Archive for april, 2011

Those Russians…

I’m reading the book The Rasputin File by Edvard Radzinsky, this mythical man made eternal by Boney M and the October Revolution.

Apparently it’s the ”remarkable biography of the mystical monk and bizarre philanderer whose role in the demise of the [last of the] Romanov [tsars]” whose blessings of the only son of Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna of Hesse led him into a power position where ”in all affairs of state he was the man to please”.

Edvard Radzinsky does give a more nuanced picture. He points to Tsarina Alix’s will to believe, her subsequent joining a monastery together with her daughters, and how not only Grigory Rasputin but also people around her manipulated her and her powerful position by, well, essentially sucking up.

Of course, Grigory Rasputin’s role in the demise of the Russian Tsar’s Autocracy seems marginal in comparison with the Russian 1905 Uprising which scared the Tsar into signing a new constitution, essentially giving up the autocratic Russian rule against the will of the Orthodox Church and the Tsarina (which is weird since the Tsarina had a ”distaste for Russian culture, whether it was the food or the manner of dancing”).

Grigory Rasputin did make a big fuss about being treated well in the Russian Court at a time where the Russian Court was intensely disliked by everyone who was in or around it. Aristocrats are probably by nature conspiring and petty individuals, ref. the murder of Erik XIV or the Grand Vizier of Aladdin, Jafar, and especially in a time of turmoil, like vultures they immediately fly over the assets they believe they can pillage from the crumbling houses of wealth (for example bank bosses unless there is a public outcry and threats of a customer boycott of the bailed-out bank.). But he was also from a poor farmer’s village and family. Poor farmers do not make outcries and apart from in the Duma the tsar wasn’t actually much disliked, just a rather distant character who didn’t affect them much. Father Grigory’s comrades in religious arms, Russian Orthodox Bishops, have outfits like the one on the left. A by no means luxurious or particularly note-worthy outfit. On the contrary, quite humble and en par with the wealth of the population at large. At the time, Russian farmers lived in inland, sub-arctic climate without central heating (for reference, Belgium has coastal climate with central heating and it’s still pretty cold here in the winter).

When Grigory Rasputin came to Moscow he made attempts at writing down his thoughts and teachings. Edvard Radzinsky points out several times that he was only semi-literature and that his hand-writing was wretched. Wretched is a word I would normally associate with old crones and I realise I am stingy about this but he was aspiring to be a cultural man of literacy and handwriting and has been villified for trying to remain in a position and environment where he had the opportunities to achieve as much. Because on the Russian countryside, in the beginning of the 20th century, this was not a luxury awarded to farmers. And there was absolutely no way in which Grigory Rasputin could have figured the Bolsheviks would have made education compulsory only 15-20 years later, and even then he would have been well into his 50s and older people don’t get educated since apparently you can’t teach old dogs how to sit.

I wouldn’t make any claims as to his handwriting being particularly aesthetic, or his poetic skills particularly refined, but it’s unfair to call it wretched, and it’s unfair to not appreciate that aspiration. Regardless of his assumed sectism (which may or may not have been inspired by the khlysts: ”They believed in a possibility of direct communication with the Holy Spirit and of His embodiment in living people [and] practiced the attainment of divine grace for sin in ecstatic rituals” apparently reasoning that forgiveness can’t be sought by the virtuous, and forgiveness and repentence is that which marks a true believer) I cannot help but sympathise. The Russians were converted to a Christian belief when the powers that be decided it would be convenient, and Khlystian secterism is one aspect of defiance against forced conversions. For other forced conversions, read about Hernán Cortés, this grateful, Christian saviour of Aztecs who in his quest for their moral salvation was very sałvage, or, and I hate to bring up the dark past of the Crusades but there I did.

Anyway, deep down we all want to believe in sinning.

Of course, you can see it in his photos the intensity of his eyes, these alluring, hypnotic eyes that so intrigued the ladies in a way we would never want to achieve in the 21st century by means of L’Oreal Mascara Triple Brush. .

I am a post-mortem converted follower. I think he is treated unfair by historians, he was mocked for his cultural aspirations by the aristocracy of Moscow who saw him as naught but a quaint, religious wanderer, he is still mocked by historians and artists and is considered to have cause the demise of an aristocracy that was already crumbling under itself and an insane Tsarina. GOOD ON YOU, HISTORIANS.