Friday, December 29, 2006

The Day Rasputin Refused to Die

In the waning days of the Romanov dynasty, December 19-30, 1916 Russian 'monk' Rasputin (Grigory Yefimovich Novykh) was assassinated. A group of conspirators had lured him to a private home then poisoned and shot him, although he did not die. They then tied him up and threw him into the Neva River, in which he drowned. Rasputin had gained enormous influence with Russian Emperor Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra, claiming divine inspiration and the ability to perform miracles, especially in helping young Czar Nicky, a hemophiliac. He also urged severe measures in dealing with the peasant masses and for a time had virtually dictated government policy.

You really have to make an effort to get your name thoroughly synonymous with evil and debauchery. It doesn't just happen spontaneously. It takes a special kind of person to be a Vlad the Impaler, or a Pope Innocent III, or a Rasputin.
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was born a Siberian peasant in 1872, which is not the kind of background that usually lends itself to great success in life.

Despite the fact that he could barely read, Rasputin managed to rise to a position of nearly unprecedented power on the basis of personal charisma, evil genius, body odor, sexual profligacy and being hard to kill. Nice work if you can get it.

The young Rasputin did a brief stint in a Siberian monastery, but wisely determined that he could do better making up his own religion. Early in life, he established a name for himself by employing an apparent power to heal the sick and see the future.

Rasputin was well on track to a life of obscurity as the big fish in an exceedingly small pond, when the Virgin Mary intervened. According to his daughter, the Black Virgin of Kazan (a purportedly miraculous Russian icon) appeared to Rasputin and inspired him to make the move from rural witch doctor to power behind the throne.

It was the last time the words "Rasputin" and "virgin" would appear in the same sentence without the word "defile" in there somewhere. Rasputin traveled to St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia, and set up shop as a healer.

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