The Real Rasputin?



Men like Rasputin appear specif­i­cal­ly at moments of cri­sis and a ten­sion imme­di­ate­ly aris­es sur­round­ing them. About him are lay­ered a large num­ber of the most var­ied myths. Some con­sid­er him a saint, oth­ers — a cun­ning and immoral scoundrel. It is dif­fi­cult to prove or dis­prove any­thing when it comes to Rasputin.

The thing is, the extant wit­ness accounts of him con­flict in the extreme. Even descrip­tions of his exter­nal appear­ance made by peo­ple who asso­ci­at­ed with him are so con­tra­dic­to­ry that one is given to won­der. Some write that he was tall, oth­ers — not so tall. Some write that he was, for a peas­ant, tidy, oth­ers — that he was dirty and unkempt. A singer who saw Rasputin many times describes his rot­ten teeth and foul breath; where­as the writer Zhukovska­ia, who knew him well, informs us that his teeth were impec­ca­ble and every one intact, while his breath was fresh. Rasputin’s sec­re­tary writes that he had a wide mouth but that some sort of black roots were vis­i­ble through it. Mean­while Sazonov, an admir­er of Rasputin, describes strong white teeth.

To move on from here to per­son­al­i­ty traits is extreme­ly dif­fi­cult. The sit­u­a­tion is com­pli­cat­ed by Rasputin’s own lack of edu­ca­tion. His papers are com­plete­ly unin­tel­li­gi­ble; they con­tain no infor­ma­tion and express only Rasputin’s inter­est in the mat­ter of the peti­tion­er at hand, although in no way clar­i­fy­ing the sub­stance of the request. Just as unhelp­ful as sources are Rasputin’s let­ters and telegrams, which con­sist of con­grat­u­la­tions, infor­ma­tion about his health, and var­i­ous opaque adages.

How did a semi-lit­er­ate muzhik from Tobol­sk land in the Impe­ri­al Court and enjoy the esteem of the Roy­al cou­ple?

The prob­lem of Rasputin is in many respects a prob­lem of his­to­ry….

Read the interesting article in full here:



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