“Go to St. Petersburg,” said the Holy Mother, the Virgin of Kazan, to Grigori Efimovich Rasputin. And so it was that Rasputin left his Siberian home and traveled to St. Petersburg.
The city had been built beginning May 16, 1703, by order of Peter the Great, Tsar of all the Russias. Thirty-one islands were connected by bridges, transforming the low swampy land into “the Venice of the North.”
Rasputin arrived in St. Petersburg late in 1904. With his keen spiritual awareness, the Russian starets (wandering holy man) tuned into the vibes. All was not well in this Venice of the North. St. Petersburg at the time might have been called “the New Sodom.” Perverse pleasures were sought by some of the aristocrats. Others were preoccupied by the occult. The ladies of the court practiced yoga breathing while their husbands chased after infinite prostitutes.
Among the spiritual competitors of Rasputin was Sergei M. Trufanov, known under his monk’s name of Iliodor. Iliodor claimed “that the darkness of Russia’s condition and the reign of the Romanoffs were alike outgrowths of the peculiar mysticism of the Russian people. From the seeds of this mysticism grew up in the shadow of the Russian Court two forces, the ‘Sinful Angel’ and the ‘Holy Devil.’ The symbol of the dark force was Rasputin.” He “represented darkness, corruption, the source of the evils of Russia.”
(In the image at top, Rasputin is on the left and Iliodor is on the right. In the middle is Bishop Hermogen.)
But only later did Iliodor arrive at such a negative opinion of Rasputin. At first the two were friendly colleagues. In 1905, Iliodor later wrote, “It was clear that things were radically wrong in Holy Russia, though the proper persons to right the wrongs, I felt, were not the revolutionists, but the clergy. Russia needed a revolution, but a revolution led in the name of God; yes, and even in the name of the czar – a revolution against a weak nobility, a brutal police, a corrupt court.”
Partly with the help of Rasputin, Iliodor gained entrance to the society of counts, princes, and other dignitaries. There, Iliodor became aware of the “falsity, duplicity, hypocrisy, and greed” in the higher circles. To Iliodor, “the bureaucrats were nothing but a parasitic growth on the body of autocracy, sucking out the sap from the rose. The czar is surrounded,” Iliodor preached, “by thieves, grafters, and swindlers.”
For his part, Rasputin absolutely supported the monarchy. Iliodor, in a nuance on this, supported the monarchy but not the bureaucracy.
The troubles in Russia grew worse. Persons having no real love for Russia sought only to increase their own wealth and power. The Prime Minister, Vladimir Kokovtsov, was jealous of Rasputin’s influence on Tsar Nicholas II. Kokovtsov offered Rasputin a small fortune if he would leave St. Petersburg and never return. Rasputin laughed in Kokovtsov’s face. Trouble was stirred up in the Tsar’s Cabinet. Reluctantly, Nicholas sent Rasputin away, to his home in Siberia. “I live to serve you, Your Majesty,” said Rasputin. “But let me tell you something: there are dark forces about to do you no good.”
In 1913, the Balkan War was heating up. The Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolayevich, known as Nikolasha, received spirit messages from Joan of Arc, via a psychic medium. She urged Nikolasha, soon to command Russia’s armed forces, to favor war. The powerful Nikolasha turned into an enemy of Rasputin, who urged peace. For Rasputin, all war was an abomination. He believed the Kingdom of Heaven was within each of us, and that war therefore amounted to God killing God.
Nikolasha conspired with Iliodor to assassinate Rasputin. Iliodor had a devoted female follower, Chionya Guseva. Iliodor ordered her to kill Rasputin. On June 28, 1914, Rasputin was at home in Siberia. An urgent telegram arrived from the Tsarina Alexandra. Rasputin must return to St. Petersburg at once, she begged. The Tsarina did not give the reason for her request in her telegram. What had happened, and not then known to Rasputin, was that on that very day the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, along with his wife, Sophie, had been shot dead in Sarajevo by the assassin Gavrilo Princip.
Having received the urgent telegram, Rasputin walked to the post office to send a telegraphic reply. Waiting in town, on the lookout for Rasputin, was Iliodor’s chosen assassin, Chionya Guseva. When she saw the holy man, she approached and thrust a knife into Rasputin’s gut, and drew it upwards. The knife was stopped in its travel from the navel upwards by Rasputin’s sternum. Chionya Guseva withdrew the knife and prepared to stab again, but Rasputin managed to fend off the attack with his hands. Then, people nearby grabbed hold of Chionya Guseva and began beating her.
But for Rasputin, it did not look good. He hovered between life and death. Rasputin went into a coma and emerged only once, mumbling to his daughter Maria, “He must be stopped… He must be stopped.” Maria at the time could not tell what her father meant. Only later, toward the end of July 1914, was Rasputin strong enough to write a letter to the Tsar:
Once again I repeat; a terrible storm menaces Russia. Woe… suffering without end. It is night. There is not one star… a sea of tears. And how much blood!
I find no words to tell you more. The terror is infinite. I know that all desire war of you, even the most faithful. They do not see that they rush toward the abyss. You are the Tsar, the father of the people.
Do not let fools triumph, do not let them throw themselves and us into the abyss. Do not let them do this thing… Perhaps we will conquer Germany, but what will become of Russia? When I think of that, I understand that never has there been so atrocious a martyrdom.
Russia drowned in her own blood, suffering and infinite desolation.
Rasputin: The Man Behind the Myth, by Maria Rasputin and Patte Barham. Prentice-Hall, 1977
The Mad Monk of Russia: Iliodor, by Sergei M. Trufanov, a.k.a. Iliodor. New York: The Century Co., 1918