“Rasputin had convinced [Tsarina] Alexandra of his holiness, and no amount of evidence could turn her against him. All warnings about Rasputin came to seem like attacks on the family, and further isolated them from the people who wanted to help.” — Keith Gessen
Classic abuser tactics. Per the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center:
“An abuser may claim to be disliked by the friends and family of their partner and use this as a reason for not letting their partner associate with them. Often abusers will withhold phone calls and messages from family members and friends as a form of isolation. An abuser will generally attempt to gain control by cutting off supportive figures in their partner’s life.”
That absolutely fits how Rasputin blocked the Tsar and Tsarina from the rest of the Russian government (minus sycophants). Although it’s unclear whether the “Mad Monk” carried out his maneuvers intentionally, he successfully became the dominant figure in the Romanov family’s lives.
The most interesting unsolved mystery is how Rasputin soothed Alexei Nikolaevich, Russia’s young Tsarevich. The boy suffered from debilitating hemophilia, and apparently no one but Rasputin could alleviate his excruciating pain. Gessen addresses this in the Guardian article linked above:
“[Rasputin] was recommended to the family by their confessor, who had been impressed by his mixture of smelliness and religious fervour. Then it turned out that he seemed able to stop Alexis’s bleeding. Exactly what Rasputin did has been the subject of medical dispute. During bleeding episodes, Rasputin would talk to the boy, tell him stories, calm him down — this may have lowered the heir’s blood pressure, easing the bleeding. Contemporaries claimed that Rasputin could hypnotise people with his eyes, and it’s possible he hypnotised Alexis, with the same calming effect.”
I don’t find those proposed mechanisms convincing, to be honest. Is charisma really that powerful?
In conclusion, someone buy me Frances Welch’s biography of Rasputin.