In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 17, 2014 at 12:58 am

Most people–especially Americans–like to believe they choose rational men and women for their political leaders.

This is especially true when it comes to deciding who will govern the country for the next four years as President of the United States.

And those voters like to believe that, once elected, the new President will base his or her decisions on a firm foundation of rationality and careful consideration.

Unfortunately, this isn’t always true.

And in an age when a Presidential decision can, in a matter of minutes, hurl nuclear bombers and missiles to lay waste entire nations, it’s essential for Americans to realize this.

Of course, Americans have no monopoly on leaders who rule by irrationality.

The classic foreign-affairs version of this is that of Nicholas 11, Czar of All the Russias, his wife, the Czarina Alexandra, and the “mad monk” from Siberia, Grigori Rasputin.

Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1905.  Founded by Czar Peter the Great in 1703, it was then the capitol of Russia–and the center of Russian cultural life.

(When Russia entered World War 1 against Germany in 1914, the Imperial government renamed the city Petrograd, meaning “Peter’s City”, to remove the German words “saint” and “burg.”

(After the Bolsheviks came to power in 1917, they renamed it Leningrad in honor of Vladimir Lenin, the first Communist dictator.  After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the city reclaimed its original name: St. Petersburg.)

Rasputin carried with him the auroa of a holy man and a healer.  A woman friend of the Empress made his fateful introduction to the royal family in late 1095. 

It was Rasputin’s claim to be a healer that cemented his relationship with the Czar and Czarina–and especially the latter.

For Nicholas and Alexandra lived with a frightening secret–one known to only a handful of trusted doctors: Their only son, Alexei–next in line to the throne when his father died–was a hemophiliac.

Nicholas 11 and Alexandra

A disease inherited on the mother’s side, hemophilia prevents the blood from clotting normally.  A slight cut can result in massive–and fatal–bleeding.  Even a slight bruise cause internal bleeding.

Doctors had told the Czar there was nothing they could do to cure his young son.  If an accident happened, all that could be done was to await the outcome.


So when Nicholas and Alexandra learned of Rasputin’s supposed reputation as a healer, they dared to hope that a miracle might be possible for their son.

And on several occasions, Rasputin seemed to deliver on his reputation–and claims–of being able to work miracles in God’s name.

One such instance occurred in October, 1912.  Alexei, riding in a train carriage, received an unexpected jolt, and began bleeding internally.

His condition became steadily worse.  He was given the last rites, and Russians were informed that the Czarevich was ill and needed their prayers to recover.  No mention of hemophilia was made.

Finally, Alexandra sent word–via telegram–of the situation to Rasputin, who was then in Siberia.  He promptly sent back a telegram: “The Little One will not die.  Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much.”

From that moment, Alexei underwent a steady recovery.

For Rasputin–and the royal family–it was a fateful moment.

Rasputin had been exiled to Siberia because the Czar was outraged by his notorious womanizing.  Drunk on his newfound celebrity at court, Rasputin had found himself sought out by scores of women.

Grigori Rasputin

They came in all ages and comprised both rich and poor.  For jaded aristocratic women, going to bed with a semi-literate peasant was a novel and deliciously carnal experience.

And Rasputin, who claimed to be a holy man, had a ready formula for relieving the guilt so many women felt after such encounters.

Rasputin preached a gospel that one could not truly repent until one had committed sin.  So first came the sinning, and then the repenting–and this, in turn, brought the sinner closer to God.

But Rasputin’s outrageous reputation made the Czar a target for scandal.  Gossips even whispered that Rasputin and the Czarina were lovers.

So, in 1912, Nicholas had sent Rasputin packing back to Siberia.

But with his apparent healing of Alexei, Czarina Alexandra demanded that he be returned to the nation’s capitol.

For her, Rasputin offered the only promise of hope for her constantly endangered son.

With Rasputin’s return, the rumors–increasingly uttered in public–started up again.

In 1914, Russia was drawn into World War 1 against Imperial Germany.  The Russian army–poorly equipped and trained–suffered a series of disastrous reverses early on.

The Czar decided to take personal command of the war effort–which meant spending most of his time at the front.

This, in turn, left the Czarina, Alexandra, behind in St. Petersburg, to essentially run the country.  And at her side, “guiding” her decisions, was the semi-literate peasant, Grigori Rasputin.

Rasputin, in turn, was the subject of countless and scandalous affairs–with wives, daughters, aristocrats and chambermaids.

Enemies of Nicholas II–including the Communistic Bolsheviks–relished the scandals as a way to attack the Czar through one of his intimates.

Finally, a group of outraged aristocrats, led by Prince Felix Yusspov, one of the wealthiest men in Russia, decided to “save” the Czar–by murdering Rasputin.

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