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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rasputin: The Untold Story
Having read many books about Rasputin, I am not sure that this book really uncovers too much that has not been speculated on or discussed before. However, the author certainly does write a very readable account of Rasputin's life and had access to documents and archives previously closed to researchers. This does mean that he can answer questions, such as the actual date...
Published 19 months ago by S Riaz

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Sorted a few things out
It was a good informative read but I got confused with all the names and places but maybe that's just me.
Published 3 months ago by M. B. Curtis


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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rasputin: The Untold Story, December 14, 2012
Having read many books about Rasputin, I am not sure that this book really uncovers too much that has not been speculated on or discussed before. However, the author certainly does write a very readable account of Rasputin's life and had access to documents and archives previously closed to researchers. This does mean that he can answer questions, such as the actual date of Rasputin's birth and there are many letters he can quote from which give a flavour of the kind of man Rasputin was. This is really fascinating, for there are few figures in history which have evoked such a passionate response from people - positive and negative - both during their lifetime and after their death. Rasputin, "the mad monk", the lover of the Tsarina, the man who ruled the Tsar, the miracle worker, the healer, the charlatan, the hypnotist, the drunk, the lecher and the fraud. He was called many things in his time and this is a good and balanced account of his life, which tries to uncover what he was really like.

Rasputin was, of course, born a peasant and remained proud of that fact all his life. He was virtually illiterate, learning only the basics of reading and writing in adulthood and expected to spend his life in the small village he was born and raised in. Instead, as the author vividly writes, when (admittedly not totally from choice) he went on a pilgrimage he was "leaving the confines of a small Siberian village and stepping onto the pages of history." It was in the Siberian monastery of Saint Nicholas where he was converted and the monks gave him a crash course in reading and writing. He claimed to have a vision on his return to the village and left for another pilgrimage, although his father scoffed that he, "became a pilgrim out of laziness." It is clear that even his own family suspected his motives and he was constantly dogged by suggestions that he was not sincere, that he has joined a sect, or that he was in league against the Church.

Arriving in St Petersburg in 1903, there is little doubt that Rasputin was ambitious and used people to open doors to the socially well connected in the city. However, it is not as clear cut as it first seems and although Rasputin took money from his followers, he also gave much away. The book obviously concentrates on his relationship with the Tsar and Tsarina once he was introduced to them and the reliance Alexandra felt for "Our Friend" once she was convinced he could heal her son, Alexei. The disastrous combination of a weak Tsar, the guilt of Alexandra, the hemophilia that affected their son and heir and the way Rasputin influenced political decisions, led to him being blamed for virtually all of Russia's problems. The author carefully peels away the myths and looks at how much power Rasputin actually had and what influence he played on events.

Overall, this is a really interesting read, and a fantastic addition to the books about this remarkable man. Reading reports about his drunken, debauched behaviour it is frankly incredible he lived as long as he did. Still, he swaggered through society, taking petitions and bribes, sending out notes to all and sundry (such as one given to an aspiring opera singer to hand to an official - "fix it up, she's all right" it reads simply) and bragging about his relationship with the "Old Girl" and his influence with the Tsar. In a country that was out of control, with disastrous political decisions, a war dragging on and a constantly changing stream of politicians coming in and out of office, it was clear that Rasputin's notoriety was simply too much to be accepted. Again, the book looks at his assassination, who was responsible and what the results of Rasputin's death had. If you are interested in who Rasputin was this book will answer your questions. It is amazing that such a man, who by rights should have stayed on the land and lived and died unknown, is still being talked about today. I think he would be proud of that fact somehow.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling man, compelling story., November 15, 2012
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This review is from: Rasputin: The Untold Story (Hardcover)
Referred to as "The Mad Monk", Grigori Rasputin has been maligned by history as an opportunist, but was he? Many of the answers can be found here. Although the power bestowed upon him by the Royals, (especially Empress Alexandra ) could be considered questionable, remember, as Queen Victoria's Grandaughter, Alexandra knew of her responsibility for her son's ( the future Tzar's )illness. All women in her blood line were carriers of hemophilia. The secret the Royals had to keep from the public at a time of unheardof political turmoil created a tension of which we can barely skim the surface. Enter Grigori Rasputin with his inimitable hypnotic stare, shady past and profound and undenialable ability to heal the dying child. It becomes understandable that the Tzar and Tzarina would bestow upon Rasputin so many favors he, at times, appeared almost as powerful as the royal family themselves.

Most enjoyable in this book are the passages dealing with World War I which also coincides with the bolshevik revolution, the latter of which will spell the end of the Romanov dynasty. And in all of this, Rasputin spins his web most intriguingly.

A thouroughly enjoyable book. If you can't get enough of Grigori Rasputin, this book will become a welcome addition to your personal library.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rasputin's Rise and Fall, March 11, 2013
This review is from: Rasputin: The Untold Story (Hardcover)
This book draws upon government archives in Moscow and Siberia including police records, some church records and author Joseph Fuhrann's own work on the wartime letters of Nicholas and Alexandra which he had translated and published in the 1990's.

While Massie's "Nicholas and Alexandra" emphasizes Rasputin's alleged healing powers, Fuhrmann documents his rise to power. Despite his semi-literacy, questionable past, heavy drinking and many sexual encounters he rose from a Siberian peasant to the highest ranks in society by courting and protecting access to the Tsarina.

Alexandra's letters to Nicholas illustrate the extent of Rasputin's influence. She continually writes her husband of "Our Friend's" recommendations on government policy and high level appointments. Nicholas sometimes hesitated, but he usually deferred. While there are a few periods when Rasputin was out of favor (he was once sent back to Siberia) he knew how to manipulate the Tsarina. To defend her "staret" healer, Alexandra commissioned the book: "Russian Saints who were Holy Fools".

The Romanov's are clearly out on a limb with Rasputin's appointees. Those who care about Russia, the monarchy and their work as well as traditional bureaucrats are stunned. Many of these appointees led libertine lives, for instance, the Archbishop of Tobolsk was a known cross dresser (who had himself photographed in a coffin, no less) who held wild parties at his monastery. Another was rewarded for clearing Rasputin of charges in one of the investigations into his past. Rasputin saw that those who crossed him such as Bishop Hermogen and the monk Iliodor met bad ends. With the Tsar at his back, he stacked the church and parts of the government with those who would be loyal to him.

Fuhrmann shows how Rasputin's influence was creating unnecessary dissent in a country that needed to be united for war.

There is a good description of the murder and the murder night. While Fuhrmann cites other published sources, this was the first I had read of possible involvement of the British Secret Service. The circumstantial evidence pointing to participation of Oswald Rayner, a British agent, is hard to ignore.

There is an interesting account of lives of Rasputin's family and the key players in the aftermath of this death.

The book has a good index. The list of characters, places and terms is very helpful. There are fascinating photographs (particularly: Khioniya Guseva, his first attempted assassin; Rasputin with Bishop Hermogen and the monk Iliodor; and a triptych showing the changes in Rasputin from 1909-1913).

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in this period of Russian history.
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22 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New information on this crazy time of history in Russia, October 27, 2012
This review is from: Rasputin: The Untold Story (Hardcover)
I could not put this book down. Although, I have read many books about Rasputin, this book had new information. The information was almost unbelieable. The control that the tsar and tsarina gave to Rasputin was crimial. Tsar Nicholus II was so weak and his wife was so strong. This book gave me an upclose view of how Russia was run during the war. I had always felt so sorry for the Tsar but, not anymore. For anyone that wants an updated view of Russian history, especially during World War II, this book is a must
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good biography of a controversial person, February 5, 2013
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This review is from: Rasputin: The Untold Story (Hardcover)
i've always been fascinated by Russian history and was glad i found this item at a decent price
will keep this in my permanent Russian history library
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Enigma Wrapped In A Mystery, February 20, 2013
This review is from: Rasputin: The Untold Story (Hardcover)
I chose to paraphrase Winston Churchill's famous description of Russia as my title for this fine biography of one of the most enigmatic and mysterious of Russians, Gregory Efimovitch Rasputin. Rasputin is famous, or rather infamous, for being the "holy man" or starets whose ability to heal the sick brought about the downfall of the Russian monarchy. Joseph T. Fuhrmann, an American academic with a lengthy background in Russian history, has done a remarkable job sifting fact from fiction with the help of material from former Soviet archives and other sources which were unavailable to previous biographers.

Gregory Rasputin was born in Siberia in 1869. Fuhrmann was able to reconstruct his and his family's life using material from previously classified archives. Rasputin seemed to be an unremarkable child who had occasional odd flashes of insight. Claiming to have received a vision of the Virgin Mary, he undertook pilgrimages across Russia and to Mt. Athos in Greece. He became famous not only as a starets but also as a lecher and drunkard in his home village. Eventually he travelled to the capital of St. Petersburg, where he put his saintly reputation to good use, along with his considerable intelligence and native guile. Eventually he came into contact with the Tsar and Empress, whose only son Alexis's hemophilia seemed to respond to Rasputin's prayers. The influence this gave him caused him to gain power over Russia's government, a power he used so ruinously that eventually he was assassinated.

This is a story that has been chronicled before, of course, but Fuhrmann's biography is valuable because the new material he gathered has allowed him to sift fact from fiction and create a clearer picture. Rasputin's reputation as a womanizer and carouser seems to have been exagerrated, at least in his early years in St. Petersburg. His power over the Tsar and Empress was also overrated, as Fuhrmann offers evidence of a number of times when Rasputin wanted something done which Nicholas and Alexandra refused or at least ignored. Similarly, Rasputin's power to heal Alexis' hemophilia apparently boils down to nothing more than good timing and good luck on Rasputin's part, helped along by faulty memories from enthusiastic but inexpert observers. Finally, the mysterious details of Rasputin's assassination turn out to have been somewhat exagerrated by rumor, although in this case the reality was already bizarre.

I've read many biographies of Rasputin and histories of Russia during Nicholas II's reign, but there was a lot in this book that was new to me. While I hesitate to use the term "definitive" to describe any biography of so mysterious a figure as Gregory Rasputin, I do believe that Fuhrmann's book reveals much of an "untold story" at last.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only in Russia ...., May 25, 2013
Russia at the beginning of the 20th century was a country of over 100 races and ethnic backgrounds. A country ruled by an autocratic tsar with absolute power, unwilling to make much needed reforms. A country where the literacy rate was 20%. A country with a deeply fatalistic and religious people. A country where a peasant born in obscurity, barely literate, ended up influencing the highest in the land.

This book is an even-handed treatment of the notorious Rasputin. A man with a high sex drive, who sometimes forced his unwanted attentions on women; Someone who had the power to influence which government ministers were appointed, at a time when Russia needed stability. A man who manipulated the desperate Tsarina Alexandra, who worried herself to the point of illness about her haemaephiliac son, Alexei. But also a man who was friendly towards Jews in a time when anti-Semitism was enshrined in the country's laws. A man who gave most of his wealth away to those who needed it. And a man who seemed to be able to bring genuine relief to the seriously ill Tsarevich, Alexei.

What is the truth about Rasputin? All those who knew him are long dead. The truth seems to be that he was a complicated figure; someone who was almost illiterate, but had a great deal of street and people smarts. He seems to have been sincere in his religious beliefs, but being a man of larger than life flaws,[and very human] he often strayed from the path. A man who found temptation usually too much to resist.

He certainly played a part in bringing down the Romanov dynasty. But to give Rasputin the sole blame for this is unfair. Nicholas II's refusal to make much needed reforms, Russia's costly war with Germany, food shortages, the insistance of the Romanov's in keeping Alexei's illness a secret - all this pushed Russia towards brutal revolution.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Answered some questions, left others, January 7, 2014
This review is from: Rasputin: The Untold Story (Hardcover)
Before reading this book, almost everything I knew about Rasputin came from fiction or from high school World History. I found this book highly informative, easy to read, and interesting, but it left me with lingering questions.

The author describes Rasputin's background as a Siberian peasant. As a young man he went on a pilgrimage (he had to get out of town), and experienced a conversion that convinced him that he had a holy mission, although the nature of that mission remained somewhat unclear to him. He gradually made his way to St. Petersburg (then Petrograd) where he developed a reputation as a healer and holy man. I was curious about that reputation, and the author offered several possible explanations for the alleged healings, from hypnosis to auto-suggestion, to fraud, pure luck, or a form of human "horse-whispering." Whatever his gift, he was eventually introduced to the Tsar and Tsaritsa, healed their hemophiliac son, and developed an unhealthy influence over them, particularly Alexandria.

Rasputin's fall takes less time than his rise. His influence over the government made him enemies. Some thought he was plotting for a separate peace with Germany in WWI (he was not), while others thought he was fatally weakening Tsar Nicholas' autocratic power. There were lurid stories about an affair with Alexandria and/or her daughters (untrue, although there were many women he did sleep with) and continual drunkenness (true, especially after an attempted murder left him with permanent injury). Conspirators led by Nicholas' cousin shot and killed Rasputin (again the stories of his surviving multiple shots, stabbings, poison, mutilation and drowning are untrue).

These stories make it hard to see him as the holy man that the royal family insisted he was. On the other hand he apparently did have some healing effect on the Tsarovich Alexis. He apparently was able to read people well enough to make accurate predictions about their future, which gave him additional influence. His position with the royal family allowed him to collect a fortune in bribes, but he gave all of it away. The author concludes that the world would have been better without Rasputin, but I find that I am still left with the enigma of who and what he truly was.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mad Monk or Mystic? A powerful influence was he., April 9, 2013
This review is from: Rasputin: The Untold Story (Hardcover)
The publisher's blurb for Prof. Joseph T. Fuhrmann's 1989 biography on the mad monk of Russia, Rasputin, heralded it as "rich and learned". With the fall of the Soviet Union and the gradual opening of more and more archives, Furhrmann's new biography on Rasputin which came out just this past fall, is, if not the "untold story", the better-told story for its access to documents previously unavailable. Not a "page-turner" per se, this 320 page book--just the right length--on the strange peasant from Siberia who had some genuine gifts of healing, a complex,confusing personality, and a thirst for advancement combined with a spirit of compassion and generosity, is very readable and always interesting. The word "balanced" also comes to mind, if writing about this notably unbalanced character can be called that. While of course the general drift of things is pretty well known, Fuhrmann takes us through Rasputin's entire life, sifting through what is known and unknown, and gives careful weight to all that is available. I was amazed at his (Rasputin's!) growing influence over Alexandra and through her, Nicholas. Part of the complexity is that Rasputin many times brought relief and perhaps even "healing" to their hemophilic son and heir, especially when the doctors could not. They sincerely felt they needed him and "Father Gregory", "Our Friend", drew ever closer although at times it was a tense relationship. With insight into Nicholas and Alexandra, and Russia at the brink of the 1917 Revolution, this is a very recommended read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flawed people unleash a tragedy., March 27, 2013
By 
Robert Connelly (Harvard, Illinois) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rasputin: The Untold Story (Hardcover)
I am really grateful for Joseph Fuhrmann's research and his ability to make sense out of an episode in history that seems to be drawn more from a James M. Cain novel than from actual events. Reading this book, I discovered that everything I thought I knew about Nicholas, Alexandra and Rasputin was incorrect. Nicholas and Alexandra were overwhelmed by crises: the illness of their son, the political upheavals of Russian life, the growing danger of a world war. As many frightened people do, they turned to what they knew. They might not have been knowledgeable about medicine or politics or diplomacy, but they were both deeply religious, and so they turned to mysticism. Because of their wealth and power, people on the fringes of the Russian aristocracy were all too happy to introduce them to Rasputin in the hope that their relationship with the faith healer would pay dividends for themselves.

In Fuhrmann's analysis, Rasputin was not a 'mad monk'. Rasputin was an alcoholic with a deep belief in his own gifts, which included a fatal belief in his own ability to run a country. The result was a torrent of human suffering and death that are impossible to describe.

This is a carefully researched, detailed account of a disastrous episode in 20th century history.
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Rasputin: The Untold Story
Rasputin: The Untold Story by Joseph T. Fuhrmann (Hardcover - October 1, 2012)
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