Demon, holy man, or simply a depraved charlatan? Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, commonly known as simply Rasputin, was one of those larger than life characters who will continue to fascinate scholars and pop culture lovers alike through the centuries. He was a Russian mystic with a shady reputation -- although he definitely had his believers, including Tsarina Alexandra, who saw him as her most important adviser.
Born in freezing cold Siberia, Rasputin studied to become a monk at the age of 18 after a life changing revelation where he claimed to have seen a vision from the Virgin Mary. He began to travel around the country as a religious healer. By the time he got to Saint Petersburg in 1903, his reputation as a faith healer was well on its way. That's where he lucked out. At the time, Alexei, the son of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra, was a hemophiliac, and suffered from terrible episodes of bleeding. Turns out Rasputin was able to help him with some practical advice that may actually have worked, like relaxation and stopping the use of Aspirin, which was a new drug at the time, and which no one realized was thinning his blood and making things worse.
After that, his reputation was cemented, at least with the royal fam. Public opinion, though, was more divided, and many thought he was a shameless fake. Part of that, it has to be said, came from his own behavior, which was often excessive, not to say outright debauched. The tide turned against him during the First World War, as the Russian people began to turn against the Tsar and his family too. There were attempts on his life in 1914 and 1916, the details of which have only added to his otherworldly reputation. After the Bolsheviks shot and bayoneted the Imperial family in 1918, they discovered that the Tsarina and her daughters each wore lockets around their necks. Inside, there was a picture of Rasputin. What was the deal with Rasputin, Russia's greatest love machine, for real?
15 His Epic Death
Out of a bizarre and amazing life, it's perhaps Rasputin's death that ends up being the craziest part of all. As WWI raged, and the Russian economy faltered, the Russian people, and most of the elite class that he'd alienated as well, had turned against the mystic monk. After a series of plots, a group of Russian nobles led by Prince Felix Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, among others, decided to put an end to the monk's sway over the Tsarina and the entire Russian government. On December 30, 1916, they lured him to a late night party with the promise that he'd be able to sleep with Prince Felix Yusupov's wife. Once he was there, the group stalled him and gave him cake and wine that was laced with cyanide. It should have been enough to kill him, but it didn't seem to affect him at all. Eventually, the Prince got tired of waiting and shot him in the back. Rasputin fell to the ground and the Prince left, but when he came back much later on, Rasputin was not only still alive, he lunged at the Prince and tried to strangle him, whispering, "You bad boy." Yusupov got help, and his rich, noble friends ran in to shoot Rasputin three more times. Still not dead, Rasputin managed to get up and run out to the street. Once outside, they beat him viciously with sticks, and as if that wasn't enough, they castrated him. Ouch. The group of them tied him in a carpet and threw him into a river, but apparently, he was still alive and trying to escape when he eventually drowned, as the autopsy would later confirm.
14 Multiple Assassination Attempts
That last assassination conspiracy extravaganza wasn't the first, not by a long shot. In 1914, Rasputin was visiting family in Pokrovskoye. Suddenly, a woman ran up to him in the street wielding a knife and tried to gut him like a fish, yelling, "I have killed the Antichrist!" It is said that his intestines were actually protruding from his gut after the blow to his stomach. The woman, Khionia Guseva, was a former sex worker who belonged to a support group of women who claimed Rasputin had abused them. (It get complicated – more about the drama with women later.) Somehow, he had the presence of mind to literally hold himself together and made it to the imperial palace, where he was reported to have had lifesaving surgery on the dining room table. A monk by the name of Iliodor claimed to have gathered 120 bombs to kill Rasputin with. He never used them, but he did run after Rasputin with an axe and threaten to castrate him. Another self-proclaimed holy man by the name of Blessed Mitya punched Rasputin in the face and then tried to pull his junk off manually.
13 What Happened To Rasputin's Genitalia?
Even after death, Rasputin couldn't help but continue the controversy – at least, part of him. After he was castrated, his severed penis was discovered by a maid, so the story goes. The disembodied sex organ, which was reputed to measure a full 12-inches, later ended up in Paris with a group of Russian women who were using it as a kind of sex charm. Marie Rasputin, one of Rasputin's daughters, heard about it and demanded that they return it to her. She kept it with her collection of dear old dad's artifacts until she passed away in 1977. After her death, her belongings were sold, and a man called Michael Augustine tried to auction off the dried up penis he claimed he'd bought, but it turned out to be a sea cucumber. Then, in 2004, a man by the name of Igor Knyazkin who worked at the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences opened a museum of erotica in Saint Petersburg. Among the displays was a jar of pickled penis that he claimed was Rasputin's. Igor says he bought it from a collector in France. Still others insist that it is in the possession of a Russian doctor. Wherever it is, we hope it's resting in peace.
12 Rasputin Predicted His Own Death
Rasputin added to his reputation as an all-knowing psychic when he predicted his own death. Not long before his murder, he wrote up his last will and testament, and addressed the document to Tsar Nicholas II. It reads, in part, "If I will be killed by ordinary people, especially by my brothers—the Russian peasants, then you, the Russian Tsar, should not worry about Your Children — they will lead in Russia another hundred years. But if I am murdered by the boyars and noblemen, if they spill my blood, and it stays upon their hands, then twenty five years will pass before they be able to wash my blood from their hands. They will have to flee from Russia. Brother will kill brother, everyone will kill each other and hate each other, and at the end of twenty five years, not one nobleman will be left in Russia." As we all know now, he was in fact killed by members of the aristocracy, and the people of Russia went on to assassinate Tsar Nicholas and his whole family, the last of the doomed Romanov dynasty, in July 1918 during the Bolshevik revolution.
11 He Was Illiterate...And He Wasn't Even A Monk
Somehow, Rasputin made it through a few years of school, and then a couple of years in a monastery, without ever learning to read. That's right, the man who basically ran the Russian government in 1914 and 1915, after the Tsar had gone to the battle front and left the Tsarina – who doted on Rasputin's advice – in charge, couldn't read. We can imagine that Pokrovskoye, the tiny Siberian village where he was born, was probably not a hotbed of culture and learning, but still. It's a sign of the man's colossal ego, and we'll call it a certain sense of creativity in coming up with career options, that he didn't find it necessary to learn. In fact, the famous mystic monk wasn't actually a monk at all. He did study at the Verkhoture Monastery for a couple of years, but left it at age 19, before completing his training. We'll just call him an alternative fact monk.
10 Altruism And Bribery
Aside from his lurid private life, Rasputin was a social justice warrior of his time. Rasputin came out against the war when it exploded across Europe in 1914. He advocated for equal rights, including Jews, which was not a popular cause at the time to say the least, and also the poor. He was also against the death penalty. He became directly involved with several cases where he protected Jewish business people and others from state persecution. That included the notorious blood libel trial in 1913, where prominent Jews had been accused of killing Christians to use their blood. Rasputin was a witness for the defense. Still...being Rasputin, he couldn't help himself from turning a profit from his principles. Word in the Russian Imperial Court was that if you wanted to keep your boy out of the army, it would cost you a mere 200 rubles, cash in his palm.
9 Russia's Greatest Sex Machine
Turns out that Boney M song was accurate – this man was a ladies' man to end all ladies' men. There were rumors that he was sexually involved with Tsarina Alexandra, but that seems unlikely, given her extreme prudishness. This was a woman who had the bathroom covered up when not in use, so people wouldn't be corrupted by seeing it. She seems, however, to have been pretty much the only woman in Saint Petersburg and beyond who didn't succumb to his rampant sexual charisma, by most accounts. His followers were dubbed the Rasputinki and crowds that were estimated up to 400 of them would gather in the street in front of his apartment building before sunrise. Some waited in line for two or three days to see the holy man, and many brought him gifts. The favored one became those he called his little ladies, and they were invited to his study for one-on-one visits. The sofa in his study saw so much action that it eventually collapsed.
8 Bad Behavior In Public
Most historians consider the rumors that Rasputin was involved with the Tsarina to be just that – rumors, but it certainly didn't help that the Mad Monk actually bragged of doing that very thing. There was one occasion when he was out at a restaurant with some of his many friends. He, apparently, loudly started bragging about his influence over the Russian Tsar and Tsarina He was heard to say that he had slept with "the old girl" – an apparent reference to the Tsarina After a while, the restaurant's other patrons began to realize who was in their midst. One of the other tables asked him if he really was the infamous Rasputin. His response was to stand up, drop his drawers, and dangle his allegedly foot-long genital organ for all to see. He also passed around notes that read, "Love unselfishly." The Tsarina refused to believe the stories she sometimes heard of his outrageous behavior, and actually seemed to believe that it was an impostor who was calling himself Rasputin, running around town trying to damage his reputation.
7 A Terrible Military Adviser
The Grand Duke Nicholas, uncle to Tsar Nicholas II, was an enemy of Rasputin who resented his influence over the Tsarina. The Tsar, as it happened, was not a particularly strong man, and he often gave in to his wife's pressure. It got so far that the Grand Duke threatened to hang Rasputin. That's why, in 1915, Rasputin advised the Tsar to remove Grand Duke Nicholas from his role as commander of the Russian army. In fact, he used his holy man mojo to predict that Russia would not win the war unless the Tsar led the troops himself, a task he was unready for. It was a crucial decision. Russia's army numbered a million-plus, and Europe was in the middle of the First World War. Still, Tsar Nicholas II took Rasputin's advice and took over command of the army. He left the Tsarina in charge of the government, which essentially put Rasputin himself at the helm of the Russian nation. Hmm...smooth, but pretty short sighted, we'd have to say. It was the faltering Russian army and economic woes that boosted the popularity of the Bolshevik revolution.
6 A Unique Take On Sin And Redemption
Rasputin has strange ideas about sin and redemption. He was known to say, "sinning brings one closer to God," and it was apparently a philosophy he brought into his everyday life. He felt the best way to be saved was to be in a state of perpetual sin. That meant indulging in a lot of sex and drinking -- and then asking forgiveness from God. He felt that to be constantly in a state of asking forgiveness was the ideal. Rasputin's religious philosophy, supposedly stemming from his vision of the Virgin Mary, was a pretty freaked out version of Catholicism, we'd have to say. It goes something like this: Because Rasputin was a holy man and all, having sex with him actually purified women. So far from being wicked, sex with the Mad Monk was actually a holy thing. It was apparently the right philosophy at the right time, because it worked in spades. He was in the habit of leading his women followers to the woods, where they'd burn some incense, dance naked, and end up in an orgy.
5 Hypnotism And Sex Rituals
As early as 1901, before he'd left Pokrovskvoe, Rasputin was accused by a local priest of belonging to a weird sex cult called a khlyst. He denied it at the time, but once he was installed in Saint Petersburg society, he built a place to have what he called spiritual meetings. Many credit him with awesome hypnotic powers, and he was said to be able to make his pupils dilate at will. Part of the legend surrounding Rasputin – and one of the reasons for the sometimes violent opposition to him in the government and among the people – was that he had the Tsar and Tsarina under some kind of hypnotic spell. The stories of Rasputin's faith healing powers began very early in his career as a holy man, but it should be noted that his parents, at any rate, were not impressed by them. His father was quoted as saying, "Grigori became a pilgrim out of laziness—nothing else."
4 Zero Personal Hygiene
Now, for a dude who was such a dog with the ladies, you'd think he would go out of his way to please them, like a handsome early 20th century David Beckham or Liam Hemsworth type – super smooth, well groomed. You get the picture. In the case of Rasputin, though, you'd be dead wrong. The man apparently didn't believe in personal hygiene, and curiously, this didn't seem to bother any of his legions of female fans. His long beard was often full of food crumbs, and he was in the habit of leaving them there all day long. He bathed very seldom. Rasputin once bragged that he'd gone six months without changing his underwear, and various people remarked that he smelled like a goat, and that his teeth were like black stumps. We're not sure why this wasn't a huge roadblock in his sex life, but apparently it wasn't.
3 Bizarre Daily Rituals
Part of Rasputin's daily life in Saint Petersburg apparently involved a trip to a banya. By itself, that was and is nothing new in Saint Petersburg. A banya is a traditional Russian spa, usually a kind of hot and cold sauna and steam room, and most banya also included a classic tea room too. Naturally, Rasputin's banya tradition had to involve some form of debauchery. His trips included some TLC from his so-called little ladies, or many female fans, which involved soaping up his genital area. After the bath, they'd beat him with twigs. From there, he'd typically go on to the church to repent. After all, as he was fond of saying, "Without sin, there is no repentance." Along with his personal rituals, Rasputin craeted quasi-religious rituals of his own. According to a book written by daughter Maria Rasputin, his women followers actually worshiped his penis. Their meetings generally started with some kind of religious ritual, during which he'd begin by fondling his followers breasts. Soon, they'd degenerate into orgies, and when they were all said and done, Rasputin would meditate for hours.
2 A Tireless Partier
Rasputin's appetite for booze was apparently just a prodigious as his appetite for sex. There is an account of his day on December 30, 1916, the day that he was assassinated. He is said to have returned to his home early in the morning after a night of drinking. He was described as "very drunk", "dead drunk" and "overcome with drink’" by his three bodyguards in statements that were taken after the fact. After a couple of hours rest, (he was known to sleep very little,) he went on to his usual spa day ritual of genital manipulation and a good thrashing, and later had a visit from a special friend he called Sister Maria. In between all of this, he managed to drink twelve bottles of Madeira, a type of sweet, fortified wine with about 20 percent alcohol content, in about twelve hours. Still standing, he made his way to what he thought was yet another sex party that night. Party on, dude.
1 The Ideal Marriage?
Once he quit monk school and returned to the small village of his birth in 1891, Rasputin had gotten married. The blonde haired, blue-eyed village girl was named Praskovia Fedorovna Dudrovina and she was three years older than his 18 when they tied the knot. They went on to have three children who survived him. Praskovia stayed in Pokrovskoye while he went on to fame, fortune, and eventually murder in Saint Petersburg. He'd return for occasional visits, and surprisingly, she was totally cool with his womanizing ways. Or maybe she was just tired. She was once said to have remarked, "He has enough for all," which many people take to refer to his allegedly foot-long junk. She stayed loyal to him till the end. Strangely, Rasputin was also able to convince the husband's of his many, many mistresses that his services were religious and somehow he never got in trouble from that end of things either.
Sources: History of Russia; Daily Mail; History Collection.