Mad Monk Rasputin

Day 237 of Colourisation Project – December 30

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

“No figure in modern history has provoked such a mass of sensational and unreliable literature as Grigori Rasputin. More than a hundred books have been written about him, and not a single one can be accepted as a sober presentation of his personality. There is an enormous amount of material on him, and most of it is full of invention or wilful inaccuracy. Rasputin’s life, then, is not ‘history’; it is the clash of history with subjectivity.

                                                               Wilson, Collin (1964). Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs.

That said, how one man, a charismatic Russian peasant and mystical faith healer with bad teeth, poor hygiene and strong body odour could hold such sway over a ruling monarchy beggars belief.

Grigori Rasputin was seen as “the dark force” ruining Mother Russia. He had inveigled his way into becoming private adviser to the Romanovs and an influential figure in Saint Petersburg, especially after August 1915 when Tsar Nicolas II left to take command of the army at the front. Rasputin played a key role in the last days of the Romanov dynasty leading up to the Communist revolution of 1917 and has held the fascination of many historians and film makers for almost a century.

Grigori Rasputin

Photographer: Karl Bulla – Grigori Rasputin 1910 – Coloured by Loredana Crupi

The ruling Romanovs, Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Aleksandra, parents to four beautiful and healthy daughters, fell for the charms of the illiterate faith healer, Rasputin after trying desperately to find a cure for their son and heir, Aleksei Nikolayevich who was afflicted with “the Royal disease,” hemophilia.

They had tried everything until 1908, when Rasputin was called upon to assist the young tsarevich during one of his bleeding episodes. Rasputin was able to assist the boy by quietly telling him stories to relax and calm him down, which in turn may have lowered the child’s blood pressure thereby easing the bleeding.

How he did it, is anyone’s guess. Some people believe Rasputin used hypnotism whilst others say he didn’t know how to hypnotize. Nonetheless the Tsarina was convinced of his healing powers. Rasputin soon became her confidante and personal advisor. Over the course of the next decade, Rasputin developed an increasingly influential relationship with the royal family and a complex if not tawdry place in Russian high society.

A Siberian peasant advising the tsarina was not a good look for the monarchy. As it turned out Rasputin was not such a holy or pious man. A lover of women and alcohol, (both in excess) he was notorious for his sexual dalliances with women in high society in exchange for granting political favors. Many in Russia believed Rasputin and the tsarina were both lovers and German spies. Rumours were circulating all across the breadth of the vast Russian empire as it was in those days.

The royal couple ignored warnings from the court and political circles of Rasputin’s destructive influence. Whatever his powers and influence it was enough to have members of the Russian aristocracy plot his assassination.

Rasputin appears to have had some premonitions of his death, which was not unusual given he was widely disliked by just about everyone except the royal family. Rasputin wrote to Nicholas that if he were killed by government officials, the entire imperial family would be killed by the Russian people.

“My hour will come soon. I have no fear but you must know that the hour will be bitter. I will suffer a great martyrdom. I will forgive my torturers and will inherit the kingdom”

On this day, December 30,  98 years ago, Rasputin met a brutal death at the hands of his assassins, several members of the aristocracy who claimed to have committed the act to “save the monarchy.” 

15 months later, Rasputin’s prophecy came true, when the tzar, his wife and all of their children were killed by Bolshevist assassins amidst the Russian Revolution.


“When the bell tolls three times, it will announce that I have been killed. If I am killed by common men, you and your children will rule Russia for centuries to come; if I am killed by one of your stock, you and your family will be killed by the Russian people! Pray Tsar of Russia. Pray.”    Grigori Rasputin

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