Rasputin Essay, Research Paper
Gregory Efimovich was born on January 10, 1869, in Prokovskoe, a small village in Siberia on the banks of the Tura River. Even before he first went to St. Petersburg, because of his habits of drunkenness and womanising; he had already gained the nickname of ‘Rasputin´, disreputable one. On a chance visit to Verkhoturye Monastery, Rasputin first came into contact with the powers of the Russian Orthodox religion. He became a follower of a sect called the Skopsty, who believed that through sin, and the consequent penitence and forgiveness, one was bought closer to god. To a man like Rasputin, whose prospects of becoming one of the favoured with God were previously non-existent; this seemed like the perfect opportunity to adopt a façade of righteousness. It was soon thereafter that the debauched, lecherous peasant adopted the robes of a monk, developed his own self-gratifying doctrines, travelled the country as a “staretz” and sinned to his heart’s content.
How did Rasputin become involved with the Imperial family?
Rasputin first went to St. Petersburg in 1902. He was brought to the royal family by the Grand Duchesses Militza and Anastasia and Anna Vyrubov. The heir to the Russian throne, Tsarevich Alexis Nicholaievich suffered from haemophilia, a disease that prevents blood from clotting. The young Tsarevich had suffered a fall, which had caused internal bleeding that would not stop. The doctors could do nothing. In desperation, his mother, the Tsarina Alexandra, turned to mystical healing instead.
We do not know if Rasputin truly had a mystical healing power, or indeed if he was really religious, but somehow, he managed to stop Alexis´s bleeding. From that moment on, Alexandra treasured him as her son´s saviour, holy man, and her most trusted friend and advisor. He had found his hold over the royal family.
In what ways was Rasputin responsible for bringing down the Russian monarchy?
However, it could not be long before the holy man´s true character was revealed, perhaps not to the Emperor and Empress, but certainly to the rest of Russia. He drank, took part in wild orgies, and was even rumoured to have raped a nun. The royal couple refused to credit the reports that were brought to them of Rasputin´s shameful behaviour; he had already gained their trust, absolutely and completely.
In August 1915, after several dreadful Russian defeats, Nicholas left St. Petersburg (whose name had now been changed to Petrograd) to take command of his forces five hundred kilometres away. He left his wife, Alexandra, to take care of affairs at home.
During Nicholas´ s absence, Alexandra became totally influenced by Rasputin. Soon, the situation was such that if you wanted to hold some position of power, you got onto the good side of Rasputin. Alexandra listened to his every word. In her letters to Nicholas on the German front, she refers to him as ‘our dear friend´.
The closeness of Rasputin´s relationship with the royal couple ensured that his unpopularity with the Russian people also tainted Nicholas and Alexandra´s reputation. During the war years, rumours circulated of his supposed sexual relations with Alexandra, who had already become suspected of treachery because of her German blood. This served to further damage the royal family´s reputation; some people found themselves losing faith in rulers who relied so much upon such a man.
Another result of Rasputin´s influence is that during the war years, when what Russia needed was continuity in government, and thus quick and efficient decision-making. In 16 months, Alexandra and Rasputin had dismissed and replaced 4 Prime Ministers, 5 Ministers of the Interior, 4 Ministers of Agriculture, 3 Ministers of War and 2 Ministers of Foreign Affairs. This resulted in a collapse of co-operation and continuity within the government. No Minister was in power for long enough to even begin solving Russia´s problems before he was sacked for offering a suggestion which either Alexandra or Rasputin did not like. Of course, this meant that Russia´s problems, of which the main ones were a lack of workers, major food shortages and starvation, and inflation of the rouble accompanied by a rapid increase in food prices; instead of being solved, were left to grow bigger. As the unemployment and hunger grew, so did the discontent.
Many people blamed Rasputin, describing him as ‘dark forces destroying the throne´. In 1916, 2 nobles loyal to the Tsar and eager to eliminate these ‘dark forces´, made an attempt to assassinate Rasputin. They were Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich and Prince Felix Youssoupov. Rasputin was invited to Youssoupov´s palace for dinner on the 16th of December 1916, intended to be his last. He fell willingly into the trap. After having suffered poisoning, shooting, and finally drowning, Rasputin breathed his last, despite having fought valiantly but unsuccessfully against his death, but having thoroughly terrified his traumatised assassins. Upon receiving the news of his death, people cheered and kissed each other in the streets; there was public rejoicing.
However, despite his having seriously damaged the image of the Imperial family in the eyes of the people, and his actions during Nicholas´s absence, which resulted in Russia´s problems being left to grow more threatening; after his death, things continued to get worse.
Nicholas was forced to abdicate on the 15th March 1917, 3 months after Rasputin´s death. Was Rasputin anything more than a scapegoat for Nicholas´s bad leadership, or a smokescreen which prevented the people from seeing Nicholas as he truly was – weak, out of touch, ignorant of how to run a country; in short, a most insufficient ruler? Did he really have any part in bringing down the Russian monarchy?
The answer is that Rasputin did play a part in Nicholas´s fall. Rasputin damaged his reputation, the image of him as an upstanding, generous, and strong leader, which made people faithful to him. Rasputin also made Russia´s problems worse by using his influence over Alexandra to dismiss people who could have done something for Russia for the sake of his own gain. However, it is cleared that Nicholas was doomed before Rasputin even appeared on the scene – his character ensured his downfall. This is proven in the unsuccessful Revolution of 1905, before Rasputin had even made an impact in St. Petersburg; the Russian people were already dissatisfied with their ruler. If Nicholas had remained in St. Petersburg, unless he had found the right Ministers, he could have done little more for the people than Rasputin. Also, after his death, nothing changed. Rasputin´s death could not save the Tsar. Nicholas had been nothing more than an illusion, an idol. He had certainly not been a real ruler for the Russian people.
Thus I have come to the conclusion, that although Rasputin made a contribution to Nicholas´s downfall, it was not a vital one. Rasputin may even have bought the Tsar a little time, by taking the blame for the problems that Russia faced. The main reason of Nicholas´s downfall was not the result of Rasputin´s actions, Alexandra´s actions, or indeed his own; the weakness of his own character and the inadequacy with which his personality was matched with his role lay at the root of his problems.