By the end of 1916, the extended Romanov family was desperate.
Someone had to put a stop to Rasputin. For some reason, the tsar and tsarina appeared to be completely bamboozled by this drunken, filthy man who took bribes and sold government appointments.
Perhaps Rasputin sensed he had gone too far. He sent this prophetic letter to the tsarina in early December:
I write and leave behind me this letter at St. Petersburg. I feel that I shall leave life before January 1st. I wish to make known to the Russian people to Papa to the Russian Mother and to the children to the land of Russia what they must understand. If I am killed by common assassins and especially by my brothers the Russian peasants, you Tsar of Russia, have nothing to fear. Remain on your throne and govern and you, Russian Tsar, will have nothing to fear for your children, they will reign for hundreds of years in Russia.But if I am murdered by boyars, nobles and if they shed my blood, their hands will remain soiled with my blood for twenty-five years they will not wash their hands from my blood. They will leave Russia. Brothers will kill brothers, and they will kill each other and hate each other, and for twenty-five years there will be no peace in the country.The Tsar of the land of Russia, if you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Grigory has been killed, you must know this: if it was your relations who have wrought my death, then none of your children will remain alive for more than two years. And if they do, they will beg for death as they will see the defeat of Russia, see the Antichrist coming, plague, poverty, destroyed churches, and desecrated sanctuaries where everyone is dead.The Russian Tsar, you will be killed by the Russian people and the people will be cursed and will serve as the devil’s weapon killing each other everywhere. Three times for 25 years they will destroy the Russian people and the orthodox faith and the Russian land will die.I shall be killed. I am no longer among the living. Pray, pray, be strong, and think of your blessed family.
Rasputin did not see 1917.
Inevitably, a plot was hatched. Five nobles, including the tsar’s cousin and his nephew by marriage, conspired to poison the monk.
Over time, Rasputin became more and more necessary to the Romanovs, at least in Alexandra’s opinion. The monk gradually became a fixture in the palace. He was given unrestrained access to the palace and was casually familiar with the family. Despite the rumors and substantiated stories, nothing could harm him with the Romanovs.
People noticed it, and reacted with resentment. In a sign of imminent trouble, suggestive cartoons appeared in the newspapers, disrespectfully portraying the tsar and tsarina as manipulated children, and the tsarina as Rasputin’s lover.
This is stunning, given the newspapers were censored. Even a year earlier, no editor would have had the courage to print them.
Then Alexei had another scare. Rasputin was in Siberia when Alexandra’s frantic telegram arrived: the doctors said the boy couldn’t live through the night. Rasputin responded immediately, reassuring the Empress that God had heard her prayers and Alexei would recover. The next day the tsarevich was better. After that, nothing could dislodge Rasputin.
Nearly a century has passed since he walked amongst the living, but people still ask, “Who was Rasputin?”
Grigori Yefemovich arrived in St. Petersburg in 1903. His strange appeal introduced him to circles of society to which no peasant ever rose. It’s hard for anyone living now to understand how remarkable Rasputin’s story really is.
A Russian living in the early 1900s would have found changing his status impossible and undesirable. In Russia, if you were born a peasant, you would die a peasant and wanting to do anything else was abnormal. They were far beneath the notice of the Romanovs; to the royals, they knew they were nothing more than a part of the landscape – like a tree or a horse. The concept of a peasant with influence over the Tsar was definitely distasteful. If anyone did have visions of powerful peasants, they certainly would not have selected Grigori Yefemovich as the man to lead them into the future.
Before he was a starets, or holy man, he was a well-known troublemaker in his village who had acquired a string of convictions for petty crimes. Rasputin did not trouble with hygiene and his lewd conversation disturbed men and women alike. He had a wife and children in Siberia, who did n0t interfere with his pursuit of any woman he encountered, whatsoever.