people could be laid at Rasputin’s peasant feet. They believed it was Rasputin that was guiding them, and he had to go. All of this is well known, but not everyone is aware of why Alexandra Fyodorovna was vastly different from other aristocrats. Already there were criticisms aimed at her, for enjoying her motherly duties, more consumed by love for her children than the social scene, surely her bond with Rasputin fed the fire. The sad diary entries shared throughout this book are nothing short of heartbreaking.
Rasputin was an outsider, many felt he weaseled his way in, bending the ear of the family in ways others of higher station never could. That in itself is enough to feed hate. It’s a fantastic gathering of material that sheds light on the life and death of Rasputin, and the influence he had on history. Sorting through the murky depths of lies and truth, it is an eye opening read. Certainly the fiction of Rasputin was far more interesting than the reality, but you cannot dispute facts. I always believed him to be a monk, a mystic, a psychic- I have heard everything, but this book lays much of it to rest. He wasn’t the depraved sex craved monster some have painted him, he was despised by the wealthy, the prominent and who can fight the powers that be when they so chose to turn on you? No one then and likely no one now. Time is a funny thing, truth has a way of crawling out of the dark tunnels of the past but not without the attention, blood, sweat and tears of writers like Margarita Nelipa. I am not an expert on Russian history but this book has changed the things I thought I knew about Rasputin.