The Battle for History – Part IV

Author: Vladimir Karpets

Translator: Yulian Orlov

Zavtra no. 23 (916), 8 June 2011

The most important place in the “Battle for History” is occupied by the explanation of the circumstances surrounding the fall of the Russian Autocracy as well as the fate of not just the Martyr Tsar, but also those who were close to him and his family. Not the least among them was a peasant; some called him a Man of God, while others called him a messenger of doom: Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin-Novy (or Novykh, 1869-1916).

In Soviet times, propaganda entirely “unleashed” the image of Rasputin as a symbol of the “rotten essence of Tsarism”… At times, this was a kind of cipher of a neo-Marxist (as in the Elem Klimov film “Agony” [1]) or pseudo-patriotic (as in Valentin Pikul’s novel “At the Limit” [2]) union of the intelligentsia against the “government in general.” However, this whole Soviet or (crypto-anti-Soviet) “Rasputiniad” had, in any case, a most direct link to the myth about Nicholas II as a “weak despot.” On the other hand, it was a key component of Western-cultivated Russophobia, in this case with a slightly “sweetened” taste as in the famous song by the pop group Boney M (the group’s soloist, Bobby Farrell, died in Saint-Petersburg on the night of 30 December 2010: the anniversary of Rasputin’s murder).

With the beginning of Perestroika, on the one hand, the beginning of the veneration of the Royal Family and the rebirth of Russian monarchism led to a special veneration of “starets Grigory”, while on the other, it also led to the resurrection of the cultivation of the most disgusting rumours, then clothed in the books of one of the “nightingales of Perestroika”, E. Radzinsky [3], then in the repulsive fantasies that were generated along with the “acquisition of the Empress’s letters” by the musical conductor Rostropovich between 1991 and 1993 [4]. Sadly, the Russian Orthodox Church’s episcopate (with the exception of individual hierarchs) has always leaned towards the second position; the “Rasputin subject” has long been used as an impediment against the veneration of the Royal Family, and later, like in the February days, all monarchists came to be called “admirers of Rasputin” (of course, with a negative tint). On the other hand, many Orthodox faithful (and not just political monarchists) truly, honestly venerate Grigori Rasputin, being as they are convinced of his absolute purity, and they attribute all dirty rumours to the slander of the anti-Russian press, liberals, and revolutionaries, who were for all intents and purposes aided by the police as well. Among the Orthodox people there exists a strong opinion about his sanctity. This opinion is shared by many parish priests and claustral monks.

After Richard Cullen’s television movie “Who Killed Rasputin (2004)” [5] and Stanislav Libin’s broadcast “The Conspiracy” (2007), in which the main role in the killing of the Siberian peasant is accorded to the British intelligence services (the “Windsors against the last of the Romanovs” line [6]), there was a clear, definite shift in broader public opinion: many have begun to understand the geopolitical context of not just the murder itself, but of the global scale and slander surrounding this event and those that followed. This was a definite shift. 

The next (entirely natural) shift is taking place before our very eyes. We are speaking of A. N. Bokhanov’s book “The Truth about Rasputin” [7] and the attached pamphlet of the same name, which were published by the Russian Publishing Centre. It is important that the author is not a journalist, but an academic scholar, a professor of history, and an author of university textbooks. Professor Bokhanov points out that “a vast portion of the “Rasputiniad” is based on material that is apocryphal or, in other words, entirely false – police documents, letters by individual persons, and diaries were all fabricated <…> These [pieces of “evidence”] are interesting because of two factors: the exquisiteness of the technology used in their production as well as the character of the social ideas that successfully absorbed the faked material.” The “tradition” that was founded by the liberal press of the 1910’s and which was continued with the fabrication of the “Vyrubova Diaries” by the “red count” A. N. Tolstoy [8] is still alive and well in our days. We are speaking in particular about Rasputin’s daughter Matryona’s memoirs, which, as Bokhanov shows and proves, she physically could not have written. What is more, the memoirs of people who were close to Rasputin like Maria Evgenyevna (Munya) Golovina, Yulia (Lily) Den and several others, are consciously being ignored. The Russian Publishing Centre intends to continue to introduce these materials to a wider audience.

The author gives a detailed account of the development of the “Rasputin legends” – such as his extraordinary influence on the Royal Family, his degeneracy, his “work for the Germans”, his membership of the “Khlysty” [9] etc. The higher aristocracy (including members of the House of Romanov), the Duma liberals, the “hierocratically” minded episcopate, the revolutionaries, and, finally, the intelligentsia of the Silver Age – all of these groups turned out to be strikingly unified against the Tsar, Tsaritsa, and the peasant…

As far as Grigory Yefimovich himself is concerned, Bokhanov presents a very interesting fact. When answering a question posed by the investigator N. K. Muravyov on how Rasputin saw himself, Anna Vyrubova answered thus: “He always said that he was one of the spiritual wanderers.” “This formulation,” Bokhanov explains, “meant nothing to the ‘lawyer’ and ‘socialist’ Muravyov.” It carries no meaning for our blinded contemporaries as well, be they liberal or socialist.

One more very important thing receives special attention in the book. “Rasputin” (to be more precise, “Rosputin” [10]) and “Novykh” are Grigori Yefimovich’s surnames from different lines. But it is the Tsar that commanded him to write his surname as “Novy.” This is the Name that was granted by the Tsar.


Translator’s notes:

[1]: Agony (Агония, 1974) more specifically deals with the conspiracy against and the preparation for the murder of Rasputin. It initially depicted Grigori Yefimovich and the royal family in a more sympathetic light, but with the US release of Nicholas and Alexandra (1971) the Soviet government pushed for a more hard-line, anti-Tsarist script. Rasputin is thus depicted as a degenerate hooligan, the Royal Family as superstitious and incompetent, and Rasputin’s killers as heroes. The final scene is a somewhat clumsy shot of Rasputin’s coffin being lowered into a hole filled with stagnant water.

[2]: In Extremis (До последней черты (1979, originally written and published as Нечистая сила (Forces of Darkness)) is a historical novel by Russian popular historian and writer Valentin Pikul’ (1928 – 1990). The title bears a resemblance to a quote from Lenin, which reads: “… [the first revolution] pushed it [the monarchy] to its extreme limit [cursive mine-transl.] and exposed all the decay and cynicism… with the monstrous Rasputin at its head…” Incidentally, this same quote appears at the very beginning of Klimov’s Agony.

[3]: Edvard Stanislavovich Radzinsky (1936 – ) is a Russian playwright, novelist, and prolific popular historian. He has written several books on Rasputin’s life and death.

[4]: Mstislav Leopoldovich Rostropovich (1927 – 2007) was a Soviet and Russian pianist, cellist, and composer who, among many other prizes, can lay claim to five Grammy Awards and two Russian State Prizes. What Karpets is referring to here is the transfer of Rostropovich’s archive to the Russian Ministry of Culture, where it was found to contain (among others) several letters by Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna.

[5]: The documentary can be viewed here.

[6]: Karpest would go on to write another series of blog posts developing this idea called “The British Crown against Rus’” (Британская корона против Руси)

[7]: Боханов, А. Н. Правда о Григории Распутине [The Truth about Grigori Rasputin]. Moscow, 2011. 

[7]: Anna Aleksandrova Vyrubova (1884 – 1964) was a Russian lady-in-waiting and the closest confidante of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna. After Rasputin’s murder, she was one of his fiercest defenders. Count Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1883 – 1945), nicknamed the “Red Count” for his Soviet sympathies, was a scion of the famous Tolstoy family and also a noted science fiction author.

[8]: The Khlysty (Хлысты) were a Russian peasant sect formed in the late 17th century. Their central ideology revolved around asceticism with bouts of ecstatic communal worship. Rasputin was (without any significant proof) and still is frequently accused of having belonged to the sect.

[9]: A reference to the older spelling of his name, which would be “Роспутинъ”. The current spelling implies a connection to the word “распутница”, which refers to a time of year when Russian roads turn into slurry; this was extended by analogy to be indicative of Rasputin’s alleged destructive or chaotic influence in government.

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