Grigori Rasputin Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a Russian mystic who is perceived as having influenced the later days of the Russian Tsar Nicholas II, his wife the Tsaritsa Alexandra, and their only son the Tsarevich Alexei. Rasputin had often been called the "Mad Monk". It has been argued that Rasputin helped to discredit the tsarist government, leading to the fall of the Romanov dynasty, in 1917. Contemporary opinions saw Rasputin variously as a saintly mystic, visionary, healer and prophet and, on the other side of the coin, as a debauched religious charlatan. There has been much uncertainty over Rasputin's life and influence, for accounts of his life have often been based on dubious memoirs, hearsay, and legend. Rasputin was born a peasant in the small village of Pokrovskoye, along the Tura River in the Tobolsk guberniya (now Tyumen Oblast) in Siberia. The date of his birth remained in doubt for some time and was estimated sometime between 1863 and 1873. Recently, new documents surfaced revealing Rasputin's birth date as 10 January 1869 Not much is known about his childhood, and what is known was most likely passed down through his family members. He had two known siblings, a sister called Maria and an older brother named Dmitri. His sister Maria, said to have been epileptic, drowned in a river. One day, when Rasputin was playing with his brother, Dmitri fell into a pond and Rasputin jumped in to save him. They were both pulled out of the water by a passerby, but Dmitri eventually died of pneumonia. Both fatalities affected Rasputin, and he subsequently named two of his children Maria and Dmitri. The myths surrounding Rasputin portray him as showing indications of supernatural powers throughout his childhood. One ostensible example of these powers was when Efim Rasputin, Grigori's father, had one of his horses stolen and Rasputin was able to mysteriously identify the man who had committed the theft. When he was around the age of eighteen, he spent three months in the Verkhoturye Monastery, possibly a penance for theft. His experience there, combined with a reported vision of the Mother of God on his return, turned him towards the life of a religious mystic and wanderer. It also appears that he came into contact with the banned Christian sect known as the khlysty (flagellants), whose impassioned services, ending in physical exhaustion, led to rumors that religious and sexual ecstasy were combined in these rituals. Suspicions (which have not generally been accepted by historians) that Rasputin was one of the Khlysts threatened his reputation right to the end of his life. Indeed, Alexander Guchkov charged him with being a member of this illegal and orgiastic sect. The Tsar perceived the very real threat of a scandal and ordered his own investigations, but he did not, in the end, remove Rasputin from his position of influence; quite the contrary, he fired his minister of the interior for a "lack of control over the press" (censorship being a top priority for Nicholas then). He pronounced the affair to be a private one closed to debate. Shortly after leaving the monastery, Rasputin visited a holy man named Makariy, whose hut was nearby. Makariy had an enormous influence on Rasputin, who would model himself after him. Rasputin married Praskovia Fyodorovna Dubrovina in 1889, and they had three children, named Dmitri, Varvara, and Maria. Rasputin also had another child with another woman. In 1901, he left his home in Pokrovskoye as a strannik (or pilgrim) and, during the time of his journeying, travelled to Greece and Jerusalem. In 1903, Rasputin arrived in Saint Petersburg, where he gradually gained a reputation as a starets (or holy man) with healing and prophetic powers. Healer to Alexei Rasputin was wandering as a pilgrim in Siberia when he heard reports of Tsarevich Alexei's illness (it was not publicly known in 1904 that Alexei had haemophilia). This disease was widespread among European royalty descended from the British Queen Victoria, who was Alexei's great-grandmother. When Doctors could not help Alexei, the Tsaritsa looked everywhere for help, ultimately turning to her best friend, Anna Vyrubova, to secure the help of the charismatic peasant healer Rasputin in 1905. He was said to possess the ability to heal through prayer and was indeed able to give the boy some relief, in spite of the doctors' prediction that he would die. Every time the boy had an injury which caused him internal or external bleeding, the Tsaritsa called on Rasputin, and the Tsarevich subsequently got better. This made it appear that Rasputin was effectively healing him. Skeptics have claimed that he did so by hypnosis, which actually has proven to be very helpful to haemophiliacs. However, during a particularly grave crisis at Spala in Poland in 1912, Rasputin sent a message by telegram from his home in Siberia, which is believed to have eased the suffering. His pragmatic advice include suggestions such as "Don't let the doctors bother him too much; let him rest". This was thought to have helped Alexei to relax and allow the child's own natural healing process might take place. Others have made the less likely suggestion that he used leeches to attempt to treat the boy. As leech saliva contains anticoagulants such as hirudin, this treatment would most likely have exacerbated his hemophilia, not helped it. Diarmuid Jeffreys has pointed out that Rasputin's healing suggestions included halting the administration of aspirin, then a newly-available (since 1899) "wonder drug" for the treatment of pain. As aspirin is also an anticoagulant, this intervention would have helped to mitigate the hemarthrosis causing Alexei's joint swelling and pain. The Tsar referred to Rasputin as "our friend" and a "holy man", a sign of the trust that the family placed in him. Rasputin had a considerable personal and political influence on Alexandra, and the Tsar and Tsaritsa considered him a man of God and a religious prophet. Alexandra came to believe that God spoke to her through Rasputin. Of course, this relationship can also be viewed in the context of the very strong, traditional, age-old bond between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian leadership. Another important factor was probably the Tsaritsa's German-Protestant origin: she was definitely highly fascinated by her new Orthodox outlook — the Orthodox religion puts a great deal of faith in the healing powers of prayer.