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Grigory Rasputin

The Revolutionary Masses

In the political sphere, the war was marked by the failure of the monarchy, its ministers and its generals to direct the military effort adequately. Some responsibility for Russiaís military disasters rested with the Imperial couple themselves. Against the advice of his ministers, Nicholas had personally assumed command of the army in 1915, leaving the everyday conduct of home affairs in the hands of his wife.  

 
Empress Alexandra

The Empress Alexandra was herself under the influence of a scandalous group at court headed by Grigory Rasputin (1864-1916), a Siberian peasant and sectarian, the Ďman of Godí who in an incredible manner had been impelled into the highest court circles.  His apparent powers to cure the bleeding of Nicholasí hemophiliac son Alexei gave Rasputin a powerful hold over the Imperial couple and, in particular, over the Empress, who saw him not only as the healer of her only son but also as a genuine oracle whose word she believed absolutely.

Rasputinís St Petersburg period, according to the reports of the agents who kept him under constant surveillance, was marked by ever-growing unrestrained debauchery, drinking-bouts and orgies, embroiling even highly-placed figures.  His drunkenness and sexual antics were widely publicized by the press. Yet for the imperial couple and their children his Ďholinessí and Ďpietyí were not a matter for question. The great paradox in the relationship between Rasputin and the royal family was that Nicholas and Alexandra were so blinded by their faith in Rasputinís ability to prolong the life of the heir to the throne that they did not actually see the direct threat posed by  this relationship to the throne itself and, indeed to the very continuation of the dynasty.

It has to be said that Rasputinís actual influence in the making of the most important political decisions, for example, the role he played in influencing appointment to positions of state, was considerably exaggerated not only during his time, but particularly afterwards. What really mattered about Rasputin was not his actual political influence but the fatal impact he had on the monarchyís prestige.  This relationship greatly undermined the honor and reputation of the royal family.

Grigory Rasputin

 
Nicholas II

This situation gave rise to constant and ever-growing discontent in circles around the Tsar and attempts to push the dissolute monk aside and get him away from court. Eventually, as all attempts to remove him from court by political means had failed, the idea of physically disposing of him was born in a small circle of conspirators. On 30 December 1916 Rasputin was murdered by a group that included Prince Felix Yusupov, husband of the Emperorís niece, the Grand Duke Dimitri, who was Nicholasí first cousin and Vladimir Purishkevich, a Duma deputy of the far Right.

The fact that Rasputin was murdered by figures from ultraconservative and high society circles reflected the great fear in those quarters of impending revolution. They regarded Rasputin as a great threat to the throne and to the idea of monarchy, believing that his relationship with the Royal family might spark a revolution. Two months after the murder of Rasputin the autocracy collapsed, but the scandal which had surrounded Rasputinís name was merely a symptom, not a cause, of the acute malaise, which  afflicted an incompetent and unpopular regime. Rasputin was a logical end product of the political bankruptcy of tsarism, which had allowed a narrow-minded, hysterical woman and an ignorant, grotesque peasant to hold the destinies of an empire in their hands.

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