Who Was Rasputin?
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Grigory Rasputin (1872–1916) was a Russian mystic and supposed holy man who started as a peasant farmer and became adviser to Russian monarchs Czar (Emperor) Nicholas II (1868–1918) and Czarina Alexandra (1872–1918). (Nicholas II was a member of the Romanov dynasty, a succession of rulers from the same family, who had ruled Russia since 1613.) In 1905 or shortly thereafter, Rasputin met Alexandra and claimed that he could effectively treat the royal couple's son Alexis (1904–1918), who suffered from hemophilia, a hereditary blood disorder. Rasputin quickly gained favor with the Russian rulers. He had a powerful hold on Alexandra, who convinced Nicholas to remove many capable government officials and replace them with incompetent Rasputin favorites. The prime minister and members of the legislative assembly, the Duma, could see that Rasputin was a disreputable character, and they feared his influence on the czar. They tried, unsuccessfully, to have Rasputin banished from the country.
In 1913, the year before the outbreak of World War I (1914–18), the Romanov dynasty was marking its three hundredth anniversary. Public celebrations were intended to be jubilant occasions, but crowds greeted Nicholas's public appearances with silence. By now the Russian people had become aware of Nicholas's weaknesses as a ruler. Not only was his government under the influence of a questionable person like Rasputin, but Bloody Sunday had seriously damaged the czar's reputation. On Bloody Sunday, January 22, 1905, Cossack guards and troops members of the cavalry in the Russian army) fired into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in front of the Winter Palace, the czar's residence in St. Petersburg. They killed about 150 people, including women and children.
Russia's entry into World War I also did not bode well for Nicholas, who was still trying to contend with the controversy surrounding Rasputin. Upon entering the war, Russia suffered one military catastrophe after another against Germany, and the losses further damaged the czar's reputation. In the fall of 1915, at the urging of Alexandra, Nicholas left St. Petersburg for the front, where he personally led the Russian troops in battle. With Alexandra in charge of the government, Rasputin's influence became more dangerous than ever. At a palace party in December 1916, a group of aristocrats (nobles) spiked Rasputin's wine with cyanide (a poison). When the poison failed to kill Rasputin, the noblemen shot him and threw his body into a river later that night. By this time Nicholas and Alexandra had little credibility, not only because of their association with Rasputin but also as a result of their mismanagement of the government. A majority of Russians now opposed the czar, and a revolution would soon take place.
Further Information: Ferro, Marc. Nicholas II: Last of the Tsars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994; "Grigori Rasputin." Electric Library. [Online] Available http://www.encyclopedia.com/articles/10798. html, October 25, 2000; "Grigori Yefinovich Rasputin." MSN Encarta. Online] Available http://encarta.msn.com/index/conciseindex/3D/03D09000.htm?z=1&pg=2&br=1, October 25, 2000; Moorehead, Alan. The Russian Revolution. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1987.
Nicholas II was a weak-willed, indecisive tsar. As Rasputin's secretary said, "If Nicholas was a bad tsar, it was not Rasputin's fault." While the dates of the above answer are all correct, the unquestioned myth of Rasputin's 'disrepute' was largely established by rumor, to discredit him, as the nobility didn't care for a peasant having the Tsar's ear.
The nobility conducted a smear campaign against Rasputin. There were a number of reasons for this:
First, Rasputin's desire for the peasants to have a voice was threatening to the nobility.
Second, Rasputin was anti-war in the midst of WW I. For this, the aristocracy spread rumors of him being a spy and a traitor (much as they did regarding the Tsarina).
Third, Rasputin advocated equal rights for minorities and especially for the severely oppressed Jews who were restricted to living in the Pale of Settlement, denied educations, many occupations and the right to reside where they wished. In addition, Rasputin was horrified by the pogroms (raids) by the military and bureaucracy on Jewish villages. In the course of these raids, entire families of Jews were tortured and slaughtered, with all property destroyed. Anti-Semitism was government policy, so Rasputin was hated for not complying.
It is not surprising, since history is written by the powerful, that the numerous rumors spread by the nobility to discredit Rasputin, are accepted as 'history' today. In fact, the Tsar and his relatives condoned and did nothing to stop the ethnic cleansing, leaving their hands covered with the blood of thousands of innocents. Rasputin, on the other hand, never harmed nor killed a soul. So, who, indeed, is the evil one?
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