Rasputin, Gregory Efimovitch (1869–1916)
Charismatic Russian monk, who became a powerful figure
in the court of Czar Nicholas II, before the Romanov dynasty
was swept aside by the Russian Revolution of 1917. The son of
a peasant, Rasputin joined a monastery as a novice at the age
of sixteen. As the Orthodox Church established hegemony in
Russia, various dissenting sect groups emerged, among them
the Khlysty. The Khlysty were supposedly founded in the seventeenth
century by Daniel Filippov. They deviated from Orthodoxy
in numerous ways. Several different splinter groups
developed through the nineteenth century and by the beginEncyclopedia
of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Rasputin, Gregory Efimovitch
ning of the twentieth century the Khlysty numbered approximately
65,000 people.
Rasputin came into early contact with the Khlysty, though
it is unclear just how dedicated a member he had been. Rasputin
married around 1890, but his first son died when only six
months old. The tragedy sent Rasputin to a strange hermit
named Makary, and subsequently Rasputin became absorbed
in scriptures, prayer, and meditation. One day he saw an image
of the Virgin in the sky, and Makary told him, ‘‘God has chosen
you for a great achievement. In Order to strengthen your spiritual
power, you should go and pray to the Virgin in the convent
of Afon.’’
The convent was at Mount Athos, in Greece, two thousand
miles away, but in 1891, Rasputin made the pilgrimage on foot.
Later he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, traveling across
Turkey. For the next few years he became a wandering staretz
(lay priest). He was widely believed to possess occult power,
which made him both loved and feared. He manifested gifts of
healing and prophecy. In 1903, he traveled to St. Petersburg,
where he met influential churchmen, including the monk Illiodor,
who later became a hateful rival. Rasputin’s reputation as
a prophet and miracle worker spread widely, and he was sought
by rich and poor.
In those days, Russian court life and high society were still
strongly attracted to the marvels of Spiritualism which had
been introduced in the 1860s by Alexander N. Aksakof, and
any wonder worker was in great demand. Soon Rasputin came
to the attention of the czar of Russia to whom he became an indispensable
adviser and healer to the royal family.
Surrounded by the madhouse of tyranny, secret police,
bomb plots, crippling wars, and the ruthless suppression of liberty
of the Romanov empire, Rasputin, self-absorbed in his own
sense of destiny, towered above the sycophants, bureaucrats,
and plotters. He treated the czar and czarina with complete familiarity,
and they welcomed Rasputin because of the healing
powers he supposedly possessed; he seemed to be able to treat
the couple’s only son, Alexis, who was a hemophiliac. In 1911,
tiring of court life, he undertook another pilgrimage to the
Holy Land, and during his absence his enemies intrigued
against him. In the fall of 1915, when the czar left to take command
of the Russian army, Rasputin took on more power as the
czarina’s chief aide. Rasputin forced many of the cabinet ministers
to resign, and he replaced them with his cronies. His enemies,
headed by Prince Yussupov, felt he had taken on too
much political power and planned his murder.
The day before Rasputin was killed, Czar Nicholas requested
his blessing and with curious presence, Rasputin said, ‘‘This
time it is for you to bless me.’’ Yussupov invited Rasputin to his
palace and persuaded him to eat poisoned food and drink poisoned
wine. The poison was ineffectual. Thereupon the treacherous
Yussupov sang gypsy songs and played the guitar before
leaving the room and returning with a loaded revolver, shooting
his victim in the back. Other conspirators rushed in clumsily,
accidentally switching off the room light. When the light was
switched on again, Rasputin appeared dead, but was still alive.
Another conspirator shot Rasputin again; the body was
dragged from the house and battered with a steel press. But
Rasputin was still alive when he was pushed through a hole in
the ice on the River Neva. And although his wrists had been
bound, he had still managed to free his right hand and make
the sign of the cross before drowning. He died December 31,
Bolshakoff, Serge. Russian Nonconformity. Philadelphia
Westminster Press, 1950. Reprint, New York AMS Press, 1973.
Fülop-Miller, René. Rasputin; The Holy Devil. New York Viking
Press, 1928.
Klibanv. A. I. History of Religious Sectarianism in Russia
(1860s–1917). Oxford Pergamon Press, 1982.
Rasputina, Maria. My Father. London McClellandCassell,
1934. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y. University Books, 1970.
Vogel-Jorgensen, T. Rasputin Prophet, Libertine, Plotter. London
T. Fisher Unwin, 1917. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.
University Books, 1970.
Wilson, Colin. Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs. London
Arthur Barker, 1964.