Arch Villain Shown to be Hero – review of Rasputin and The Jews
5.0 out of 5 stars Arch Villain Shown to be Hero, November 29, 2012
This review is from: Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History (Paperback)
This book completely turns on its head my ideas about a unique personage in Twentieth Century Russian history. Anyone who knows anything about the so-called “Mad Monk” from Siberia who influenced the royal house of Romanov will likely find his/her concept of this enigmatic man absolutely reversed by the facts presented in this paperback. We can thank Delin Colon for this examination of the character of the real man named Grigory Efimovich Rasputin.
There is a widespread belief that Rasputin, the “Mad Monk,” was a thoroughly evil man who enjoyed sway over the Tsarina, and through her over the Tsar himself. Rasputin is usually thought of as a wild, crazed peasant, a self-styled monk, who loved doing evil for his own amusement. He is conceptualized as the one responsible for the fall of the house of Romanov. It is true that Rasputin was a Russian monk of peasant origins. It is true that he was close to the Romanovs. Because he was a Russian peasant, because he was a monk and was close to the Tsar’s family, it is assumed that he must have been an anti-Semite. It is true that the Russian peasantry was fiercely anti-Semitic. It is true that the Tsar hated the Jews. The clergy of the Russian Orthodox Church were extremely hostile to the Jews. It would be only natural to put these elements together and make the assumption that Rasputin would be anti-Semitic. It is known that he was murdered by several Russian noblemen. It is also usually accepted that the perpetrators of this murder were good and brave men who were ridding the royal family, the Russian Empire and perhaps all of humanity from this charismatic madman.
Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History, by Delin Colon, is truly what the subtitle claims to be; it presents Rasputin in a completely different light. Ms. Colon has assembled a weighty bibliography, including the writings of those who knew him personally, both sympathizers and enemies, and extracts from them a fascinating picture of this holy man.
Grigory Efimovich Rasputin, born in Siberia probably in 1870 and assassinated in 1916, is shown by Ms. Colon to be a true humanitarian. He gave unselfishly to the poor and to the ill; money seemed to have no importance to him, except as a means to help the unfortunate. He did his best to influence the Tsar into bettering the lot of the peasants, who led a miserable life. He strenuously, though unsuccessfully, attempted to better the lot of the Tsar’s Jewish subjects by giving them equal rights before the law, and to end the quota system, the pogroms and many other forms of persecution. It took courage to go against that deep vein of Russian hatred of the Jews and to try to move the Tsar.
Rasputin and the Jews, as its title indicates, focuses primarily -but far from exclusively– on Rasputin’s efforts to help the severely oppressed Jewish population. His efforts cannot be appreciated fully without knowing what conditions were for this despised minority. Therefore, very near the beginning of the book are chapters that detail this subject. What we find is an almost unbroken record of extremely harsh treatment: slaughter, expulsion, pillage, and forced conversions, among other methods of oppression. This, of course, was a common occurrence in all of Europe in the Middle Ages, but in the Tsar’s empire it continued into the late Nineteenth Century and the Twentieth Century. Typically the peasants, the Church, the Cossacks, and the aristocracy viscerally hated the Jews, as did the Tsar himself. In other words, this hatred permeated all classes of the Russian people. In addition to the pogroms, Jewish boys were forcibly inducted into the Russian army at the age of thirteen, and in some cases as young as eight years old, and forced to serve for from 25 to 30 years – isolated from any Jewish society– during which time they were subjected to physical abuse in the attempt to convert them to Christianity. It is important to understand this if one is to appreciate the unwelcome efforts of this “Mad Monk” to alleviate the suffering of the Jews.
Colon shows that Rasputin was truly a man of God who loved humanity and hated cruelty. What is true in the legend of this man, as Colon shows, is that he actually was a healer. She quotes Joseph Fuhrman, who in turn quotes Dr. Federov, the hemophilia specialist in charge of the Tsarevitch’s medical team, who stated that he was unable to stop the prince’s bleeding by any method. Further, according to this report, Rasputin would merely look at the little prince for a very brief time, and the bleeding would stop. Colon presents statements by various different people who were cured of a variety of afflictions, from migraines to paralysis and even of addiction to gambling, using extremely unorthodox methods. His Jewish secretary, cured of his passion for gambling, fell back into this habit after Rasputin’s death. This is hard to believe, but perhaps it had something to do with the power of suggestion on susceptible minds. Whatever the reason, it is striking that so many people attest to this power of his.
Rasputin hated warfare with its death and destruction, and tried repeatedly, although unsuccessfully, to convince Nikolai not to go to war in 1914. Russia’s participation in the First World War exacted a heavy price on the Tsar’s Empire in lives lost and economic destruction; it also set into motion a chain of events that would ultimately result in revolution and the death of the Tsar and his entire family.
We find, in this book, that this monk possessed a tolerance for the beliefs of others that is truly amazing in a Russian monk of peasant origins in the Nineteenth Century. Citing Yves Ternon, Colon informs us that Rasputin had “little respect for the clergy and considered that all religions were valuable and were just different ways of understanding God.” Who would suspect that Rasputin, the Mad Monk, would feel that way?
The picture that is formed of Rasputin in this relatively small book (110 pages) is that of a true man of God, a healer, a true humanitarian, a prophet, a courageous champion of the peasants and of the Jews. It is precisely because of these attributes that he made enemies of the aristocracy. Delin Colon, bases herself on the writings of many witnesses, both friendly and hostile, including those who knew him personally. Moreover she makes her points forcefully, directly and succinctly. She does a great service to history by her research and her extremely readable style.