Gregory Efimovich Rasputin came from solid peasant stock, but drunkenness, stealing and womanising were activities particularly enjoyed by the dissolute young man.
Rasputin became fascinated by a renegade sect within the Russian Orthodox faith, who believed that the only way to reach God was through sinful actions. Soon, he adopted the robes of a monk, and travelled the country, sinning to his heart's content.
In 1903, the infant heir to the Russian throne, Alexis, was diagnosed with haemophilia. Tsarina Alexandra became desperate to help him and lost faith in doctors.
In St. Petersburg, Rasputin moved in the Russian capital's aristocratic circles, achieving recognition and a small following. Under the recommendation of the Grand Duchess, Rasputin was summoned to appear before Alexandra.
Somehow, Rasputin managed to stop Alexis' bleeding, and gained Nicholas and Alexandra's undivided support.
As the monk's fortunes rose in St. Petersburg, so did the number of his enemies. Rumours circulated about Alexandra's supposed intimate involvement with the monk. During his many drunken parties, Rasputin would boast of his exploits with the Tsarina and her daughters, even claiming that the Tsar was his to command.
Alexandra grew increasingly dependent on Rasputin and, after 1911, several roles within high government were filled by his appointees, allowing him great influence over matters of state. This perceived weakness of the Tsar and Tsarina helped to destroy the general respect for them.
In 1916, a group of aristocrats tried to get rid of Rasputin. He drank poisoned wine, and ate pastries containing cyanide, but he survived. He was then shot, stabbed repeatedly, and finally drowned in the icy Neva river.
However, the regime’s image continued to be tainted by the scandal. Within three months of Rasputin's death, Tsar Nicholas lost his throne, and the imperial family were imprisoned. Revolution had come.