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Rasputin: A Life Hardcover – 24 Oct 1989

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?In this rich and learned book. Fuhrmann presents a detailed biography of Rasputin well integrated with discussions of the religious social, and political context of the times. Even if the subject were not lurid and fascinating, this book would provide useful insight into Russian life at several levels--from Siberian peasantry to the court in St. Petersburg. Fuhrmann makes no attempt to argue a thesis or explain the significance of his material other than brief comments, e.g., that Rasputin helped destroy an empire.' There are no chapter summaries nor is there a concluding chapter. Fuhrmann's narrative technique depends much on direct quotation from primary souces. Control of the sources and the literature and the author's willingness to offer clear choices in judging some of the more controversial aspects of Rasputin's career help make the work very useful. Among many contributions worth noting is Fuhrmann's clear exposition of Rasputin's relationship with the official church, explained more thoroughly and sympathetically than in any other account in English. In sum, the book offers sound scholarship on important matters and will make a useful contribution to almost any collection on modern Russia. College, university, and public libraries.?-Choice

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Best Rasputin Biography in the English language 8 Feb. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Fuhrmann's book has given rise to many different reactions. It is true that there seems to be a lack of a central thesis. But in this excellent biography Rasputin's search for influence serves, in some ways, as a thesis. The problem is that this character was quite complex, and no one has better elucidated the problems and issues concerning Rasputin. Fuhrmann is also adept at extending these themes to this entire period of Russian history. The third section (focusing on government and religious officials) is a bit thick. But this was Rasputin's world as he lived it, and this book is a scholarly biography. If you want 400 pages that list Rasputin's debaucheries, go elsewhere. Yet the book is never dull, for nor was Rasputin.

His sinful side and his holy side are both clearly and abundantly explained via fascinating examples. Fuhrmann deserves praise for making controversial judgments. For instance, he unequivocally declares that Rasputin possessed healing abilities that are unexplainable.

This is an excellent book for expert or beginner. The author richly brings Rasputin and his dead world back to life. The reader will be pulled to this strange land, and thus will gain insight into the tragedy of Russia's 20th century history. Particularly compelling is the (often) sad end of the people who were important in Rasputin's life. With painful detail, Fuhrmann presents this material in the concudling section.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Furhmann's thoroughly - researched & enjoyable book debunks the
legend of the sex-crazed peasant that toppled an empire.
The author shows how the reaction by many to Rasputin
contributed to the Empire's downfall. Rather than the sole cunning
puppet-master, Rasputin was only one of several who controlled
the strings that tangled & toppled the last Tsar. Although he is, at
best, a secondary character throughout most of the
narrative, Furhmann clearly shows how Nicholas II was
simply not "born to rule."
No Longer the Best Rasputin Biography, but Still a Good One 28 Jan. 2014
By Michael Seahorn - Published on
Format: Hardcover
You really have to pick up a book to get a proper account of the life and deeds of Grigory Rasputin, the most infamous of all characters in Russian history. The vast majority of movies about him have remained occupied with the popular image of "the mad monk," and even history programs have been content to present biased half-biographies of him, like when the Discovery Channel shoehorned him into its "Most Evil Men in History" series. In his 1989, 286-page account, Russian historian J. T. Fuhrmann provides a balanced telling of Rasputin's life, more sober than many popular sources and critical of sensational "facts" that have been taken for granted for decades.

It is necessary to note that Fuhrmann would publish a longer biography of Rasputin over twenty years later, which incorporates more recent evidence to address certain events that were still cloudy in 1989, like Rasputin's assassination. In this way, the book here is sort of outdated, though only by its *amount* of information, not the *quality* of it.

The book is quite thorough, covering all eras of Rasputin's life with equal amounts of detail and bridging into the lives of the Romanovs and other figures when necessary. In instances of the latter, you almost forget that Rasputin is supposed to be the topic of the work. Nevertheless, this is necessary, as it helps demonstrate how individual perceptions of the man formulated into lasting historical images, and how the secrecy of his involvement with the royal family resulted in many slanderous rumors. Fuhrmann presents Rasputin as a figure who personified human duality, who could be simultaneously adoring of the royal family and crassly disrespectful towards them. The most important thing that Fuhrmann does in this study is point out through many examples of how Rasputin's ultimately destructive acts did not actually define his intentions, which were never about destroying the monarchy or gaining political dominance.

Fuhrmann addresses the hot topics of Rasputin's life with reason and clarity. He supports that Rasputin was never a member of the Khlysty, that he shared a symbiotic but wholly platonic relationship with the Tsarina, and that his mysterious healing powers were just that - mysterious - and can be only unsatisfactorily explained by the common theories of hypnotism and secret medicine. Noticeably unscrutinized is the aforementioned assassination, though the publication of Fuhrmann's second biography leaves me to think the author may have been skeptical but unable to find evidence to mount a proper retort.

Improperly supported is at least one other statement: Fuhrmann claims that Rasputin wasn't a greedy man, as evidenced by his charity towards his petitioners, but throughout the book cites the innumerable bribes he is supposed to have received and stating that he didn't die poor but "comfortable." Nevertheless, the book is solid when it comes to plain facts, and frequently entertaining with its collection of tidbits regarding the quirks of and relationships between characters.

There are better choices of secondary research sources, but as leisure reading, "Rasputin: A Life" is remarkably accessible and quite a page-turner. Again, history has rendered it a bit outdated in some respects, but far from obsolete.
A good read in its time (published in 1989) 28 Jan. 2015
By Robert Malone - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A good read in its time (published in 1989), but now dated. Grishka Rasputin has probably "enjoyed" (if that is an applicable word here) more biographies than any other simple peasant (Russian or otherwise) in history; but, hey, when you get to know him, this has to be one of the most fantastic individuals who ever took a breath of life! And, he was no evil despot, mass murder, war monger, nor evil opponent of good people (not to say that he did not have other issues). These biographies may have come to an end with the publication in 2000 of the latest volume, that by Edvard Radzinsky, "The Rasputin File" (also published as "Rasputin: The Last Word"). And, this came just shortly after "Rasputin: The Saint Who Sinner" by Brian Moynahan (1997), another excellent biography, but also dated by Radzinsky. What gives Radzinsky the edge is that he had in hand the secret files collected by Russia's provisional government in 1917; much was revealed therein that no previous author ever had access to. This is not to say Fuhrman's book is a bad biography, he does cover his subject quite well; it's just that more is known now then was known then.
An Enriching Historical Read 26 Feb. 2006
By LightningKayaker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Fuhrman does an excellent job examining Rasputin's influence on Alexandra, her husband, and ultimately the decisions that lead to the fall of the dynasty. He provides many examples regarding governmental ministry appointments in which Rasputin's decision is the ultimate answer, although he includes background information about random persons which, until later, seems irrelevant--one must skim to find the actual connection with Rasputin, and even then it sometimes is tentitive. Overall, the book is a good factual recount of the influence of Rasputin,
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