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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.

On a cold winter night in 1916,

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The mysterious life and death of Rasputin - Eden Girma

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    ally.chang posted on 2020/02/27
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