Connecting Grigori Rasputin, an early 20th century mystic in pre-Revolution Russia, and Indiana isn’t hard to do. But accurately condensing the life of a man who spent his entire life fabricating and cultivating an aura of ambiguity is nearly impossible. So I won’t try. Instead, I’ll explain him as I would to a high school classroom…

Grigori “the Mad Monk” Rasputin clawed his way into becoming the most trusted advisor of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandria, before their murder and the beginning of the Soviet Union. His reputation as a mystic is largely based on his keen ability to look, act and sound like…a mystic.

He earned the absolute trust of the last Russian royalty-the Romanovs-in a single incident. Considering him a trusted advisor and familiar with his “mystic acts”, the gullible Tsar Nicholas II called upon Rasputin when Alexei, the hemophiliac son of Nicholas and Alexandria, fell ill.

Rasputin’s instant reply, sent by telegram, put their minds at ease, but was probably the most influential “cold reading” performed in history. His words? The Little One will not die.

It was calculating. The frequently sick Alexei would either live or die. 50/50. Rasputin picked a side and waited. When the son survived, Rasputin received the “miraculous” credit. Had Alexei died…well, I doubt his grieving parents would spend much time or attention blaming a single Siberian holy man for a mistake. As charlatans have levered long before and long after Rasputin, people will almost always ignore the misses and count the hits (consider fake psychic and real charlatan Sylvia Brown).

Rasputin’s power grew and grew, until Tsar Nicholas II unofficially named him as second-in-command of…well, the entirety of Russia. With World War I going poorly and Rasputin’s motives questioned by everyone BUT the Romanoffs, several Russian nobles decided to take action.  

The Death of Rasputin

Ironically, the single famous act of Rasputin’s life was his death. Over a century has passed since assassins, paid by Russian nobility, killed the “Mad Monk” in a palace basement, and every decade puts another layer of mystery on his mythology. It could be wholly true, partially true or completely false, but that could be said about anything. With that in mind, I will summarize the most popular account of Grigori Rasputin’s death.