Rasputin's Prophetic Death Letter
September 25, 2014
Writing my first episode of Skeptoid on the death of Rasputin was a great experience. The man lived a fascinating life and I loved uncovering the actual story of his death. One aspect of the writing process that frustrated me, though, was how little space I had to work with. To keep things within a certain word count and reading duration some really interesting aspects of Rasputin's life had to be left on the cutting room floor.
One such aspect was Rasputin's prophetic death letter. Before Rasputin died, he purportedly wrote a letter predicting both his own death and the fall of the Romanov dynasty. In some tellings of Rasputin's life, it is claimed that this letter is a true psychic or spiritual vision. In the kind of casual history pages that commonly come up in Google searches this letter is often mentioned as an authentic prediction written by Rasputin before he died.
Here are some excerpts of the translated text (you can read it in full here):
I feel that I shall leave life before January 1st. I wish to make known to the Russian people, to Papa [Tsar Nicholas], to the Russian Mother [Tsarina Alexandra] and to the Children [...] if it was your relations who have wrought my death, then none of your children will remain alive for more than two years. And if they do, they will beg for death as they will see the defeat of Russia, see the Antichrist coming, plague, poverty, destroyed churches, and desecrated sanctuaries where everyone is dead. The Russian Tsar, you will be killed by the Russian people [...]Rasputin dead by 1916? Relatives to the Tsar committing the crime? The royal family dead by 1918? It's a pretty impressive prediction if this was written in early December 1916 as claimed ... but it probably wasn't. It's entirely possible that it is faked, since it has no provenance prior to Rasputin's death. The existence of the letter was only made known by Aron Simanovich, a confidant of Rasputin's, after the October Revolution and the death of the Romanovs. The letter appears for the first time in Simanovich's memoirs, written in the 1920s. He claims to have kept it after Tsarina Alexandra was killed but there's no evidence for that other than his word.
But what if the letter is real? Even if we take it at face value there's still no reason to assume that Rasputin had some sort of legitimate paranormal premonition here. More likely Rasputin was simply aware of how unpopular he was in the months leading up to his death. Also, there's ample evidence that the conspirators couldn't keep their mouths shut about their plot, and so it would be entirely possible for those rumblings to have made their way to Rasputin's ear. Add to that a dash of political savvy, and Rasputin could easily have read the situation and made an educated guess on how things might play out. No psychic prognostication needed.
So, much like Rasputin's death itself, the legend of his supposed prediction of his own death doesn't quite match the historical record. It's an interesting footnote to the life and death of the "mad monk" (who was neither mad nor a monk, go figure), a man whose life is already interesting enough without such a letter in it.
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