RASPUTIN: The Saint Who Sinned by Brian Moynahan

RASPUTIN: The Saint Who Sinned

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A biography of the bizarre figure--monk, healer, advisor to the empress, and tireless lecher--who did so much to weaken the monarchy before the Russian Revolution Moynahan, former European editor of the Sunday Times of London (The Russian Century, 1994, etc.) uses mostly secondary sources to arrive at a more persuasive judgment, though the details are scarcely less bizarre. Rasputin was born in Siberia probably around 1870, and from an early age showed unusual powers. These came to the attention of the empress, whose son, the heir apparent, was a hemophiliac. The evidence seems inescapable that on a number of occasions Rasputin was able to relieve Alexis of his pain and help him to recover when his other doctors despaired. The deep bond this created with the empress was based on her perception of his goodness, but in the wake of Russia's terrible defeats during the WW I, it gave rise to the widespread belief that the empress and Rasputin were part of a German conspiracy, and that their relationship was scandalous. It was, but not in any sexual sense. The empress used her influence over her husband (""Your poor, weak-willed little hubby,"" as he called himself) to promote policies and ministers that appealed to Rasputin and herself. Traffic near the front was reduced to chaos after Rasputin had a vision that only food wagons were to be allowed to pass. Ministers remained in office so short a time that they hardly bothered to move in. In all this, Rasputin's motives were more self-protective than venal, but his carousing and licentiousness aroused increasing scandal, and led to his assassination by Prince Yusupov, the heir to the greatest fortune in Russia, early in 1917. Moynahan calls Rasputin a ""curiously modern"" figure, and even if the emphasis falls on the curiousness rather than the modernity, he enables the reader to understand a society that by the end gave the impression, as the French ambassador reported, of being run by lunatics.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1997
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Random