B2 High-Intermediate US 85 Folder Collection
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On a cold winter night in 1916,
Felix Yusupov anxiously prepared to pick up his dinner guest.
If all went as planned, his guest would be dead by morning,
though four others had already tried and failed to finish him off.
The Russian monarchy was on the brink of collapse,
and to Yusupov and his fellow aristocrats,
the holy man they'd invited to dinner was the single cause of it all.
But who was he,
and how could a single monk be to blame for the fate of an empire?
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin began his life in Siberia,
born in 1869 to a peasant family.
He might have lived a life of obscurity in his small village,
if not for his conversion to the Russian Orthodox Church
in the 1890s.
Inspired by the humbled monks that wandered endlessly
from holy site to holy site,
he spent years on pilgrimages across Russia.
On his travels, strangers were captivated by Rasputin's magnetic presence.
Some even believed he had mystical gifts of prediction and healing.
Despite Rasputin's heavy drinking, petty theft, and promiscuity,
his reputation as a monk quickly spread beyond Siberia
and attracted both laypeople and powerful Orthodox clergymen.
When he finally reached the capital, St. Petersburg,
Rasputin used his charisma and connections
to win favor with the imperial family's spiritual advisor.
In November 1905,
Rasputin was finally introduced to Russian Tsar Nicholas II.
Nicholas and his wife Alexandra devoutly believed in the Orthodox Church,
as well as in mysticism and supernatural powers,
and this Siberian holy man had them transfixed.
It was a particularly tumultuous period for Russia and their family.
The monarchy was barely clinging to control
after the Revolution of 1905.
Their political struggles were only intensified by personal turmoil:
Alexei, the heir to the throne,
had a life-threatening blood disease called hemophilia.
When Alexei suffered a severe medical crisis in 1912,
Rasputin advised his parents to reject treatment from doctors.
Alexei's health improved, cementing the royal family's belief
that Rasputin had magical healing powers,
and guaranteeing his privileged place on the royal court.
Today, we know that the doctors had prescribed aspirin,
a drug that worsens hemophilia.
After this incident, Rasputin made a prophecy:
if he died, or the royal family deserted him,
both their son and their crown would soon be gone.
Outside the royal family, people had mixed views on Rasputin.
On one hand, peasants regarded him as one of their own,
amplifying their often-unheard voice to the monarchy.
But nobles and clergymen came to despise his presence.
Rasputin never ceased his scandalous behavior,
and they were skeptical of his so-called powers
and thought he was corrupting the royal family.
By the end of World War I,
they were convinced the only way to maintain order
was to eliminate this sham of a holy man.
With this conviction,
Yusupov began to plot Rasputin's assassination.
Though the exact details remain mysterious,
our best guess at how it all unfolded comes from Yusupov's memoirs.
He served Rasputin a number of pastries, believing they contained cyanide.
But unbeknownst to Yusupov,
one of his co-conspirators had a change of heart,
and substituted the poison with a harmless substance.
To Yusupov's shock, Rasputin ate them without ill effect.
In desperation, he shot Rasputin at point-blank range.
But Rasputin recovered, punched his attacker, and fled.
Yusupov and his accomplices pursued him,
finally killing Rasputin with a bullet to the forehead
and dumping his body in the Malaya Nevka river.
But far from stabilizing the monarchy's authority,
Rasputin's death enraged the peasantry.
Just as Rasputin prophesied,
his murder was swiftly followed by that of the royal family.
Whether the downfall of the Russian monarchy
was a product of the monk's curse,
or the result of political tensions decades in the making,
well, we may never know.
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The mysterious life and death of Rasputin - Eden Girma

85 Folder Collection
ally.chang published on February 27, 2020
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