Born: c. 1870
Died: 30 December 1916 (assassination)
Best known as: Wild-eyed court mystic of Czarist Russia
Known as the "mad monk," Grigori Rasputin was an outlandish figure in the court of Czar Nicholas II of Russia. A wandering peasant and self-styled holy man, Rasputin became a favorite of Nicholas and the Empress Alexandra in 1905 after he laid hands on their son Alexis, apparently healing the boy of hemophilia. Rasputin was soon a fixture in the royal household and a particular confidante to Alexandra. Wild-eyed and unkempt, Rasputin was strangely charismatic and his personal magnetism was legendary; at the same time his bouts of drinking, womanizing, and wild behavior created a scandal in Russian society. He was finally killed in 1916 by a cabal of aristocrats who feared Rasputin's influence had grown too great. Rasputin's death became the stuff of legend: assassins fed him poisoned cakes and wine, and when the poison failed to kill Rasputin they shot him and beat him. Still Rasputin didn't die, until finally the men bound him and tossed him into the Neva River, where he drowned.
Extra credit: The mad monk was played by Alan Rickman in the 1996 HBO film Rasputin and by Conrad Veidt in the 1932 German film Rasputin... Rasputin died on 30 December under the modern (Gregorian) calendar, on 17 December under the old (Julian) calendar; Russia didn't adopt the modern calendar until after the Revolution of 1917. Some sources list the death date as the 29th (or 16th) of December, on the theory that Rasputin died before midnight on the night of his murder.
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