In 1903, word about a ‘mystic’ from Siberia with wild hypnotic eyes reached the Imperial couple Tsar Nicholas II and his religious wife Empress Alexandra, two of the most powerful people in the world.
Within a short space of time, Rasputin secured a letter of recommendation to Bishop Sergei, the rector of the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary who arranged for him to travel to the city. In St. Petersburg, Bishop Sergei introduced Rasputin to city’s powerful Bishop Theophane, a well-connected church leader with links to St. Petersburg society who later served as the Tsar’s confessor.
Society ladies found Rasputin’s presence magnetic...
Although shocked by Rasputin’s filthy appearance and pungent ‘goat-like’ smell, Theophane was convinced the irreverent and outspoken Rasputin had healing powers and introduced him to aristocratic salons where he became a curiosity among the rich and influential. Society ladies found Rasputin’s presence magnetic and one radiating sexual attraction helped by his physical dominance and light coloured ‘hypnotic’ eyes.
St Petersburg was like many places in Russia, a superstitious city where interest in the occult and mysticism jarred with 20th-century rational thinking. The capital was also a place of great permissiveness where newspapers of the time were full of advertisements for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. It was the perfect stage for Rasputin with his peculiar brand of ‘mystic monk’ to attract attention.
After Alexandra finally gave birth to a boy, Alexei Nikolaevich, in 1904 after having produced four daughters, the young child’s diagnosis as a haemophiliac was a devastating blow for the Romanov dynasty.
The esoteric obsessed Empress Alexandra who participated in séances and conversed with clairvoyants, had sought every cure and remedy for her haemophiliac son and was desperate to find a miracle. The name that came to her was Rasputin.
A god named Grigori
The emotionally detached Empress Alexandra, known for her glacier demeanour, adored anyone who she thought was a genuine healer and on November 1st 1905 Rasputin was introduced to her and her husband Tsar Nicholas II at a private dinner. Later Nicholas wrote in his diary ‘We have made the acquaintance of a man of a god named Grigori’. The Romanovs believed that simple peasant types were more holy than cosmopolitan and St Petersburg people. The unkempt, strange-looking, foul-smelling wanderer with a reputation as a clairvoyant and healer fitted the bill. They also hoped that such a holy man may be able to cure the young heir to the throne of his incurable haemophiliac condition.
Rasputin the royal healer
Ever since the Tsar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra’s son Alexei had been diagnosed as a haemophilic his illness had been kept a state secret. Often the boy was carried around by courtiers or by Tsar Nicholas himself.
During a visit to the Alexander Palace while Alexei was ill and bleeding from a knee injury Rasputin asked to see him. Praying over the boy Rasputin went deep into a trance-like state which had a calming effect on the boy. The next morning Alexei woke up relieved and no longer bleeding. To the Tsar and Empress, this was proof in their minds that Rasputin was a holy man and the saviour of their son. From this moment Rasputin became indispensible to the royal couple especially when Rasputin told them that without him the heir would die.
The Siberian monk was now at liberty to access the royal palace and visit the Romanov family uninvited. He even referred to the Tsar and Tsarina as ‘Mama and Papa’. The unlimited access the predatory Rasputin was given may have stretched to intimacy with the royal daughters. Although there is no evidence to back up these rumours there is no denying that he met Empress Alexandra on a weekly basis and could be summoned to her any time of day and night to treat her for her nerves and constant headaches. Over the next couple of years, Rasputin’s status within the royal family grew as he appeared to be able to calm the heir Alexei’s bleeding.
Enemies and debauchery
As it became known at the court that Rasputin held so much influence with the Tsar and Empress, he became a desired contact by many who wished to access the royal couple. Conversely, the monk’s known intimacy between himself and the Romanovs was to also attract criticism and suspicion from palace courtiers who saw the demonic-looking stranger as a dangerous interloper. Between Rasputin’s frequent visits to the royal palace, he took accommodation at a city apartment where he cultivated a feverish following of visitors who wished to be intimate with the Tsar and the Empress.
Everyone from aristocrats, rich old ladies to prostitutes and other devotees would visit and allow themselves to be called his ‘fools’ in need of spiritual education, which sometimes involved sex. Influenced by his early days of debauchery at the Khlyst secret sect, Rasputin encouraged his fawning fans to sin with him so that their forgiveness afterwards would bring them closer to god.
Bathhouses, secret police and violence
Outside of the royal circle associates of the Tsar and Empress as well as politicians were beginning to believe that Rasputin could not be trusted. As secret police were instructed to watch his every move they noted his regular visits to prostitutes and incidents where he accosted women on the street for sex. It became apparent to officials that the Tsar and Tsarina were putting their trust in a man who was dangerous and corrupt.
...Exorcising the demon of lechery through debauchery
The secret police also observed Rasputin’s habitual visits to St Petersburg’s bathhouses where he would meet aristocrats and prostitutes. Bathhouses had a reputation as secluded places where the outside world’s strict moral codes were abandoned. As well as being emporiums for bathing they were also known for practising the occult which involved carnal activities in the name of mysticism. Rasputin used bathhouses to conduct his own unique brand of holy service which he believed was dealing with the devil, exorcising the demon of lechery through debauchery.
Empress Alexandra refused to believe the unsavoury rumours of Rasputin’s sexual activities at his apartment and his insatiable interest in prostitutes as just that...rumours. But when these same allegations about Rasputin’s dissolute lifestyle reached the ears of the authorities of the church they took action. The very bishops who had first introduced Rasputin to the royal family interrogated him telling him that he was abusing his powers.
During the confrontation the bishops allegedly grabbed Rasputin’s penis and battered him hard with a crucifix while screaming at him that it was his libido that was leading him and not God. Rasputin reported to the Empress that the clerics had tried to kill him resulting in the Tsarina banishing his attackers from the city. It appeared to his critics that he was invincible....