Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin - Man of Mystery

Григорий Ефимович Распутин


Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin - (22 January [O.S. 10 January] 1869 – 29 December [O.S. 16 December] 1916) was a Russian Orthodox christian and mystic who is perceived as having influenced the latter days of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their only son Alexei.
Some people called Rasputin the "Mad Monk", while others considered him a "strannik" (or religious pilgrim) and even a starets, believing him to be a psychic and faith healer.

A starets is an elder of a Russian Orthodox monastery who functions as venerated adviser and teacher. Elders or spiritual fathers are charismatic spiritual leaders whose wisdom stems from God as obtained from ascetic experience. It is believed that through ascetic struggle, prayer and Hesychasm (seclusion or withdrawal), the Holy Spirit bestows special gifts onto the elder including the ability to heal, prophesy, and most importantly, give effective spiritual guidance and direction. Elders are looked upon as being an inspiration to believers and an example of saintly virtue, steadfast faith, and spiritual peace. Elders are not appointed by any authority; they are simply recognized by the faithful as being people "of the Spirit". An elder, when not in prayer or in voluntary seclusion, receives visitors (some who travel very far) and spends time conversing with them, offering a blessing (if the elder is an ordained cleric) and confession, and praying. People often petition the elder for intercessionary prayers, believing that the prayer of an elder is particularly effective.

It has been argued that Rasputin helped to discredit the Tsarist government, leading to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917.
Contemporary opinions saw Rasputin variously as a saintly mystic, visionary, healer and prophet or, on the contrary, as a debauched religious charlatan.
There has been much uncertainty over Rasputin's life and influence, as accounts of his life have often been based on dubious memoirs, hearsay and legend.
In his homeland he is revered as a righteous man by many people and clerics.


Rasputin was born a peasant in the small village of Pokrovskoye (see left), along the Tura River in the Tobolsk guberniya (now Tyumen Oblast) in Siberia.
The date of his birth remained in doubt for some time and was estimated sometime between 1863 and 1873.
Recently, new documents have surfaced revealing Rasputin's birth date as 10 January 1869 O.S. (equivalent to 22 January 1869 N.S.)
The little which is known about his childhood was most likely passed down by his family members.
He had two known siblings, a sister called Maria and an older brother named Dmitri.
His sister Maria, said to have been epileptic, drowned in a river.
One day, when Rasputin was playing with his brother, Dmitri fell into a pond and Rasputin jumped in to save him.
They were both pulled out of the water by a passer-by but Dmitri eventually died of pneumonia. Both fatalities affected Rasputin and he subsequently named two of his children Maria and Dmitri.
The myths surrounding Rasputin portray him as showing indications of supernatural powers throughout his childhood.
One ostensible example of these reputed powers was when Efim Rasputin, Grigori's father, had one of his horses stolen and it was claimed that Rasputin was able to identify the man who had committed the theft.
When he was around the age of eighteen, Rasputin spent three months in the Verkhoturye Monastery, possibly as a penance for theft.
His experience there, combined with a reported vision of the Virgin Mary on his return, turned him towards the life of a religious mystic and wanderer.
It also appears that he came into contact with the banned Christian sect known as the khlysty (flagellants) whose impassioned services, ending in physical exhaustion, led to rumors that religious and sexual ecstasy were combined in these rituals.
Suspicions that Rasputin was one of the Khlysts threatened his reputation right to the end of his life.
Alexander Guchkov charged him with being a member of this illegal and orgiastic sect.
The Tsar perceived the very real threat of a scandal and ordered his own investigations but did not, in the end, remove Rasputin from his position of influence; on the contrary he fired his minister of the interior for a "lack of control over the press" (censorship being a top priority for Nicholas then).
He then pronounced the affair to be a private one closed to debate.
Shortly after leaving the monastery, Rasputin visited a holy man named Makariy.
Makariy had an enormous influence on Rasputin, and he modelled himself after Makariy.
Makariy lived in a rugged hut and practiced some rituals akin to ancient shamanic and tribal traditions of the Siberian people.
Rasputin mentioned that monk Makariy had cured him from a severe sleep disorder, and trained him to practice hypnotism and vegetarian lifestyle which included some alcohol and also the use of various weeds and drugs for "spiritual transformation" according to ancient shamanic rituals.
Subsequently, Rasputin married Praskovia Fyodorovna Dubrovina in 1889 and they had three children: Dmitri, Varvara and Maria.
Rasputin also had another child with another woman.
In 1901, he left his home in Pokrovskoye as a strannik (or pilgrim) and, during the time of his journeying, travelled to Greece and Jerusalem.
In 1903 he arrived in Saint Petersburg where he gradually gained a reputation as a starets (or holy man) with healing and prophetic powers.
John of Kronstadt  (see right) gave a blessing to Rasputin in 1903, and is reported to heave asked for a blessing in return.
It is asserted that he introduced Rasputin to the Imperial Family and chose him as his successor.
It was at the time of Rasputin's arrival in St Petersburg that he also became acquainted with  the Monk Iliador (see right).
Iliador later broke with Rasputin over his behaviour and his disrespectful talk about the royal family.

John of Kronstadt,  (Иоанн Кронштадтский) - (October 19, 1829, Sura, Arkhangelsk–December 20, 1908, Kronstadt) - who was later made a saint of the Orthodox Church (1990), (see icon on left) was in some ways similar to Rasputin, and his position helps to explain how Rasputin could be accepted in the very highest circles of society, including the Imperial House.
He was born as Ivan Ilyich Sergiyev (Иван Ильич Сергиев) in 1829.
From 1855, he worked as a priest in Saint Andrew's Cathedral in Kronstadt.
John  was a charismatic invidual who developed a cult following of thousands, mostly of women. His followers, known as "Ioannites", venerated him as Christ (a practice which he - in public at least - condemned).
They lived in communities where they did not marry, (or if married, lived apart from their spouses).
They ran shelters where they encouraged other followers to send their children.
The children would be put to work making wreaths, which would be sold for high prices since they were supposedly blessed by Father John and had miracle-working powers.
Some parents received letters asking for large sums of money, and they became suspicious and called the police who investigated.
This became a scandal and the press used the opportunity to parody Orthodox beliefs.
Father John was so popular that he developed his own way of doing public confession.
After preparing the crowd, he would announce in a loud voice "Repent", and then they would wail and loudly yell out their private sins.
Father John would always dress very luxuriously.
He wore robes made of very expensive thick silk material, and his cassocks were made of silk and velvet. He wore coats made of valuable furs.
These were all gifts from his followers.
Father John ministered to the dying Tsar Alexander III in 1894 and soon became popular with the aristocracy.
He also served at the wedding and coronation of Tsar Nicholas II.


Rasputin was wandering as a pilgrim in Siberia when he heard reports of Tsarevich Alexei's (see right) illness.
It was not publicly known in 1904 that Alexei had haemophilia, a disease that was widespread among European royalty descended from the British Queen Victoria, who was Alexei's great-grandmother.
When doctors could not help Alexei, the Tsaritsa looked everywhere for help, ultimately turning to her best friend, Anna Vyrubova, to secure the help of the charismatic peasant healer Rasputin in 1905.
He was said to possess the ability to heal through prayer and was indeed able to give the boy some relief, in spite of the doctors' prediction that he would die.
Every time the boy had an injury which caused him internal or external bleeding, the Tsaritsa called on Rasputin, and the Tsarevich subsequently got better.
This made it appear that Rasputin was effectively healing him.
Skeptics have claimed that he did so by hypnosis, which, in one study, actually has proven to relieve symptoms because it lowers stress levels and therefore diminishes the symptomatology of haemophilia, however, during a particularly grave crisis at Spala in Poland in 1912, Rasputin sent a telegram from his home in Siberia, which is believed to have eased the suffering.
His pragmatic advice include suggestions such as "Don't let the doctors bother him too much; let him rest."
This was thought to have helped Alexei to relax and allow the child's own natural healing process some headroom.
Diarmuid Jeffreys has pointed out that Rasputin's healing suggestions included halting the administration of aspirin, a then newly-available (since 1899) pain-relieving (analgesic) "wonder drug".
As aspirin is also an anticoagulant, this intervention would have worsened the hemarthrosis causing Alexei's joints' swelling and pain.

The Tsar referred to Rasputin as "our friend" and a "holy man", a sign of the trust that the family had placed in him.
Rasputin had a considerable personal and political influence on Alexandra, and the Tsar and Tsaritsa considered him a man of God and a religious prophet.
Alexandra (see left) came to believe that God spoke to her through Rasputin.
Of course, this relationship can also be viewed in the context of the very strong, traditional, age-old bond between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian leadership.
Another important factor was probably the Tsaritsa's German-Protestant origin: she was definitely highly fascinated by her new Orthodox outlook — the Orthodox religion puts a great deal of faith in the healing powers of prayer.


Rasputin soon became a controversial figure, becoming involved in a paradigm of sharp political struggle involving monarchist, anti-monarchist, revolutionary and other political forces and interests.
He was accused by many eminent persons of various misdeeds, ranging from an unrestricted sexual life (including raping a nun) to undue political domination over the royal family.
Even before his arrival in St. Petersburg in 1903, the city was agog with mysticism and aristocrats were obsessed with anything occult.
While fascinated by him, the Saint Petersburg elite did not widely accept Rasputin.
He did not fit in with the royal family, and he and the Russian Orthodox Church had a very tense relationship.
The Holy Synod frequently attacked Rasputin, accusing him of a variety of immoral or evil practices.
Because Rasputin was a court official, though, he and his apartment were under 24-hour surveillance, and, accordingly, there exists some credible evidence about his lifestyle in the form of the famous "staircase notes" — reports from police spies which were not given only to the Tsar but also published in newspapers.
One problem that continually dogged Rasputin right up to the time of his death was the allegation that he was involved with the Khlysty sect.
One Khlyst practice was known as "rejoicing" (радение), a ritual which sought to overcome human sexual urges by engaging in group sexual activities so that, in consciously sinning together, the sin's power over the human was nullified.

Khlysts or Khlysty was an underground sect from late 17th to early 20th century that split off the Russian Orthodox Church and belonged to the Spiritual Christians (духовные христиане) tendency.'Khlyst', the name commonly applied to them, is a distortion of the name they used; the original name was the invented word Христововеры (Khristovovery, "Christ-believers") or Христы (Khristy); their critics corrupted the name, mixing it with the word хлыст (khlyst), meaning "a whip".
It is also possible that the word 'Khlysty' is related to the Greek word 'χιλιασταί' (=millennialists), pronounced 'khiliasté', or with "klyster", meaning "one that purges". Millennialism has many different branches and sects and their teachings have common points with those of the Khlysty. It is said to have been founded by a peasant, Daniil Filippovich, (or Filippov), of Kostroma. The Khlysty renounced priesthood, holy books and veneration of the saints (excluding the Theotokos - the Mother of God) . They believed in a possibility of direct communication with the Holy Spirit and of His embodiment in living people. Curiously enough, they allowed their members to attend Orthodox churches. The central idea of Khlystys' ideology was to practice asceticism. Khlysty practiced the attainment of divine grace for sin in ecstatic rituals (called радéния, or radeniya) that were rumoured to sometimes turn into sexual orgies (this is very reminiscent of Rasputin's behaviour). They were often subject to persecution and perceived as a subversive element by the nineteenth century Russian authorities and ecclesiastical bodies. In 1910, Grigori Rasputin was accused of having been a Khlyst by Sofia Ivanovna Tyutcheva, a governess of the Grand Duchesses of Russia, after being horrified that Rasputin was allowed access by the Tsar to the nursery of the Grand Duchesses, when the four girls were in their nightgowns.

Like many spiritually minded Russians, Rasputin spoke of salvation as depending less on the clergy and the church than on seeking the spirit of God within.
He also maintained that sin and repentance were interdependent and necessary to salvation. Thus, he claimed that yielding to temptation (and, for him personally, this meant sex and alcohol), even for the purposes of humiliation (so as to dispel the sin of vanity), was needed to proceed to repentance and salvation.
Rasputin was deeply opposed to war, both from a moral point of view and as something which was likely to lead to political catastrophe.
During the years of World War I, Rasputin's increasing drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and willingness to accept bribes (in return for helping petitioners who flocked to his apartment), as well as his efforts to have his critics dismissed from their posts, made him appear increasingly cynical.
Attaining divine grace through sin seems to have been one of the central secret doctrines which Rasputin preached to (and practiced with) his inner circle of society ladies.
During World War I, Rasputin became the focus of accusations of unpatriotic influence at court. The unpopular Tsaritsa, meanwhile, was of German descent, and she came to be accused of acting as a spy in German employ.
When Rasputin expressed an interest in going to the front to bless the troops early in the war, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Duke Nicholas, promised to hang him if he dared to show up there.
Rasputin then claimed that he had a revelation that the Russian armies would not be successful until the Tsar personally took command.
With this, the ill-prepared Tsar Nicholas proceeded to take personal command of the Russian army, with dire consequences for himself as well as for Russia.
While Tsar Nicholas II was away at the front, Rasputin's influence over Tsaritsa Alexandra increased.
He soon became her confidant and personal adviser, and also convinced her to fill some governmental offices with his own handpicked candidates.
To further the advance of his power, Rasputin cohabited with upper-class women in exchange for granting political favours.
Because of World War I and the ossifying effects of feudalism and a meddling government bureaucracy, Russia's economy was declining at a very rapid rate.
Many at the time laid the blame with Alexandra and with Rasputin, because of his influence over her.
Rasputin's influence over the royal family was used against him and the Romanovs by politicians and journalists who wanted to weaken the integrity of the dynasty, force the Tsar to give up his absolute political power and separate the Russian Orthodox Church from the state.
Rasputin unintentionally contributed to their propaganda by having public disputes with clergy members, bragging about his ability to influence both the Tsar and Tsaritsa, and also by his dissolute and very public lifestyle.
Nobles in influential positions around the Tsar, as well as some parties of the Duma, clamored for Rasputin's removal from the court.
Perhaps inadvertently, Rasputin had added to the Tsar's subjects' diminishing respect for him.
Mention must be made that recently found documents proved that accusations in Rasputin's sexual dissoluteness were false.


Though it is a prevailing view that Rasputin was assassinated by political reasons, the details are not clear.
A previous attempt on Rasputin's life had failed: Rasputin was visiting his wife and children in Pokrovskoye, his hometown along the Tura River in Siberia.
On June 29, 1914, after either just receiving a telegram or exiting church, he was attacked suddenly by Khionia Guseva, a former prostitute who had become a disciple of the monk Iliodor.
Iliodor, who once was a friend of Rasputin but had grown disgusted with his behaviour and disrespectful talk about the royal family, had appealed to women who had been harmed by Rasputin to form a mutual support group.
Guseva thrust a knife into Rasputin's abdomen, and his entrails hung out of what seemed like a mortal wound.
Convinced of her success, Guseva supposedly screamed, "I have killed the antichrist!"
After intensive surgery, however, Rasputin recovered.
It was said of his survival that "the soul of this cursed muzhik was sewn on his body."
His daughter, Maria, observed in her memoirs that he was never the same man after that: he seemed to tire more easily and frequently took opium for pain relief.
The murder of Rasputin has become a legend, some of it invented by the very men who killed him, which is why it has become difficult to discern the actual course of events.

On December 16, 1916, having decided that Rasputin's influence over the Tsaritsa had made him a threat to the empire, a group of nobles led by foppish Prince Felix Yusupov (see right), the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (see below right), and the right-wing politician Vladimir Purishkevich created a plan to lure Rasputin to the Yusupovs' Moika Palace (see left).

Previously, in November of 1916, Prince Yusupov pretended that he had chest pains and obtained a high recommendation to become a patient of Rasputin.
Prince Feliks Yusupov made several visits to Rasputin as a patient and soon he made friends with Rasputin, and presented him a picture of his wife, beautiful Princess Irene Yusupov, niece of the Emperor Tsar Nicholas II.
Rasputin immediately expressed his desire to meet the beauty.
Whether Rasputin was really interested in Irene, or Yusopov is open to question.
Yusopov was known to be a cross dresser, who regularly disported himself by night in fashionable drinking establishments and restaurants in St Petersburg dressed as a woman, and he was almost certainly bisexual, and attractive to both women and men.
On December 16, 1916, Prince Yusupov and his fellow officers designed a plan centered on supposedly using the beautiful Princess Irina Yusupov, as a bait.
The group led Rasputin down to the cellar, where they served him cakes and red wine laced with a massive amount of cyanide.
According to legend, Rasputin was unaffected, although Vasily Maklakov had supplied enough poison to kill five men.
Conversely, Maria's account asserts that, if her father did eat or drink poison, it was not in the cakes or wine, because after the attack by Guseva he suffered from hyperacidity and avoided anything with sugar.
In fact, she expresses doubt that he was poisoned at all.
It has been suggested, on the other hand, that Rasputin had developed an immunity to poison due to mithridatism.
Determined to finish the job, Prince Yusupov became anxious about the possibility that Rasputin might live until the morning, leaving the conspirators no time to conceal his body.
Yusupov ran upstairs to consult the others and then came back down to shoot Rasputin through the back with a revolver.
Rasputin fell, and the company left the palace for a while.
Yusupov, who had left without a coat, decided to return to get one, and while at the palace, he went to check on the body.
Suddenly, Rasputin opened his eyes and lunged at Yusupov.
He grabbed Yusupov and attempted to strangle him.
At that moment, however, the other conspirators arrived and fired at Rasputin.
After being hit three times in the back, he fell once more.
As they neared his body, the party found that, remarkably, he was still alive, struggling to get up. They clubbed him into submission.
After binding his body and wrapping him in a carpet, they threw him into the icy Neva River.
He broke out of his bonds and the carpet wrapping him, but drowned in the river.
Three days later, Rasputin's body, poisoned, shot four times, badly beaten, and drowned, was recovered from the river.
An autopsy established that the cause of death was drowning.
It was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him.
There is a report that after his body was recovered, water was found in the lungs, supporting the idea that he was still alive before submersion into the partially frozen river.
Subsequently, the Tsaritsa Alexandra buried Rasputin's body in the grounds of Tsarskoye Selo, but after the February Revolution, a group of workers from Saint Petersburg uncovered the remains, carried them into the nearby woods, and burned them.
As the body was being burned, Rasputin appeared to sit up in the fire.
His apparent attempts to move and get up thoroughly horrified bystanders.
The effect can probably be attributed to improper cremation; since the body was in inexperienced hands, the tendons were probably not cut before burning.
Consequently, when the body was heated, the tendons shrank, forcing the legs to bend and the body to bend at the waist, resulting in its appearing to sit up.
This final happenstance only further fueled the legends and mysteries surrounding Rasputin, which continue to live on long after his death.
The official report of his autopsy disappeared during the Stalin era, as did several research assistants who had seen it.
Some evidence has emerged recently that the murder was, in fact, organised by the British SIS.


 'I write this letter at St. Petersburg.
I feel that I shall leave life before January 1.
I would like to make known to the Russian people, the Pope, Mother Russia what they must understand.
If I am killed by common issues and especially by my brothers peasants, you, Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear, for your children, they will rule the country for hundreds of years.
But if I am dead by politicians, nobles, and my blood is spilled by twenty-five years remain dirty hands of my blood.
They will leave Russia.
Brothers will kill brothers, and they will kill each other, ascend hate each other, and for twenty-five years there will be no nobles in the country.
Tsar of the land of Russia, if you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Grigori has been killed, you should know this: if it was of their relations who forged my death, no one in your family, that is, none of their children or their relations will remain alive for more than two years.
They will be killed by the Russian people ...'
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014
Grigory Efimovich Rasputin was born in the village of Pokrovskoe, near Toblosk, the illiterate son of a poverty stricken peasant.
Rather than work on the land, as a serf, he became a wandering pilgrim.
This gave him the freedom he needed; serfs weren't allowed to travel outside their village without their master's permission.
During his wanderings something happened to him.
He believed he had been touched and possessed by God.
In retrospect, one might ask; which God ?
Soon he developed a reputation for healing, and he became widely known as a Holy man.
In the West a voracious and openly expressed sexual appetite is not the usual attribute of a man of religion, and Church of England vicars interfering with choirboys, or American Evangelists resorting to prostitutes is usually frowned upon.
Crowley's sexual athleticism, in like mode, was responsible for much of the censure he suffered during his lifetime.
In Russia, however, a rampant sexuality was considered, by many people, to be evidence of spirituality rather than its antithesis.

In fact Gregory Efimovich's nickname, Rasputin, means 'dissolute one' and was given to him as a sign of approval, rather than censure.

That Rasputin had super-natural powers is beyond dispute.
Even in the few photographs that exist of him, his eyes burn through the page in a hypnotic stare. Apart from healing and sex he was able to consume staggering quantities of Vodka with which his fawning admirers endlessly plied him.
In addition he prophesied future events, both mundane and profound.
Significantly he foretold the coming destruction of the Romanovs and the cataclysm of fire and blood which was soon to sweep Europe.
He also foretold his own down fall.

In 1905 Rasputin arrived in St Petersburg, his reputation preceding him.
St. John of Cronstadt and the Grand Duke Nicholas Nicolaievich provided both ecclesiastical and aristocratic acceptance, and it was not long before Rasputin's name was brought to the attention of the Tsarina.
Although the Tsarina was deeply religious, having converted from Protestantism to the Russian Orthodox Church on her marriage to Nicholas, it was not Rasputin's religious teaching which interested her, but rather his ability to heal.

Her son, the Tsarevich, Alexis, had been born with the genetic disease haemophilia.
This disease, endemic among the royal families of Europe, while only effecting males, is inherited from the female side.
It is caused by a lack of the blood-clotting agent, Factor VIII, which is normally present in the body, and cause uncontrollable bleeding, often internally, which is particularly painful when occurring around the joints.
While the missing chemical can now be supplied in the form of injections, at the turn of the century, its existence was unknown, and doctors were unable to successfully treat the condition. Individuals who suffered from this condition often failed to survive beyond young adulthood, and the Tsarevich's prognosis was, therefore, poor.
Having dismissed the doctors, who were unable to treat the condition with anything other than platitudes, the Tsarina had resorted to prayer and faith-healers.
Having decided that the latest candidate, a French healer, was unable to alleviate her son's worsening condition, the Tsarina turned to Rasputin in desperation.
Amazingly, while he was unable to completely cure the Tsarevich, he was able to control the symptoms sufficiently for the boy to begin to lead a normal life.
The Tsar and Tsarina were overjoyed.
Their son, Alexis, was well and the succession was, apparently, assured.
The Empire was safe.
The Tsarina's gratitude was boundless and Rasputin could have had almost anything he desired.
Undoubtedly he did accept gifts from the Imperial family, and from the noble and the wealthy who flocked to him to be healed and to hear his teachings and prophecies, but, like a true holy man, he was not greedy, except, perhaps when it came to vodka and sex.

(1) In 1917, with the war going badly for Russia, the Tsar was forced to abdicate.

When the Bolsheviks toppled the Kerensky Government and took power, in November of 1917, they transported the Imperial family to Ekaterinberg where the entire family was shot, in July of 1918.

The real reward he sought, like so many, was power.
Now power, or powers, he undoubtedly had; but the power he sought was the power over empires.
It was an odd weakness for an illiterate peasant, and for this reason, much to the Ochrana's disgust, he couldn't be 'bought off'.
Rasputin's teachings were not complex, although they were controversial.
His main contention was that in order to receive God's grace it was necessary to sin and subsequently repent.

The forgiveness of God was, for Rasputin, essentially God's mystic grace of redemption.

As most of Rasputin's sins were those of the flesh, it is possible to see a connection between his teachings and the sexually orientated 'magick' of Crowley (see left), along with Joseph Smith's (see right) doctrine regarding 'celestial marriage'.
Whilst Rasputin's teachings may seem scandalous today, it should be remembered that the fringes of Russian religiosity held some unusual attitudes, including Rasputin's doctrine, which attracted a considerable acceptance as it derived from ancient tradition, and doctrines sufficiently extreme as to espouse the wholesale castration of male devotees.
Equally the Anna-Baptists in Germany, certain Christian Gnostic, and Buddhist and Hindu sects were known to encouraged a similar attitude towards sin and repentance.
Rasputin's other main belief was in the God given right of the Tsar to rule as supreme Autocrat, untrammelled by the interference of the Duma or any other liberal institutions.
Rasputin's politics were not in accord with the oncoming tide of events.
Regardless of his 'powers' he still only had a peasant's intellect.

He was, however, astute enough to realise that the one thing the Tsar (see left) could not risk was war.

Strangely enough, at the very moment when the Tsar was most in need of Rasputin's advice, Rasputin was in hospital, recovering from an assassination attempt in Pokrovskoe, which had occurred at the same time as the successful attempt on the life of Franz-Ferdinand (see right).
If Rasputin had been at his master's side, at that time,it is unlikely that Nicholas would have instigated the mobilisation which made the Great War inevitable.
Rasputin did manage to send a telegram to his sovereign, but this was as nothing compared to his own presence.
And so war could not be averted.
In such manner do the Gods use and judge those whom they 'favour' with their attention.
Two years into the war, unable to tolerate his interference in the affairs of state any further a group of nobles, close to the throne, assassinated Rasputin.
Undoubtedly, though, the hand of God still touched him.
In the event it required arsenic sufficient to kill a dozen men to merely incapacitate him. Panicking, his assassins shot him repeatedly yet unsuccessfully.
It was only by immersing him in the freezing waters of the Neva, and finally forcing him beneath the ice, that they were able to kill him.
It was a lot of trouble to go to over a man who's influence on history had been immense, but who was by then a superfluous character on a doomed stage.

Hieromonk Iliodor

Серге́й Миха́йлович Труфа́нов - (Sergei Michailovich Trufanov) -  formerly Hieromonk Iliodor or Heliodorus; (October 19, 1880 – 28 January 1952) was a lapsed hieromonk, a charismatic churchman, an enfant terrible of the Orthodox church, panslavist and deist.

Pan-Slavism was a movement in the mid-19th century aimed at unity of all the Slavic peoples. The main focus was in the Balkans where the South Slavs had been ruled for centuries by other empires, Byzantine Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, and Venice.

Deism is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to determine the existence of a Creator, accompanied with the rejection of revelation and authority as a source of religious knowledge.
Deists believed in one god, but found fault with organized religion and did not believe in supernatural events such as miracles, the inerrancy of scriptures, or the Trinity.
Deism is derived from deus, the Latin word for god. 

Sergei was born in stanitsa Mariinsky and grew up in a small cottage near the Don river as the son of a local deacon.
He was one of thirteen children; according to himself five died young of famine.
At the age of ten he went to school in Novocherkassk.
At the age of 15 he went to the local theological seminary.
Five years later he graduated and went to the capital to attend the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.
In 1903 he was ordained a hieromonk under the name Iliodor; two years later he graduated from the academy.

Hieromonk (Greek: Ἱερομόναχος, Slavonic: Ieromonakh), also called a Priestmonk, is a monk who is also a priest in the Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholicism. A hieromonk can be either a monk who has been ordained to the priesthood or a priest who has received monastic tonsure. When a married priest's wife dies, it is not uncommon for him to become a monk, since the Church forbids clergy to enter into a second marriage after ordination. Ordination to the priesthood is the exception rather than the rule for monastics, as a monastery will usually only have as many hieromonks and hierodeacons as it needs to perform the daily services.

There he had met with Father Gapon as a student.
Iliodor helped the poor, and expected the clergy, not the revolutionaries to change the country. 
Then he was discovered by Theofan of Poltava, and met with Rasputin.
Iliodor was appointed at the seminary in Jaroslavl, but returned to the capital within a year.
He was invited to the Peterhof Palace, but scandalized his audience in a sermon, defending a land reform, which should be ordered by the Tsar.
The Russian aristocrats and the Most Holy Synod were shocked with his behaviour.

The Most Holy Synod (Святейший Правительствующий Синод) was the highest governing body of the Russian Orthodox Church between 1721 and 1918, when the Patriarchate was restored. The jurisdiction of the Most Holy Synod extended over every kind of ecclesiastical question and over some that are partly secular. The Synod was established by Peter I of Russia on January 25, 1721 as a part of his church reform. Its establishment was followed by the abolition of the Patriarchate. The Synod was composed partly of ecclesiastical persons, partly of laymen appointed by the Tsar. Among them were the Metropolitans of Saint Petersburg, Moscow and Kiev, and the Exarch of Georgia. Originally, there were ten ecclesiastical members, but the number later changed to twelve.

The Synod decided to ban Iliodor, but Rasputin and the Tsar defended him.
Instead Iliodor moved to Volhynia and lived in Pochayiv Lavra, the center of Panslavism (see above).
In a paper he attacked the revolutionaries and the Jews.
According to himself Iliodor turned against in the right-wing Union of the Russian People and the Black Hundreds movement, because they believed in the Tsar's autocracy.

An autocracy is a system of government in which a supreme power is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps for the implicit threat of coup d'état or mass insurrection).

He gained notoriety for attacking the prime-minister Pyotr Stolypin, industrialists, and local politicians.
Then he was prohibited to preach by the Most Holy Synod.
In 1908 he was rescued by Bishop Hermogen, and appointed in Tsaritsyn, where the URP had founded its first branch, and Iliodor gathered huge crowds.
Iliodor created Holy Spirit Monastery in 1909.
In the year after he was forbidden to preach any longer, and exiled to Minsk.
He was invited to Tsarskoye Selo to meet with the Tsarina; not in the Alexander Palace, but in the house of Anna Vyrubova.
Iliodor was allowed to go back to Tsaritsyn on request of Rasputin.
Stolypin demanded Iliodor be exiled to Novosil, and the Tsar agreed, but the abbot escaped and went back to Tsaritsyn.

Iliodor and Rasputin

In 1909 Iliodor and Grigori Rasputin visited his village by train.
Iliodor began to wonder if Rasputin was a devil or a saint, but defended him against attacks in the press in 1910.
In early 1911 Rasputin travelled to the Holy Land (Palestine - then part of the Ottoman Empire).
On his way back he visited Tsaritsyn .
Iliodor had been invited by the Tsar on 21 May, who asked him not to attack his ministers, but the revolutionaries and the Jews.
Five days later Iliodor was promoted, and became an archemandrite.

The title Archimandrite (Greek: ἀρχιμανδρίτης - archimandrites), primarily used in the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic churches, originally referred to a superior abbot whom a bishop appointed to supervise several 'ordinary' abbots (each styled hegumenos) and monasteries, or to the abbot of some especially great and important monastery. The title is also used as one purely of honour, with no connection to any actual monastery, and is bestowed on clergy as a mark of respect or gratitude for service to the Church. This particular sign of respect is only given to those priests who have taken vows of celibacy, that is monks; distinguished married clergy may receive the title of archpriest.

In December 1911 Hermogenes and Iliodor came into conflict with Rasputin, who liked to touch and kiss and had almost free access to the Imperial family.
After having been beaten by Hermogen, in a monastery on Vasilyevsky Island, Rasputin complained to the Imperial couple.
Iliodor started a slander and blackmail campaign against Rasputin.
Hinting that Alexandra and Rasputin were lovers, he showed Makarov a satchel of letters, one written by the Tsarina and four by her daughters.
The given, or more likely, stolen  letters were handed to the Tsar.
In 1912, Iliodor renounced the Russian Orthodox Church, published an apology to Jews, and was defrocked.
His monastery was closed; he was banned to the Frolishi monastery in the Volodarsky District, Nizhny Novgorod Oblast.
He seems to have escaped to Peter Badmayev in St Petersburg.
In Summer 1914, after an attack on Rasputin by Khioniya Kozmishna Guseva, he fled all the way around the Gulf of Bothnia to Oslo, Norway with the help of Grand Duke Nicholas and Maxim Gorki. Rasputin believed Iliodor and Vladimir Dzhunkovsky had organized the attack.
Gusseva, a fanatically religious woman, had been his adherent in earlier years "denied Iliodor's participation, declaring that she attempted to kill Rasputin because he was spreading temptation among the innocent."
The local procurator decided to suspend any action against Iliodor for undisclosed reasons, Guseva was locked up in a madhouse in Tomsk and a trial was avoided.
Most of Rasputin's enemies had by now disappeared.
Stolypin was dead, Count Kokovtsov fallen from power, Theofan of Poltava exiled, Bishop Hermogen illegally banished and Iliodor in hiding.
Together with Alexei Khvostov he concocted a plan to kill Rasputin early 1916.
In June 1916 he sailed to New York.
In the lost silent film, 'The Fall of the Romanovs' (1917), Iliodor played himself.
In the following he published his book.
In 1918, he returned to Soviet Union, offering his services to Lenin, and lived for several years in Tsaritsyn.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2014