The Revolutionary Masses
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.
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
not only as the healer of her only son but also as a genuine oracle
whose word she believed absolutely.
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
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
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.
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.