Saturday, November 7, 2009

Russia's Mad Monk: Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin



For our Digital History class, we have been asked to assemble a summary of online sources pertaining to any given historical subject or character. One of history's most intriguing and controversial figures is Russia's infamous Mad Monk, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin. His life encompasses some of the most vile aspects of human existence, including rampant alcohol consumption, sexual promiscuity, dabbles with the occult and political intrigue.

Few historical characters have attracted as much attention as Rasputin. Said attention results in a myriad of websites of varying quality and worth devoted to Rasputin. This introductory guide to Rasputin on the web will examine the most reliable websites that have been produced examining the Mad Monk's life.

To get started with a concise, no-nonsense account of Rasputin's life, visit The Encyclopaedia of Saint Petersburg's page for Rasputin. It provides the bare bones to help the Rasputin reader start to understand the man's life without being over-whelmed by conspiracy theories and sensational stories.

The Alexander Palace Time Machine is a website devoted to Russian history, established by Bob Atchison, a historian who has worked closely with the Alexander Palace. This website is one of the best places to start for a biographical description of Rasputin's life. Atchison provides a detailed description of Rasputin's activities without the sensationalization that accompanies some websites devoted to this controversial figure. One of the most intriguing sections of The Alexander Palace Time Machine is a Okhrana Surveillance Report on Rasputin (Okhrana being the Russian secret police), a copy of Russian State Papers providing detailed information on Rasputin's activities from January 1915 to February 1916. The Alexander Palace Time Machine is also a useful web resource because it includes information peripheral to Rasputin's life, with biographies of royal family members and extensive examinations of other aspects of Russian history. That information helps the Rasputin researcher understand the Mad Monk in the wider context of his time.

For a good summary of Rasputin's early life, check out a page from Dr. R. Kreuzer's Russian Web Page, Rasputin: Poet, Magician, Healer, Prophet, Holy Monk. Dr. Kreuzer teaches at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and provides a great summary of Rasputin's childhood and development, although the webpage is not as useful when discussing Rasputin's activities with the Russian royal family and infamous death.

firstworldwar.com: a multimedia history of world war one provides a description of Rapsutin's life from the perspective of its importance in relation to WWI. This website focuses on Rasputin's influence with the Russian royal family without exaggerating and dramatizing his involvement.

The Home of Rasputin is a rather juvenile website that resembles a fanpage thrown together by a rabid Jonas Brothers tween. However, it does contain a useful page, a copy of the last letter written by Rasputin to Tzarina Alexandra less than a month before his death.

I was surprised by the volume of products and stores or restaurants that have been named after Russia's infamous monk. The Rasputin Vodka Bar in Toronto and Old Rasputin Imperial Stout Ale are two good examples. They may not help the Rasputin researcher understand the man's life, but it certainly speaks to his importance as an intriguing historical figure and the lasting impression that some famous figures etch onto society. Indeed, 1996's Rasputin (starring Alan Rickman) was released to wide acclaim and garnered several awards. And who can forget the 1978 hit by Boney M, their disco delve into Rasputin's activities.

For images of Rasputin, the best source is Google images. I thought an image search on Flickr might yield a wider assortment of Rasputin images, but they are not particularly useful to the Rasputin researcher. The bulk of Flickr's Rasputin images depict Old Rasputin Ale or photos of elderly bikers who resemble Rasputin; amusing but not particularly useful.

Rasputin's murder is a source of interest for nearly anyone who hears the tales about the series of poisoning, gun shots, and drowning that were necessary to slay the Mad Monk. The sensationalized story of Rasputin's murder can be read in an article by Jennifer Rosenberg, The Murder of Rasputin. Rosenberg's article is a summary of Edvard Radzinsky's The Rasputin Files, and provides gritty details about Rasputin's murder to satiate the salivating public eager for controversy and mystique. The information is not accurate but it helps the Rasputin researcher understand how these myths have evolved around Russia's Mad Monk.

Feel like having a bit of a laugh? Rotten.com's Rasputin entry is an irrelevant, light-hearted account of the man's supposed debaucheries and unsavory characteristics. Essentially a compilation of everything this blog has warned the Rasputin researcher to avoid! But it's fun, and history should be fun sometimes.

For those who want to find additional sites about Rasputin beyond Google, Delicious lists 443 Rasputin bookmarks, some of which have been mentioned here, but others may also contain good information.

A historical figure as controversial and out-landish as Rasputin stirs public interest unlike his more dull historical contemporaries. This interest in Rasputin's life has led to a plethora of websites, some of which focus on Rasputin's wild exploits and others that offer a more objective perspective on his life. The Rasputin researcher needs to keep that in mind while looking for websites on the Mad Monk's life.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog .. I never thought that you going to write about it:) thanks a lot

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