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.
Now, this is technically true, but the myth surrounding how he did it, which is still not known for sure today, is often wrapped in hocus pocus and mysticism.
Nicholas and Alexandra’s only son was Alexei, a weak boy who inherited hemophilia from his mother’s side and wasn’t expected to live long into adulthood. The disease stops blood from clotting, meaning a simple tumble (as young boys are wont to do) could result in almost fatal internal hemorrhaging. More than once, the priest was called in to read Alexei his last rights.
Yet Rasputin would always come to the rescue, sometimes in person, sometimes with just a letter. Known throughout Russia as a faith healer, even before he first met the royal family, Rasputin became indispensable to Nicholas and Alexandra: their heir could seemingly only be kept alive by the mystic and no one else. But this was certainly not spiritual healing. Some say it was simply a matter of Rasputin sending the doctors from his side and ordering them to leave Alexei alone. This makes sense considering the common treatment for hemophilia at the time was aspirin, which today we know thins the blood, about the worst thing to give a hemophiliac. By insisting the doctors leave Alexei alone, he probably saved the boy’s life—not spiritual healing.