What was the role of Rasputin in Czarist Russia, and what influence did he have over the Czar and Czarina?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Rasputin held a great deal of influence over the Russian royal family because of his role as a religious healer and spiritual mystic.

Rasputin had gained a reputation for "other-worldly" power even before he was part of the Romanov family.  People regarded him as near-divine with supposed special powers of healing and vision.  Through his reputation, he worked his way into Alexandra's royal confidence.  He counseled her on spiritual matters. However, where his presence was most felt was in the health of their son, Aleksey, who suffered from hemophilia and was the only male heir of the family. Alexandra and others in the royal court believed that Rasputin possessed healing powers:

From the first time that Rasputin appeared at the heir’s bed, he got better. Everybody at court remembers the episode in Spala, when no doctor could help the suffering and moaning child, but as soon as a telegram was sent to Rasputin, and they received an answer that the boy would not die, his pain eased straight away.

The perceived "healing" of Aleksey enabled Rasputin to become a vital part of the Romanov family.  As time passed, it was clear that Rasputin could not be controlled.  He did as he pleased, engaging in excessive behavior such as rampant drunkenness and public lechery.  

As so much was falling apart around the Russian monarchy, Alexandra believed that Rasputin's role was vital in protecting the royal family. The royal couple's misplaced loyalty to Rasputin was problematic.  The Czar struggled with public perception, and many felt that Rasputin's role in the family was divisive.  The Czar and his wife were depicted as "puppets" of Rasputin primarily because the Russian monarchy was unable to acknowledge the needs of the Russian citizens. Even when many of the Czar's advisors suggested against it, Nicholas refused to expel Rasputin.  As a result, the disconnect and inability to forge meaningful bonds with his people led to the perception that the Czar was under Rasputin's control.  While there were many other reasons why the Romanov family had to abdicate, Rasputin played a critical role.

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