One of the most iconic figures of the First World War and the fall of the Romanov family is that of Grigori Rasputin.
Rasputin was a Russian mystic who is thought to have influence and control over the Romanov family. Often referred to as the 'Mad Monk', Rasputin was known by other names such as 'Strannik' and 'Starets'.
Since the fall of the Romanov family and the Russian Revolution, there has been a continual argument over the person Rasputin, his actions and the consequences of such actions. Some argue that Rasputin helped to de-stabilize the Tsarist Government whereas others see him as a visionary, healer and mystic. Whatever this figures actions, there was no stopping the destructive force of revolution and civil war.
In terms of connection with the Romanov Royal Family, Rasputin was wandering through Siberia when he heard of the Royal son's illness. Alexi suffered from Haemophilia, a disease which was common amongst Royal Households of Europe, as every Royal was descended from Queen Victoria. In 1904, it was not publicly known that Alexi suffered from the condition. It was claimed that Rasputin had the power to heal through prayer, and did in fact give the boy some relief despite doctors predictions that he would die.
Tsarina Alexandra had blind faith in Rasputin's abilities to help and heal Alexi and the Tsar referred to Rasputin as 'our friend' and 'a holy man'. In turn Alexandra believed that God spoke to her through Rasputin.
The figure of Rasputin quickly became a controversial one. Rasputin quickly sank into the sharp internal feuds of the Royal Court and the nobility which was leading decaying Russia. He was invariably accused of misdeeds by notable court and political figures.
With religious teachings and behaviors constantly in battle, Rasputin's belief in salvation rather than depending on the clergy, caused and attracted animosity. Rasputin maintained that sin and penance were dependent upon each other and were crucial to the concept of salvation. He claimed yielding to temptation was needed in order to receive penance.
In terms of his relation to World War One, he was deeply opposed to war, both morally and politically. Between 1914 and the year of his death, Rasputin's increasing drunkenness, wild sexual behavior and his attempts to have critics dismissed from their posts, made him appear cynical. Due to his wild and promiscuous behavior, Rasputin became the focus of accusations of unpatriotic influence at court. The bitter feuding became that serious that when Rasputin expressed an interest to go to the Front Line and blessing the Russian troops, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Duke Nicholas threatened to hang him if he dared show his face.
The matter over Russia's relation to World War One became even more complex when Rasputin claimed that Russia's armies would not be victorious unless Tsar Nicholas personally took command.
In the wake of the birth of Revolutionary fervor and military failings at the Front, Rasputin's influence over the Royal Family was used against him. Rasputin unintentionally contributed to his accusers scorn by having public disputes with the Russian Orthodox Church.
The mystery and legend surrounding Rasputin still haunts Russian folklore and society.
In December 1916, a group of nobles led by Prince Felix Yusupov and the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich and the right-wing politician lured Rasputin to the Moika Palace in order to murder him.
Leading Rasputin down to the cellar, the group fed him cakes which were laced with cyanide. The poisoning was unsuccessful as it is attributed that Rasputin developed an immunity to poison which in turn was due to Mithridatism.
Determined to finish the job, Prince Yusupov became anxious about the possibility that Rasputin may yet live. Fleeing the scene to tell the other co-conspirators, Yusupov returned and shot Rasputin in the back. Once again fleeing the murder scene, Yusupov returned in order to retrieve a coat and went to look at the corpse …
Rasputin eyes flashed open and he lunged at the prince. Grabbing Yusupov, he whispered 'you bad boy' and attempted to strangle him. The other co-conspirators arrived in time and fired at Rasputin. Approaching the body, they found that Rasputin was still alive, clubbing him into submission, they wrapped the body in a carpet and threw him into the Neva river.
Three days later, Rasputin's body which had been poisoned, shot four times, beaten and drowned was recovered from the River. An autopsy credited the cause of death as drowning. It was also established that he had been poisoned and the poison alone would have been enough to kill him. A report was made whereby water was found in his lungs after his body was recovered, supporting the idea that he was still alive before submersion.
The Tsarista Alexandra subsequently buried Rasputin's body in the grounds of Tsarskoye Selo, but following the February Revolution of 1917, Bolsheviks exhumed the body and burned the remains. The burning of the body shrank the tendons which in turn caused Rasputin's body to rise in the fire. This occasion merely fueled the mystery of Rasputin and his murder.
In conclusion, the official autopsy report disappeared during the Stalin era, as several members of the public, press and government who had also seen it. The Gothic macabre legend and mystery of Rasputin survives to this day. There are several places in Russia and several sects who believe that Rasputin was more than just a mere mortal 'healer'. There were and have been accusations that due to his actions which inadvertently de-stabilized Russia's position in World War One, the British Secret Service attempted to 'neutralise' Rasputin. Overall the true cause of Rasputin's death, his so-called powers and influence of the dying days of the Romanov's will never be known.