Grigori Rasputin

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The name Rasputin in Russian means "licentious", and may also bear the connotation of "mud", as in "rasputitsa" -- "mud season" (i.e., "rainy season"). It was the nickname of Grigori Jefimovitch Novitch (1871-1916). He was a Russian monk who has supposedly played an important role in the lives of the Russian Czar Nicolas II, his wife Aleksandra Fjodorova and their only son Aleksej, the heir to the throne, who was a hemophylia patient and suffered from a lot of pain.

Rasputin, who was born in a peasant family, may have been the last resort of the desparate parents. They had tried everywhere to find a cure for their son and in 1905 asked Rasputin for help. He was known to possess obscure mystical powers and he was indeed able to give the boy some relief. He lived with the family in the palace and was called "Our friend" by the Czar, a sign perhaps of the trust they put in him. Especially on Aleksandra he had a considerable personal and political influence. They considered him to be a man of God and a religious prophet. Their relationship can also be viewed in the context of the very strong, traditional, age-old bond between the Russian Orthodox Church and Russia/Russian leadership.

Rasputin in the meantime became a controversial figure. An ascetic monk he was, but also a notorious rake. He honored his nickname by the nightlife he led in St. Petersburg and caused many scandals.

Nobility in influential positions around the Czar however, mostly feared the so-called demonic, mesmerizing power Rasputin could have on people. Prince Feliks Jusupov, an important member of the society of St. Petersburg, took the lead in the decision to murder him. Rasputin miraculously survived many attempts, but was finally killed by drowning under the ice of the frozen Malaja Nevka river. Not long after that, in February 1917, Nicolas II and his entire family were assassinated by Bolsjevik forces.

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