Genre: Adult Historical Nonfiction
Year Release: 2018
Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Alcoholism, rape allegations, religious persecution, murder, slander, propaganda, rural poverty
Once again, this nonfiction read comes from being thoroughly entertained by Last Podcast on the Left’s breakdown of the Russian mystic’s biography. Dear reader, there is even more to it than can be covered in a 4-part podcast series.
Douglas Smith’s account of the self-proclaimed holy man not only covers the isolated facts of his life, but also goes into contextualizing both Russian culture at the time and the myths and attitudes that contributed to his notoriety.
Told through letters, newspaper articles, diary entries, and other primary sources, this very long, captivating read ultimately leaving it up to the reader to piece together the truth about this absolutely ridiculous man. It’d be foolish to say that Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin did nothing wrong, but the antichrist, he was not.
What grabbed me most was how Rasputin opens with how much we know of Rasputin only exists because of the myriad stories about the man. From his agrarian life in Prokrovskoye, Siberia, the rumors were numerous. Smith puts so much effort into getting at the truth but also acknowledging with the ease of how they proliferated. So much of it had to do with the numerous attempts at character assassination before getting into the actual assassination attempts. The way it all unfolds had me grabbing the sides of my head and groaning at just how poorly almost everyone seemed to be at doing their jobs. From the Tsar to the future assassins, it’s a giant mess of having a common goal with zero cooperation and barely a foundation upon which to stake claims.
The massive core cast of characters from the Russian nobility are about as fascinating as the eponymous figure at this history’s center. From personal slights to political scandals to increasingly audacious power grabs, this story truly has it all. Smith put a lot of effort into not assigning people roles as characters in a fictional work, and it only enhances the work. It also contributes to the 800+ pages, but no space is wasted.
This book is a must-read for those wanting to learn about the fall of the Romanovs and the lead-up to the Bolshevik revolution.