In Rasputin’s hand: Images of the Mad Monk

During the summer of 1914, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (1869-1916) was stabbed in the stomach by a 33-year-old peasant woman named Chionya Guseva, outside his home in Pokrovskoye, along the Tura River in the Tobolsk guberniya (now Tyumen Oblast), Siberia. A former prostitute, Guseva purportedly screamed ‘I have killed the Antichrist!‘. Rasputin, near dead, was chased through the streets by Guseva. As he struggled, a crowd started to assemble, and eventually fought her off, loudly cheering to kill her. Terrified, she turned herself over to the authorities. She was placed on trial and declared insane. Seven weeks later, and after intensive surgery in a hospital in Tyumen, Rasputin recovered, and returned to the Tzar’s palace in St Petersburg. Lucky to be alive, he remained in constant pain until his eventual death in a second assassination plot eighteen months later.

During his recovery in Tyumen, Rasputin posed for photographs, which he later inscribed. One such example lies in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which I attach here. 

[Recueil. Portraits de Grigorij Efimovič Rasputin] Bibliothèque nationale de France, département Estampes et photographie, N-2 (RASPUTIN, Grigorij Efimovic)

In Rasputin’s own distinctive hand the eerily haunting image reads; ‘What of tomorrow? You are our guide, God. How many thorny paths there are in life’

Prophetic indeed, as months later a group of aristocrats murdered Rasputin. After drinking poisoned wine and eating pastries laced with cyanide, he was shot, stabbed, and finally drowned in the Neva River.

I gratefully aknowledge the Russian translation provided by Ekaterina Matveeva and Andrew Wood.

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