Author Topic: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction  (Read 31072 times)

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Offline Janet_W.

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Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« on: October 06, 2004, 06:53:21 PM »
Okay, without becoming too graphic (i.e., perhaps we could avoid the topic discussed elsewhere about his anatomy, plus all the hoo-ha about his supposedly protracted death, also discussed elsewhere), just how much of what has been recorded and/or believed about Rasputin is fact, and how much is fiction?

Obviously this is a guy who has had a multitude of legends spring up around him . . . even during his lifetime.

In movies, books, etc., he comes off as larger than life.

Was he really that melodramatic, or was he someone fairly innocuous, who just happened to end up as one of the all-time legends?

Was he truly lascivious? And with whom? Did he have more of a social conscience than most people think, i.e., his feelings against the war? Was he ignorant, or smart? Did he truly advocate sinning, so that one might be redeemed? And can anyone make sense of some of those "teachings" of his that have been reprinted in certain Romanov-oriented books? (Perhaps they don't translate so well . . . )

If this is too broad a topic, or if it has been properly covered elsewhere, I apologize in advance!
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Janet_W. »

Offline Elisabeth

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2004, 06:47:10 AM »
I think the best book about Rasputin is Radzinsky's, partly because he had greater access to primary sources than previous biographers of the "mad monk" (admittedly I haven't read all of the books on Rasputin). †At any rate, I found it a vast improvement over his mytho-historical apologia for Nicholas II. †Granted, it still suffers from the author's penchant for mythologizing and wild speculation... but there are certain things about Radzinsky as an author that I prize. †First and foremost he is a playwright, with a very Russian flair for the theatrical, and so he often seizes on a particularly dramatic psychological aspect of an historical personage or event and comes up with quite interesting insights that, yes, are more artistic and intuitive than factual, but which are, nonethess, quite thought-provoking. I think his psychological portrait of Rasputin is the best, particularly his depiction of "Our Friend" as a cunning (but not entirely insincere) peasant who knew that the way to keep Alexandra's trust was merely to parrot back to her her own wishes and views -- thereby giving her sanction from on high to have her own way. †
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Elisabeth »
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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2004, 10:45:15 AM »
Janet, your question could be, and has been, the subject of books. I will try to give you the short answers that I can. Perhaps Greg might shed some light as well.

"Was he really that melodramatic, or was he someone fairly innocuous, who just happened to end up as one of the all-time legends?"
He was somewhat melodramatic, most especially when drunk (which was often). During the last few years of his life, he would go off on drunken binges, brag about his ties to the Court, his influence, his important friends, etc etc.  However, in his early years this was not as common. For much of his early "career" he was really more of a simple peasant, with a religious focus.

Was he truly lascivious? And with whom?
Yes, especially in the last years. Through his career, he often picked up prostitutes in the street, and frequented the Russian baths, taking women in with him. In his later years, he included women of higher and higher social ranks in his "dalliances"

Did he have more of a social conscience than most people think, i.e., his feelings against the war?
He was very much against the war. He was very socially conscious in that he always advocated helping people in need. He really did influence the assistance of Jews for example.

Was he ignorant, or smart? - Some of both is seems. He was an uneducated illiterate peasant. BUT he was not stupid, he had cunning and "street smarts".

Did he truly advocate sinning, so that one might be redeemed? No, he did not advocate sinning as a means for redemption. That is the basis of the Khlyst sect. Rapsutin seemed to truly repent his sins, and was quite contrite after his binges.
And can anyone make sense of some of those "teachings" of his that have been reprinted in certain Romanov-oriented books? (Perhaps they don't translate so well . . . ) They don't make much sense to me, in English or French, I can't speak as to the Russian. Nor am I Russian Orthodox. To me, they are almost gibberish.

Hope this helps a little.

Offline Alexandra

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2004, 07:21:41 PM »
Instructive background material can be found in W.F. Ryan's The Bathhouse at Midnight: Magic in Russia.

While not specifically about Rasputin, it does provide information about certain attitudinal and belief patterns, some of them so ingrained in practice as to be all but unconscious. It is for anyone seriously interested in delving into a mindset which emerges in the peculiarly Russian concept of 'dvoeverie,' 'double belief'  - be it paganism alongside Christianity, or rationalism alongside what could be termed 'superstition.'                             Another book about attitude and belief in Russia, but with some unfortunate errors of historiography, is Catherine Merridale's Night of Stone.

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #4 on: November 03, 2004, 02:48:46 PM »
I have read that Rasputin was impotent - perhaps a voyeur of sorts.

The drinking part is harder for me to put in context. †Priests in Russia drank, had kids, etc.... †their primary function was to perform the liturgy. †Perhaps this would have meant less to a Russian of the time...

I have always found his writings very hard to understand. †It could be the English translation since he probably wrote these in a churchy dialect of Russian.

I wonder how Rasputin saw himself?
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by BobAtchison »

Offline griffh

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2004, 03:30:48 PM »
I sort of jumped over to this discussion from the Anna V. silly or shrewd discussion in which I was quoting Anna's interview in 1917 with the American newspaper reporter Rita Childe Dorr.  In response to Rita's question about Rasputin being "as bad as they say he was?"..."He couldn't have been," she (Anna) answered.  "But he may have been more or less licentious.  Unfortunately you find men, even in the holy orders, who are weak in certain ways..."  As I said in the other discussion, I find it so interesting that Anna could admitt to Rasputin's licentious weakness without discrediting him as a spiritual healer.  

Also, I think that it was in Maria Rasputin's book that she says her father started drinking after the wounds from his assassination attempt in 1914 never truely healed and were a constant source of increasing pain.  I know that Maria has little creditbiliy among most historians, but as those wounds were almost fatal, the theory may hold some truth to it.  

I think the idea that he may have been a vouyer is probably really close to the truth.  Some of the things that Radzinsky describes seem to really support this idea and also begin to make sense of a man who possibly had a great spiritual gift but who had no Mentor to guide him.  

The other thing that I find so interesting to think about are the people who were most outraged by Rasputin.  The self-indulgence and scandals of the Russian Court could easily have vied with Rasputin's behaviour.  Even in Nicholas's immediate family, Xenia and Sandro were  both have affairs...Xenia with the husband of a friend of theirs and Sandro with friend's wife.  Olga was having an affair with her husband's Aide de Camp, and Michael was having an affair with several women ending with Countess Brassova.  Then there was the Grand Duke Paul and Pistollkers, KR hitting the baths quite often, and good lord, the Grand Duke Alexis, the Grand Duke Serge A. and M., the Grand Duke Boris, and on and on and on.  And that is not even getting into the fast and furious Russian Court.    

I think, in part, that the people who were pointing the finger at Rasputin were looking in a mirror and seeing themselves and that their great loathing of Rasputin was, to some extent, really self loathing.  

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2004, 04:25:23 PM »
Quote
I sort of jumped over to this discussion from the Anna V. silly or shrewd discussion in which I was quoting Anna's interview in 1917 with the American newspaper reporter Rita Childe Dorr. †In response to Rita's question about Rasputin being "as bad as they say he was?"..."He couldn't have been," she (Anna) answered. †"But he may have been more or less licentious. †Unfortunately you find men, even in the holy orders, who are weak in certain ways..." †As I said in the other discussion, I find it so interesting that Anna could admitt to Rasputin's licentious weakness without discrediting him as a spiritual healer. †

Also, I think that it was in Maria Rasputin's book that she says her father started drinking after the wounds from his assassination attempt in 1914 never truely healed and were a constant source of increasing pain. †I know that Maria has little creditbiliy among most historians, but as those wounds were almost fatal, the theory may hold some truth to it. †

I think the idea that he may have been a vouyer is probably really close to the truth. †Some of the things that Radzinsky describes seem to really support this idea and also begin to make sense of a man who possibly had a great spiritual gift but who had no Mentor to guide him. †

The other thing that I find so interesting to think about are the people who were most outraged by Rasputin. †The self-indulgence and scandals of the Russian Court could easily have vied with Rasputin's behaviour. †Even in Nicholas's immediate family, Xenia and Sandro were †both have affairs...Xenia with the husband of a friend of theirs and Sandro with friend's wife. †Olga was having an affair with her husband's Aide de Camp, and Michael was having an affair with several women ending with Countess Brassova. †Then there was the Grand Duke Paul and Pistollkers, KR hitting the baths quite often, and good lord, the Grand Duke Alexis, the Grand Duke Serge A. and M., the Grand Duke Boris, and on and on and on. †And that is not even getting into the fast and furious Russian Court. † †

I think, in part, that the people who were pointing the finger at Rasputin were looking in a mirror and seeing themselves and that their great loathing of Rasputin was, to some extent, really self loathing. †


And I think you have hit the nail precisely on the head.
Congratulations and CHEERS !
Robert
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Offline Richard_Cullen

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2004, 06:16:28 AM »
Hi,

There is a fair weight of evidence to support the fact that R was drinking heavily before 1914.  I think Rasputin was no where near death after his stabbing, other than the fact anyone could die of anything at the time in Russia.  All the evidence I have seen on the stabbing indicates a serious, not in my view none threatening injury.  I think it is part of the R myth that has developed.  We ceratinly know from his relatives that he was drunk the afternoon and evening before Y picked him up on that fateful night.  Radzinsky has some good accounts of his drunkeness.

Affairs and encounters heterosexual, bi-sexual and gay were common place in Imperial Russia before and during Nicholas' reign.  Many of the aristocracy were into gay relationships whilst being married.  

I have read the same stories as Bob that he was impotent and his relationships were not sexually fulfilling - of course we will never know.  

When I was in St Petersburg earlier this year his granddaughter was at the Yusupov Palace when we were filming there.

As an aside we thought of bringing Felix's granddaughter and Rasputin's granddaughter together to discuss our findings as we had interviewed both of them as part of our investigation.  The editors decided against it,  I was in favour as I was going to run the interviews - but that is life.

Richard
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all, but he, departed!
Refrain:
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumberís chain hath bound me,
Sad memíry brings the light
Of other days around me.

Thomas Moore 1815

Offline griffh

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2004, 12:54:09 PM »
That is an helpful point about Rasputin's wound and it is interesting that you have said it was not life threatening.  I never heard that before and was obviously under a false impression.  So thank you.  However, about my other point, if I am not mistaken Radzinsky stated that Rasputin had stop his heavy drinking by the time he arrived in St. Petersburg in 1903 and had not started to drink heavily until after 1914 or actually 1915.  In fact I believe Radinsky states that Rasputin really started to change dramatically after 1915.  

But perhaps I have misread the information and I will enjoy reviewing it again if I can ever find Radzinsky's book on Rasputin.  The only thing about having a private library of 3,000 plus, which is relatively speaking a very small library, still it takes days for me to find a book that I know is there.

The thing that strikes me as so out of keeping with the descriptions of Rasputin, etc. is that one photograph of him with Alix and the children in what looks like a sitting room or even a boudoir.  The photo is very very white to begin with which gives it a kind of a very "scrubbed cleanliness.  In the photo Rasputin is standing next to Alexandra and she appears to kind of tower over him.  He looks as clean as the room, very timid and very obiedent, and almost frail next to her.  

He must not have been even as tall as the Czar.  All Rasputin's other pictures, with the exception of the one where he is recovering from his wound, he appear to support the myth of a mystical, death defying madman.  As a matter of fact some of them look like something the producers of the "Perils of Pauline" would have staged.  

I did not mean to sound judgemental about the lack of moral virtue among the Imperial family or the aristocracy, I was just saying that their moral indignation was rather incongruous.  

It must be marvellous being in St. Petersburg and having such an active involvement helping Russia heal.    

 

Offline Richard_Cullen

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2004, 02:27:25 PM »
Hi,

I think you will see how much Rasputin had aged, and I think looks very frail in Lost splendour - it is on this web site, I just can't think of teh chapter that it precedes.  He looks quite an old man and it appears there is the start of a paunch, he certainly doesn't look in peak condition.

There is evidence to say he gave up drinking before he came to St Petersburg, but I think a mixture of the high life and opportunity allowed him to get back into his old ways, especially with the gypsy fraternity.

As I said in my earlier post, any stab wound could have been fatal in those days given the state of mediacl care and expertise.  I have to say though that I think the wound and his recovery were glorified to help create the Rasputin myth.

What is interesting is in the post mortem report on Rasputin there is no mention of an 'old wound' which one would expect.  Forensically a lot would depend on the how sharp the knife was, the size of the knife, whether the wound had to be operated on etc.  

I think the picture of the family you are talking about is the one by the door with Alexandra on his right (as you look at the photo and Tsarevich on his left).  He does look rather timid and almost startled in the picture but he looks even older in the one I have referred to above.

Richard
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all, but he, departed!
Refrain:
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumberís chain hath bound me,
Sad memíry brings the light
Of other days around me.

Thomas Moore 1815

Offline griffh

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #10 on: November 08, 2004, 03:19:47 PM »
That is really interesting about the post mortem examination not saying anything about the wound.  

Right after my email I managed to find Radzinsky's book on Rasputin.  I had buried it under at stack of books.  

On pg. 256 he Radzinsky says: "Rasputin lay between life and death for several days."   I now realize from what you are saying about the level of medical care in Russia at the time, that Rasputin's critical condition after being stabbed could have reflected the inferior care he was given more than the severity of the wound.  I just naturally assumed that his condition was a result of the severity of his wound.  

When Molchanov visited Rasputin almost three months after the attack in St. Petersburg at the end of August and in his new apt. on the Gorokhovaya, Molchanov describes Raputin as still recovering from the wound (p.265) and still walking about hunched over in a hospital gown.  

In support of your point, Molchanov also says that Rasputin was complaining about the primitive medical help that he had experienced in Pokrovskoe where the doctors were forced to operated on him by candle light.  

Radzinsky says that Rasputin had healed up by Dec. 1914 and was now constantly drunk and was more and more inclined to break into wild Khlyst type dancing.   Even his friend Filipopov describes the end of 1914 as a period of wildness and orgies, but he makes this interest remark about Rasputin's when he was drunk.  He says that, "At the same time, he drank in a remarkable way, without any of the bruitishness so typical of the drunken Russian peasant." (p. 271)  

In Dec. 1914 the droshky Rasputin was riding in was struck by an automobile and at the same time a hostile newspaper campaign was resummed against him.  Radzinsky seems to think that the constant drinking is related to Rasputin's increased worry and fear of being murdered.

I have to process information chronologically.  So thank you for your patience.  You know in re-reading some of Radzinsky's book, experienced the same thing when I first read it which was my amazement of how those newspaper men trying to get interviews with Rasputin and his concerns about being misrepresented in the press.  It all seemed so modern and so unlike the impression I had that the press had no life or influence in Russia.  

Well anyway thank you for deepening my understanding of a period in history that is so totally fascinating and intriguing.  

Offline Richard_Cullen

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2004, 03:24:27 AM »
Hello,

I think Rasputin had a reason to act out his injuries, it was for the sympathy vote from the Royals, whether he actually waivered between life and death I think is a mute point.

He did drink increasing amounts and would in these days be referred to as a high perfroming alcoholic.  His ability to recover quickly after bouts of drunkeness to the presence of the IF reflects this.  Some people try and say this was his mystical powers - it wasn't it is the ability of quite normal people - who are alcholics and hold down high powered posts to hide their dependency and appear to those around them to be sober.

The question of the newspapers is interesting and in Radzinsky's book you will see examples of the rather offensive cartoons that appeared in the press and portrayed the IF as puppets to R.  People on this site probably have more examples we had a number during the filming of 'Who Killed Rasputin' There were also revealing stories, some leaked by Illidor the monk and others about R's relationships with the IF.  So despite being in an autocratic state there was at times considerable freedom in the press, certainly more than during the communist era.  During NII's reign there was always speculation, despite the best efforts of the police and the Okhrana.

There are a number of books on Rasputin, a fair few of which are obtainable from Amazon and others on e-Bay that give a different persepctive to Radzinsky.  He says his book is the 'Final Word' - it is not, R's life and death have more twist and turns in it thean Radzinsky acknowledges.  You need to read in depth to get a real picture - but so much is interperetation of the facts!

R is a fascinating subject on him I could debate all day, I just have to recall where I have read all the information I have read about him over the years comes from.

Richard
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all, but he, departed!
Refrain:
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumberís chain hath bound me,
Sad memíry brings the light
Of other days around me.

Thomas Moore 1815

Offline Richard_Cullen

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2004, 05:22:57 PM »
Griffh

You questions have caused me to think a lot about the attack on him.  I have looked at teh post mortem photographs and can see nothing that resembles an old wound, mind you the size would depend on the knife etc.  there are parts of the stomach that are hardly visible, so without knowing the exact location of the wound I cannot say for certain whether it is there or not.  But it is strange that kossorotov did not mention it.

I suppose this is a question for Greg and maybe Bob - do we have any other evidence of the nature of this wound, other than R's own words about it.  Radzinsky doesn't seem to produce evidence about the severity of the wound that is provided by a third person.

I looked at r's picture in hospital, given that on his return to st petersburg his is allegedly 'crouched over in pain', it is strange that he is sitting on the hospital bed in no apparant pain.  the pressure on the wound by sitting in that position would be substantial, that is if it were a seroius wound?

Of course the 'operation' could have just been stitches?

Any clues guys please

Richard
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet-hall deserted,
Whose lights are fled,
Whose garlands dead,
And all, but he, departed!
Refrain:
Thus, in the stilly night,
Ere slumberís chain hath bound me,
Sad memíry brings the light
Of other days around me.

Thomas Moore 1815

Offline griffh

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2004, 06:00:23 PM »
Richard,

Your research with the most mortum pictures is really is really intriguing.  I too wonder what Bob or Greg may have to share.    

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Re: Rasputin: Fact vs. Fiction
« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2004, 06:19:30 PM »
Richard,
Spiridovitch in his "Raspoutine" bio, says that Gussyeva first stabbed him with a dagger in the belly, but missed the intestines. He was first bandaged up, and it was not until 8 hours later, in the middle of the night, that the wound was sewn up.
It appears that he lost a decent amount of blood, but that the wound itself was not that serious.

Rob
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by admin »