More than 100 years after his death, Grigori Rasputin still conjures up legend about his life and influence. Perhaps the most enigmatic figure of the 20th century, Rasputin still has a powerful reputation as having an almost supernatural influence over the royal Romanov family and especially the Tsarina, with whom he was rumored to have an affair. But who was the real man behind the all the dark stories?
1. Started From The Bottom
Rasputin was born on January 21st, 1869, to a peasant family in Siberia, Russia, one of the most remote pieces of land on earth.
2. The Lucky One
The lives of Rasputin’s parents have almost been lost to history, but we do know that they birthed seven other children. But tragedy quickly struck: Every single one of the babies passed away prematurely. Rasputin was the only child to survive into adulthood. Some historians believe that a mysterious ninth child was born and that Rasputin was eerily close to his sister, though even this is speculation.
Either way, Rasputin's childhood does not sound like a walk in the park.
3. Friend and Confidant
When Rasputin lived at the Russian court, he was deeply involved with the Romanov family, including the children. Because of their secluded lifestyle, the young royals did not have peers to play with, but they did have their mother’s counsellor Rasputin. The girls were taught to view Rasputin as their friend and confidant. After their deaths, the world learned just how close they were. The girls all wore amulets containing Rasputin’s picture.
4. Healing Touch
Siberia still had shadows of pagan mysticism lurking in its midst, making it the perfect place for Rasputin to experiment with his apparently supernatural powers. As a child, Rasputin disturbed his parents and neighbors with his “divine” abilities. People said that the young Rasputin could heal horses simply by touching them.
5. A Black Hole
Not much is known about Rasputin's childhood other than his “devilish” reputation in his local village. Rasputin had no formal education and was illiterate until adulthood.
6. False Witness
Later in his life, as his influence grew, dark rumors began to spread. According to these whispers, Rasputin's youth was full of blasphemy and bearing false witness against his neighbors, which were major crimes at the time of his upbringing. There is no evidence from the records of his childhood to corroborate these rumors.
A lot of scandalous stories about Rasputin spread around Russia, so take this with a grain of salt. Apparently, at dinner parties, Rasputin would lick his fingers and then extend his hand out to Russia’s most prominent noblewomen so that they could kiss his fingertips. Ew.
8. A Monk’s Life
In 1886, Rasputin met a young peasant girl in Abalak, Praskovya Dubrovina, and married her soon thereafter. They would have seven children, but like the tragedy faced by his parents, many of Rasputin's offspring would be laid to rest. Only three of his children survived into adulthood.
9. Swift Exit
At the age of 28, in 1897, Rasputin made a choice that would change Russia forever. He decided to leave his family and go on a spiritual pilgrimage. No one (except Rasputin) truly knows why he abandoned his family, but two possible explanations stand out. Rasputin might have fled after committing a crime like stealing horses, or he might have had a life-changing spiritual vision. Either way, Rasputin fled to a monastery before deciding to wander the country.
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By the time Rasputin returned to his family, he was quite ascetic. The mystic gave up tobacco, alcohol, and meat. Yeah, this detox phase would not last for long.
11. Rasputin’s Stink
After this, Rasputin also went long periods of time without touching himself or washing. Throughout the rest of his life, people would complain about his hygiene. He once bragged about not changing his underwear for over six months, and food would often rot in his beard. He may have become holy, but he definitely was smelly.
12. Femme Fatale IRL
When Rasputin heard a knock on his door, he opened it to see a beautiful woman. Stunned, he allowed her to enter his apartment, but he regretted it when she revealed the dark reason for her presence. The woman pulled a revolver out of her pocket and told Rasputin that she was there to kill him, only for everything to turn upside down at the last second.
The mysterious woman said she couldn’t go through with the assassination because Rasputin was just too entrancing. What girl doesn’t love a man with moulding food in his beard?
13. Life in Dad’s Basement
By the early 1900s, Rasputin had built a following of acolytes who prayed with him. At this time, he built a chapel in the cellar of his father’s house (where he was living) and would hold secret meetings there. This is when rumors began to really escalate in his village. People whispered that Rasputin had joined the dark religious sect of the Khlysty. The Khlysty were said to self-flagellate and have orgies.
14. Have You Heard?
Despite the dark rumors, Rasputin's reputation was growing. During his holy wanderings, he met many aristocrats and citizens who found him to be a wise, holy man. He built a strong reputation among church officials in the city of Kazan, who recommended him to St. Petersburg Theological Seminary, where he would move in 1903.
15. Haters Gon’ Hate
Having never officially taken holy orders to become a monk, Rasputin instead became a staret (holy man) and gave spiritual guidance to people. As his reputation grew more powerful, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church became furious at the upstart mystic. One day, they took their anger to another level and went so far as to accuse him of immoral practices.
16. Trelawney, Eat Your Heart Out
As a young man, Rasputin roamed all over Russia as part of a spiritual quest. When he caught up with a friend and fellow healer named Father Gavril, Rasputin let him know that he was planning to go to St. Petersburg. In his head, Father Gavril thought that Rasputin would lose his way in St. Petersburg, the location of the Tsars.
Even though Gavril hadn’t actually spoken his worries out loud, he was shocked when Rasputin replied to his unspoken thought. He said that God would protect him.
17. Here’s Grigory
While he was in St. Petersburg, Rasputin forged friendships with many upper-crust members of the aristocracy like the royal family’s confessor and the “Black Princesses,” who were married to the Russian Grand Dukes. These “Black Princesses” introduced Rasputin to the royal family in 1905. Little did they know, this decision would doom everyone involved.
18. Healing Powers
Rasputin was called in to pray for the Tsar’s son, Alexei, who had hemophilia and was suffering from an internal hemorrhage. The morning after Rasputin spent time with Alexei, the family was stunned: Alexei made a miraculous recovery. Tsarina Alexandra immediately believed that Rasputin had immense healing powers. As an enthusiastic mystic, this marked the beginning of Alexandra's dark obsession with Rasputin.
19. The Eyes Are The Window To The Freaky Deaky Soul
Rasputin’s eyes were the stuff of legend. Anyone who looked into them became almost mesmerized, describing his eyes as “burning, “piercing,” “compelling,” and illuminated with a “strange phosphorescent light.”
20. Embrace Sin
Rather than rejecting sin, Rasputin believed that spirituality was grounded in bodily experience. Or in other words, the mad monk often indulged in sex and alcohol, and preached that without sin, one could not repent and reach redemption. Sure, Rasputin... that’s one way to think about it.
21. Randy Romanovs
For ages, rumors swirled that the Tsarina herself had an affair with her mysterious mystic Rasputin. But now, we finally know the truth about what happened behind the palace's closed bedroom doors: nothing! The rumors are completely unfounded, but if that's the case, why did they spread? The truth is even darker than if the Tsarina and Rasputin actually had a passionate affair...
Rumors that the Tsarina and Rasputin got hot and heavy were propaganda used by both sides of the political spectrum. The left said the Tsarina was getting busy to provoke a revolution. Meanwhile, the right said the same thing to make the nobles despise Alexandra and hopefully, push her out of the palace.
23. Ra, Ra, Rasputin
But even if Rasputin didn't fool around with Alexandra, he still had a notoriously immense sexual appetite. Crowds of women followers would gather outside his apartment and wait days to meet him. Over time, he curated a group of favored women he called his "little ladies."
They would bathe him, but that just wasn't enough. Their devotion extended to utterly disturbing lengths. They started to worship Rasputin's private parts.
24. Social Justice Warrior
Rasputin was an outspoken critic of war and an advocate for equal rights for all, including Jews and the poor lower classes. He even protected several Jewish businessmen from state prosecution.
25. Good Guy Rasputin
When St Petersburg was starving, the Tsars were living it up by throwing parties and eating delicacies. Even worse, though, was that their silos were filled with grains. Rasputin and wrote to city officials and begged Nicholas and Alexandra to distribute their plentiful stores to the commoners. Everyone said no. The grain rotted when it could have saved lives.
But all this war-time morality didn’t stop Rasputin from taking bribes. Many would grease his palms in order to keep their boys out of the army at the outbreak of WWI.
27. Do Not Disturb
Rasputin had a reputation for getting friendly with women...whether they wanted it or not. He was known to touch, embrace, and even kiss women, even if he hadn’t ever met them beforehand. But his amorous activities get much stranger: If he met a willing woman at one of his parties, Rasputin would take them into his bedroom and get it on...while everyone outside pretended not to hear the noise coming from behind closed doors.
28. Night Visions
Although he opposed the war, Rasputin had a disastrous vision in which he claimed the Russian army would only succeed if the Tsar personally took over command of the army. Nicholas listened and took command, but neither man realized the terror they'd just unleashed. The Tsar was blamed for massive military losses, with his tanking popularity helping to set the foundation for the coming Bolshevik revolution of 1917.
Rasputin survived some utterly brutal assassination attempts. In 1914, Aapeasant woman who supported one of Rasputin’s mystical rivals followed him to his home and plunged a two-foot-long dagger into his body. Even though Rasputin managed to survive the attack, it scarred him in more ways than one. Soon after, he turned to drink.
30. Ignoring the Ten Commandments for a Hot Second
An even more vicious attempt on Rasputin’s life involved a priest who was supposed to push him off of a moving train car.
31. Staircase Notes
After the assassination attempt, the Tsar’s secret police gave Rasputin 24-hour surveillance. They may have been watching his back, but they also kept track of his every move and compiled information about his daily life. These documents are called the “staircase notes,” and they are now one of the largest sources of information on his life during this period.
32. Terms of Endearment
Rasputin is said to have referred to the Tsar and Tsarina with an eerie nickname. He called them “Papa” and “Mama.”
33. Party Animal
Rasputin was a true party animal. He’d have all night ragers and party hard with his many female devotees—but all his wild ways hid a dark secret: Rasputin was an alcoholic. So when Rasputin supported a local temperance movement, many people were surprised—but maybe it was his way of trying to make sure that others wouldn’t fall into a liquor-soaked pit like he had.
34. Myth Busting
After Rasputin died, Russia buzzed with a chilling rumor: Rasputin had been castrated. And not only that, the mad monk's genitals were found by a maid and later brought to Paris to be worshipped as a fertility object. The autopsy report, however, states that Rasputin's genitals were intact. Womp womp.
Angered by Rasputin’s influence on the ill-fated royal Romanov family, and disgusted by alleged sexual affairs, several aristocrats conspired to murder him. Prince Felix Yusupov and several co-conspirators lured him to a home and fed him poisoned cakes and wine. To their astonishment, the poison had absolutely no effect on the monk.
Frustrated, Felix shot Rasputin in the back. As he collapsed, Yusupov thought the deed was done, but the nightmare was just beginning.
36. Plot Twist
The conspirators began to dispose of Rasputin’s belongings, only to see Rasputin awake, leap up from the floor with a “devilish look” on his face, and attack Felix. After a brief fight, Rasputin fell again and began crawling up the stairs as Felix called for the revolver. Rasputin managed to get up the stairs and run out the door. As he clambered through the snow, he screamed that he would “tell everything to the Tsarina!”
37. If At First You Don't Succeed
Panicked, another co-conspirator shot Rasputin twice: once in the back and once in the head. Rasputin fell to the ground, clutching his head. After beating Rasputin with a rubber truncheon for good measure, his body was brought back inside, where the conspirators made a chilling discovery: Rasputin was still alive.
38. Try, Try Again
After another round of beatings, the conspirators were certain that they had finally succeeded, but after seeing Rasputin's near-immunity to death, they decided to tie him up, wrap him in cloth, and dump him in the freezing Neva river… just to make sure. Rasputin's adversaries did everything they could think of, but when his body was found, they realized that everything had gone terribly wrong.
39. Ice Cold
When officials recovered Rasputin's body, their jaws dropped. They found evidence that made it seem as though Rasputin had tried to claw his way through the ice. Even worse, water in his lungs indicated he was still breathing after being dumped. After everything he went through, Rasputin may have still been alive when he was plunged into the water.
40. Holy Water
After Rasputin died in the Neva river, his supporters brought buckets and filled them with the river’s water. They believed that Rasputin’s death had made the water holy.
Rasputin is no stranger to bizarre rumors—even after death. When a man bought a storage locker owned by Rasputin's daughter Marie, he found a glass jar with a shocking object inside. It looked like Rasputin's preserved (and notoriously large) private part. After testing, the truth came out: It was really a pickled sea cucumber. Even so, rumors of Rasputin's enormous member persist to this day.
42. No Trial
The Romanovs were furious with the conspirators for murdering their advisor Rasputin. Even though the Tsarina initially wanted Felix Yusupov and his wife to die, she settled for exile. They were banished to the outskirts of Russia and would never be welcome in the Romanov court again.
43. Runs in the Family
Rasputin’s daughter Maria believed that she could her father’s voice from beyond the grave. She said that he told her to marry a Russian officer named Boris. She obeyed and walked down the aisle, but she could never force herself to love him, even though she heard Rasputin’s would whisper “Love Boris...Love Boris.”
44. Disco Monk
Not many mystics have hit songs named after them, but Rasputin does. In 1978, Boney M released a song to pay homage to the man, the myth, the legend. The song, "Rasputin," would rise to the top of the charts in several countries, and still provides enough cheese to be enjoyed today.
The 1997 animated film Anastasia featured Rasputin as the villain—nothing says lasting legacy like being made into an animated villain.
46. Royal Fall
Rasputin prophesied in a letter to the Tsarina that he would be murdered. In this prophecy, he claimed that if his death was at the hands of nobility, then not only would the royal family fall and perish, but there would be great bloodshed throughout the country. Seven months after his death, the Bolshevik revolution began, and a year later the entire family of Tsar Nicholas was murdered. Rasputin's dark prophecy had come true.