Photo by Tamara Malaniy on Unsplash
Rasputin traveled from Pokrovskoye to Kazan after being laughed out of his hometown. Upon arriving the people of Kazan took an immediate liking to him. He was charming and personable. Playing the part of a small-town boy coming to the big city. While in reality, he was manipulative, cunning, and disturbingly intelligent in comparison to the general population during this time. Rasputin’s ability to relate to the common people, by far his greatest skill, created an opening for him to rise through the ranks of the church. At this moment in history, the church was extremely corrupt, in the eyes of the people. The church and aristocracy were intertwined and many of the leaders were only involved to take advantage of the opportunities and perks that the church offered. Rasputin who would appear to have the greatest timing ever, arrived at the perfect time for the church to sweep him in. Rasputin developed a following in Kazan, claiming to heal anxieties and depression through thirty-minute conversations, and it worked. For all his shortcomings and folly he had a way with people, they would come to him with heartache, worry, and death and leave with hope, peace, and joy. This gathered enough attention and curiosity that the church would really take notice. The church saw this as a way to recruit Rasputin and show the common folk that they had accepted one of them into their selective club. He met with Archimandrite Andrei and Bishop Chrysthanos. They loved him at once as well, he was different, spoke with intent and vigor, and was genuine. Archimandrite Andrei and Bishop Chrysthanos wrote him letters of recommendation to go to the monastery at St. Petersburg to meet with Bishop Sergei. Rasputin traveled in style to St. Petersburg, in a luxurious first-class train car all on the church’s dime. Stunningly Rasputin had risen from walking in raggedy clothes covered in grime and beating himself to being rushed to the top of the Russian Orthodox Church in just five years!
Rasputin met with Bishop Sergei at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery along with one of the most important men to Rasputin’s further rise to power. Archimandrite Theofan was the youngest graduate of St Petersburg Theological Academy and highly connected to the aristocracy. Bishop Sergei, Theofan, along with other high-ranking church officials were impressed by Rasputin. Theofan would say Rasputin “amazed us all with his psychological perspicacity” and was actually so impressed by him that he invited him to stay in his home. Theofan would invite Rasputin to all the aristocratic parties and events. Russia’s elite class was the perfect environment for Rasputin, they were described as “cynical, bored, and hunting for new experiences” according to Joseph T Fuhrman. Rasputin’s peculiar manners and ideas created a deep curiosity among the high-class people. Theofan would introduce him to Milica of Montenegro and her sister Anastasia who were also known as the black pearls, the crow sisters, and the black perils due to a combination of their completion and interest in the occult. The two sisters would be his ticket to the Royal family.
Before we can dive into the fun topics included in Rasputin’s time with the Royal family, we need to discuss some aspects of the Royal family. Czarina Alexandra was born a Grand Duchess to the German Empire and granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Following in her grandmother’s footsteps she would be one of history’s most famous hemophilia carriers. Alexandra and Nicholas II married on November 26, 1894, in the Winter Palace following the death of Nicholas’ father Alexander III on November first. The Russian people viewed Alexandra as a bad omen, a foreigner who, “came to us following a coffin” as they would say. This rejection would only be strengthened by the couples’ failure to produce an heir, in six years Alexandra would have four daughters, Olga (1895), Tatiana (1897), Maria (1899), and Anastasia (1901). This assured the Russian people that the Czarina was cursed in heaven and that’s why she couldn’t bear a son. Nicholas and Alexandra turned to the occult and mysticism in hopes to have a son, and Milica of Montenegro would introduce her to Philippe Nizier-Vachot a mystic who claimed to be able to change the sex of the baby in the womb with “magnetic powers”. Nicholas rushed for a medical diploma for Philippe from Petersburg Military Medical Academy and made him State Councilor and military doctor. Weeks later at the end of 1901 Alexandra showed some signs she might be pregnant and Philippe swore she was carrying a boy. It was clear by mid-1902 Alexandra was not pregnant, a real doctor would tell her she had a molar pregnancy explaining the discharge of a “spherical, fleshy mass the size of a walnut” she had on August 19, 1902. Humiliated and deeply saddened Alexandra sent Philippe away to France. In 1903 Nicholas and Alexandra would support canonizing Seraphim of Sarov to be a saint. Seraphim was a monk in the Tambov region of Russia seventy years prior. After some push back, Seraphim was canonized and the couple went to the Sarova River, Seraphim had once bathed here, and bathed and prayed to be blessed with a son. In 1904 Alexandra was pregnant and on August 12 (July 30, old style), 1904, the heir was finally born, Alexei. It was quickly discovered that Alexei was a hemophiliac as the cut from his umbilical cord did not clot and his stomach bled for days. Nicholas’s family was furious that Alexandra had brought the “English disease” to their bloodline, and decided to keep the child’s hemophilia a royal secret from the people.
On November 1, 1905, Rasputin went with the black perils for tea with Nicholas and Alexandra at the Royal Palace. According to some sources, this was a meet-and-greet affair but turned into a three-hour discussion between Rasputin and the couple. After this Nicholas asked one of his advisers what he thought about Rasputin, the adviser told him he thought Rasputin was “insincere and suffered most likely from an inflamed brain.” Nicholas would ignore this opinion and allowed Rasputin to slowly get involved in his family’s life. Rasputin would impress his abilities as a healer on the family any and every chance he could, waiting patiently for the time to arrive to cement his place in their lives, and two years after the first meeting that moment would arrive. On June 19, 1907, Alexei in great pain caused by an internal hemorrhage in his leg, Rasputin would be called upon to heal him. Rasputin arrived prayed and told the boy, “Your pain is going away. You will soon be well. You must thank God for healing you. And now, go to sleep.”. Rasputin left and the following day Alexei was not only not in pain but was well. This would solidify Rasputin in the lives of the royal family at Alexandra’s side believing him to be the only one who could take care of her son.
Join us in part four of this series, as we explore some possible ways Rasputin was able to help Alexei along with the people’s view on him being involved with the family.