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 moniker of “mad monk” sure is catchy, but Rasputin was not mad and certainly wasn’t a monk.
His religious career began after a pilgrimage to a monastery when he was 27 years old. He returned a changed man, a man of God, but he was never ordained by the Russian Orthodox Church.
Walking the Siberian wilderness from village to village as a “strannik” (basically a holy wanderer), his popularity soared. It brought him to the attention of local church leaders and eventually Saint Petersburg.
In the capital, he was seen as something of a curiosity, personifying the sentimental idea of the God-fearing peasant. The often bored and spiritually hungry aristocracy were entranced by this crude peasant, who stood amongst them confidently wearing the robes of a monk. Rasputin had no desire to ever enter the church formally, but yet again, that troublesome Russian media said otherwise.