Weird Wednesdays: Russia’s greatest love machine

 Rasputin was born in a small Siberian river village and worked his way into the Romanov’s hearts. He earned a place of honor in court, advising the royal family. (Unknown)

Rasputin was born in a small Siberian river village and worked his way into the Romanov’s hearts. He earned a place of honor in court, advising the royal family. (Unknown)

How do you kill a Russian mystic? It’s simple, really. Just poison his wine, beat him senseless, stab him a time or two and, when he runs away, shoot him in the head and dump him in a frozen river. Don’t forget the sack!

Hey, I said it was simple. I never said it was easy.

Grigori Rasputin, royal doctor and unofficial advisor to the infamous Russian Romanovs, was a man of much legend and mystery. He’s been called a lunatic, a quack, a marvel and a whack, but no matter what you may label him, you definitely can’t deny that he was, above all, memorable. His scandals and his deeds are still the source of rumor and speculation to this day.

Rasputin was born in a small Siberian river village in 1869. Much about his childhood is unknown, though based on the culture of the area he grew up in, he was probably never formally educated and thus remained illiterate for most of his life. What is known is that he was a bit of a wild child, supposedly stealing, drinking and chasing after girls well into his youth.

Age, marriage and joining the Russian Orthodox Church did little to tame him. In 1897, Rasputin left his wife and children behind to go on a pilgrimage to Greece, which was an Orthodox mecca. After joining a monastery, he became a monk of questionable sanity and returned home ranting, raving and a converted vegetarian.

After gaining a small following (supposedly made up of sexually deviant women) in the early 1900s, Rasputin managed to work his way into the religious groups in St. Petersburg where he met Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, the last royals of Russia and the head of the Romanov family.

It was then that his ‘miraculous’ powers began to show. Supposedly through the power of prayer, Rasputin had cured one of the Romanov children, Alexei, of a terrible ill: his persistent bleeding.

Alexei, due to a large amount of inbreeding within several European royal lines (don’t marry your relatives, kids!) was afflicted with the genetic disease hemophilia, which causes those afflicted to lack the necessary proteins to clot blood. A bleeding injury, even small, could spell death to its patient, and Rasputin’s ‘cure’ was a welcome reprieve for the heir to the Russian empire.

Through this, Rasputin worked his way into the Romanov’s hearts (and, supposedly, Alexandra’s skirts, though that’s neither here nor there). He earned a place of honor in court, advising the royal family and interacting with their children, Anastasia, Alexei, Olga, Tatiana and Maria. The fact that a crazy, bearded creepy-looking dude was hanging out with the aristocrats didn’t sit well with some, and rumors of conspiracy began to surface.

Many claimed Rasputin was pulling the strings behind the royals and secretly running Russia. Later on, others claimed he plotted the Romanov’s downfall during the 1917 Russian Revolution. Whatever the case, all we know is that a lot of people kind of despised his guts.

In 1916, a group of dissident royals led by Grand Duke Felix Yusupov plotted to put an end to Rasputin. He lured the mystic to his home and offered him tea and cakes lovingly laced with cyanide. Rasputin took the bait…

And felt fine. Apparently vegetarianism does something for poison resistance, because even after ingesting the toxic food (as well as three glasses of poisoned wine) Rasputin felt fine.  Yusupov then grew impatient and shot the monk in the chest, which Rasputin more or less shook off. It was only after multiple beatings, three stabs in the gut and a final, fatal gunshot to the head that Rasputin fell. He was then unceremoniously dumped into a sack and dropped into the Malaya Nevka River.  

It took days for the police to find his body due to the river freezing over. When it was finally recovered, the body was covered in slashes and gunshot wounds. One of his eyes was missing, as were… other parts.

Apparently his, er, “Little Russian” had its own set of adventures. Supposedly, when he died, Rasputin’s genitalia were separated from his body before he was dumped in the river-- perhaps as an act of retribution for his sexual deviation-- and the goods were picked up by a palace maid. Reportedly, it was obtained by a group of women in Paris who worshipped it. (Considering that it’s rumored to be 13 inches long, who can blame them?) 

It was eventually retrieved by his daughter Maria Rasputin in the 1920s before being lost once again by the 70s. In 1994 someone claimed to have found the relic in a storage locker in California, though it turned out to be a sea cucumber. Eventually, it was supposedly retrieved by the Russian Museum of Erotica, who claim to have it on display, though such rumors may be displaced-- much like the Mad Monk’s appendage.     

As for Rasputin’s body itself, it was originally buried in the Tsar’s family cemetery near St. Petersburg. The funeral was attended by the royal family only, and the mystics’ family (including his wife) was reportedly not invited.

When the Romanovs were overthrown several months later in 1917, rebels exhumed Rasputin’s grave and burned the body, partly to prevent the grave from being venerated as a holy site and possibly to prevent the mystic from rising once again. I mean, he survived a stabbing, poisoning, gunshots and an eyeball removal. What’s to say a little bit of grave dirt can stand in his way?

Of course, some still maintain that, like the infamous Princess Anastasia Romanov, he still lives on. This is partly true. He lives on in our hearts, and in that one Don Bluth movie/musical. He’s still with us, preserved in a jar of formaldehyde in a museum and in a really, really cheesy 70s song. Shine on, you crazy diamond. Shine on… and stay weird.


Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.