The Faith-Healer & Fate
The year 1904 was a time of great happiness for the Romanov Empire of Russia as they got the successor, Alexei Nikolaevich! He was the youngest child and only son of Emperor Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alix of Hesse Alexandra Feodorovna, who also had four daughters. The couple reportedly practised black magic to have a son.
Alexei was born on August 12, 1904 at Peterhof Palace in St Petersburg. As expected, the Royal Family celebrated his birth in style. However, the joy didn’t last long as the family realised that something was wrong with little Alexei. The parents noticed that their child failed to bear a simple touch of love. Later, they came to know that Alexei inherited Hemophilia B from his mother Alexandra, a condition that could be traced back to her maternal grandmother Queen Victoria. Utmost care had to be taken for the child who lacked factor IX – one of the proteins necessary for blood-clotting.
Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich (1913)
The Royal Family decided to keep the nature of Alexei’s illness a state secret, as Alexandra knew that her son’s Hemophilia was so severe that trivial injuries – such as a bruise, a nosebleed or a cut – were potentially life-threatening for him. Under such circumstances, faith healer Grigori Rasputin (January 21, 1869-December 30, 1916) arrived at the Royal Palace.
Rasputin – the son of a Siberian peasant – was uneducated, but daring person. Also, he was an alcoholic. All of a sudden, he became a religious person in the 1890s. Rasputin had a religious conversion experience after taking a pilgrimage to a monastery at the age of 28 in 1897. Before his arrival in St Petersburg in 1903, he visited various countries and declared himself a spiritual guru who possessed the divine power to heal the dying persons. This power helped Rasputin become popular among the elite class. No wonder, Alexandra requested Rasputin to treat her son.
Did Rasputin cure the Tsesarevich? The Russians believe so… Rasputin had the power to win the trust! He had a different personality altogether and the power helped him convince Alexandra. Rasputin used to live a saint’s life inside the Royal Palace. However, he used to drink and to enjoy the company of women outside the Palace! The Royal Family had received numerous complaints against Rasputin, but no action could be taken because of Alexandra, who used to believe that the future of her son depends on this man!
In 1910-11, a governess of the Royal Family reportedly requested Alexandra not to allow Rasputin to enter the girls’ bedrooms. According to historians, the governess also informed Alexandra that Rasputin had made an indecent proposal to a Royal nurse. The governess was against Rasputin’s free access to the girls’ premises inside the Palace. Surprisingly, the Tsarina sacked both the governess and the nurse!
Alexandra Feodorovna with her children, Rasputin and the nurse Maria Ivanova Vishnyakova (1908)
It was also heard that a person (or a group of people) once clicked Rasputin’s intimate photos with some women and started blackmailing him. They reportedly asked the Royal guest to leave St Petersburg. However, unperturbed Rasputin, himself, handed those photos over to Tsar Nicholas II and urged the Emperor to forgive him! Tsar Nicholas II pardoned him only because of Empress Alexandra. As expected, the people spread rumours about the relation of the Empress with Rasputin.
The WWI (July 28, 1914-Nov 11, 1918) changed the (global political) equation in the 1910s and Russia was no exception. The Romanov Empire started losing its support base just before the war. Emperor Nicholas II not only took charge of the Russian forces, but also left the Palace to participate in the war. Many believe that the Emperor took part in the war on Rasputin’s advice. No… the Royal guest reportedly asked the Tsar to avoid the war. He warned that Russia would be destroyed, if it took part in the war. However, Emperor Nicholas II ignored Rasputin’s advice and decided to go to the battlefield. In his absence, Empress Alexandra took charge of the administration and appointed Rasputin as her adviser. On his advice, the Empress replaced some efficient ministers with worthless people.
Rasputin with his wife and daughter, Matryona (Maria), in his St Petersburg apartment in 1911.
The Russian economy was in terrible condition during the WWI. The destruction made it difficult for the Russians to live a normal life. The acute shortage of food and necessary commodities encourage people to launch anti-Tsar protests. The Royal Family paid the price mainly because of Alexandra’s close connection with Germany (Russia’s enemy!) and her keenness in taking part in the war, which ultimately ruined Russia. Even a section of elite community joined the anti-Tsar chorus! For them, the main culprit was Rasputin who misled the Emperor.
Although Rasputin’s life was in danger, he managed to survive miraculously. On July 12, 1914, a 33-year-old prostitute attempted to assassinate Rasputin by stabbing him in the stomach. Rasputin received serious injuries, but recovered after a surgery and spending some time in a hospital. In December 1916, some of Rasputin’s elite friends took him to Moika Palace and offered him poisoned food and alcohol. He was perfectly fine even after consuming the food. Then, they shot him and left the palace. When Prince Felix Felixovich Yusupov – one of the conspirators and a Russian aristocrat, prince and count from the Yusupov family – returned to the palace after a couple of hours, Rasputin leapt up and attacked Yusupov. However, another conspirator and right-wing politician in Imperial Russia Vladimir Mitrofanovich Purishkevich shot him dead. Later, the two wrapped Rasputin’s body in cloth, drove it to the Petrovsky Bridge and dropped it into the Malaya Nevka River.
Rasputin among admirers, 1914
Rasputin’s body was found under the river ice on January 1, 1917 approximately 200m downstream from the bridge. An autopsy was conducted and senior autopsy surgeon Dr Dmitry Kosorotov mentioned in the report that Rasputin’s body had shown signs of severe trauma, including three gunshot wounds – one of which had been sustained at close range, and to the forehead – a slice wound to his left side, and many other injuries. However, he found no evidence that Rasputin had been poisoned. They didn’t find water in Rasputin’s lungs.
Indeed, Rasputin was a controversial person. However, he made a correct prediction. One of his most famous predictions was on the existence of the Imperial family, as he said: “As long as I’m alive, (Alexei) will live and so would the dynasty.” Within three months from the death of the self-proclaimed holy man, the Bolshevik Revolution overthrew the Romanov Empire. Later on July 17, 1918, the Bolsheviks executed the Russian imperial family.
Nicholas II and family
It is still not clear whether Rasputin was a saint with miraculous powers or an impostor who managed to survive even after receiving bullet injuries and consuming poisoned food. Nevertheless, he found his place in history due to his association with Russia’s last Tsar and Tsarina!
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