Who was Rasputin, and what was his achievement?

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Grigory Yefymovich Rasputin became one of the most powerful men in pre-revolution Russia; indeed, many historians feel his actions and the influence he had upon Empress Alexandra contributed very directly to the causes of the Revolution of October, 1917.

Born in Siberia to a peasant family, Rasputin demonstrated from early in his life abilities to calm and help disturbed animals and people; he also exhibited an alcoholic behavior pattern that heightened his appetite for sexual encounters. A brief period in a monastery allowed him to learn the Russian Orthodox liturgy and vast amounts of memorized scripture, as well as forming his belief that a Christian had to sin in order to need to repent and be saved. He acquired a reputation and a following as a holy man and built contacts with important church, social and governmental leaders.

When Czar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra's long-awaited son and heir, Alexi, was born, he was found to have hemophilia (a blood disease which prevented the blood from clotting; the slightest bruise or injury could lead to death). Rasputin was brought to the royal court and somehow was able to stop the hemorrhaging, thereby saving the prince's life. This immediately earned him the absolute trust and loyalty of the Nicholas and Alexandra, giving him the power to make requests for appointments to positions of power for his friends that were granted regardless of the qualifications of the person.

Over time, Rasputin's enemies grew in number as his influence resulted in increasingly corrupt and/or inept governmental decisions. A group of Russian noblemen joined in a plot to kill him in November, 1916. Rasputin was poisoned, shot, bound and thrown into the frozen Neva River, but an autopsy when his body was recovered revealed that the actual cause of death was drowning.

Rasputin's actions and influence with the czar and empress heightened the tensions and increased the corruption in the Russian government. As a result, he certainly contributed to the circumstances that led to the Bolshevik Revolution.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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chanadvora | Student

As the author of a book on Rasputin, and having read well over 100 books on him, in French and English, as well as the memoirs of my great-great uncle who was Rasputin's secretary, I can tell you that Rasputin had absolutely nothing to do with the revolution.  He also didn't begin drinking until late in his life.  The accusations of sexual promiscuity and adherence to the Khlysty sect (who promoted sinning in order to repent, which is not Russian Orthodoxy at all) were made by those who hated him and, unfortunately, became history.

Who hated him and why? The clergy hated him because he gave dynamic sermons that related to peoples' every day lives. He was investigated three times for belonging to the Khlysty sect and found innocent.  The aristocracy hated Rasputin because he was an advocated of equal rights for the severely oppressed Jews - and wanted the Tsar to be closer to the peasants.  This was threatening to the aristocracy. Jews were hated in Russia at that time. They were sent to live in a ghetto (The Pale of Settlement), and deprived of nearly all civil rights, by law. They were denied educations, the occupation of their choice, and many other things. In addition, the military (with the Tsar's knowledge and approval) conducted raids (called 'pogroms') where they would torture and slaughter entire villages of Jews. Political cartoons in the newspapers depicted Rasputin the same way as Jews - as demonic, ugly, filthy characters. Jews were accused of being spies.  Rasputin begged the Tsar to give them equal rights but never succeeded. He did, however, help many Jews get admitted to schools, live outside the Pale and be released from prison or Siberia. He was hated for this and the nobles spread rumors about him being promiscuous and drinking. This was hypocritical considering the nobility were heavy drinkers and many had venereal diseases due to their own promiscuity.

The revolution happened because the Tsar abused his people. The Jews were persecuted.  The workers were underfed, underpaid, overworked and starving. The peasants had very little.  The Tsar had the blood of many innocents on his hands and cared little about the people, other than the nobility. The U.S. ended their commerce treaty with Russia because of their anti-Semitism. Many countries admonished them for their persecution of Jews and the horrors the Tsar inflicted on them.  Rasputin, on the other hand, helped as many as he could - and NEVER harmed nor killed a sould in his life.

So, while Rasputin was a healer and was able to help the tsarevitch, as well as many others, he was also a friend and advocated for the people - and he was vilified and killed for it.  But, because history is written by the powerful and not by the common man, the aristocracy's gossip became accepted as history.

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