Grigori Rasputin: The incredible life story of the dark magician
On a cold December morning in 1916, some citizens of St. Petersburg made a horrible discovery. They saw a large, dark sack floating in the Neva River and pulled it out of the water. But they weren't prepared for what they found inside: it was the body of a man who had obviously died a brutal death. When the police came, they were quickly able to identify the body — that of Grigori Rasputin, once one of the most powerful men in the world.
He's been dead now for well over 100 years, but the mysterious figure of Rasputin still fascinates people around the world to this very day. His life is so clouded in mystery and has spawned so many myths and legends that facts about who he really was aren't easy to come by.
Was he a talented con artist or a genuine medicine man, a sinner or a saint, an excellent psychologist or a black magician? These and many other questions still remain unanswered.
Rasputin, whose real surname was Novikh, was born in the Russian village of Pokrosvkoye. His famous nickname was only given to him later in life: some believe that it was a shortened version of "rasputnik" which means "lecher" in Russian. Apparently it was a name well-earned, for as much as he liked to present himself as a decent, religious man in public, Rasputin was known to have a penchant for alcohol and womanizing.
Although Rasputin never had any formal theological education, he still managed to achieve the status of a "man of God," considered by many to be a healer and a prophet. His power to heal eventually made him famous throughout his homeland.
The Russian Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna soon heard about Rasputin's prowess and summoned him to treat her son Alexi, who suffered from hemophilia. At the time, there were no effective treatments, yet somehow all accounts confirm that Rasputin was able to stop Alexi's profuse bleeding. There are also claims that Rasputin was able to bring one of the Empress's servants, Ms. Vyrubova, back to life.
The Emperor was also impressed by Rasputin's charismatic character and began involving him in all of his important political decisions. Although he could barely write and his father thought he would never be more than a pilgrim, Rasputin eventually became one of the most powerful men in Russia.
Despite Rasputin's reputation as a drinker and lecher, he was still able to convince the royal family that it was all based on lies. However, some historians believe that he may have even had a sexual relationship with the Empress. Rumor had it that he was able to trick women into sleeping with him, by promising that it would free them from all their sins.
While Rasputin was off living it up with the royal family, his wife Proskovya and their three children remained in their hometown. Proskovya knew about her husband's reputation but it didn't seem to bother her. She apparently said that there was enough of him to go around.
According to legend, Rasputin also possessed magic powers. Some people claimed that he could hypnotize people and see into the future, accurately predicting the Russo-Japanese War and WWI. Rasputin was allegedly able to foresee his own death and the revolution that followed a short time later.
As he gained power, he also acquired some enemies, naturally, who believed that he would lead the country to ruin. After escaping several assassination attempts, he was finally killed on December 29, 1916. He was invited to a dinner with Prince Felix Yusopov and other conspirators, where he was poisoned. When the poison failed to kill him, they shot him three times.
Yet even after taking three bullets, Rasputin still managed to flee. His assailants pursued him down the street, beat him, stuffed him into a sack, and then threw it into the river. When his body was discovered, the investigation revealed that Rasputin had still been alive when they threw him in the river, but couldn't free himself from the sack and drowned.
Over a century later, the name Rasputin lives on in the minds and imaginations of millions of people all over the world. Whether he was a monster or a healer, Grigori Rasputin remains one of the most mysterious people to have ever lived. From poor illiterate boy to one of the most powerful men in his country, his life and the enigma he represents is a fascination for many.