Art and History




Among the many men who have marked history but also Russian folklore, between politicians and aristocrats, there is one in particular, a character who escapes from the usual historical biographies we are used to scrolling on Wikipedia for the history report of the day after.

His appearance strikes us but strangely seems to intrigue us, just like his life path so peculiar and reckless that it reaches the limits of the absurd.

What if I told you that everything you can think of guessing, seeing him pictured in the photographs with that incisive and vigorous gaze, is nothing compared to what really happened?

Let’s talk about Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the most influential monk in all of Russia of the early twentieth century.



We are in the early 1900s, and the situation in Russia was not exactly the best. The revolution would soon break out, but first the First World War has to arrive, which would only complicate the political situation that the Tsar was already barely keeping at bay.

Let’s say that everything was ready to explode, but they still couldn’t see the fuse to activate what it already felt in the air.

It is not well know what exactly this man had that was so intriguing enough to cause so much sensation wherever he went, but the certain thing was that every step he took in this world did nothing but add more wood to that fire of mystery and reverence that in many among Russian peasants, plebeians, nobles and royals they found themselves feeling in his presence.

Rasputin was characterized by his strong radicalized spirituality, which he discovered in his months spent in the monastery at Verkhoture, finding however his own original interpretations in the sacred scriptures, but it was only after, according to the sources of the time, that he knew and presumably became associated to the Chlysty religious order known as the “flagellants”, (a Christian extremist sect whose activities ranged from flogging to orgies), that he understood that he had found his role in life: that of a Mystic.

Certainly in that sect as in all the others, he could only find companions equally disturbed if not more than Rasputin himself, but it was precisely this “communion of madmen” that made him reach enlightenment.

And as happens much more often than is believed even in our times, those brave enough to proclaim their imbalance to the rest of the world will be rewarded by the people with zealous devotion to the detriment of reason, and so it was for the members of the sect and for many illustrious members of the world of mysticism who saw in him a much more than promising figure.

It must be said that the timing was the right one: Russia was teeming with enthusiastic and exalted religious and occult related but above all with people willing to listen to them and believe them, and almost everyone had been taken by this “mystical fever”, even the higher social classes as we will see later.


And with the faith that his adulators granted him, he could only develop more and more his own spiritual and esoteric powers, such as clairvoyance and the skills of a mystical healer.

Hordes of faithful surrounded him everywhere, because by now he had transformed over time almost into a Siberian Jesus, a saint among mortals. In particular, women felt for that authoritative figure of the mystical monk with supernatural powers, an extreme adoration, which Rasputin couldn’t nor want to deny himself, so deeply rooted in him were the principles and truths about profane pleasures. And how to blame the Russian ladies of the time, it’s not an everyday thing to see an enlightened prophet almost two meters tall staring at you with that austere and out of this world gaze.


It seems incredible how from this and by simple social inertia, he would later become one of the most important and powerful people of the Russian homeland (at least for some time), but if we consider that superstition was for many the only way out of horrors of reality, it does not seem so absurd to understand.

The Russian people had been through all sorts of things, and a curator monk was just the kind of thing absurd enough to make ordinary people believe that something was going to change, and that maybe things would get better for them. And so all the hopes and real needs of people were exasperated in a single individual, in this case, who thanks to this was thus able to “magically cure the most horrible diseases”, or whose devotion to him would they be then rewarded by spirit power, in good luck and riches.

And that’s how you form a cult, and that’s how that of Grigori Rasputin was formed too.



But Rasputin‘s fame did not stop with ordinary people, because as we know the extreme and desperate need to believe has always resided in the human soul, be it rich or poor.

And in the fortuitous case of our monk, also in that of the tsarina herself, the queen of Russia at a time when the monarchy still ruled.

It was precisely in the period in which his popularity as a holy healer and acclaimed mystic was growing, that a royal problem became more and more serious and unsustainable: that of the queen’s son, Alexei Nikolaevich, struck by haemophilia that prevented him from living a normal life and threatened his health in a worrying way.

The royal family had tried everything between cures and medical treatments trying to keep its citizens unaware about the disease that would only jeopardize the already precarious position, destabilized by the general discontent of the people on the current political state of the tsarist state.

Rasputin seemed to fall straight from the sky to solve their political and health problems in a totally new and alternative way, and who better than him who was praised for his power and strong benevolent and healing influence from all parts of Russia.

Thus, thanks also to internal contacts, Rasputin found himself invited to court to solve the prince’s intricate health problem, and believe it or not, the surprising results on the anemic child soon appear.

Between a session of hypnosis and various mystical digressions later, Tsarevich Alexei began to improve as influenced by that magical and powerful aura that everyone was talking about, which this time confirmed in front of the incredulity of the court doctors and the happiness of the royal family in particular of Alexandra, the supernatural and mystical nature of that strange-looking bearded man.


The event caused a sensation inside and outside the walls of the Romanov family home, and from this point on Rasputin obtained not only a place in the court of Tsar Nicholas II, but also the role of royal adviser and all that came with it: an enormous power and direct influence on the ruling family, rivers of riches and everything the heart and body could wish for.

Obviously not everyone liked that an exalted hermit came out of nowhere and took the most coveted position of the whole empire without the slightest effort or resistance, especially to all those aristocrats who were there before him and had tried to follow the rules of hypocrisy and pretense to one day be able to obtain a position as advantageous as that.


This was then overlaid with a myriad of gossips typical of the courts, which says that the Tsarina, grateful and impressed by the recovery of her sick son, had become a devotee of his cult and not only that, but also Rasputin’s lover, with all the shame that followed.

True or not, the fact remained that Rasputin’s position in the political circle was creating a chain reaction of discontent and indignation that affected the royal family in the first place but which fell on the entire monarchy to which they, the discontented aristocrats, were part. And it is certain that Rasputin of his newfound social status had not let the opportunity to benefit himself to the maximum, manipulating the fate of the country with the queen under his control and with a king conveniently absent for the war that was looming.

Then the aristocrats and many others, furious at the monk’s lewd conduct that was worsening the national instability, tried everything to get him off that pedestal in which the queen kept him, with heavy declarations and accusations about the nature of the royal adviser and his true intentions, namely those of spying on his motherland in the name of his, even if distant, Germanic descendants, calling him a spy of the nation, and inquiries into his real affiliation with the perverse Chlysty sect.


But when these and other attempts failed, they decided to send assassins to eliminate the bothersome individual, inadvertently starting one of the most ridiculous and memorable assassinations in history.



The most important members who actively participated in the assassination of the mystical adviser were mainly three, although it has been investigated and speculated on many other associates including policemen and doctors, and even the intervention of the British secret service in the affair.

The noble Felix Yusupov, who was the leader of the noble conspirators, whose reasons for wanting him dead were not restricted only to political but also personal matters, as Rasputin had shown himself extremely interested in his wife Irina Aleksandrovna Romanova, who boasted a certain notoriety given her charm and the wealth of her family, and which made the monk a danger in more ways than one. And it was Vladimir Purishkevich, belonging to the right-wing faction, who opened his eyes in one of his meetings with the nobleman about Rasputin’s intentions to manipulate Russia and bring down the monarchy, as well as his desire to make his spouse another of the his numerous trophies.


The two were then joined by the great Duke of Russia Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, who belonged to the Romanov royal family, and who had seen firsthand the so persuasive manipulation that Rasputin exercised on the tsarina, and perhaps because he was one of these who had been defeated on time to pick up the wandering position next to the queen, now that Nicholas II was busy abroad.

Together with other supporters of the cause, they prepared a “well thought out” plan to lure Rasputin into a trap, between December 17 and 29 1916, a day that with a little effort they could mark on his tombstone.

Anything could be said about Grigori Rasputin, who was a depraved charlatan too preoccupied with himself and his exaltation, and who was a very shrewd manipulator of the masses, but he was not a fool. Beneath that charismatic and esoteric air stood a man who knew deeply the nest of vipers he had made his way into, and could feel his eyes but also guns pointed at them even before they gathered to talk about him.

Because of this, Yusupov decided to get smart and use his weaknesses against him, inviting him to dinner at his home, in the large and luxurious Moika palace, in St. Petersburg, with the excuse of introducing him to his beloved wife Irina that he desired so much.

To welcome him, however, it would have been only him, as his wife was not even in Russia at that moment but the poor Rasputin did not know this, and a deluge of sweets and liters of wine to which he could not say no, and I’m sure we wouldn’t either if we were in his place…


Unfortunately all that delicacies had been poisoned with a powerful poison, cyanide, and with the quantities of alcohol and pastries he put into his body, he had enough poison to last it for nine lifetimes. Yet with each violent and lively gulp another equally joyful one followed, with the bitterness and bewilderment that reached Yusupov, as he saw that death did not reach its host. What happened?

This Yusupov could not explain it to himself except that the voices of that mystic with an inebriated and serene air were at this point true, of Rasputin the invincible Prophet, blessed by God himself.

Now after numerous investigations and observations, we can give a more scientific explanation to the fact, even if still completely debatable, which turns out to be one of those many laughs that the cosmos or fate makes at the expense of us mortals, one of a lucky (or unfortunate depending on the p.o.v) coincidence.

In fact, it is by chance that the particular choice of the “last supper” was possibly the cause of its ineffectiveness, because the cyanide introduced into the wine seems to react with the sugar present in the grapes, fructose and glucose, which reacting with the molecules formed by it, was able to reduce its effect and prevented the death of the iconic character.

In a panic, the awed Yusupov called himself out of the dining room with an excuse, to talk to the other conspirators about what to do, and so they attempted the surprise effect as an alternative to the failed poisoning.

Rasputin, intent on gleefully contemplating a silver cross, did not notice that Yusupov had returned, and this time he was carrying not another tray of sweets but a loaded Browning pistol, which he unloaded on him several times.

Everyone was relieved to see him finally lying there, so that they immediately set to work to devote themselves to making the incriminating evidence disappear and to adjust the alibis and the crime scene so that none of them could be connected to the dead.

As they left, Yusupov remembered the jacket left in the cellar where they had left Rasputin’s body for the time being, and thinking he should retrieve it before leaving, he returned to the basement. What he found, along with the jacket still on the chair, was a violent and still full of life Rasputin, who pulled himself around his neck to strangle him in a furious attempt but misled by alcohol.

It is said that Yusupov hit him again, this time with a knife in the side but that only made him more angry. Rasputin rushed out, and fortunately for his umpteenth luck, he managed to avoid in a 50/50 the door where Vladimir Purishkevich was waiting for him with a revolver, who had returned after hearing his companion scream in fright, and then went to the other free exit.

Purishkevich, not seeing him go through the door, realized he had escaped, and was about to run after him after seeing him running out into the snow. Then he shot him with the revolver, and here it is said that many of those shots didn’t hit the target except one, which barely scratch him but enough to make him stop. Here he could reach him and hit him again with a shot straight in the forehead, just to be on the safe side, as if it were an episode of The Walking Dead.

And to sleep peacefully without the Baba Yaga or Russian John Wick coming back to haunt them, they thought it would be best to collect the body in a carpet and throw it into the frozen Neva river, which was a few steps from the Moika palace.

Unfortunately the river did not want him and the waters did not carry him away, so it was found on the ice a few days later. Yes, he was really dead.

But, according to reports, he died of hypothermia. Not from poisoning, not from open wounds that had been gushing for some time, not from shots one of which he hadn’t even been able to miss right in the face. That’s it, Rasputin could not allow his enemies to triumph and being snotty about having managed to kill him after all that trouble to survive, and now it was a matter of pride.


This is what the legend of our Rasputin mainly tells, of his so resounding end and of his spirit that not even at that moment did he want to give it to his enemies that he had already predicted with his enormous power of clairvoyance, as described in a card addressed to the Tsarina, who himself claims not to have limited himself to seeing his future, but also that of the royal family, for which he predicted (and also rightly given the historical events of the following years), that Alexei would be the last zarevich or “hereditary prince” of the mother country, and that the enemies who would have persecuted him would have been the ruin of the monarchy.



For the sudden and violent departure of the most controversial Russian monk of his time, a funeral ceremony was staged by all those who had been fascinated by his charisma, by devoted believers and obviously also by the royal family so in close contact with the deceased.

Unfortunately they did not last that long either, because as mentioned, the crisis caused by Rasputin and the insurgent rebellions led the monarchy to its inevitable collapse, with consequent retreat of the Tsar, who had left the revolutionary bomb at home ready to burst, to fight the First World War, and of the family who certainly had done very little to avoid attracting the attention of the enraged people.

Rasputin’s presence in the graces of the Romanov family is said to have been one of the causes or rather “the straw that broke the camel’s back” for the exhausted Russian citizens, tired of having to endure hunger and misery and now also a lascivious monk. Certainly they had had enough and after the councilor’s death, they sent the others with him as well. But this is “side history”.

The fact is that having eliminated the problem of the Tsar and his family, everyone wanted to get rid of any remaining vestiges of the monarchy, and this also meant his sympathizers and in particular their bodies, which in their opinion did not deserve an honorable coffin.

So they exhumed Rasputin’s body with little consideration of relatives in order to incinerate it.

His devotees certainly were not very happy with it, but at least in the pyre, Rasputin could have given his “spiritual light” one last time, and to be honest, he did not limit himself to the metaphorical sense, but even wanted to get up to be present from the ‘beyond.

Unfortunately, most of those attending misinterpreted the gesture of the deceased spirit, who saw it as a signal that the apocalypse was coming and Rasputin the invincible had returned to condemn them all.

According to the witnesses, one of those present, seeing him literally move despite the fire and the “presumed” death confirmed, instinctively fired a shot at him, just so as not to lose tradition, and another of those present, caught by realization that death was just a mere transition for that supernatural creature rising up in the flames, did not survive the heart attack that this scene caused him, or so they say.

It can be said that they deserve it somehow, because the event itself was occasioned precisely by the mistreatment of the body of the deceased, which was poorly exhumed from the tomb and not prepared for cremation, and this caused the contraction of the ligaments that, due to the excessive and sudden heat, seemed to jump up on the pyre, making everyone believe that he was really rising from death. One last joke old Rasputin had in store for them.



Much of Rasputin’s story, in addition to the historical and documented facts in which it appears, are stories told and collected testimonies that lend themselves to the most varied speculation.

It’s enough to say that much of childhood and of the declarations on life we got are told by the daughter Maria, who idolizing the figure of the father, may or may not have left out certain facts or diluted certain events to increase his fame.

But if we focus on the person and not the character, Rasputin was a completely remarkable man with no need for the esoteric aura that had been given to him.

Imagine him two meters tall, with a thick beard and not at all groomed, imposing and with two ice blue eyes that penetrated your soul.


With its unusual colossal height especially for that period, and that indifferent glare that looked everyone down from above, you could only be surprised or frightened. And from a distance, since the unkempt appearance did not seem to indicate very frequent hygiene care.

In the streets it inspired that wonder that imposed respect, awe in some and envy or admiration in others.

If we imagine him like this, it is easier to understand the mood of those who knew him or saw him on the streets, and how easy it was to forget all those stories about his promiscuous and perverse habits and his out-of-the-line behavior that it was somewhat to be expected from the proclaimed Siberian mystic.



A mystery has remained to be revealed, and it is that of the miraculous recovery of the tsarevic which starts the whole series of political events and the presumed confirmation of the indisputable power of the mystic Rasputin in the eyes of the queen.

Alexei Nikolaevich, son of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, was the unfortunate descendant of the renowned dynasty of Queen Victoria, whose blood, noble though unhealthy, ran in the veins of the poor crown prince, whose misfortune was to be born male, since the hemophilia occurs in almost all cases in males.

It was therefore Queen Victoria who initiated the transmission of the haemophilia gene in her two healthy carrier daughters, who dispersed the “royal disease” in many families in Spain, Albania, Prussia and also in Russian descendants. Curiously, it turned out that the type of hemophilia present in Queen Victoria’s royal blood was type B, which is quite rare, just to underline the bad luck.


So as we have told, Tsar Nicholas II, in addition to probably possessing the charisma of an Adidas shoe, had not been present when Alexandra fell enchanted by the spiritual sessions of Rasputin which promised the speedy and magical recovery of the tsarevic, because alas he was busy with the first world war in progress that was not a trivial matter, and with certainly other things to think about than the monarchy crumbling at home and the revolutionary forces that were preparing to subvert the regime he was at the head not yet for long.

So the Tsarina gave in to the methods of the mystical healer as we know, but this does not explain how he could improve the health of the child.

Rasputin as we can guess was a stubborn and self-confident man, and he believed that only his spiritual power could cure people of ailments, and therefore he disdained worldly remedies like the modern medicine that was becoming fashionable in the West, one among all the aspirin, which had become the most used cure-all of the moment because it was misused for almost everything, and which even the doctors of the court gave it to Alexei.

Denying science was in any other case comparable to a death sentence, but by the will of God not in this particular one.

Precisely because Alexei was haemophiliac, and aspirin in addition to being an analgesic is also an anticoagulant, giving him that precise medicine was like solving lactose intolerance with a prescription of Gouda.

So the distrust of Rasputin’s medicine was what made the child improve, taking him away from the doctors, writing a letter to the Tsarina to “leave him alone”.

Of course he did it out of skepticism, but the fact remains that it was as exceptionally effective as it was unintentional. This, and the hypnosis sessions that certainly were crucial in the recovery of little Alexei…

But no one had the knowledge or interest to establish the facts in a logical and rational way, and everything was archived as another of the magic curator’s miracles. Thus Rasputin was able to enjoy the best political and social position that could be obtained at that time, with no one to submit to and a grateful queen for him to control as he please. Lucky, right?


Now that you are aware of this character who lived in Russia at the time of the First World War, if you are still wondering how the heck he became so celebrated among his contemporaries, more questions will arise about how he has become so famous even today.

Rasputin may also have been known for his controversial attitude and the bizarre events that surround him, but he has become the legend he is now mainly thanks to a very celebrated song that has gone viral in recent decades, called in his honor, “Rasputin” by Boney M, and it’s their credit for making him an internet icon and meme, and whose chorus is nearly impossible to forget, and I challenge anyone to say otherwise.

This is the song in all its grandeur, also known for its difficulty in dancing the Just Dance game’s choreographed steps to the rhythm of the song, as its energetic beat is worthy of an advanced cardio session.

In the lyrics of Rasputin’s song, everything that has marked the life of this curious man so eccentric and out of this world is remembered, from his popularity with the most devoted Russian ladies belonging to his personal cult, dedicated to carnal sins to reach the divine, to his contacts with the royal family and the political plots that followed, up to his tremendous and mythical fight against the angel of death by dint of comic gunshots and the invincibility buff that only drunks are granted.

It’s true. We could limit ourselves to telling only what we know for certain and confirmed about Grigori Rasputin.

And if we really want to talk about facts, everything suggests that in addition to the possibility that there was divine power to intercede in favor of Rasputin, the noble assassins were not really skilled to organize ambushes, and that surely they would not have been called for other similar jobs in the future, given that even with so many people and with so much preparation, they had not been able to properly kill a drunk and disoriented man.

To this, however, we must necessarily add all the speculations on the facts, all the partial and not very credible “testimonies” that have become accentuated over time, the real autopsy carried out on the body and so on, which then the latter in fact, although we want to ignore for the sake of the folklore myth that has become Rasputin the invincible, it does not confirm and in fact disproves many of the legends such as death by drowning that some still mention, as no water was found in the lungs, nor the presence of cyanide in the body, which suggests that some of the doctors who conspired against the councilor, perhaps made sure to not give the nobles authentic cyanide and instead gave them something else that was not dangerous, or that the poison they had was of a quality so poor that it was not even worth for making tea. And one of all, the most obvious and unmistakable truth that reveals the autopsy, the gunshot to the head, which surely caused Rasputin’s death and which not even he could have avoided Matrix style.

But do we really want to point out a story that goes beyond logic and evidence?

I believe that the myth is so interesting that it is worth neglecting these slightly “nerdy” details to focus on the story and what it can offer us, and apparently many think the same way, because even today the debates on the story are as lively and engaging as they were almost a hundred years ago, and Rasputin’s fame has not only remained unchanged over time, but has even increased and resurrected with the advent of the internet, becoming what each of us would like to become one day: a meme.

And it is true that many question the fact that Rasputin does not deserve the title of invincible with the evidence demonstrated by the documents and the autopsy, but then I ask you a question:

There is perhaps no greater honor, in our times, in which precariousness and obsolescence surround us and define our ephemeral and temporary lives, than that of becoming a meme, an ineluctable symbol of this society that progresses continuously and aimlessly, beacons of light in an endless darkness?

So what is the defeat of death to become eternal in the collective memory, if not another way to define invincibility?

It’s up to you to judge… even here in the comments if you want, you don’t have to go far.

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