Mystics and holy men, some call them the voices of gods while some refer to them as shams and con-men who try to trick the gullible people of society. Whatever be the truth, the fact is that they have been influential in shaping history throughout the world since time immemorial. These kinds of people often gain a large popularity, are hailed as having the power of gods and yet like every other person, have skeletons on their closets. One such man who changed the course for the Russian monarchy is Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, a Russian mystic and self-proclaimed holy man who befriended the family of Emperor Nicholas II, the last monarch of Russia, and gained considerable influence in late imperial Russia.
Born to a peasant family in rural Siberia, Rasputin lived an obscure life till adolescence and might have continued to do so had he not converted himself to the Russian Orthodox church. After being inspired by many of the wandering humble monks of his generation, Rasputin moved aimlessly from one holy site to another. He spent years of his life on pilgrimages across Russia, and along his travels he amassed a large following due to his charismatic and magnetic presence. He was even believed to have had the power of divination and healing. And despite his repetitive acts of petty theft, heavy drinking and over promiscuous nature with the ladies, he was hailed as a holy monk across Siberia, and he gained the attention of both the powerful orthodox clergymen and common people. Once he finally reached St. Petersberg, he used his innate charisma and gained popularity and connections to win the favour of the imperial family’s spiritual advisor and soon wormed his way up and was introduced to the Tsar Nicholas II. He like all other “holy men” before and after him had the ability and know-how to milk every opportunity to the fullest. Like every opportunist mystic in the world, he researched about his targets and found out that the Tsar and his wife were devout believers of the supernatural and mysticism. Rasputin cemented his control in the Tsar’s court by performing a “miracle”. The young heir to the throne had a disease known as hemophilia, a life-threatening blood disease. He refused to let the doctors administer anything to the heir and when Alexie’s health got better, he was hailed as a mystic with supernatural powers. What actually happened was that the doctors had prescribed him aspirin which worsens the hemophilia’s effect in the body, thus it seemed that the young heir got better. Thus, to cement his place of power, he proclaimed that should he die or be deserted the royal crown and their son would also disappear. Due to his increasing popularity in court and his ill habits of theft and skirt-chasing, the orthodox had begun to hate him and decided to have him killed prevent his further acts of corruption to the royal family and to stabilize the kingdom, not taking into account that to the public Rasputin was hailed as the public’s hero. In 1916, a group of nobles led by Felix Yusupov, tried to kill Rasputin by lacing his pastries with cyanide or so they thought as one of their co-conspirators had changed the poison with something harmless out of pity for Rasputin. As that plan failed, Yusupov shot Rasputin at point blank range, which again Rasputin miraculously survived and punched away his assailant and ran away. However, the group of noblemen gave chase and shot Rasputin dead and dumped his body in the Malaya Nevka river. However rather than stabilizing the kingdom, his death enraged the peasantry who were already on a boil from decades long political tensions within the area, saw this as the tipping point and took down the Tsar’s regime. As Rasputin prophesised his death was soon followed by the royal families. Thus, ended the tale of a monk who reshaped the Russian history.