Selected excerpts from the web

Григо́рий Ефи́мович Распу́тин

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (Григорий Ефимович Распутин)

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 O.S. (equivalent to 22 January 1869 N.S.)

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 reputed powers was when Efim Rasputin, Grigori's father, had one of his horses stolen and it was claimed that Rasputin was able to identify the man who had committed the theft.

When he was around the age of eighteen Rasputin spent three months in the Verkhoturye Monastery, possibly as 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. 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 did not, in the end, remove Rasputin from his position of influence; on 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 then 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 and he modelled himself after him. Rasputin married Praskovia Fyodorovna Dubrovina in 1889 and they had three children; 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 he arrived in Saint Petersburg where he gradually gained a reputation as a starets (or holy man) with healing and prophetic powers.