Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (baptized January 22, 1869 – murdered December 30, 1916) was a Russian peasant, mystic and private adviser to the Romanovs, who became an influential figure in the later years of tsar Nicholas. It appears that Rasputin’s personal influence over the Tsarina became so great that it was he who ordered the destinies of Imperial Russia, while she compelled her weak husband to fulfill them.
Rasputin was neither a monk nor a saint; he never belonged to any order or religious sect. He was considered a strannik (“pilgrim”), wandering from cloister to cloister. He was obsessed by religion and impressed many people with his knowledge and ability to explain the Bible in an uncomplicated way. It was widely believed that Rasputin had a gift for curing bodily ailments. In 1907 Rasputin was invited by Nicholas and Alexandra Feodorovna to heal their only son, tsarevich Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia. “In the mind of the Tsarina Rasputin was closely associated with the health of her son, and the welfare of the monarchy.”
Rasputin was regarded as a starets (“elder”) by his followers, who also believed him to be a psychic and faith healer. His critics referred to him by the same term in an ironic fashion. He never considered himself to be a starets. Rasputin spoke an almost incomprehensible Siberian dialect and never preached or spoke in public. The Tsarina saw Rasputin as a “Man of God” and clairvoyant, but his enemies saw him as a debauched religious charlatan and a lecher. Brian Moynahan describes him as “a complex figure, intelligent, ambitious, idle, generous to a fault, spiritual, and – utterly- amoral.”He was an unusual mix, a muzhik, prophet and at the end of his life a party-goer.
There is much uncertainty over Rasputin’s life and influence, as accounts are often based on dubious memoirs, hearsay and legend. Colin Wilson said in 1964 that “No figure in modern history has provoked such a mass of sensational and unreliable literature as Grigory Rasputin. More than a hundred books have been written about him, and not a single one can be accepted as a sober presentation of his personality.