Synopses & Reviews
On the centenary of the death of Rasputin comes a definitive biography that will dramatically change our understanding of this fascinating figure.
A hundred years after his murder, Rasputin continues to excite the popular imagination as the personification of evil. Numerous biographies, novels, and films recount his mysterious rise to power as Nicholas and Alexandra's confidant and the guardian of the sickly heir to the Russian throne. His debauchery and sinister political influence are the stuff of legend, and the downfall of the Romanov dynasty was laid at his feet.
But as the prizewinning historian Douglas Smith shows, the true story of Rasputin's life and death has remained shrouded in myth. A major new work that combines probing scholarship and powerful storytelling, Rasputin separates fact from fiction to reveal the real life of one of history's most alluring figures. Drawing on a wealth of forgotten documents from archives in seven countries, Smith presents Rasputin in all his complexity--man of God, voice of peace, loyal subject, adulterer, drunkard. Rasputin is not just a definitive biography of an extraordinary and legendary man but a fascinating portrait of the twilight of imperial Russia as it lurched toward catastrophe.
"[An] amazingly detailed, deeply researched biography. [Douglas Smith] carefully lifts the myths away from the real story, which nevertheless is presented here as a greatly compelling picture of a figure who at the zenith of his influence was known all over Russia." Booklist (Starred Review)
"In this monumental and soul-shaking biography, historian and translator Douglas Smith demystifies the figure of Grigory Rasputin.... With a Dostoyevskian flair for noir and obsession, Smith exposes the base motivations behind Rasputin’s enemies... [and] expertly handles the intricacies of the salacious scandals that enveloped the empire in anti-Rasputin hysteria and that eerily presaged the fall of the Romanovs in 1917... Smith’s depravity-laden history of turn-of-the-20th-century Russia hinges on his insightful readings of myth and motive, and their tragic consequences." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"[Smith] stuns with a scrupulously exhaustive biography of the monk's role in the Russian empire's fall and the rise of Bolshevism.... His dedication to extricating Rasputin's experience from newly available Soviet Union primary sources and international archives surpasses all previous academic works in breadth and scope... Smith's study will surely be considered the seminal scholarly work on Rasputin, an essential read for students of Imperial Russia's downfall." Jessica Bushore, Library Journal (Starred Review)
"Douglas Smith has delivered the definitive biography [of Rasputin] that is brilliantly gripping, as hypnotic, wild and erotic in its revelations as the Mad Monk himself, sensitive in its human portrait, astute in its political analysis, superbly researched with rich new material gathered in faraway archives, and populated with the zaniest cast of the deranged Romanovs, depraved bishops, whores, mountebanks, adventuresses, mystics and murderers." Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard (UK)
About the Author
Douglas Smith is an award-winning historian and translator and the author of Former People and other books on Russia. Before becoming a historian, he worked for the U.S. State Department in the Soviet Union and as a Russian affairs analyst for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Munich. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two children.