To the ignorant and almost illiterate peasant Rasputin is attributed a rôle akin to that of Samson in pulling down the pillars of the Russian Tsardom. His sinister influence on the conduct of the war, his co-operation, deliberate and unwitting, with the foreign enemies of Russia, the wrath which his outrageous conduct aroused against the autocrat and the autocracy, are set down by contemporary annalists among the principal causes of the Russian Revolution.
But the evidence adduced in support of this view is wholly inadequate. If the slovenly mooshik from Siberia had never existed, other charlatans would have wielded the sorcerer's wand in his stead. Before he appeared there had been no lack of them. "If only I have honey," says the Turkish proverb, "the flies will come from Baghdad." To the honey in Tsarskoye Selo they came from France and Montenegro, but competition was open to all the peoples of the world.
It is my belief that although friends of his--men like Stürmer, Protopopoff, and the Metropolitan Archbishop Pitirim--were influential, Rasputin their friend was only a symbol.
In a little Siberian village named Pokrovskoye, among the fens of Tiumen (province of Tobolsk), where the haunts of human beings are few and far apart, Gregory Rasputin first saw the light of day. The inhabitants, mostly sons and daughters of convicts, with developed atavistic tendencies, enjoyed an evil reputation among the neighbouring hamlets and villages, and prominent among them Gregory's father, known by the Christian name of Efim, eked out a precarious livelihood by horse-stealing. Brought up in this tainted atmosphere, the boy Gregory or Grisha