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Grigori Rasputin - The Mad Monk

Jun 3, 2022
History
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25
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He was the peasant who went from a village in Siberia to the centre of the Russian imperial court, befriending the Tsar and Tsarina, and playing a role in the downfall of Russia’s longest-serving dynasty, The Romanovs.

In this episode, we'll learn about the unlikely but fascinating life of Grigori Rasputin.

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the mysterious life of Grigori Rasputin - The Mad Monk.

[00:00:31] He was the peasant who went from a village in Siberia to the centre of the Russian imperial court, befriending the Tsar and the Tsarina, and playing a role in the downfall of Russia’s longest serving dynasty, The Romanovs. 

[00:00:47] It’s an amazing story that will involve mysticism, kings and queens, the Russian Orthodox church, sex, violence, war and murder. 

[00:00:58] So, buckle up, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

[00:01:01] OK then, Grigori Rasputin.

[00:01:05] Now, let’s start with a little bit of Russian history for context. 

[00:01:11] Throughout history, Russia has had two main dynasties: the Rurikids and the Romanovs. 

[00:01:17] Today we are going to focus on the fall of the Romanov dynasty.

[00:01:23] The Romanov family ruled imperial Russia from 1613 until 1917 when a Bolshevik squad murdered the entire Romanov family, including tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children.

[00:01:40] At the time of the early 1900s, Russia was one of the poorest countries in Europe and due to a population boom, poor working conditions and high taxes the majority of the Russians lived in a state of extreme poverty

[00:01:58] As living conditions worsened, the Russian working class led a series of protests against the monarchy and in 1905, the tsar’s troops killed hundreds of protesters in an event called the Bloody Sunday Massacre. 

[00:02:15] This violent event was the beginning of the start of the Russian Revolution in which workers went on multiple strikes, further hurting Russia’s economy.

[00:02:26] In response to the massacre and the strikes, Tsar Nicholas put in place some political reform, in the form of small representative governments called Dumas, but he repeatedly abolished these Dumas when they went against him and his influence

[00:02:45] A second revolution happened on March 8, 1917 and four days later, the Duma established its own government. 

[00:02:55] Tsar Nicholas was forced to resign from the throne, but as you might remember, the Duma wasn’t in power for long. 

[00:03:03] In October of the same year, the Bolsheviks occupied government buildings and overthrew the capitalist government. 

[00:03:10] The Bolsheviks formed a new government made up of peasants and workers. 

[00:03:15] A civil war broke out in Russia with the Red Army fighting for the Bolshevik government, and the White Army fighting for democratic socialism. 

[00:03:25] In 1923, the civil war ended, the Red Army won, and the Soviet Union, the world’s first communist country, was established.

[00:03:36] Grigori Rasputin, our story’s protagonist, played an important role in this major shift in Russian history but to understand how, we have to start from the beginning. 

[00:03:49] In the year 1869, in the village of Pokrovskoye in Siberia, an illiterate peasant woman gave birth to a boy. 

[00:03:59] She called him Grigory Yefimovich Novykh. 

[00:04:03] Growing up, the boy worked on his family’s farm. He did go to school, but never learned to read or write, he remained illiterate

[00:04:14] As a child, the boy claimed he had visions. He is also said to have healed a number of horses. 

[00:04:22] Members of his small town marvelled at his magical abilities but instead of viewing him as a healer, they believed that he was somehow related to the devil and they avoided him.

[00:04:38] The boy claimed that when he got older, he also gained the ability to tell the future.

[00:04:45] He was clearly a bit of a wild youth, and was given the name “Rasputin”, which means “the debauched one”, the “wild” one.

[00:04:56] By the age of eighteen, Rasputin got married to a girl from a nearby village, and together they had seven children, but only three of them survived.

[00:05:08] By all reports, his early married life was relatively uneventful

[00:05:14] But in 1897, when he was 28 years old, everything changed. 

[00:05:21] Rasputin started a spiritual journey, though the reasons for starting it are a little unclear. 

[00:05:29] According to some, his interest in his religious pilgrimage was because he wanted to escape punishment for horse theft. Essentially, he had been caught stealing horses and turning to religion provided a way of avoiding punishment.

[00:05:48] Others say that he had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Either way, he left his family to go to live in a monastery in a town several hundred kilometres away.

[00:05:59] It was here that he was completely transformed. 

[00:06:04] Rasputin grew fascinated by an underground, secret sect of the Russian Orthodox Church called the Khylsts.

[00:06:14] The Khylsts believed in “sinning to drive out sin”. 

[00:06:18] To do this, they often participated in acts that were considered to be sexually deviant in order to be closer to God. 

[00:06:28] To put it more bluntly, they would dance, get wild and worked up, then all have sex with each other.

[00:06:37] To a man already with a bit of a wild past, and who would later become known for his voracious sexual appetite, this must have been like opening the doors of heaven.

[00:06:52] He embraced this sect completely, and became devoted to this particular part of the church.

[00:07:00] Unlike other monks, Rasputin didn’t abandon his family; he continued to see his wife and three children throughout his life, though he had a wild reputation.

[00:07:12] Rasputin was known for having many sexual partners and affairs as well as for drinking excessively

[00:07:21] With his rockstar lifestyle and debauched behaviour, he earned the nickname “Mad Monk” though in reality, he was never technically a monk

[00:07:32] Word of a charismatic holy man started to spread, and Rasputin was invited to St Petersburg to meet with the city’s most powerful bishop, Bishop Theofan. 

[00:07:44] Rasputin’s arrival to the Russian capital, in 1905, came at the right time.

[00:07:52] In the early 20th century, people in St Petersburg, like in many places in Russia, had become superstitious and interested in mysticism

[00:08:03] There was also an increasingly liberal attitude towards sex, and the newspapers at the time were even publishing adverts for treatments of sexually transmitted diseases. 

[00:08:17] This fascination with mysticism, coupled with an increasingly free society, sexually at least, created an environment where Rasputin, this new mystic sex-fueled monk, could thrive.

[00:08:33] Rasputin soon became well-known in the city and he gained many followers.

[00:08:39] People were obsessed with Rasputin, although I wouldn’t blame you if you find it difficult to understand why. 

[00:08:48] Physically, he was very dirty, he was completely filthy

[00:08:53] He would rarely wash or brush his teeth, and it was said that he smelled like a goat.

[00:09:01] This didn’t seem to put off his followers though, especially the female ones.

[00:09:07] They would often spend hours bathing him or licking his fingers clean. As souvenirs, they would collect Rasputin’s nail clippings, the piece of his nails that he cut off, and attach them to their dresses. 

[00:09:24] As Rasputin’s reputation as a mystic grew, Bishop Theophane eventually introduced Rasputin to the Romanov family, tsar Nicholas II and his wife, tsarina Alexandra. Nicholas and Alexandra had consulted spiritual advisors similar to Rasputin in the past. 

[00:09:46] The imperial family had tried to have a male heir, a son, but for 9 years they only managed to produce daughters. 

[00:09:57] In 1904, after the birth of four daughters, finally a son arrived, Alexei.

[00:10:05] There was a problem though. He was born with haemophilia, an illness in which blood doesn’t clot or come together. 

[00:10:13] For people suffering from haemophilia at the time, even with the best doctors in the world, the disease could be fatal. A small cut could cause you to bleed to death.

[00:10:27] The boy’s condition was kept secret from everyone apart from their trusted inner circle.

[00:10:34] The family was desperate to find a cure and after consulting with fortune tellers and mediums who claimed to be able to speak to the dead, tsarina Alexandra found the cure that she had been looking for: Rasputin.

[00:10:52] Rasputin was instructed to spend time with the boy, in order to cure him from this illness.

[00:11:00] After Rasputin’s visit, where he threw away all the medicine the doctors had recommended and conducted his own treatment on the boy, Alexei miraculously started to get better.

[00:11:14] As a result of having cured the only male heir to the Russian throne, Rasputin soon became the royal family’s most trusted advisor.

[00:11:25] While many people believed that Rasputin had mystical powers, and indeed the tsarina certainly thought that Raspuin had performed magic to save her son’s life, there are some logical explanations for his healing abilities.

[00:11:41] In fact, it’s more about what Rasputin didn’t do than what he did do.

[00:11:47] Remember, he threw away all of the medicine that the doctors had been prescribing to the boy.

[00:11:54] Doctors at that time would most likely would have given Alexei aspirin, which would have thinned the blood and made it less likely to clot.

[00:12:05] It might have been a simple case of good luck, but Rasputin’s distrust of doctors, and his subsequent actions, helped save Alexei.

[00:12:17] The family trusted Rasputin and after performing this miracle, Rasputin secured a place in the imperial family. 

[00:12:27] He even started to refer to Nicholas and Alexandra as “mama and papa”, which was particularly strange as Rasputin was only 8 months younger than Nicholas and actually 3 years older than Alexandra. 

[00:12:45] Because he was regarded as the saviour of the heir, he gained access to the palace and the family. 

[00:12:52] He became especially close with Alexandra, who in 1915 was in charge of Russia’s internal affairs, as her husband was leading the Russian war effort in World War One.

[00:13:07] Due to Rasputin’s sexually promiscuous reputation, many people believe that he and the tsarina actually had an intimate relationship, that they were sleeping together.

[00:13:20] Although there is no evidence to prove this, the important thing is that the public believed it was true. 

[00:13:27] Soldiers openly joked about it as if it were a fact, Russian newspapers printed cartoons suggesting that it was the case, and it was believed to be common knowledge.

[00:13:42] While it’s not known whether their intimacy extended to the bedroom, Rasputin and the tsarina were certainly growing closer.

[00:13:51] Rasputin went from a mere spiritual advisor to Alexandra, to an advisor on almost everything. He influenced her decisions when choosing members of the cabinet and sometimes advised her about military matters. 

[00:14:09] As Rasputin’s political power and influence grew, the Russian elite felt threatened

[00:14:16] After all, he was a filthy, illiterate peasant from Siberia whose role was supposedly as a mystical healer

[00:14:25] And now there he was whispering in the Tsarina’s ear, influencing Russian political decisions.

[00:14:34] Secret police began to watch Rasputin and they took note of his frequent visits to prostitutes, often multiple times a day. 

[00:14:44] Many people close to the royal family believed that Rasputin was a dangerous man and that the tsar and the tsarina were foolish to put their trust in him.

[00:14:57] Even in the early days of his political influence, Rasputin had plenty of enemies. 

[00:15:03] In 1914, a year before becoming the tsarina’s personal advisor, there was an assassination attempt made on Rasputin’s life by a noseless, peasant woman named Khioniya Guseva. 

[00:15:19] Guseva was the follower of a man called Iliodor, who was a former priest and supporter of Rasputin before he grew jealous of Rasputin’s relationship with the royal family and he turned against him. 

[00:15:33] Guseva had listened closely to Iliodor’s teaching about Rasputin, and had decided that Rasputin was a false prophet

[00:15:44] On July 14th, 1914, she waited for Rasputin outside his home in Pokrovskoye. 

[00:15:52] When he arrived, she stabbed him in the stomach, and went so far as to try to pull his intestines out of his body while he was lying in front of her.

[00:16:04] Somehow, Rasputin survived this attempt on his life but unfortunately for him, this wouldn’t be the last time that someone tried to kill him. 

[00:16:15] There were several other assassination plots that were discovered before Rasputin’s life was seriously threatened, but in late 1916 fate finally caught up with Grigori Rasputin.

[00:16:28] He had made too many enemies, and not enough powerful friends. 

[00:16:33] The clock was ticking.

[00:16:35] A group of conservatives formed a plan to kill Rasputin and save the monarchy from more scandal

[00:16:44] This group included one of the richest men in Russia, Prince Feliks Yusupov, who was also the husband of the tsar’s niece.

[00:16:55] The plan was to lure Rasputin to Yusupov’s home, Moika Palace, and on December 30th of 1916, Rasputin arrived. 

[00:17:06] What exactly happened that day is unknown, and there are many myths surrounding Rasputin’s death. 

[00:17:15] According to Yusupov, he offered Rasputin tea and cakes, which Rasputin ate with pleasure.

[00:17:22] What Rasputin didn’t know, of course, was that the food and drink had been laced with cyanide, a deadly poison. Rasputin reportedly ate the cakes but didn’t seem affected by the poison.

[00:17:39] He then asked for some wine, which was provided to him. The wine too, had cyanide in it. It got to 2.30 in the morning, but Rasputin was still there, seemingly completely fine. 

[00:17:56] Yusupov excused himself and went upstairs to consult his co-conspirators, the other two men who were involved in the plan. He returned downstairs, took a gun, and shot Rasputin in the chest. 

[00:18:12] Now, being shot directly in the chest did affect Rasputin, of course. Yusupov thought he had killed Rasputin, so he returned upstairs to celebrate.

[00:18:25] The men dressed someone in Rasputin’s clothes and ordered him to drive to Rasputin’s apartment to make it seem like he had returned home that night. 

[00:18:36] But when they returned to dispose of Rasputin’s body, to get rid of the body, they found that he was still alive and he proceeded to fight Yusupuv. 

[00:18:49] A few more shots seemed to do the trick, they shot Rasputin a few more times, and he collapsed, finally dead.

[00:18:59] The men took his body, wrapped him up in a thick cloth and took him to a frozen river. 

[00:19:06] They found a hole in the ice and threw him in.

[00:19:11] News travelled fast of Rasputin’s death and on January the 1st, policemen found Rasputin’s body under the river ice.

[00:19:20] Although Yusupov told this elaborate story about Rasputin’s death, Rasputin’s daughter Maria questioned Yusupov’s account, saying that her father would never have eaten cakes.

[00:19:34] In addition, autopsy reports showed no signs of Rasputin being poisoned, though it was clear that Rasputin’s body had undergone a lot of physical trauma after he died.

[00:19:48] The cause of death was determined to be three gunshot wounds but there was reportedly water found in his lungs, which indicates that Rasputin could have been alive when he was thrown into the river, this is after having eaten enough cyanide to kill a herd of elephants and being shot several times at point-blank range.

[00:20:14] He might have been impossible to kill, but he was now certainly dead.

[00:20:21] And in the months after Rasputin’s murder, things went from bad to worse for the Romanovs.

[00:20:28] People were starving, the transportation system was falling apart, and Russia had suffered greatly in World War One, with an estimated 3 million Russians losing their lives. 

[00:20:42] As the majority of the country celebrated Rasputin’s death, the Romanovs continued to mourn him. 

[00:20:49] This only made the public hate the Royal family even more. To the Bolsheviks and their supporters, Rasputin had represented the corruption of the monarchy. While they might have hated him personally, his murder was seen as a desperate attempt by the elite to hold onto power at the expense of the working class.

[00:21:13] Put another way, he was killed by some of the richest and most powerful men in Russia in an attempt to save the Romanov dynasty and stop the revolution.

[00:21:25] Although Rasputin might have been killed to maintain order and to keep the monarchy intact, his murder did the opposite. 

[00:21:34] It only served to make people more angry and was yet another reason to take action against the Romanovs, once and for all.

[00:21:44] And in March of 1917, just over two months after Rasputin’s death and after a series of strikes and protests, Nicholas was forced to step down from his position as tsar. 

[00:21:59] Rasputin’s body was dug up and burned by Soviet soldiers so that his grave could not become a shrine

[00:22:08] He was a controversial and polarising figure both in life and death and his legacy continues today.

[00:22:16] Although he is mostly remembered outside Russia as the man who wouldn’t die, the mystery of his life and death has inspired stories all over the world, and has added yet another flavour, another vivid dimension, to the fascinating history of the Russian revolution. 

[00:22:37] It’s interesting to wonder about the extent to which Rasputin influenced the fall of the Romanovs. 

[00:22:45] Certainly it’s hard to make the argument that he did anything to help their survival, but quite how much importance he had in their downfall is up for debate.

[00:22:58] For some, he was merely an interesting character who had no real political power. A strange, mad peasant who simply existed and caused some controversy in high society.

[00:23:12] But for others, he was much more. 

[00:23:16] When the Russian revolution ended, the Provisional Government leader Alexander Kerensky said, “Without Rasputin, there would have been no Lenin.” 

[00:23:28] Whatever you think of Grigori Rasputin the man, it is undeniable that the legend has gone down in history.

[00:23:36] Had his life gone another way, he might have remained a Russian peasant, farming his land, rarely leaving his village, and probably having the occasional wild night in Siberia.

[00:23:50] Instead, he set off for the capital, claimed to have cured the heir to the throne, seduced the Tsar, Tsarina, and hundreds if not thousands of other women in Russian high society, became the lover of many and the enemy of many more, and perhaps, just perhaps, changed the course of Russian history forever.

[00:24:16] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode.

[00:24:20] It is a fascinating story and there are plenty of tales about his life that we haven’t had the time to include today. 

[00:24:27] So, I’d love to know, especially from the listeners in Russia, how important do you think Rasputin was in the story of modern Russia?

[00:24:37] How would Russian history have been different without him, if at all?

[00:24:42] I would love to know.

[00:24:43] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:52] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:57] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

Continue learning

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[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the mysterious life of Grigori Rasputin - The Mad Monk.

[00:00:31] He was the peasant who went from a village in Siberia to the centre of the Russian imperial court, befriending the Tsar and the Tsarina, and playing a role in the downfall of Russia’s longest serving dynasty, The Romanovs. 

[00:00:47] It’s an amazing story that will involve mysticism, kings and queens, the Russian Orthodox church, sex, violence, war and murder. 

[00:00:58] So, buckle up, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

[00:01:01] OK then, Grigori Rasputin.

[00:01:05] Now, let’s start with a little bit of Russian history for context. 

[00:01:11] Throughout history, Russia has had two main dynasties: the Rurikids and the Romanovs. 

[00:01:17] Today we are going to focus on the fall of the Romanov dynasty.

[00:01:23] The Romanov family ruled imperial Russia from 1613 until 1917 when a Bolshevik squad murdered the entire Romanov family, including tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children.

[00:01:40] At the time of the early 1900s, Russia was one of the poorest countries in Europe and due to a population boom, poor working conditions and high taxes the majority of the Russians lived in a state of extreme poverty

[00:01:58] As living conditions worsened, the Russian working class led a series of protests against the monarchy and in 1905, the tsar’s troops killed hundreds of protesters in an event called the Bloody Sunday Massacre. 

[00:02:15] This violent event was the beginning of the start of the Russian Revolution in which workers went on multiple strikes, further hurting Russia’s economy.

[00:02:26] In response to the massacre and the strikes, Tsar Nicholas put in place some political reform, in the form of small representative governments called Dumas, but he repeatedly abolished these Dumas when they went against him and his influence

[00:02:45] A second revolution happened on March 8, 1917 and four days later, the Duma established its own government. 

[00:02:55] Tsar Nicholas was forced to resign from the throne, but as you might remember, the Duma wasn’t in power for long. 

[00:03:03] In October of the same year, the Bolsheviks occupied government buildings and overthrew the capitalist government. 

[00:03:10] The Bolsheviks formed a new government made up of peasants and workers. 

[00:03:15] A civil war broke out in Russia with the Red Army fighting for the Bolshevik government, and the White Army fighting for democratic socialism. 

[00:03:25] In 1923, the civil war ended, the Red Army won, and the Soviet Union, the world’s first communist country, was established.

[00:03:36] Grigori Rasputin, our story’s protagonist, played an important role in this major shift in Russian history but to understand how, we have to start from the beginning. 

[00:03:49] In the year 1869, in the village of Pokrovskoye in Siberia, an illiterate peasant woman gave birth to a boy. 

[00:03:59] She called him Grigory Yefimovich Novykh. 

[00:04:03] Growing up, the boy worked on his family’s farm. He did go to school, but never learned to read or write, he remained illiterate

[00:04:14] As a child, the boy claimed he had visions. He is also said to have healed a number of horses. 

[00:04:22] Members of his small town marvelled at his magical abilities but instead of viewing him as a healer, they believed that he was somehow related to the devil and they avoided him.

[00:04:38] The boy claimed that when he got older, he also gained the ability to tell the future.

[00:04:45] He was clearly a bit of a wild youth, and was given the name “Rasputin”, which means “the debauched one”, the “wild” one.

[00:04:56] By the age of eighteen, Rasputin got married to a girl from a nearby village, and together they had seven children, but only three of them survived.

[00:05:08] By all reports, his early married life was relatively uneventful

[00:05:14] But in 1897, when he was 28 years old, everything changed. 

[00:05:21] Rasputin started a spiritual journey, though the reasons for starting it are a little unclear. 

[00:05:29] According to some, his interest in his religious pilgrimage was because he wanted to escape punishment for horse theft. Essentially, he had been caught stealing horses and turning to religion provided a way of avoiding punishment.

[00:05:48] Others say that he had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Either way, he left his family to go to live in a monastery in a town several hundred kilometres away.

[00:05:59] It was here that he was completely transformed. 

[00:06:04] Rasputin grew fascinated by an underground, secret sect of the Russian Orthodox Church called the Khylsts.

[00:06:14] The Khylsts believed in “sinning to drive out sin”. 

[00:06:18] To do this, they often participated in acts that were considered to be sexually deviant in order to be closer to God. 

[00:06:28] To put it more bluntly, they would dance, get wild and worked up, then all have sex with each other.

[00:06:37] To a man already with a bit of a wild past, and who would later become known for his voracious sexual appetite, this must have been like opening the doors of heaven.

[00:06:52] He embraced this sect completely, and became devoted to this particular part of the church.

[00:07:00] Unlike other monks, Rasputin didn’t abandon his family; he continued to see his wife and three children throughout his life, though he had a wild reputation.

[00:07:12] Rasputin was known for having many sexual partners and affairs as well as for drinking excessively

[00:07:21] With his rockstar lifestyle and debauched behaviour, he earned the nickname “Mad Monk” though in reality, he was never technically a monk

[00:07:32] Word of a charismatic holy man started to spread, and Rasputin was invited to St Petersburg to meet with the city’s most powerful bishop, Bishop Theofan. 

[00:07:44] Rasputin’s arrival to the Russian capital, in 1905, came at the right time.

[00:07:52] In the early 20th century, people in St Petersburg, like in many places in Russia, had become superstitious and interested in mysticism

[00:08:03] There was also an increasingly liberal attitude towards sex, and the newspapers at the time were even publishing adverts for treatments of sexually transmitted diseases. 

[00:08:17] This fascination with mysticism, coupled with an increasingly free society, sexually at least, created an environment where Rasputin, this new mystic sex-fueled monk, could thrive.

[00:08:33] Rasputin soon became well-known in the city and he gained many followers.

[00:08:39] People were obsessed with Rasputin, although I wouldn’t blame you if you find it difficult to understand why. 

[00:08:48] Physically, he was very dirty, he was completely filthy

[00:08:53] He would rarely wash or brush his teeth, and it was said that he smelled like a goat.

[00:09:01] This didn’t seem to put off his followers though, especially the female ones.

[00:09:07] They would often spend hours bathing him or licking his fingers clean. As souvenirs, they would collect Rasputin’s nail clippings, the piece of his nails that he cut off, and attach them to their dresses. 

[00:09:24] As Rasputin’s reputation as a mystic grew, Bishop Theophane eventually introduced Rasputin to the Romanov family, tsar Nicholas II and his wife, tsarina Alexandra. Nicholas and Alexandra had consulted spiritual advisors similar to Rasputin in the past. 

[00:09:46] The imperial family had tried to have a male heir, a son, but for 9 years they only managed to produce daughters. 

[00:09:57] In 1904, after the birth of four daughters, finally a son arrived, Alexei.

[00:10:05] There was a problem though. He was born with haemophilia, an illness in which blood doesn’t clot or come together. 

[00:10:13] For people suffering from haemophilia at the time, even with the best doctors in the world, the disease could be fatal. A small cut could cause you to bleed to death.

[00:10:27] The boy’s condition was kept secret from everyone apart from their trusted inner circle.

[00:10:34] The family was desperate to find a cure and after consulting with fortune tellers and mediums who claimed to be able to speak to the dead, tsarina Alexandra found the cure that she had been looking for: Rasputin.

[00:10:52] Rasputin was instructed to spend time with the boy, in order to cure him from this illness.

[00:11:00] After Rasputin’s visit, where he threw away all the medicine the doctors had recommended and conducted his own treatment on the boy, Alexei miraculously started to get better.

[00:11:14] As a result of having cured the only male heir to the Russian throne, Rasputin soon became the royal family’s most trusted advisor.

[00:11:25] While many people believed that Rasputin had mystical powers, and indeed the tsarina certainly thought that Raspuin had performed magic to save her son’s life, there are some logical explanations for his healing abilities.

[00:11:41] In fact, it’s more about what Rasputin didn’t do than what he did do.

[00:11:47] Remember, he threw away all of the medicine that the doctors had been prescribing to the boy.

[00:11:54] Doctors at that time would most likely would have given Alexei aspirin, which would have thinned the blood and made it less likely to clot.

[00:12:05] It might have been a simple case of good luck, but Rasputin’s distrust of doctors, and his subsequent actions, helped save Alexei.

[00:12:17] The family trusted Rasputin and after performing this miracle, Rasputin secured a place in the imperial family. 

[00:12:27] He even started to refer to Nicholas and Alexandra as “mama and papa”, which was particularly strange as Rasputin was only 8 months younger than Nicholas and actually 3 years older than Alexandra. 

[00:12:45] Because he was regarded as the saviour of the heir, he gained access to the palace and the family. 

[00:12:52] He became especially close with Alexandra, who in 1915 was in charge of Russia’s internal affairs, as her husband was leading the Russian war effort in World War One.

[00:13:07] Due to Rasputin’s sexually promiscuous reputation, many people believe that he and the tsarina actually had an intimate relationship, that they were sleeping together.

[00:13:20] Although there is no evidence to prove this, the important thing is that the public believed it was true. 

[00:13:27] Soldiers openly joked about it as if it were a fact, Russian newspapers printed cartoons suggesting that it was the case, and it was believed to be common knowledge.

[00:13:42] While it’s not known whether their intimacy extended to the bedroom, Rasputin and the tsarina were certainly growing closer.

[00:13:51] Rasputin went from a mere spiritual advisor to Alexandra, to an advisor on almost everything. He influenced her decisions when choosing members of the cabinet and sometimes advised her about military matters. 

[00:14:09] As Rasputin’s political power and influence grew, the Russian elite felt threatened

[00:14:16] After all, he was a filthy, illiterate peasant from Siberia whose role was supposedly as a mystical healer

[00:14:25] And now there he was whispering in the Tsarina’s ear, influencing Russian political decisions.

[00:14:34] Secret police began to watch Rasputin and they took note of his frequent visits to prostitutes, often multiple times a day. 

[00:14:44] Many people close to the royal family believed that Rasputin was a dangerous man and that the tsar and the tsarina were foolish to put their trust in him.

[00:14:57] Even in the early days of his political influence, Rasputin had plenty of enemies. 

[00:15:03] In 1914, a year before becoming the tsarina’s personal advisor, there was an assassination attempt made on Rasputin’s life by a noseless, peasant woman named Khioniya Guseva. 

[00:15:19] Guseva was the follower of a man called Iliodor, who was a former priest and supporter of Rasputin before he grew jealous of Rasputin’s relationship with the royal family and he turned against him. 

[00:15:33] Guseva had listened closely to Iliodor’s teaching about Rasputin, and had decided that Rasputin was a false prophet

[00:15:44] On July 14th, 1914, she waited for Rasputin outside his home in Pokrovskoye. 

[00:15:52] When he arrived, she stabbed him in the stomach, and went so far as to try to pull his intestines out of his body while he was lying in front of her.

[00:16:04] Somehow, Rasputin survived this attempt on his life but unfortunately for him, this wouldn’t be the last time that someone tried to kill him. 

[00:16:15] There were several other assassination plots that were discovered before Rasputin’s life was seriously threatened, but in late 1916 fate finally caught up with Grigori Rasputin.

[00:16:28] He had made too many enemies, and not enough powerful friends. 

[00:16:33] The clock was ticking.

[00:16:35] A group of conservatives formed a plan to kill Rasputin and save the monarchy from more scandal

[00:16:44] This group included one of the richest men in Russia, Prince Feliks Yusupov, who was also the husband of the tsar’s niece.

[00:16:55] The plan was to lure Rasputin to Yusupov’s home, Moika Palace, and on December 30th of 1916, Rasputin arrived. 

[00:17:06] What exactly happened that day is unknown, and there are many myths surrounding Rasputin’s death. 

[00:17:15] According to Yusupov, he offered Rasputin tea and cakes, which Rasputin ate with pleasure.

[00:17:22] What Rasputin didn’t know, of course, was that the food and drink had been laced with cyanide, a deadly poison. Rasputin reportedly ate the cakes but didn’t seem affected by the poison.

[00:17:39] He then asked for some wine, which was provided to him. The wine too, had cyanide in it. It got to 2.30 in the morning, but Rasputin was still there, seemingly completely fine. 

[00:17:56] Yusupov excused himself and went upstairs to consult his co-conspirators, the other two men who were involved in the plan. He returned downstairs, took a gun, and shot Rasputin in the chest. 

[00:18:12] Now, being shot directly in the chest did affect Rasputin, of course. Yusupov thought he had killed Rasputin, so he returned upstairs to celebrate.

[00:18:25] The men dressed someone in Rasputin’s clothes and ordered him to drive to Rasputin’s apartment to make it seem like he had returned home that night. 

[00:18:36] But when they returned to dispose of Rasputin’s body, to get rid of the body, they found that he was still alive and he proceeded to fight Yusupuv. 

[00:18:49] A few more shots seemed to do the trick, they shot Rasputin a few more times, and he collapsed, finally dead.

[00:18:59] The men took his body, wrapped him up in a thick cloth and took him to a frozen river. 

[00:19:06] They found a hole in the ice and threw him in.

[00:19:11] News travelled fast of Rasputin’s death and on January the 1st, policemen found Rasputin’s body under the river ice.

[00:19:20] Although Yusupov told this elaborate story about Rasputin’s death, Rasputin’s daughter Maria questioned Yusupov’s account, saying that her father would never have eaten cakes.

[00:19:34] In addition, autopsy reports showed no signs of Rasputin being poisoned, though it was clear that Rasputin’s body had undergone a lot of physical trauma after he died.

[00:19:48] The cause of death was determined to be three gunshot wounds but there was reportedly water found in his lungs, which indicates that Rasputin could have been alive when he was thrown into the river, this is after having eaten enough cyanide to kill a herd of elephants and being shot several times at point-blank range.

[00:20:14] He might have been impossible to kill, but he was now certainly dead.

[00:20:21] And in the months after Rasputin’s murder, things went from bad to worse for the Romanovs.

[00:20:28] People were starving, the transportation system was falling apart, and Russia had suffered greatly in World War One, with an estimated 3 million Russians losing their lives. 

[00:20:42] As the majority of the country celebrated Rasputin’s death, the Romanovs continued to mourn him. 

[00:20:49] This only made the public hate the Royal family even more. To the Bolsheviks and their supporters, Rasputin had represented the corruption of the monarchy. While they might have hated him personally, his murder was seen as a desperate attempt by the elite to hold onto power at the expense of the working class.

[00:21:13] Put another way, he was killed by some of the richest and most powerful men in Russia in an attempt to save the Romanov dynasty and stop the revolution.

[00:21:25] Although Rasputin might have been killed to maintain order and to keep the monarchy intact, his murder did the opposite. 

[00:21:34] It only served to make people more angry and was yet another reason to take action against the Romanovs, once and for all.

[00:21:44] And in March of 1917, just over two months after Rasputin’s death and after a series of strikes and protests, Nicholas was forced to step down from his position as tsar. 

[00:21:59] Rasputin’s body was dug up and burned by Soviet soldiers so that his grave could not become a shrine

[00:22:08] He was a controversial and polarising figure both in life and death and his legacy continues today.

[00:22:16] Although he is mostly remembered outside Russia as the man who wouldn’t die, the mystery of his life and death has inspired stories all over the world, and has added yet another flavour, another vivid dimension, to the fascinating history of the Russian revolution. 

[00:22:37] It’s interesting to wonder about the extent to which Rasputin influenced the fall of the Romanovs. 

[00:22:45] Certainly it’s hard to make the argument that he did anything to help their survival, but quite how much importance he had in their downfall is up for debate.

[00:22:58] For some, he was merely an interesting character who had no real political power. A strange, mad peasant who simply existed and caused some controversy in high society.

[00:23:12] But for others, he was much more. 

[00:23:16] When the Russian revolution ended, the Provisional Government leader Alexander Kerensky said, “Without Rasputin, there would have been no Lenin.” 

[00:23:28] Whatever you think of Grigori Rasputin the man, it is undeniable that the legend has gone down in history.

[00:23:36] Had his life gone another way, he might have remained a Russian peasant, farming his land, rarely leaving his village, and probably having the occasional wild night in Siberia.

[00:23:50] Instead, he set off for the capital, claimed to have cured the heir to the throne, seduced the Tsar, Tsarina, and hundreds if not thousands of other women in Russian high society, became the lover of many and the enemy of many more, and perhaps, just perhaps, changed the course of Russian history forever.

[00:24:16] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode.

[00:24:20] It is a fascinating story and there are plenty of tales about his life that we haven’t had the time to include today. 

[00:24:27] So, I’d love to know, especially from the listeners in Russia, how important do you think Rasputin was in the story of modern Russia?

[00:24:37] How would Russian history have been different without him, if at all?

[00:24:42] I would love to know.

[00:24:43] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:52] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:57] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]

[00:00:00] Hello, hello hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:00:12] The show where you can listen to fascinating stories, and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English.

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge, and today we are going to be talking about the mysterious life of Grigori Rasputin - The Mad Monk.

[00:00:31] He was the peasant who went from a village in Siberia to the centre of the Russian imperial court, befriending the Tsar and the Tsarina, and playing a role in the downfall of Russia’s longest serving dynasty, The Romanovs. 

[00:00:47] It’s an amazing story that will involve mysticism, kings and queens, the Russian Orthodox church, sex, violence, war and murder. 

[00:00:58] So, buckle up, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

[00:01:01] OK then, Grigori Rasputin.

[00:01:05] Now, let’s start with a little bit of Russian history for context. 

[00:01:11] Throughout history, Russia has had two main dynasties: the Rurikids and the Romanovs. 

[00:01:17] Today we are going to focus on the fall of the Romanov dynasty.

[00:01:23] The Romanov family ruled imperial Russia from 1613 until 1917 when a Bolshevik squad murdered the entire Romanov family, including tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their five children.

[00:01:40] At the time of the early 1900s, Russia was one of the poorest countries in Europe and due to a population boom, poor working conditions and high taxes the majority of the Russians lived in a state of extreme poverty

[00:01:58] As living conditions worsened, the Russian working class led a series of protests against the monarchy and in 1905, the tsar’s troops killed hundreds of protesters in an event called the Bloody Sunday Massacre. 

[00:02:15] This violent event was the beginning of the start of the Russian Revolution in which workers went on multiple strikes, further hurting Russia’s economy.

[00:02:26] In response to the massacre and the strikes, Tsar Nicholas put in place some political reform, in the form of small representative governments called Dumas, but he repeatedly abolished these Dumas when they went against him and his influence

[00:02:45] A second revolution happened on March 8, 1917 and four days later, the Duma established its own government. 

[00:02:55] Tsar Nicholas was forced to resign from the throne, but as you might remember, the Duma wasn’t in power for long. 

[00:03:03] In October of the same year, the Bolsheviks occupied government buildings and overthrew the capitalist government. 

[00:03:10] The Bolsheviks formed a new government made up of peasants and workers. 

[00:03:15] A civil war broke out in Russia with the Red Army fighting for the Bolshevik government, and the White Army fighting for democratic socialism. 

[00:03:25] In 1923, the civil war ended, the Red Army won, and the Soviet Union, the world’s first communist country, was established.

[00:03:36] Grigori Rasputin, our story’s protagonist, played an important role in this major shift in Russian history but to understand how, we have to start from the beginning. 

[00:03:49] In the year 1869, in the village of Pokrovskoye in Siberia, an illiterate peasant woman gave birth to a boy. 

[00:03:59] She called him Grigory Yefimovich Novykh. 

[00:04:03] Growing up, the boy worked on his family’s farm. He did go to school, but never learned to read or write, he remained illiterate

[00:04:14] As a child, the boy claimed he had visions. He is also said to have healed a number of horses. 

[00:04:22] Members of his small town marvelled at his magical abilities but instead of viewing him as a healer, they believed that he was somehow related to the devil and they avoided him.

[00:04:38] The boy claimed that when he got older, he also gained the ability to tell the future.

[00:04:45] He was clearly a bit of a wild youth, and was given the name “Rasputin”, which means “the debauched one”, the “wild” one.

[00:04:56] By the age of eighteen, Rasputin got married to a girl from a nearby village, and together they had seven children, but only three of them survived.

[00:05:08] By all reports, his early married life was relatively uneventful

[00:05:14] But in 1897, when he was 28 years old, everything changed. 

[00:05:21] Rasputin started a spiritual journey, though the reasons for starting it are a little unclear. 

[00:05:29] According to some, his interest in his religious pilgrimage was because he wanted to escape punishment for horse theft. Essentially, he had been caught stealing horses and turning to religion provided a way of avoiding punishment.

[00:05:48] Others say that he had a vision of the Virgin Mary. Either way, he left his family to go to live in a monastery in a town several hundred kilometres away.

[00:05:59] It was here that he was completely transformed. 

[00:06:04] Rasputin grew fascinated by an underground, secret sect of the Russian Orthodox Church called the Khylsts.

[00:06:14] The Khylsts believed in “sinning to drive out sin”. 

[00:06:18] To do this, they often participated in acts that were considered to be sexually deviant in order to be closer to God. 

[00:06:28] To put it more bluntly, they would dance, get wild and worked up, then all have sex with each other.

[00:06:37] To a man already with a bit of a wild past, and who would later become known for his voracious sexual appetite, this must have been like opening the doors of heaven.

[00:06:52] He embraced this sect completely, and became devoted to this particular part of the church.

[00:07:00] Unlike other monks, Rasputin didn’t abandon his family; he continued to see his wife and three children throughout his life, though he had a wild reputation.

[00:07:12] Rasputin was known for having many sexual partners and affairs as well as for drinking excessively

[00:07:21] With his rockstar lifestyle and debauched behaviour, he earned the nickname “Mad Monk” though in reality, he was never technically a monk

[00:07:32] Word of a charismatic holy man started to spread, and Rasputin was invited to St Petersburg to meet with the city’s most powerful bishop, Bishop Theofan. 

[00:07:44] Rasputin’s arrival to the Russian capital, in 1905, came at the right time.

[00:07:52] In the early 20th century, people in St Petersburg, like in many places in Russia, had become superstitious and interested in mysticism

[00:08:03] There was also an increasingly liberal attitude towards sex, and the newspapers at the time were even publishing adverts for treatments of sexually transmitted diseases. 

[00:08:17] This fascination with mysticism, coupled with an increasingly free society, sexually at least, created an environment where Rasputin, this new mystic sex-fueled monk, could thrive.

[00:08:33] Rasputin soon became well-known in the city and he gained many followers.

[00:08:39] People were obsessed with Rasputin, although I wouldn’t blame you if you find it difficult to understand why. 

[00:08:48] Physically, he was very dirty, he was completely filthy

[00:08:53] He would rarely wash or brush his teeth, and it was said that he smelled like a goat.

[00:09:01] This didn’t seem to put off his followers though, especially the female ones.

[00:09:07] They would often spend hours bathing him or licking his fingers clean. As souvenirs, they would collect Rasputin’s nail clippings, the piece of his nails that he cut off, and attach them to their dresses. 

[00:09:24] As Rasputin’s reputation as a mystic grew, Bishop Theophane eventually introduced Rasputin to the Romanov family, tsar Nicholas II and his wife, tsarina Alexandra. Nicholas and Alexandra had consulted spiritual advisors similar to Rasputin in the past. 

[00:09:46] The imperial family had tried to have a male heir, a son, but for 9 years they only managed to produce daughters. 

[00:09:57] In 1904, after the birth of four daughters, finally a son arrived, Alexei.

[00:10:05] There was a problem though. He was born with haemophilia, an illness in which blood doesn’t clot or come together. 

[00:10:13] For people suffering from haemophilia at the time, even with the best doctors in the world, the disease could be fatal. A small cut could cause you to bleed to death.

[00:10:27] The boy’s condition was kept secret from everyone apart from their trusted inner circle.

[00:10:34] The family was desperate to find a cure and after consulting with fortune tellers and mediums who claimed to be able to speak to the dead, tsarina Alexandra found the cure that she had been looking for: Rasputin.

[00:10:52] Rasputin was instructed to spend time with the boy, in order to cure him from this illness.

[00:11:00] After Rasputin’s visit, where he threw away all the medicine the doctors had recommended and conducted his own treatment on the boy, Alexei miraculously started to get better.

[00:11:14] As a result of having cured the only male heir to the Russian throne, Rasputin soon became the royal family’s most trusted advisor.

[00:11:25] While many people believed that Rasputin had mystical powers, and indeed the tsarina certainly thought that Raspuin had performed magic to save her son’s life, there are some logical explanations for his healing abilities.

[00:11:41] In fact, it’s more about what Rasputin didn’t do than what he did do.

[00:11:47] Remember, he threw away all of the medicine that the doctors had been prescribing to the boy.

[00:11:54] Doctors at that time would most likely would have given Alexei aspirin, which would have thinned the blood and made it less likely to clot.

[00:12:05] It might have been a simple case of good luck, but Rasputin’s distrust of doctors, and his subsequent actions, helped save Alexei.

[00:12:17] The family trusted Rasputin and after performing this miracle, Rasputin secured a place in the imperial family. 

[00:12:27] He even started to refer to Nicholas and Alexandra as “mama and papa”, which was particularly strange as Rasputin was only 8 months younger than Nicholas and actually 3 years older than Alexandra. 

[00:12:45] Because he was regarded as the saviour of the heir, he gained access to the palace and the family. 

[00:12:52] He became especially close with Alexandra, who in 1915 was in charge of Russia’s internal affairs, as her husband was leading the Russian war effort in World War One.

[00:13:07] Due to Rasputin’s sexually promiscuous reputation, many people believe that he and the tsarina actually had an intimate relationship, that they were sleeping together.

[00:13:20] Although there is no evidence to prove this, the important thing is that the public believed it was true. 

[00:13:27] Soldiers openly joked about it as if it were a fact, Russian newspapers printed cartoons suggesting that it was the case, and it was believed to be common knowledge.

[00:13:42] While it’s not known whether their intimacy extended to the bedroom, Rasputin and the tsarina were certainly growing closer.

[00:13:51] Rasputin went from a mere spiritual advisor to Alexandra, to an advisor on almost everything. He influenced her decisions when choosing members of the cabinet and sometimes advised her about military matters. 

[00:14:09] As Rasputin’s political power and influence grew, the Russian elite felt threatened

[00:14:16] After all, he was a filthy, illiterate peasant from Siberia whose role was supposedly as a mystical healer

[00:14:25] And now there he was whispering in the Tsarina’s ear, influencing Russian political decisions.

[00:14:34] Secret police began to watch Rasputin and they took note of his frequent visits to prostitutes, often multiple times a day. 

[00:14:44] Many people close to the royal family believed that Rasputin was a dangerous man and that the tsar and the tsarina were foolish to put their trust in him.

[00:14:57] Even in the early days of his political influence, Rasputin had plenty of enemies. 

[00:15:03] In 1914, a year before becoming the tsarina’s personal advisor, there was an assassination attempt made on Rasputin’s life by a noseless, peasant woman named Khioniya Guseva. 

[00:15:19] Guseva was the follower of a man called Iliodor, who was a former priest and supporter of Rasputin before he grew jealous of Rasputin’s relationship with the royal family and he turned against him. 

[00:15:33] Guseva had listened closely to Iliodor’s teaching about Rasputin, and had decided that Rasputin was a false prophet

[00:15:44] On July 14th, 1914, she waited for Rasputin outside his home in Pokrovskoye. 

[00:15:52] When he arrived, she stabbed him in the stomach, and went so far as to try to pull his intestines out of his body while he was lying in front of her.

[00:16:04] Somehow, Rasputin survived this attempt on his life but unfortunately for him, this wouldn’t be the last time that someone tried to kill him. 

[00:16:15] There were several other assassination plots that were discovered before Rasputin’s life was seriously threatened, but in late 1916 fate finally caught up with Grigori Rasputin.

[00:16:28] He had made too many enemies, and not enough powerful friends. 

[00:16:33] The clock was ticking.

[00:16:35] A group of conservatives formed a plan to kill Rasputin and save the monarchy from more scandal

[00:16:44] This group included one of the richest men in Russia, Prince Feliks Yusupov, who was also the husband of the tsar’s niece.

[00:16:55] The plan was to lure Rasputin to Yusupov’s home, Moika Palace, and on December 30th of 1916, Rasputin arrived. 

[00:17:06] What exactly happened that day is unknown, and there are many myths surrounding Rasputin’s death. 

[00:17:15] According to Yusupov, he offered Rasputin tea and cakes, which Rasputin ate with pleasure.

[00:17:22] What Rasputin didn’t know, of course, was that the food and drink had been laced with cyanide, a deadly poison. Rasputin reportedly ate the cakes but didn’t seem affected by the poison.

[00:17:39] He then asked for some wine, which was provided to him. The wine too, had cyanide in it. It got to 2.30 in the morning, but Rasputin was still there, seemingly completely fine. 

[00:17:56] Yusupov excused himself and went upstairs to consult his co-conspirators, the other two men who were involved in the plan. He returned downstairs, took a gun, and shot Rasputin in the chest. 

[00:18:12] Now, being shot directly in the chest did affect Rasputin, of course. Yusupov thought he had killed Rasputin, so he returned upstairs to celebrate.

[00:18:25] The men dressed someone in Rasputin’s clothes and ordered him to drive to Rasputin’s apartment to make it seem like he had returned home that night. 

[00:18:36] But when they returned to dispose of Rasputin’s body, to get rid of the body, they found that he was still alive and he proceeded to fight Yusupuv. 

[00:18:49] A few more shots seemed to do the trick, they shot Rasputin a few more times, and he collapsed, finally dead.

[00:18:59] The men took his body, wrapped him up in a thick cloth and took him to a frozen river. 

[00:19:06] They found a hole in the ice and threw him in.

[00:19:11] News travelled fast of Rasputin’s death and on January the 1st, policemen found Rasputin’s body under the river ice.

[00:19:20] Although Yusupov told this elaborate story about Rasputin’s death, Rasputin’s daughter Maria questioned Yusupov’s account, saying that her father would never have eaten cakes.

[00:19:34] In addition, autopsy reports showed no signs of Rasputin being poisoned, though it was clear that Rasputin’s body had undergone a lot of physical trauma after he died.

[00:19:48] The cause of death was determined to be three gunshot wounds but there was reportedly water found in his lungs, which indicates that Rasputin could have been alive when he was thrown into the river, this is after having eaten enough cyanide to kill a herd of elephants and being shot several times at point-blank range.

[00:20:14] He might have been impossible to kill, but he was now certainly dead.

[00:20:21] And in the months after Rasputin’s murder, things went from bad to worse for the Romanovs.

[00:20:28] People were starving, the transportation system was falling apart, and Russia had suffered greatly in World War One, with an estimated 3 million Russians losing their lives. 

[00:20:42] As the majority of the country celebrated Rasputin’s death, the Romanovs continued to mourn him. 

[00:20:49] This only made the public hate the Royal family even more. To the Bolsheviks and their supporters, Rasputin had represented the corruption of the monarchy. While they might have hated him personally, his murder was seen as a desperate attempt by the elite to hold onto power at the expense of the working class.

[00:21:13] Put another way, he was killed by some of the richest and most powerful men in Russia in an attempt to save the Romanov dynasty and stop the revolution.

[00:21:25] Although Rasputin might have been killed to maintain order and to keep the monarchy intact, his murder did the opposite. 

[00:21:34] It only served to make people more angry and was yet another reason to take action against the Romanovs, once and for all.

[00:21:44] And in March of 1917, just over two months after Rasputin’s death and after a series of strikes and protests, Nicholas was forced to step down from his position as tsar. 

[00:21:59] Rasputin’s body was dug up and burned by Soviet soldiers so that his grave could not become a shrine

[00:22:08] He was a controversial and polarising figure both in life and death and his legacy continues today.

[00:22:16] Although he is mostly remembered outside Russia as the man who wouldn’t die, the mystery of his life and death has inspired stories all over the world, and has added yet another flavour, another vivid dimension, to the fascinating history of the Russian revolution. 

[00:22:37] It’s interesting to wonder about the extent to which Rasputin influenced the fall of the Romanovs. 

[00:22:45] Certainly it’s hard to make the argument that he did anything to help their survival, but quite how much importance he had in their downfall is up for debate.

[00:22:58] For some, he was merely an interesting character who had no real political power. A strange, mad peasant who simply existed and caused some controversy in high society.

[00:23:12] But for others, he was much more. 

[00:23:16] When the Russian revolution ended, the Provisional Government leader Alexander Kerensky said, “Without Rasputin, there would have been no Lenin.” 

[00:23:28] Whatever you think of Grigori Rasputin the man, it is undeniable that the legend has gone down in history.

[00:23:36] Had his life gone another way, he might have remained a Russian peasant, farming his land, rarely leaving his village, and probably having the occasional wild night in Siberia.

[00:23:50] Instead, he set off for the capital, claimed to have cured the heir to the throne, seduced the Tsar, Tsarina, and hundreds if not thousands of other women in Russian high society, became the lover of many and the enemy of many more, and perhaps, just perhaps, changed the course of Russian history forever.

[00:24:16] As always, I would love to know what you thought of this episode.

[00:24:20] It is a fascinating story and there are plenty of tales about his life that we haven’t had the time to include today. 

[00:24:27] So, I’d love to know, especially from the listeners in Russia, how important do you think Rasputin was in the story of modern Russia?

[00:24:37] How would Russian history have been different without him, if at all?

[00:24:42] I would love to know.

[00:24:43] You can head right into our community forum, which is at community.leonardoenglish.com and get chatting away to other curious minds.

[00:24:52] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English.

[00:24:57] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe, and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF EPISODE]