I want to continue our journey into darkness (read Part 1 – Jim Jones here) with one of the most insane individuals to ever grace a history book. Dubbed The Mad Man of Russia, our next figure has been featured in several fictional films, video games, and even an animated movie. While it’s arguable that he led a cult, his influence and rise led to many rumors, and his presence created a shadow that may or may not have caused the collapse of the Russian Empire, making way for the Soviet Union. So, with out further ado, here’s Darkest Disciples: Deadliest Cult Leaders Part 2 – Grigori Rasputin.
Grigori Rasputin was a known mystic and religious leader who came from nothing, but rose to prominence. Rasputin was born a peasant in the small village of Pokrovskoye in Siberia. After taking a religious pilgrimage in 1897, Rasputin was said to have found enlightenment. Afterwards he began the life of a strannik or wandering pilgrim. Although he dedicated his life to religion, he was never formally recognized as having a position in the church.
Between 1903-1905, Rasputin made his way to St. Petersburg where he had a following of church and social leaders, including Tsar Nicholas II. In late 1906, the Tsar brought Rasputin in to heal his ailing son, Tsarevich Alexei, a hemophiliac who had been suffering from internal hemorrhaging, a malady which stunned the court doctors. Tsarina Alexandra sent for Rasputin, who ordered out the physicians so he could work in private. The boy was healed in two days.
After that, Rasputin was welcomed into the court and managed to astound and alienate many within. As the Tsar was called to lead his troops during WWI, he left the Tsarina in charge with Rasputin acting as her adviser. Not surprisingly, he grew to become quite unpopular with religious leaders as many nobles began to choose his alternative religious teachings over that of the Orthodox church. Rasputin was also known to accept sexual favors from many of the ladies within the court, drawing the ire of many.
Stories of Rasputin’s death are quite outlandish, but here are the facts as we know them. The first assassination attempt occurred in July of 1914. A peasant woman named Chionya Guseva had attacked Rasputin outside of his home, stabbing him in the belly. Guseva, a defrocked priest, had believed Rasputin to be the Antichrist. Rasputin managed to make a recovery but took up drinking after the incident. His infamy only grew and several nobles had had enough.
In December of 1916, Rasputin was invited to Moika Palace, home of Prince Felix Yusupov, who brought the man to his basement for a get together with several other Russian nobles. There, the group indulged in tea and cakes, with Rasputin’s being laced with cyanide. Imagine the look on their faces when Rasputin did not immediately die! The insanity continues as the tall, lanky Russian drank Madeira wine, which was also laced with cyanide, and yet he lived. Yusupov then drew a revolver and said, “Better look at that crucifix and say a prayer!” before unloading all six shots into Rasputin, with one being a head shot. I don’t know about you, but I think that line is worthy of any action movie made nowadays.
The group then attempted to hide their deed by having one of them wear Rasputin’s cloak and travel to his swanky apartment, making it seem like he had returned. Meanwhile, Yusupov returned with a conspirator to check Rasputin’s body… only to be attacked by the man himself! Rasputin attempted to strangle the Prince, but the assassin managed to break free and ran upstairs. The bleeding and poisoned religious nut then chased his opponent to the courtyard where he was shot again and thrown from a bridge into an icy river.
An autopsy later conducted stated that only one bullet was found, despite the body having several bullet holes. Signs of blunt force trauma were also found, as well as lacerations around the neck and abdomen. Oddly enough, there were no signs of poison. Not long after, the royal family was overthrown in the October Revolution, which gave rise to the Soviet Union.
Rising from a nothing and gaining everything in the early part of 20th century Russia was an astounding feat. While alternative religions and opinions are common place nowadays, back then, the superstitions of the previous centuries were still perceived as fact. Who knows what Rasputin’s end game was. Was he truly as evil as some believed, or was he just misunderstood? We could study this case all day, but sadly, we’ll never truly know.
This wraps up our look at the infamous Grigori Rasputin. Keep your eyes peeled for Part 3 which is coming up soon!