In TSARINA, Rasputin is a major character— even though he never actually appears on screen. Rasputin is the one who created the Faberge egg that Natalya is so desperate to find. He’s one of those historical figures who, even in his lifetime, was something of an enigma. I mean, look at him. Does this look like someone you want in your house?
No. If you spy this man through the peephole on your door, lock it and then arm yourself with whatever is convenient.
And yet, the Tsar and Tsarina, the most powerful people in Russia, allowed him full access to their home and children. How did he do it? Was he really a mystic? A prophet? A holy man? Or was he just a crazy drunk?
Let’s think on this together.
Rasputin was born in Siberia. He had a pretty rough childhood (Siberia isn’t exactly the easiest place to live)— he never had a formal education, and his siblings, Maria and Dmitri, both died when he was young (Dmitri’s death was especially hard on Rasputin— Dmitri fell through some ice into a river. Rasputin saved him from drowning, but Dmitri later died of pneumonia.). He was always sort of the weird kid— he shook and sometimes spoke strangely— but he wound up getting married and having three children of his own (two of whom he named after his lost brother and sister).
On day, Rasputin sort of just wandered away from home, leaving his wife and children behind. He trekked around for a while, sort of sampling different religious places and people and things, not so much in a scholarly way, but kind of in a vagrant way. Somewhere in the midst of all this wandering, he managed to get a reputation for being a religious healer.
The Tsarina, Alexandra, heard about Rasputin through some friends— a holy man who had the power to heal. Her son and the heir to the Russian throne, Alexei, had hemophilia, and was a very, very sick kid— he would get a bruise and nearly die on a pretty regular basis. The Tsarina was desperate to help Alexei, so she called up Rasputin.
Rasputin looked like a creeper. Let’s just admit it. He had those freaky eyes, and he drank a lot, and he smelled, and he had no real sense of personal boundaries. But the Tsarina really, really wanted this whole healing-the-tsarevich thing to work out, so she looked past all that, and convinced her husband to as well. She invited Rasputin into the Winter Palace to heal her son.
And you know, it actually seemed to work! Alexei did improve when Rasputin was around. There’s a lot of speculation as to why this is— some people think he hypnotized the boy, others think it was divine intervention…what it probably was, however, is that doctors at the time were really big on giving Alexei aspirin. Aspirin was new and fancy at the time, but it’s also a blood thinner. Giving someone with a bleeding disorder a blood thinner? Not such a great idea. So, when Rasputin would tell the doctors to get out and leave Alexei alone, it would actually give Alexei time to get the aspirin out of his system, relax, and heal.
(Rasputin, a drunk vagrant, hanging out with the heir to Russia, LIKE YOU DO.)
Rasputin was so successful that the Romanovs put him up in an place in St. Petersburg so he could stay close by. Eventually his daughter, Maria, came to live with him there. That sounds sweet of Rasputin— bringing his daughter to St. Petersburg to live the good life— until you hear about his…um…pastime.
Rasputin believed that sin was kind of like a poison inside you, and that you had to get it out. The only way to get the sin out was by committing sin. So…he had to get all the sin out by sleeping with the women of St. Petersburg and drinking vodka till he passed out. He didn’t want to! But he had to! To get the sin out!
(If you’re thinking that Rasputin might have been a little delusional, you’re not the only one.)
(If you’re thinking Maria Rasputin probably needed more than a little therapy, you’re not the only one.)
Given his love of getting all that sin out, it makes sense that a lot of the Russian public suspected that Rasputin was also getting freaky with the Tsarina— after all, they were alone together an awful lot. There were even rumors that he was seducing the Grand Duchesses. However, there’s actually no evidence to support he was ever sexually involved with members of the royal family. The rumor alone was enough to make Rasputin pretty hated though, and the idea that the Tsarina of Russia was hooking up with a drunk womanizing mystic didn’t really help the Romanov’s reputation either. When Rasputin started giving political advice to the Tsarina while the Tsar was out of town, a group of nobles decided they’d had enough. Rasputin had to get dead, fast.
A noble named Felix Yusupov— who was super interesting in his own right, so Google him— helped plan the whole thing. They lured Rasputin out of his house by telling him there was a really awesome party going on down the street, full of booze and Yusupov’s super hot wife. Being a fan of the booze and super hot wives, Rasputin followed (some stories say his daughter, Maria, suspected something was up and begged him not to go). At Yusupov’s house, Rasputin was first poisoned with cyanide. After a few hours, though, he was still alive, so they decided to get hardcore with this murder and shot him. He collapsed, and when they went to inspect his body, he leapt up and fought them off and ran out the door. They shot him a few more times, then Yusupov clubbed him for good measure. Then they chained up his body and threw him into the river.
They really wanted him dead.
Supposedly, when Rasputin’s body was finally recovered? His cause of death was drowning.
Now, to be entirely honest— there’s lots of evidence that the story of Rasputin’s death, which was largely told by Yusupov, has been exaggerated. Modern science suggests it was actually one of the gunshots that killed him, and there’s even some speculation that an undercover British intelligence officer was the one who actually made the kill shot, since the Brits weren’t big fans of Rasputin either.
Here’s the thing though— few figures have managed to be as legendary as Rasputin. Is he a villain? A hero? Crazy? Mystical?
Yes. Yes, to all of the above.