Ever heard of Rasputin? He was a Russian peasant who rose up through the ranks to become confidant and friend of the Russian Czar Nicholas II and especially of Nicholas’ Czarina wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, who was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

Rasputin taking charge of the royal family through Nicholas II’s wife, Alexandra

Just how Rasputin wormed his way into the royal family is a bit of a mystery but in pre-revolutionary Russia, he was a controversial cult figure.

Women loved him. They actually swooned over him. And according to the Netflix docudrama, he fondled and slept with more than a few, young and older alike. Whether or not stories about Rasputin’s cultic sexual orgies are true is a matter of speculation. Some say his randy behavior was a myth designed to discredit him, a perspective that the series, The Last Czars, seems to largely overlook.*

Rasputin had what I call – actually the Beatles called – choo choo eyeballs. He was charismatic, could read people’s feelings, reportedly healed people, and used those skills or abilities to further his agenda.

Whether or not Rasputin really believed that he was “chosen” by God or saw himself as a charlatan, I can’t say. But it seems Nicholas and Alexandra depended on him to keep their hemophiliac son Alexei out of trouble. In keeping with the uncertainty, some say Rasputin merely calmed Alexandra down which in turn soothed the boy and promoted his healing. Others believe Rasputin had miraculous powers.

Just working my way through this series now, so far it seems pretty good if not quite outstanding. There’s something missing that makes a docudrama truly fantastic. But The Last Czars is definitely interesting. And Ben Cartwright as Grigori Rasputin offers a fairly convincing view of the “mad monk” or, again, as some say, the “miracle monk.”

Nicholas and Alexandra

Watching Rasputin I couldn’t help but be reminded of a professor I once had who immigrated from Central/Eastern Europe. Like Rasputin, the professor seemed to have almost miraculous powers of perception. During the course of my studies, I wasn’t sure if s/he was a manipulative monster or a super-intuitive on some kind of higher level. To me, it seemed s/he believed s/he could do whatever s/he pleased and assume that God would forgive, a refrain we hear again and again from the Netflix Rasputin who repeatedly tells his young girls and women (as his hand reaches up between their legs) that we have to sin in order to be redeemed.

A kind of backward logic, it seems. Do the bad thing on purpose so God can save you later?

In contrast to that kind of warped approach, we have the New Testament teaching: Trust but do not test God (Matthew 4:7).

Put simply, we should never take God’s love for granted or blatantly abuse it.

Caricature of Rasputin and the Imperial couple (1916)

Here come old flat top
He come grooving up slowly
He got joo joo eyeball
He one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker he just do what he please

* I’m halfway through Episode 4 at the time of writing.