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Mystic 'healer' pushed Russia over the edge to revolution
Joseph Fuhrmann's op-ed column on Gregory Rasputin ("Great Lives" D-3)

 Gregory Rasputin was thought to have the gift of healing through prayer.
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Date published: 4/14/2013


--Gregory Rasputin was one of the most remarkable men who ever lived--this explains the public's undying interest in the Siberian mystic and healer.

People who met him were struck by Rasputin's eyes--eyes that were dark blue and radiant--eyes that searched the soul and penetrated the innermost recesses of the psyche. When Rasputin met people in social settings, he often took women by the hands and stared into their eyes. If his questions were personal, they obviously fit the person he was addressing: "Are you married?" "Where's your husband?" "Why isn't he here?" "Why don't you have children?" Most women did not care for this approach but some did, and they took "Father Gregory" as a religious authority and guide.

Many believed that Rasputin had the gift of healing through prayer, and though I'm not one to push religion on people, I have the sense that there was considerable truth to this notion. It was, in fact, the key to the peasant's success. Nicholas II and his devoted wife, the Empress Alexandra, felt the need to produce a son, since only a man could inherit the Russian throne. Nicky took Alex as his bride in 1894, and within six years she gave him four lovely daughters. Finally, in 1904, Alexandra had a son, Alexis. Their joy turned to despair when the terrible signs led them to conclude that this beautiful baby had hemophilia.

Doctors were powerless to cure hemophilia or even to lessen the terrible sufferings of internal bleeding. But Rasputin, a lowly peasant with no formal education, prayed and the attacks ceased, sometimes so quickly as to suggest that God was favoring the tsar's family with miracles. How did Rasputin "do it"? I plan to address this question Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m., April 16, at University of Mary Washington's Dodd Auditorium.

Some have supposed that Rasputin used hypnosis, forgetting that his patient was only 2 and unconscious when Rasputin first appeared at his bedside. I also discuss the subject in "Rasputin, the Untold Story," a best-selling popular biography published by John Wiley & Sons six months ago.

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Joseph Fuhrmann is professor emeritus at Murray State University, and author of "Rasputin: The Untold Story."