Last year I read a marvelous book, Former People- The Last Days of the Russian Aristocracy by Douglas Smith. After reading it, I lost my romantic admiration for White Russians due to their vehement anti-Semitic actions and views. They blamed the Jews for the loss of their privileged positions.
I have long been interested in the declining years of the Romanov dynasty and the role of Grigory Rasputin in the fall of the empire. I was delighted to learn of Douglas Smith's just published book Grigory Rasputin Faith, Power, and the Decline of the Romanovs.
Much of this book is devoted to correcting the legend of Rasputin as a mad wandering monk who walked out of deepest Siberia and became a close advisor to the last royal family of Russia. He gained an emotional hold on the Empress Alexandra through his seeming ability to stop the potentially deadly hemophiliac episodes of her son, heir to the throne. Smith provides the first plausible explanation for this I have read in saying that the attacks are made worse through tension and by calming the mother this calmed the son and stopped the bleeding. He first met the imperial family in November 1905.
Rasputin had large sexual appetites. He mingled with street women as well as women of high rank. He had large parties, often described as orgies in the press. Rasputin knew aristocratic Russian women would be fascinated by his roughness and his wild often filthy dress and outrageous manners and Rasputin, a master psychologist, played the holy mad man role for all it was worth. False rumors spread about he and Alexandra. Smith details all of this and separates fact from fiction while painting a vivid social portrait not just of capital Life but of the country. Rasputin had a wife and children whom he supported.
Rasputin 1869 to 1917
Royal Family Executed July 17, 2018
Rasputin became an advisor to the Czar, who was in no way fit to rule Russia. Rasputin was influential in his suggestions for political office. He gave the Czar advise, which to his credit the Czar at times ignored. It was, as Smith elegantly portrays the Czarina who was most under the influence of Rasputin.
This is a book full of fascinating interludes. The story of the assassination of Rasputin has been told many times and Smith does a very good job of this.
He tells us about Rasputin's role in WW One.
Smith sees Rasputin as a very important figure in Russian and indeed world history. He suggests without Rasputin there might never have been a Russian Revolution and without the Russian Revolution there may not have been a Nazi regime in Germany. This is a lot to accept but it should be pondered.
This is a very good book. It is long, with nearly 250 pages of notes. It is probably going to be the definitive work on Rasputin for a long time. It is not for casual readers but for those seriously interested in Russian history.