Lords of the Drinks

Grigori Rasputin, the drunk who caused the downfall of the Russian tsar


Grigori Rasputin, shot through the head.

When we are discussing the greatest drunks in history we usually don’t mean hobos or bums.  But Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin sure could be catagorized as one. This Russian wandering monk made people believe he had special powers, that he was a some what of a saint, a psychic and a healer. Many people were fooled by his charisma, even the Russian royal family. Still Rasputin made many enemies by his behavior that wasn’t quite what you’d expect from a holy man. The born Siberian spent all his money on alcohol and women, started rumors himself that he slept with several ladies at the court, including the tsarina. While in his time many Russians feared him and even saw in him the Antichrist, it is quite impressive how a smelly hobo could move up in Russian society and share in the downfall of the imperial family, the Romanovs.

It was no wonder Grigori Rasputin loved his liquor. Born (in 1869) and raised in Pokrovskoye he was used to the cold Siberian winters, where vodka was considered the best cure to protect the body from undercooling. Although he had a wife and three kids at home, in 1901 he left home and roamed from monastery to monastery as a wandering monk. But since he was not officially connected to the Russian Orthodox church it’s probably more correct to call him a pilgrim. Rasputin himself however liked to present himself as a man of the church, while his gift was to explain the bible in the words of the common man. He had the looks you would expect from a hermit, that left society a long time ago. He wasn’t a big fan of washing himself either and his fierce eyes completed his image as a man that should be feared. However he couldn’t stay long in any place, because of his massive consumption of alcohol and women. And if that wasn’t enough in most cases he was just plain rude, making plenty of enemies wherever he went.

In 1907 Rasputin already had a reputation of a mystic. It was then that he was invited by the Romanovs; tsar Nikolay II and his wife Alexandra to have a look at their son Alexei. The tsar-to-be suffered from haemophilia and the emperor and empress were desperate. We can’t be sure how he did it, but the condition of Alexei actually improved a little after Rasputin’s first visit. From then on he was considered a friend and a holy man by the emperial couple, which made him basically untouchable. Well aware of this new status Rasputin pissed off a lot more people. His drinking and womanizing increased even further and he didn’t mind about bribes either for giving the right advices to the crown. When he started drinking even the tsar and tsarina were dragged through the mud. Although he would never speak bad of them in their presence.

His excessive lifestyle was eagerly used by opponents of the Romanovs. With the first World War also not going well for Russia this may well have driven many Russians against their tsar. A year and a half after Rasputin was assasinated in 1916 at age 47, so was the imperial family. But killing ‘the Antichrist’ was quite a lot harder than it seemed to an assembly of Russian noblemen lead by prince Feliks Yusupov. Legend has it that he first drunk poisoned wine. A dose that was enough to kill 5 grown man didn’t harm Rasputin at all. So Yusupov shot him in the back and thought the job was done and left. But when he came back shortly after not only was Rasputin still alive, he tried to strangle the prince. The other noblemen then shot him too, but still he wasn’t willing to blow out his last breath. So they cut off his penis, wrapped him in a carpet and threw his body in the river Neva. Dissection of the body later showed that there was indeed water in his longues to back the story up. But for some this still wasn’t enough. When the Bolsheviks of Lenin took over power, they took the body from it’s grave and burned it. Now even the most superstitious people could sleep in peace.

Through the years Rasputin has not been forgotten. Many movies have been made about this almost mythical figure, . But where some stories – like hooking up with the tsarina herself – might not have been real, its clear that his taste for the bottle was. His drunken talk might even have caused the downfall of the Romanov-dynasty that ruled over Russia for 300 years. Not bad for a bearded smelly hobo.

Micky Bumbar

More drinkers that left their mark on the world’s history.