A Russian mystic and prophet whose malign influence over the Russian imperial family contributed directly to the collapse of the Romanov dynasty shortly after his own death.
Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin, originally surnamed Novykh, was born into a peasant family in Siberia and spent much of his youth in debauchery, receiving the name Rasputin ('debaucher'). After entering the church, however, he experienced a vision of the Virgin Mary, and afterwards gained fame locally as a faith healer.
Appearing at the imperial court in the Russian capital St. Petersburg about 1907, Rasputin soon acquired a reputation as a mystic and healer, and became a favorite of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna and through her influenced Nicholas II. Rasputin's hold over Alexandra stemmed from his hypnotic power to alleviate the suffering of the hemophiliac crown prince, Aleksei, and from her belief that this scruffy self-styled priest was a genuine representative of the Russian people.
When Nicholas took personal command of Russian troops in 1915, Alexandra and Rasputin were virtually in charge of the government. Rasputin's licentious personal behavior increasingly scandalized the Russian public. In 1916 a group of conservative nobles, concerned over Rasputin's pernicious political influence, plotted to assassinate him. Rasputin predicted his own death in a letter, stating that he would not live beyond January 1 1917; he also predicted the downfall of the royal family within two years, and the destruction of the aristocracy within a generation.
At the end of December 1916 Rasputin was invited to tea at the house of one of the noble conspirators and was fed cake and wine laced with cyanide. Unaffected by the poison, he was then shot several times and beaten with an iron bar. Still alive, he was dragged to the frozen River Neva, tied-up, and thrown through a hole in the ice. Within two years Tsar Nicholas and his family were dead, executed by the Bolsheviks; within a generation, Stalinist policies had eliminated the old Russian aristocracy.
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Sources: (1) Spence, Lewis, An Encyclopedia of Occultism, Carol Publishing Group; (2) Curtis, Thomas, A London Encyclopaedia or Universal Dictionary of Science, Nabu Press.
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