Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs

Book - 2016
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"On the centenary of the death of Rasputin comes a definitive biography that will dramatically change our understanding of this fascinating figure. A hundred years after his murder, Rasputin continues to excite the popular imagination as the personification of evil. Numerous biographies, novels, and films recount his mysterious rise to power as Nicholas and Alexandra's confidant and the guardian of the sickly heir to the Russian throne. His debauchery and sinister political influence are the stuff of legend, and the downfall of the Romanov dynasty was laid at his feet. But as the prizewinning historian Douglas Smith shows, the true story of Rasputin's life and death has remained shrouded in myth. A major new work that combines probing scholarship and powerful storytelling, Rasputin separates fact from fiction to reveal the real life of one of history's most alluring figures. Drawing on a wealth of forgotten documents from archives in seven countries, Smith presents Rasputin in all his complexity--man of God, voice of peace, loyal subject, adulterer, drunkard. Rasputin is not just a definitive biography of an extraordinary and legendary man but a fascinating portrait of the twilight of imperial Russia as it lurched toward catastrophe."-- Provided by publisher.
"The definitive biography of Rasputin, spiritual guide to the Romanovs and source of great political intrigue, based on many new documents"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Farrar, Straus and Giroux,, 2016
Edition: First American edition
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780374240844
Characteristics: xx, 817 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm


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Nov 15, 2017

Poor guy, he didn't deserve his reputation! Sure, he was a sex fiend, but so are a lot of men!

May 06, 2017

A thorough study of a notorious man, which debunks many of the popular myths about him. At 600+ pages, it's definitely not a casual read, and although it says quite a bit about how Rasputin affected the royal family and the tsar's efficacy as a ruler, it doesn't speculate on longer-term historical impacts.

Apr 07, 2017

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was born into a peasant family in a small town in Siberia. In early middle age, he took up the life of a "holy wanderer", undertaking several long pilgrimages to holy shrines every year. His piety was recognized by others, and soon he was associating with distinguished churchmen in St Petersburg, then acting as a spiritual advisor to a circle of aristocrats, and finally being treasured as a living saint by the tsaritsa. Meanwhile, Rasputin indulged in all manner of vices, drinking too much and sleeping with his female admirers. Eventually he was brutally murdered by a conspiracy of aristocrats who believed his influence was leading Russia to ruin.

Such are the facts. The legend is something else - the dark force at the beginning of the twentieth century, the cartoon sorceror, the mad monk who was, in reality, neither mad nor a monk. As Douglas Smith reveals, Rasputin was a legend even in his own time, and the myths surrounding him were the cause of his rise and the cause of his downfall. Indeed, according to Smith, even much of the accepted biography of Rasputin is based primarily on rumor and gossip. In this atmosphere of suspicion Rasputin became the explanation for every ill that befell Russia, simultaneously encouraging the enemies of the tsar and alienating his supporters even as crisis followed crisis.

Smith's fascinating biography of Rasputin is long but continuously interesting. He touches on many of the cultural factors that shaped the life and times of Rasputin - Russian industrialization and modernization, the mania for spiritualism, the romanticization of the narod, the paradox of a tsar who sought to be both an absolute monarch and a private citizen - while giving due respect to the complexity of events and the agency of individuals. There are a few odd moments, as when he advances the eugenicist view that the tsarevich Alexei would have been better off not being born rather than being born a hemophiliac, or when he sniffs contemptuously at the devout Grand Duchess Elisaveta's approval of Rasputin's murder, but these disagreeable passages do not affect the bulk of the book. That stands as simultaneously a corrective to the legends surrounding Rasputin and a portrait, through those legends, of Russian society at the dawn of the twentieth century, a society on the brink of destruction.

Mar 03, 2017

may not interest your average reader, but if you are interested in history like me, there is a lot of information and it did help separate the man from the myth.
also, it shows how the monarchy collapsed due to their keeping Rasputin close, mostly due to the future heir to the throne having hemophilia, which the Tsarista believed Rasputin's prayers kept safe.

Jan 27, 2017

You could ask a lot of people about Rasputin and you'd probably get answers about a mad monk who helped bring down the Romanovs and was assassinated. Douglas Smith's exhaustive and exhausting (700 pages plus notes) aims to find the truth behind the myth. It's an Impressive work of scholarship, but I don't if it's meant for a general reader. I lost interest about 300 pages in. There's a lot of interesting material here, but it's not well-edited and the sheer bulk is overwhelming. Again, perhaps it's meant more for the Russian scholar than the average reader.

multcolib_susannel Dec 31, 2016

Devil or Holy Fool? The recent opening of new archives of the Russian Secret Police and other newly released documents, have shed light on the character and life of Grigory Rasputin.


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