on 7 February 2006
A fasincating book, which does explains not only how Rasputin became so important, but, also the social, religious and political factors which affected Russia at this time.
But, it still does not explain Rasputin. He is called "this mysterious man" throughout the book and indeed the heart of the man remains a mystery. Mystical healers and "Holy Men/Women" abounded at that time and belief in them absolute in some quarters. The book partly explains what made Rasputin different from they others, but, not completely.
The book certainly made me want to know more.
When I saw that the title was Rasputin : THE LAST WORD I raised my eyebrow as I usually find such a sweeping statement a bit pretentious and pompous. Well after having read Edvard Radzinskii' s book on Rasputin I wonder whether this might be indeed the last word. I believe that a Russian writing on a very Russian phenomena is a bless. Understanding Rasputin requires a lot of understanding for the Russian soul. How could a person or personality as Rasputin could become so influential? How could he dominate the Empress and through her the Emperor? How did he mange to have such a large following? The book gives very clear answers and one understands, without forcing the reader to accept or approve of Rasputin. It is as well a vivid picture about the Russia before the Revolution and of the Imperial Family. Did Rasputin had healing powers? Did he see the future? Was he the love of the Empress? Radzinskii deals with all these questions in an open and balanced way with deep inside. Was he a victim or a villain? Read the book and decide for yourself. You will find a lot to think about and form your own opinion. I suppose that will not be the last book on Rasputin as this story is just too fascinating not to write about but all following books will have to deal with Radzinskii' s findings and opinions. This book is a pleasure to read!!
on 19 May 2016
I was looking for a book on Rasputin and came across this one in the list of many. Actually it’s title ‘Rasputin The Last Word’, initially put me off. How audacious to call a book ‘The last word’. It would have to be pretty damn good to live up to such a title. Besides what could it possibly contain that all the others didn’t. After all the whole world has, for a century, known the story of Rasputin. The mad false monk who influenced the Russian Imperial Family and of his mystical powers. Of how he was almost impossible to kill. How he predicted the downfall of the Tsar and helped to a degree by his behaviour to bring it about. Most of us have seen one or more of the many films made about him.
But I thought it was the latest to be written and maybe it did have something new to say. So I took the chance.
After the fall of the Tsar there was in 1918, a Commission setup to investigate the influence of Rasputin. This has always been know of course. It has always also been know that many files from that Commission went missing. I don’t think anyway thought a great deal of that. It may have been accidental. Most people thought they have been destroyed or at least lost forever.
Until the 1990s when they turned up in Paris. After many tests their authenticity was confirmed beyond doubt.
Then it became clear why they went missing in 1918.
Any report by anyone, which gave a less than negative one of Rasputin was not included in the Commissions’ final findings.
In the early twentieth century the Russian Imperial Court was like many which existed then, previously and still do. It had numerous lesser aristocrats constantly vying for the position of influencer with the Royal Family. Anyone who would find themselves in such a position would immediately be assailed by the others who wished to replace them.
Then there was the anti-imperialists. Those who wanted rid of the monarchy.
Rasputin found himself in the middle of these two camps, being attacked by both.
And he was an easy target with his, even by those days standards, bizarre appearance and behaviour.
The antimonarchists found in him an easy target through which to undermine the Royal Family.
One of those happened to run a newspaper. Soon he started printing stories about Rasputin’s unnatural behaviour and influence on the Royals. These stories became more bizarre and repulsive as time passed. To continue to grab the readers attention? Certainly to further undermine the monarchy and make them look weak, debauched, insane even, to the general populace.
These stories reached their height with Rasputin apparently having an affair with the Tsarina and all her four daughters. He rapped female members of the Royal household staff. And of course Rasputin violated men as well. And it was Rasputin who was actually making all the Tsars decisions for him.
To those who wished to replace him, whether they believed the stories or not, they gave them the ammunition to further their aim of getting rid of Rasputin.
Jumping on the band wagon, after all it made good copy and sold newspapers, the journalists of the day hounded Rasputin. They spied on his home, followed him through the streets, reported on all his activities. (Modern journalist is not modern) They made up a continuous stream of stories about him. They phoned his home and printed whatever he said. One such phone call is in the book.
“I tell you, I am a little fly and there’s no use in concerning yourself with me. There are bigger things to talk about, but for you it’s always one and the same: Rasputin, Rasputin. Be silent. Enough writing. You shall answer to God! He alone sees everything. He alone understands. And judges. Write, if you have to. I shall say nothing more. I have taken it all to heart. Now I am burned out. I don’t care anymore. Let everyone write. Let them add to the din. Such, it appears is my fate. I’ve endured everything. I’m not afraid of anything. Go ahead and write. How much will they worm our of you? I tell you, I don’t care. Goodbye.”
In 1914 there were many hawks among the Russian government and aristocrats, who wanted war with Germany. Rasputin had openly spoke out against war. One day he was returning home when a woman approached him begging for money. As he searched his pockets she stabbed him in the stomach. Rasputin lay in hospital for days hovering between life and death. It was during those days that Russia went to war. Though gravely ill and in great pain Rasputin wrote a brief note to the Tsar begging him not to. Prophesising of the ruin of Russia. And indeed the Tsar hesitated for a day before signing the declaration.
Rasputin was in hospital for many weeks and never fully recovered. On release he told his friends that he knew someone would finish the job.
Until then he had abstained from alcohol and preached to those who didn’t. He didn’t even eat sweets of any kind. Now he started drinking and the rapid decline towards the behaviour we’re all more familiar with began. There followed alcoholism, carousing, money for bribes etc.
The story of his murder, the poison, the numerous bullets, how he came around as two of his assailants were about to throw him off a bridge into the river and tried to strangle one, is of course the story told by those same people. It is to a large degree a fabrication as proved by the autopsy report. By making Rasputin seem to be some kind of un-killable monster they reinforced themselves to the world as righteous men fighting an evil demon. That he was still alive when they threw him into the river, and thus he drowned, absolved them to a degree of ending his life, as the bullets and supposed poison hadn’t been the cause of death.
You may find the real story of Rasputin even more extraordinary and more interesting than the myth. And perhaps even more surprisingly you may find yourself feeling a little sympathy.
Perhaps the review by the Sunday telegraph best sums it up – “the tale of how the aristocrats destroyed Rasputin, and how Rasputin ultimately destroyed the aristocracy, becomes, by the end, nearly impossible to put down.”
on 18 January 2001
Before reading this book I knew next to nothing about the mysterious figure of Rasputin. Not any more! The opening of the book conjures up an atmosphere of intrigue by revealing how most important documents detailing this period had disappeared - that is until the author came across 'The File'. This source, unread for decades, is the basis on which this book is written. Words from both his friends and enemies come alive despite the sometimes stilted translation from the Russian. From his early peasant beginnings to his lavish lifestyle as 'Friend' to the Tsar this man of contradictions is shown to evolve. The royal family tree, list of key characters and map of Russia are all provided to help the western reader. The great influence he had over the tsarina is, of course, explored - I came to my own conclusion about this and also the truth surrounding his murder - I recommend you should to!
on 27 March 2000
If you think there is nothing new to be said about Rasputin, the 'mad monk', the mystic, the legendary seducer, the friend of the last Empress of Russia, the saviour of her son, the Tsarevich, then you would be wrong. Edvard Radinsky, whose 'The Last Tsar' gave a magnificent and understanding portrait of the sad Nicholas II, the Emperor overthrown by the Bolsheviks, now turns his attention to Rasputin, whose behaviour - many would say - led to the end of the Romanov dynasty. The newly discovered file of contemporary documents means that for the first time we are given an account that is based on fact and not on conjecture. Radinsky is a playwright and it shows in his sense of the dramatic. It is a stirring tale, not least the Svengali-style influence that he gains over the Empress and the final thrilling climax when he is murdered by two aristocrats certain that if Rasputin lives the dynasty will fall. We know what they didn't - that the dynasty was doomed anyway. I haven't enjoyed a biography so much for a long time. This is a book that illuminates our recent history. And I'd like to compliment the publishers for their choice of photographs - many which I've never seen before.
on 22 May 2009
I'm afraid I haven't finished this book - within the first few chapters I was heartily sick of hearing that the author did this, the author did that, and there was precious little fact to back up opinion. On page 30 the author states the opinion that; as in the cases of Hitler and Stalin; the fact that there was a series of infant deaths before Rasputin's birth should be taken to mean that God was giving a sign that the parents should not have procreated - and I find this kind of comment unneccessary, unhelpful and not what I wanted to be reading about when I pick up a book titled "Rasputin". I would far rather recommend Alex De Jonge's book on the subject, it carries opinion, but solidly backed with fact, and assumes that the reader has the intellegence to make their own judgement. It also has a pleasing lack of "preaching of opinion" by comparison
on 22 August 2013
This, for me, is the go-to biography of Rasputin. It's long enough that you get a sense of his life and achievements, and about as unbiased either way as is possibly for someone as controversial as the 'Mad Monk'. I do agree with some reviewers that you don't always feel that you know Rasputin the man, and at times it seems as if the passage is just a list of things he did, but on the odd occasions that you do get a sense of the actual figure, it is enlightening and interesting, and given Rasputin's lack of writing and the varying contradictions of the man, the lack of a definitive character emerging is to be expected. If you want a book on Rasputin, and have the time or patience to read this, this is the one to go for.
on 16 August 2000
The merit of Radzinsky is that he does not just present the facts about Rasputin, but enters into an entertaining discussion about the rumours surrounding this mysterious character. I found the description of the members of Rasputin's circle fascinating and was intrigued to read that Vyrubova may have been a lesbian and that much of Youssopov's account of the murder was fiction. Many other books and films on Rasputin present him as a crude lecher but there was evidently a deeply attractive side to him, which enticed numerous women. I feel Radzinsky touches on this. My only criticism was that the translation from Russian was too literal. Russian sentences do tend to start with 'and' and 'but' and a sentence such as 'With the Tsarina' is perfectly possible. However, this does sound stilted in English and the book does not flow as well as it might.
on 15 July 2008
For my history essay for A-Level I decided to write about Rasputin and his influence on the tsar, however at the time I knew little about the topic. This book was my first look at Rasputin and I found it to be a very informative and good read. While some prior knowledge is recommend, I had to watch a documentary first just so I had a rough idea what to expect, the book is relatively easy to read and not overly heavy going. Highly recommend and helped me with my essay a great deal.
on 9 December 2013
Anyone wanting to know about this mysterious character would be advised to read this book. It is meticulously detailed, and rather dense in content, but builds a very big picture of those turbulent times. One of the fascinating stories in Russias' history, it describes the isolation of the last Tsar and Tsarina, and the tragedy, almost Greek, of their struggle and vulnerability. Rasputins' role is all part of that situation. The book is hard to get into, and the translation a bit clunky at times, but the reader would do well to persevere.