Saturday, 31 January 2015

ra-ra-rasputin, russia’s greatest love-machine

I am not sure what impression that I had formed of Grigori Rasputin beforehand other than him being some creature of the court of the Romanov’s—maybe a charlatan, and spiritual-healer and advisor to (and perhaps lover of) the Russian queen. Aside from the biography presented in the lyrics of the Boney-M song, I only based my knowledge of the so-called Mad Monk from the passages in The Tin Drum where the little hero’s mother is similarly enchanted by Rasputin’s story and led down the road to ruin.

The truth will assuredly remain elusive and buried in legend and speculation. The first precept that Rasputin’s religious conversion and consequently his supernatural powers for curing the sick and prophesy is tied to his homeland in Western Siberia—an ungoverned province and the cosmopolitan gossips of Petrograd must have surely been susceptible to stereotype and suggestion. Supposedly, there was an orgiastic cult of Christian fanatics, devoted to getting it all our of their system so that they could eventually come to abstinence and salvation honestly. People were convinced that Rasputin had come from this tradition and I am sure greatly magnified any sign of hedonism to a scandal and augmented supposed diabolical powers—including that he was invulnerable to attack, having survived quite a few assassination attempts. Rasputin  may have been wielding soft-power from Petrograd and had the ear of the emperor for his own benefit to an extent.
It really struck me, however—given that the belligerents of the Great War were almost all a part of one big family feud—oh bother, there’s Cousin Willy sounding off again, no member of the royal houses were heard to say a word to stop the fighting, save for Rasputin, who foretold the end of the Empire—though perhaps already obvious to the neutral observer. I had also assumed that Rasputin was executed by the Bolshevik revolutionaries along with the rest of the Romanov family, but—and again, the true reckoning is obscured—His Majesty’s Secret Service, it seems, either pulled the trigger or at least provided the weapon in the assassination of Rasputin in the thick of the war in 1916. Rasputin’s warnings to the Romanov’s maybe were dissuading the Russians from entering the war, and with the tide shifting in favour of Imperial Germany in that year, the British knew that they could not hope to contain them if they were only challenged on their western front.