This eye-opening book relies on dozens of sources, people close to Rasputin, friends and enemies, and reveals the truth about him. Delin Colon is the great-great niece of Rasputin’s Jewish secretary.
Grigory Rasputin (born around 1870, died by assassination in 1916) was an uneducated, nearly illiterate, but highly intelligent and very religious man. He made a couple of pilgrimages to Israel. He was the spiritual advisor to Russia’s last Tsar and Tsarina. He was unfairly vilified by the fanatically anti-Semitic Russian society because, contrary to them, he advocated equal rights for all of Russia’s citizens, including peasants, the poverty-stricken, and Jews; his strong ethically-held anti-war views; and his opposition to the death penalty. The distorted history by his detractors pictures this saintly man as hypnotizing the Tsar and his wife and forcing them to obey his wishes. Actually, the Tsar frequently refused to follow Rasputin’s advice.
Rasputin “took up the causes of the oppressed, sometimes receiving up to 200 people a day.” He prayed with people and gave spiritual advice. He never took a penny for his services. He was an empathic and herbal healer, a man of peace who wanted to avoid war because he realized that it would result in millions of deaths, including cruelty to enemy soldiers and civilians, and would lead to the demise of his country. (Russia lost four million lives during World War I.) His strongly-held views about equal rights for all people took no cognizance of the person’s faith and background. He felt that “all religions were valuable and were just different ways of understanding God.” He opposed the death penalty because he was convinced that many condemned people were innocent.
Delin Colon describes in detail the terrible history of anti-Semitism and oppression of Jews in Russia by all but one ruler since Peter the Great spread the fear and paranoia about Jews during his rule from 1696 to 1725. He said that he’d rather have Muslim in Russia than Jews. There were times when Jews were expelled from Russia. Horrible restrictions were always placed upon them that affected every aspect of life. There were many “pogroms,” state sponsored murders of Jewish communities, where lives were lost and property confiscated.
Rasputin criticized these practices. “Instead of organizing pogroms and accusing Jews of all evils, we would do better to criticize ourselves.” In 1910, he took the side of 307 Jewish dentists who were charged with becoming dentists only to avoid having to live in the pale, the area the government insisted that Jews live. He saved them from being killed. In 1913, he stood up for Mendel Bellis at the infamous “blood libel trial,” where Jews were accused of killing Christians and using their blood when they baked matzot for Passover. He helped Jewish children enter schools despite restrictive quotas. He stopped some pogroms by alerting the Jewish community of the intended attack. During World War I, he helped free a Jewish doctor from a German prison. These are only several of the many humanitarian acts that Colon describes in her book.
The Tsar brought Rasputin to his court in 1905 because he heard that Rasputin was a mystical man, and the Tsar was very superstitious. He also heard that he was a healer; and Rasputin later used herbs to stem the bleeding of the hemophiliac son of the Tsar. However, the Tsar did not always listen to his advice. “When the Tsar issued a manifesto promising autonomy to Poland, Rasputin encouraged him to also grant equal rights to the Jews,” but the Tsar refused. He recommended to the Tsar that despite the vast profits that the government made from the sale of vodka, the Tsar shut down these stores, because the drinking was unhealthy and the cause of misery to the less fortunate classes, and the Tsar refused. He advocated “expropriating land from the aristocracy, with compensation, and distributing it among the peasants so that they could have food to eat and dignity, but the Tsar refused.
What did the Tsar himself think of Rasputin? He said, “he’s simply a Russian, good, religious, with a simple spirit; when in pain or doubt, I like to talk with him and invariably, I feel at peace with myself.” When the Tsar heard that his relatives had murdered Rasputin, he said, “I am filled with shame that the hands of my kinsmen are stained with the blood of a simple peasant.”
Scholars have concluded that if Rasputin’s programs would have been adopted by the misguided Tsar, they “would have been a viable means of averting the 1917 revolution.”
It is tragic that a person should be vilified because he sought to aid people, and it is even more heartrending that all too many people accepted these lies as true. We owe Delin Colon thanks for revealing the truth.
It is rare to find a well documented historical account in which the writer’s obvious passion is not a detriment. This book accomplishes that.
A survey of primary and secondary sources about a fascinating geographical area, era, and man, Colon’s *Rasputin and the Jews* is accessible reading for the armchair historian while providing citations for further study by scholars. Told in a friendly writing style, the text is entertaining and informative.
Anyone with an interest in Russia, the powers behind the First World War, the political systems of that era, or Rasputin himself should not fail to read this compelling account.
An amazing truth is offered to the world in this compact presentation. The author gives us the repressive political scene during the era of the Russian Czars and so sets the history to follow in which the anti-semitism that is so well entrenched it continues to be a force to impact the society as a whole. The fact that one individual, Rasputin, was active in interceding to allelviate the horrific conditions that existed under Czar Nicholas, (the last Czar)was not tolerated by the political powers of his time or for generations later. As a result, the Monk Rasputin, was villified and discredited to our time. It is a matter of recorded history that he had personal access to the Czar and was able, to a degree, to stem a certain amount of the inhuman treatment that was forced upon not only the Jews but the general peasant population.
The fact that social welfare was a great part of the behavior of Rasputin has too long gone unnoticed. I applaud the author for her courageous presentation!
As the saying goes, “Some facts are so well known, they are hardly facts at all!”
Using primary sources that are not widely available in this country, including the memoirs of Rasputin’s private secretary, Colon convincingly shows that much of what we believe about the life of Grigory Rasputin is, in fact, a fabrication constructed by his political opponents. You could be tempted to call this “revisionist history” but clearly the revision of Rasputin’s story began immediately after his death (or, in all likelihood, before he died). Colon’s description of this as a reversal of history seems apt. As a student of history, I found her thesis persuasive. The book is written clearly, with an eye to providing appropriate historical context for the general reader. I particularly liked the information about Aron Simanovitch. As Rasputin’s secretary he had a firsthand view of this complex character. Simanovitch himself is a fascinating person; I hope this book will help to keep him from fading into historical obscurity.
This is a well written page turner. Interesting from a Russian as well as a Jewish historical perspective. A good read.
I am not a history buff, but found this book very well written and extremely informative. I found this book easy to read. I didn’t know much about Rasputin prior to reading this book. It is an eye opener compared to traditional history writing. I commend the author for the time, effort and energy expended to create this historical summary.
Finally! After nearly a century of having his reputation maligned by an aristocracy rife with anti-semitism, a true picture of the indomitable Rasputin emerges in the pages of this book.
Written by an ancestor of his secretary, the true facts of his unusal talents and human empathy are revealed.
A “must read” for anyone seeking the truth about this period of history, in a Russia on a collision course with disaster due to their own hatred and indifference
towards those they deemed beneath their own status.
Brooklyn Park, Mn.
With its extensive bibliography, “Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History” is eye-opening in its contradiction of the typical portrayal of the man.
The Russian aristocracy’s inaccurate representation of Rasputin as an evil man who was to blame for the fall of the Romanov empire is shown to be false in Colón’s concise, accessible book. Many examples of Rasputin’s selfless actions on behalf of the Jews and the peasants, as well as to promote peace, are documented. This book is the excellent product of what was obviously years of painstaking research.
Reflecting on the concept of this book can serve us well in searching for the truth in historical writing. It clearly shows that the powers that be can control and shape the perception of well intentioned individuals. We learn that Grigory Rasputin who has been portrayed for the last century as an evil person was not evil at all. The author presents us with documented facts that show he truly tried to help the downtrodden. He was a spokesman against the anti-semitism that the Jews and peasants suffered under the oppresive regime of the Russian Tsars. We see how Rasputin put great effort in trying to influence Tsar Nicholas II, to whom he was an advisor, to better the plight of the Jews.
A lesson can be learned from this story. Even in today’s age of high tech communications, the public can still be duped by politicians. The truth can be twisted against a compassionate public figure, such as Rasputin. With this type of manipulation we can just as easily be influenced into supporting a insensate leader. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in reading between the lines of history and learn to seek the true facts.
This astounding revelation shouldn’t be a suprise given Russia’s track record for, to say it nicely, keeping secrets. The background history of the atrocious life for peasants and Jews is shocking. And just think of all the books and films that have been made depicting Rasputin as the mad, monster monk who brought down the Czar and caused the Russian Revolution. We’ve all been bamboozled. Kudos to the author for laying down the facts with such precision. This book is a keeper.
An astonishing reversal of history, this carefully documented and fascinating story of a long-reviled character makes
excellent reading. Rasputin’s life of giving good is finally revealed, exonerating his past reputation. How fortunate that we find that his secretary, a Jew, is the key to this revelation, and how fortunate that this secretary is a relative of the author, who was introduced to this history and encouraged to begin the research by her father.
I found this book easy reading and very interesting. I especially enjoyed the interplay of Rasputin with the Tsars and Tsarina, the Grand Duke, and the Generals in matters Jewish, the rest of the population, and history. I liked the way you quoted other authors who wrote about Rasputin, both pro and con, so readers could obtain the opinion of others as your story progressed. I feel that the ordinary reader, who does not know Russian history, would have appreciated the story and the gory truth of Rasputin’s murder, that the author excluded.
This is an interesting and thoroughly researched book that gives an entirely different view of Rasputin from what exists in the general history. IT reads easily and flows, and gives a clear insight into the world of Russia from a hundred hears ago. It describes the efforts of this man to alleviate some of the suffering caused by ignorance and fear that was widespread at the time.
It is well worth the time to read, and made me realize that there are many views of “history”, and what is commonly accepted may be grossly distorted.
This book left me angry and deeply saddened, I am absolutely amazed at how deceived I have been regarding Rasputin. I thank Delin for her scholarly and well researched treatise which corrects the historical record and informs us on a slice of Russian history.
It takes a special kind of person to undertake the task of changing deeply held perceptions of a historical character when there is no prospect of personal gain, yet that’s what Delin Colón has done with Rasputin & the Jews: A Reversal of History.
To most people who know little about him, the name, Rasputin, conjures up an image of someone disheveled, evil and debauched. If they know a little more, they may be aware of his reputation for having supernatural powers which he used to exert mind control over Czarina Alexandra, as well as his proximity to Czar Nicholas II to advance his own purposes. The stories of the many attempts to murder him — he was stabbed, poisoned, shot 3 times, bound and thrown into the river before he finally died, though it was never clear which of these actions ultimately did him in — only built upon the legend of his dark powers as well as the need, by so many, to get rid of him. Although no one denies that Rasputin was unkempt-looking, he was, in reality, a monk with what seemed like an ability to predict the future (though it was often just common sense), and a deep concern for the downtrodden.
Inspired by the published memoir of her great-uncle, Aron Simanovich, who was Rasputin’s Jewish secretary, as well as biographies written by Rasputin’s daughters, and memoirs from the Czar’s court, Colón demonstrates that Rasputin was maligned in history because he supported proper treatment of the Jews, much to the disdain of the Russian nobility and the Czar’s officers who were fervent anti-Semites and who jockeyed amongst themselves for the Czar’s favor.
Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russia, the last of the Romanov dynasty, blamed the Jews for all of Russia’s and their own problems, so it was quite surprising to learn that Rasputin was an ardent supporter and defender of the Jews. He sought to get Nicholas to call off planned pogroms, and helped get Jewish youths into Universities once the quota had been filled. He also advised Nicholas not to launch the Russo-Japanese War, the loss of which resulted in Russia losing its superpower status. Despite his many efforts and privileged access to Czarina Alexandra (she begged him to use his mystical powers to heal the crown price of hemophilia), Rasputin was never able to change Czar Nicholas’ thinking about the Jews. He did, however, dissuade Nicholas from conducting a few pogroms, and used his position and high-level connections to help get Jews into Universities, without benefitting, himself. But this didn’t calm the paranoia within the Czar’s court. Rasputin’s support wasn’t out of any special connection or obligation to the Jewish people, but simply because he was concerned for all oppressed individuals, and no one at the time was more oppressed than the Jews.
Colón draws a vivid picture of what life was like for Jews during Nicholas II’s reign over the Russian-occupied territories to show the environment in which Rasputin operated. Among the many way the Czar persecuted the Jews (beyond the pogroms) were many laws that made ordinary survival very difficult. For example, in order for a Jew to get into an institution of higher learning, his family needed to pay tuition for multiple Christian students. If a Jew was allowed to practice his profession, he was allowed to do only that, so “if an apothecary’s assistant, unable to find work, opened a druggist’s shop, for which his training qualified him,” this was considered a “change of occupation, leading to the forfeiture of his residence.” While Rasputin knew he was beating his head against a brick wall when it came to trying to talk to Nicholas about fair or equal treatment for the Jews, who had already, 100 years earlier, been banished to the Pale of Settlement by Catherine the Great, yet he never stopped to worry about his own welfare when he was looking out for people who needed a defender.
Simanovich, Rasputin’s Jewish secretary who witnessed his boss’ selfless acts of kindness, wrote his memoir to document the actions of a man who, during his lifetime, had been repeatedly maligned by those who feared the loss of their position or privileged status, and by history. Yet where Simanovich failed, Colón succeeded by drawing on multiple resources. And like Rasputin’s selfless acts of kindness, Colón, too, was only motivated by doing what was morally correct.
Rasputin & the Jews: A Reversal of History is a work of scholarship that urges us to rethink acquired prejudices. And what it points out is that Rasputin was as much a victim of anti-Semitism as was the Jewish population whom he sought to defend.
Bryna Kranzler, author of The Accidental Anarchist
I do not claim to be in the same league as the previous reviewers. My frame of reference is poor, and being a Methodist, not one saturated with knowledge of Jewish heritage. The author has addressed a subject matter conceived as truth and shed new light upon it to reveal fact, not fiction. Just as we were taught that Columbus discovered America and accepted it as truth, such was the story of Rasputin handed down as fiction, now revealed as fact.
My hat is off to Delin Colon for taking the bull by the horns and bringing it to heel. A well-written documentation of facts that vindicates a true man of God.
Grigory Rasputin has long been a legendary figure, surrounded by sensational stories of power, wealth, and extravagances on many levels. Hold on to that thought, because I will return to it shortly.
I am generally interested in good nonfiction, provided that it isn’t dry, dusty going. Having just finished “Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History” by Delin Colon, I have to recommend it as a stellar piece of nonfiction for several reasons.
First, the writing is quite good. Her skills as a writer aid her argumentation as well as the reader’s experience. Delin is articulate and her smooth sentences make for uninterpreted reading. Though the book is compact, it is not difficult reading because every paragraph matters and generally each one reveals some new and previously-unknown element of Rasputin’s life.
Second, the book is fascinating. The fall of the Romanov Empire, the folly and evils of the aristocracy, the truth about Rasputin himself….Being the great-great niece of Aron Simanovitch, Rasputin’s secretary, Delin has an intriguing, well-supported story to tell and she clearly communicates its importance. Additionally, it’s fascinating because of its complexity- the story is not a simple one.
Third, this book comes well-supported. Delin’s argument is clear, her reasoning is logical, and her sources (nearly 30) are varied in their biases and context is given for each one. The multitude of evidence she presents is convincing and thought-provoking. As I mentioned earlier, Rasputin has long been a sensational historical figure. In “Rasputin and the Jews”, Delin Colon clears the mud of sensationalism off Grigory Rasputin and shows readers a humble man of God who fought for equality and peace at the cost of his own life.
If you are interested in history or social justice, teach history, like to be challenged by new perspectives, or want to discover something many people don’t know but should, read “Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History.”
Rasputin and the Jews is a different view of the “mad monk” who visited the palaces of nobles and influenced the last czar of Russia. Rasputin has been accused of using his influence for his own benefit. But the author points out that he was not a “mad monk” at all, but an idealist who believed that all people should be treated kindly. Rasputin particularly worked to help the Jews in Russia, who were persecuted and harassed by unfair laws. Along with his Jewish secretary, Rasputin intervened to help many Jews. “We are all equal in front of God,” he said. Rasputin also advised the czar against entering World War One, knowing the suffering it would cause, especially for the poor. This book is very well researched and written, and is a fascinating alternate view of this famous religious man. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Russian history.
While it is important to study history to learn about people and events in our past; this genre is rarely on my list of books to peruse. However, after interviewing Delin Colon and then reading her book, “Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal In History,” I admit that I was unable to put this book down… intrigued by her attempt to dispel the inaccuracies of Rasputin’s life. I was fascinated from beginning to the very last page.
Interestingly, Delin is the great-great niece of Aron Simanovitch, Rasputin’s Jewish secretary. This enabled Aron to keep a journal of his experiences. She inherited his outdated memoirs and learned first-hand about Rasputin’s life and his dedication to helping oppressed Russian Jews.
After a decade of research and finding many variations of stories told by others; along with discrepancies with each story; she was determined to rewrite history and `right’ the `wrong’ betrayal of Rasputin.
Delin is an amazing writer, articulate and skillful. She was able to grasp my attention and keep it throughout the book. Her accounts are factual and backed up by well supported evidence.
Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal In History is a must read for those who enjoy history. Through her hard work and dedication, Delin is successful in her attempt to bury scandals surrounding Rasputin and exposes the real man… modest and religious with the passion to help people; even at the risk of losing his life. He was poisoned, shot, beaten and thrown into a river by government officials.
Most historians have dismissed Grigory Rasputin as a depraved lunatic and one of the primary causes of the downfall of the Romanov dynasty. This new book by Delin Colon draws on sources written by people who actually knew him, especially his personal secretary Aron Simanovitch. Quite a different picture results from Colon’s work. The Rasputin that emerges is that of a sound (but often ignored) adviser to the Tsar; a man of God who tried to advocate for all of the peasantry of Russia, including the Jews. Anyone interested in the events leading up to the fall of the Romanov dynasty and the Russian Revolution should read this book.
Delin Colón, author of Rasputin And The Jews, has, by her own admission, written a small book (110 pages); a small book with a very big aim – reverse history by revealing the truth about the treatment of Jewish people in Russia during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II and the part Rasputin played in alleviating their suffering under a regime committed to anti-semitic repression and genocidal practices.
Racial prejudice, whether because of race, creed or colour is not new to the recorded history of the world – since time immemorial, corrupt inept governments have attempted to mask greed and oppression by attributing blame to groups (most particularly Jewish communities) within their sphere of control.
The popular press depicts the last of the Romanov Tsars, Nicholas II, as a loving family man; a whiter than white ruler who was unfortunate enough to be reigning over Russia at a time of great political upheaval. Conversely, Grigory Efimovich Rasputin, spiritual advisor to the Tsar and Tsarina and psychic healer to their haemophiliac son, is depicted as a corrupt, blacker than black lecher, who by his evil actions and control of Tsar Nicholas, singlehandedly caused the 1917 Russian Revolution and the subsequent execution of the royal family.
Historical truth can be distorted; bad guys are whitewashed and good guys blackened to hide the criminal activities of powerful forces. It’s a matter of importance that Delin Colón’s research on Rasputin’s life and the reign of Tsar Nicholas II is supported by page footnote references and at the back of the book, a bibliography of source material. The great, great niece of Aron Simanovitch, Jewish jeweler and secretary to Rasputin, she devotes the first chapters of the book to documenting laws governing the life of a Russian Jew under Tsar Nicholas. Restrictions ranged from petty, mean minded intimidation with regard to residence, occupation and education to twenty five years compulsory conscription in the Russian army and the extreme danger of segregation in government enforced settlements – military and para-military groups regularly ransacked Jewish communities, wholesale slaughter of the inhabitants often occurring. These pogroms were carried out either at the behest of Tsar Nicholas or with his approval.
The author presents the facts in a clear dispassionate style. There is no attempt at sensationalism or embellishment. The daily frustrations and privations endured by Jewish people in Russia between the last part of the nineteenth century and the assassination of Rasputin in 1916 makes fascinating if horrific reading and there were times when I would have liked the author to expand on the facts by giving a glimpse of the `bigger picture’ of Russian life surrounding the historical period. Perhaps Delin Colón will draw a wider picture of pre-revolutionary Russia in another book.
The text moves on to Rasputin’s awareness of the Jewish people’s systematic victimization at all levels of Russian society and his attempts to redress the wrongs done to them by acting as an emissary on their behalf with Tsar Nicholas. This fell on deaf ears as Nicholas II was a lifelong anti-semitic, his fervent desire being to deport or murder all Jews in Russia. Rasputin never gave up his attempts to change the Tsar’s hatred of Jews, advising him many times that the demonization of Russian Jews would eventually lead to disaster for the Romanov dynasty.
Loved by Jews and Russian peasants, Rasputin helped overcome the injustices suffered by those least able to help themselves – bribery, rife at all levels of society, often saved or released a Jew from prison, promises of audiences with aristocrats or Tsar Nicholas was another means he used to allow Jews or peasants to enjoy basic human rights of education, employment and a roof over their head. Whenever possible he alerted Jewish communities to planned pogroms and was sometimes able to halt the murderous rampages.
Reviled and feared by the upper classes, Rasputin wasn’t a saint; only a good man who believed all men were equal before god or anyone else, for that matter. You really should read Rasputin And The Jews for an insight into the life of this amazing man – born to a peasant family he became a psychic healer, political visionary and major player at the court of Tsar Nicholas II while still retaining his humble origin and love of family life.
I liked this book; it’s a significant addition to the literature written about the one of the furthest reaching events of the twentieth century – the Russian Revolution.