Tag Archives: History Lesson

History Lessons with Heather: Rasputin

10 Feb

Now that I have tired of the controversy that my post “Two Thoughts on the Superbowl” caused, I have decided to add a new feature to my blog called “History Lessons with Heather”. History is quite possibly one of the most important subjects one can study. Although you will find that most people equate the study of history to underwater basket weaving, and if you do study history in college, many will simply squint and ask, “So you want to teach?”, it is still one of the most useful and interesting subjects one can undertake.

Rasputin: owner of big hands and another big thing.

The first subject of “History Lessons” is Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916), or the “Mad Monk,” a Russian mystic hired by Tsaritsa Alexandra to heal her son, Tsarevich Alexei, of hemophilia. Rasputin, born in Siberia in 1869, reportedly had mysterious powers early on in life, though he did not gain a following until he arrived in St. Petersburg in 1903.

Alexandra, wife to Tsar Nicholas II, heard through the grapevine that Rasputin could potentially heal Alexei of his hemophilia. It is unclear what Rasputin did for Alexei, but many believe that he hypnotized the young royal. Hypnotism lowers stress levels and it could have allowed Alexei to rest long enough to allow his body to heal itself. Alexandra called for Rasputin each time Alexei had an injury, and Rasputin was always able to alleviate his symptoms.

Rasputin’s involvement with Alexandra did not stop with Alexei. Many believe that Rasputin was politically influential and contributed to the demise of the Russian empire. Rasputin advised the Tsar to lead his army in World War I, and while he was away, Rasputin took it upon himself to appoint personal acquaintances to government posts. Rasputin’s personal beliefs were akin to a self-developed spirituality, and he believed that to achieve repentance from God, one had to sin. Rasputin purposely participated in excessive sex and drinking to become closer to God.

The most interesting thing about Rasputin is not his life, but his death. Rasputin was murdered by a group of nobles, among them Prince Felix Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich. First, the men tried to poison Rasputin with wine and cakes laced with cyanide. Rasputin was reportedly unaffected by the poison (though many believe that he developed a tolerance for large amounts of poison), and the men then resorted to shooting Rasputin. After he was shot once, Rasputin apparently lunged at Yusupov to defend himself, at which time he was shot two more times. The conspirators, shocked that Rasputin was still alive, continued their task by clubbing Rasputin repeatedly and then binding and wrapping him in a carpet, which they then dumped in the Neva River. The river, icy due to freezing December weather, was the final foil for Rasputin. When pulled from the water, it was evident that Rasputin freed himself from the binding – some say that his arms were sticking straight above his head when he was found. An autopsy determined that Rasputin had water in his lungs – the “Mad Monk” could not be destroyed by poisoning, shooting, or beating – only a force of nature could claim the man whose powers some believe were at odds with nature.

One of the items that fascinates me most about Rasputin are the rumors surrounding his sexual appetite and menagerie of lovers. If you have no stomach for frank talk about sex, you should likely discontinue reading now.

Russian historian Orland Figes wrote of Rasputin’s purported sexual deftness:

“One woman confessed that the first time she made love to him her orgasm was so violent that she fainted. Perhaps his potency as a lover also had a physical explanation. Rasputin’s assassin and alleged homosexual lover, Felix Yusopov, claimed that his prowess was explained by a large wart strategically situated on his penis, which was of exceptional size.”

Hmmm. Let that sink in for a moment. Rasputin was likely schtupping Alexandra, and Rasputin’s member is probably the most famous physical remnant of his life. Rasputin’s severed penis is on display at a Russian museum of erotica, and if you would like a NSFW (depending on where you work) peek at what everyone’s favorite Russian mystic was working with, click here. If you actually clicked that link, you probably are both disgusted and impressed at the same time. Or perhaps you just feel inferior.

That’s today’s history lesson: the man, the myth, the legend, Rasputin.