Perhaps no one is more mysterious and mythic than Grigori Rasputin.
Born in an obscure Siberian peasant village in 1869, religious conversion and a career as a traveling saint and healer took Rasputin to the Russian royal court, where he became their closest confidant, chief adviser and one of the most powerful men in the empire.
But there was something fascinating and repulsive about a man as mysterious as Rasputin, even in his lifetime. As a result, the domestic and foreign media used him as a weapon to push their own agenda, leading to his becoming Russia’s most hated man and his assassination in 1916. Fictions have become so commonplace that they are still believed a century later.
The famous Boney M song goes like this: “Ra Ra Rasputin, Lover of the Russian Queen.” It is an accusation started by the anti-monarchy media in Russia, who regularly drew cartoons of Empress Alexandra and Rasputin canoodling. These were designed, of course, to discredit the pair, who were both hated by the public by 1916. Indeed, even films and plays were written suggesting the pair enjoyed an illicit affair as if it was an unquestionable fact.
But there is no evidence to suggest Rasputin and Alexandra’s relationship was anything but platonic. Rasputin gave Alexandra spiritual companionship during a challenging time. World War I raged, and her husband, Emperor Nicholas II, was commanding the forces near the front lines, and letters between husband and wife show a passionate romance that never fizzled. For all the criticisms aimed at Alexandra, she was without question a deeply religious and loyal woman, madly in love with her husband. Rasputin, for his part, knew which side his bread was buttered on and was smart enough to know such an act would be the end of him.