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Alexei and Rasputin

Alexei and Rasputin

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Alexei and Rasputin

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Aug 25, 2013


The world has long been fascinated with the compelling characters and cataclysmic events surrounding the end of the 300-year Romanov dynasty of Russia: * The mystical (and some say mythical) Rasputin and his influence on the teenaged Alexei, the heir * The passionate love affair between Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra * The four lovely Romanov daughter (OTMA): Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia * World War I and the Communist Revolution of 1917 Few books have touched on what was the greatest secret of the age; tsarevich Alexei's curse of hemophilia, "The Royal Disease." Entwined in this tale of incalculable wealth and global dominance is the enigmatic and magnetic Rasputin - peasant and holy man. Medical doctors could not help Alexei. Only Rasputin had the power to stop the flow of blood. Was he a saint or sinner? ALEXEI and RASPUTIN gives a face, a personality and a the boy who carried on his small frame two impossible burdens - heir and hemophiliac. Taken from first person historical accounts, ALEXEI and RASPUTIN is a novel about the boy whose murder changed the course of the world. This is the second edition of the novel originally written in 2000. Due to the unearthing of the tsarevich's remains in 2007, there is renewed interest in the family.

Aug 25, 2013

Über den Autor

I graduated from the University of Delaware in 1969 with a major in Creative Writing and a minor in Russian History. The Romanov dynasty fascinated me, especially the era of the last Tsar. Even the names were dramatic and mysterious: Ivan The Terrible, Peter The Great, Catherine the Great. Nicholas II was ill prepared and a hopeless leader of his 130 million subjects. Empress Alexandra had more strength of will and exerted it readily—although lovingly—over her passive husband. The image in the book of the 4 Grand Duchesses haunted me when I first saw it in 1966 continues to haunt me, knowing how those ethereal beauties met their horrific end. And then there’s Alexei. His incurable disease, the “Royal Disease,” inherited by no less an historical titan but blood relative Queen Victoria of England. Alexei’s affliction was the greatest secret of the age. Add to this the assassination of the beautiful family: the greatest outrage of the epoch. The mystery was compounded when the Siberian death pit was unearthed with the remains of but five members of the royal family. Two bodies were missing. This was in the year 1991, coincidentally the date of the demise of the Soviet Union. I wrote RASPUTIN and ALEXEI in 2000. With the remains of Alexei and sister Marie finally discovered in late 2007 with concomitant DNA verification, that mystery was put to rest. All these new facts have renewed interest in my book. Robert Massey, in his seminal work NICHOLAS & ALEXANDRA, speaks to Rasputin’s very real power over the Alexei the tsarevich. The Mad Monk certainly had no supernatural powers. What he did possess was an amazing ability to calm. When Alexei was bleeding internally his blood pressure naturally rose due to the very real possibility of his bleeding to death. Rasputin’s overpowering demeanor and riveting gray eyes mesmerized the boy, thereby reducing his anxiety and ceasing the flow of blood from the heir’s brittle veins. Aside from the fictional narrator Sergei, and his love interest Mathilde, all the characters mentioned and the facts in the book are well researched and authentic. My bibliography contains first person accounts of the era including Anna Vyrubova, Alexandra’s best friend and confidante who was later imprisoned by Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov a/k/a Lenin. The chapters in quotes are old Russian proverbs that providentially lend themselves to the story. Alexei and his family were caught up in a maelstrom of international events. The advent of worldwide communism followed the assassination of the Romanovs. Had he been born healthy, Rasputin would not have gained the power he did. The influence of this starets on Alexandra was infinite and was a major cause of the fall of the dynasty. Alexei’s life and death changed the course of the world. Join the Facebook group I created : Alexei Romanov – The Last Tsarevich. There are many fascinating people globally who are lovers of Romanov history. Greer Firestone

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Alexei and Rasputin - Greer Firestone

Abdication - a former surrender of power by a monarch

Alexander Kerensky - the second Prime Minister of the Russian Provisional Government until it was overthrown by Lenin. He died in New York City in 1970 at the age of 89.

Balalaika - a traditional stringed instrument of Central Europe and Russia; similar to a mandolin

Batiuska - Father - signifying reverence for the Tsar

Boris Godunov - a 16th century folk hero of the Russian peasants

Bosch - German, or German related

Courtier - staff of the palace; whose employment centered on pleasing the monarchs

Censer - a covered incense burner swung on a chain by the priest during a religious ceremony

Duma - the elected governing body of Russia; similar to the Congress of the US

Hematoma - a tumor or swelling beneath the skin containing collected blood

Hectares – 2 ½ acres

Icon - a sacred image of the Russian Orthodox Church; the painted wood icon with a luminous gold background being the most familiar

Iconostasis - a screen on which icons were placed at the altar

Kopeck - a coin worth less than a penny

Leon Trotsky - a major theorist of Marxism and a leader of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party under Lenin. Leader of the Bolshevik army in the Russian Civil War that immediately followed the 1917 Revolution.

Lese Majeste - an offense that violates the dignity of a monarch

Marseillaise - the anthem of the French Revolution - sung by freedom fighters internationally

Mir - the governing body of a peasant village

Miter - headdress worn by Russian Orthodox priests

Monarchist - a believer in the rule of a king

Narod - the Russian commoner

Nevsky Projekt - the longest boulevard in Petrograd

Okhrana - the Tsar’s secret police

Orb - a globe bearing a cross, used as an emblem of sovereignty

Peter the Great - Tsar from 1682-1725. Founded the city of St. Petersburg and Europeanized ancient Russia. The city’s name was changed to Petrograd in 1914 and has since changed back to its original.

Phelonion - our robe of a priest’s vestment

Pirozhki - pastry shells stuffed with various cuts of meat, rice, fish and chopped eggs

Preobrajensky Guards - the oldest and most loyal regiment to the Tsar

Regent - an adult who rules during the childhood of an heir

Scepter - an ornamental rod carried by a monarch as an emblem of royal power

Standart - the royal yacht of the Romanovs

Starets - a holy man who steals your will and makes it his

Steppes - wide expanses of barren flat grassland in north Russia

Taiga - the evergreen forest of Siberia, south of the frozen landscape of the tundra

Treaty of Brest-Litovsk - 1918 Treaty between Russian Soviet Socialist Republic and the Central Powers (Germany, Turkey, Bulgaria and Austria to effectively end participation in WWI.

Troika - wooden horse drawn sleigh

Tsar - Russian word for Caesar, or king

Tsarevich - title given to Tsar’s son

Tsarskoe Selo - The Tsar’s ‘Village’

Felix Yussopov - The chief conspirator and murderer of Rasputin. Born into the richest family in Russia, the Yussopovs were second only to the Tsar in wealth.

Verst - two-thirds of a mile

Vladimir Ilyich Ulvanov (Lenin) - First leader of the Soviet State

Vladivostok - the eastern most city of Russia, located on the Pacific Ocean

" . . . a starets is he who takes your soul and will and makes them his.

You give him your will in utter submission."

~ Fyodor Dostosyevsky  The Brothers Karamosov


The birth of Alexei Romanov, heir to the 300 year Romanov dynasty, changed the course of world history. The compelling cast of characters and the international events unfolding in the last years of Imperial Russia are unmatched in recorded history. Tsar Nicholas II, Alexei’s father, ruled over one sixth of the earth and more than 120 million Russians, 90% of whom were illiterate and dwelled in peasant villages in the vast lands far from the major cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg. The peasants scraped a meager existence in the frozen tundra unaware of the unparalleled and exorbitant luxury of the royal family in their palace at Tsarskoe Selo.

Nicholas and the Empress Alexandra, a German by birth, were deeply in love. They had four precious daughters, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia. But succession of the Romanov dynasty demanded a male heir.

Prayers appeared to be granted with the birth of a son, Alexei on August 12 1904. The family’s exhilaration was crushed immediately when Alexei began hemorrhaging at the navel. Within her womb, Alexandra carried a demon seed. Historians mockingly called it Fate’s Joke on Kings. From her grandmother, Queen Victoria of England, Alexandra’s DNA carried the dread hemophilia, an incurable disease passed only to male offspring. It was a death sentence.

Alexei’s illness was the greatest secret of the age; obsessively guarded by the royal family. Over 300 years the vast Russian populace had been told that The Tsar’s power to rule emanated from Divine Right decreed by The Almighty.  It would not sit well to tell the vast Russian subjects that the sole heir had a very human and incurable disease.


It was an age of icons, superstition, spirituality and obeisance to the occult. While the Russian Orthodox Church wielded great power, illiterate peasants and educated nobles alike believed in the supernatural. The strong willed Alexandra was one of them. Medical doctors had no remedy for Alexei during his excruciatingly painful attacks of  hemophilia.

Only Gregori Rasputin’s mesmerizing power over Alexei could staunch the flow of blood that broke through his brittle veins during an attack. The Empress termed this mystical monk a Holy Man and—against the wishes of Nicholas, infuriating the royal court, politicians and citizens—imbued Rasputin with great power.


A number of factors brought about the perfect storm of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the emergence of the Soviet Union and the spread of communism globally. 90% of the 90 million inhabitants were illiterate. Famine scourged the land and Russia was dragged into WWI. Nicholas was a weak ruler, stubborn and an abhorrent decision maker. Rasputin became the signature for the discontent. Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky, the communist leaders, used this ferocious anger to engage and further enrage the land. if Alexei had not been born with hemophilia, the world would not have known of Rasputin. The monarchy could very well have survived—perhaps in the form of an English parliamentary system -and the world would not have had to endure the specter of Lenin and later the mass murderer Stalin.

Alexei’s life—and death—changed the course of history.

The grandfather of all blizzards was blanketing Mother Russia. Our tiny village of Tobolsk, tucked in the eastern foothills of the Ural Mountains in Siberia, was being pounded by a storm that could only be described in biblical proportions.

Matushka (Mama) and I were returning home from her yearly pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Blessed Lady of Kazan, our family’s patron saint. Over the years Mama had collected six images of Our Lady that hung proudly on her icon wall. The cabins of our peasant village were full of religious figures. Such was the influence of Russian Orthodoxy in the daily fabric of our lives. Sitting next to God was The Tsar. They were said in the same breath.

Mama prayed beneath the icons daily and threatened my sister and I with damnation if we did not exhibit similar reverence. I will admit that many days my full heart was not in the prayers I muttered.


Boris, our faithful yak, grudgingly pulled us along the ice-covered trail in our rickety cart. Razor-sharp snow fueled by fierce winds made it difficult to see the rutted path ahead and almost impossible to talk to one another. A wrong turn would mean trudging off into the wilderness to face a frigid death.

Boris knows the way, yelled Mama. He has made the trip in worse weather.

Worse than this, Mama?

She turned toward me. Behind the fur parka her leathery face showed the years of toil in the fields. Mama had been missing her front teeth for as long as I could remember. Her tongue always slipped between the huge gap when she talked, creating a decided lisp.


Well, maybe not, she paused and tugged at my shoulder. Keep your hands moving under the mittens, Sergei. You don’t want to lose fingers like poor Sasha.

Right, Mama! Our neighbor had lost two fingers to the cold. And worse, a cavernous hole now replaced where was once his especially prominent nose. Many villagers wore the telltale tattoo marks of frostbite. Young faces were weathered all too quickly by the extremes of Siberia. The winter was pitiless, as was the summer, spring and fall in this harsh land. I dreamed for a moment how it might be in Moscow or Kiev or the glorious city of St. Petersburg but then a freezing draft of wind hastened me back to this frigid reality.

If we did not reach home soon, there was a chance of permanent injury. We had been in the cart far too long in this weather and resembled traveling snowmen.


Out of the blinding whiteness appeared an apparition. High on an outcropping of stone was the blurry figure of a man standing next to the road sign. He was garbed only in a tattered robe and. Could that be . . . yes, a length of chains. The swirling wind ripped at his face and arms and his long hair was flying every which way. Blood from wounds by the chain had frozen on his body. I looked at his feet.

Mama, the man is dead. He is frozen to the rock!

Mama hit Boris reared back on the reins and screamed for him to halt. She quitted the cart, walked up to the man and peered into his face. Letting down the hood of her parka, she drew her ear close to his mouth, as if he was whispering something to her. His eyes bored straight through to the back of her head.

After several minutes Mama turned back and mounted the cart. He is a good and godly man, Sergei. He is reciting his prayers. He is closer to God than you or I. She crossed herself and gave me a nudge indicating that I do the same. Home, Boris, she screamed over the wind, take us home.

I looked at my mother in stunned silence. Matushka, that man will surely die.

"God looks over people like him, Sergei. He is a starets, a man of God who has spoken with the Blessed Mother. The hardships on earth—wind, rain and fire—do not affect him. He is content. His protection is from above." She nodded and pointed to the heavens.

But is not our village priest a man of God? Father Slava has more sense than to stand in the cold.

Starets have no formal training. No, no, they do not go to school like Father Slava in Tobolsk. They are common people just like you and me. But they are higher up to God than priests. The Almighty has given them a special sign. They have no homes, no possessions, no families. We believe in them for they have given up everything. Sinners beat the starets when they come begging for food, but the wise heed their words.

Why would you believe what a starets says, Mama?

"You have no choice, my boy. Once you are under the influence of the starets, he takes your soul and makes it his. Your will is now his to do with what he wants. You must submit because he has been touched by God."

Matushka, how does the starets live, how does he eat?

"The ‘starets’ walk from town to town. They beg at people’s doors, churches, monasteries . . . places like that . . . they live on the charity of others. Many of our folk pay to have starets pray for them. It brings good luck.

The most beautiful cathedral in Moscow was dedicated to the holy fool Basil the Blessed. He was a starets."

Before you were born, Sergei, I took a trip to find a starets. I needed God’s blessing to ensure that I would have a son. And, guess what? Sixteen years ago you popped out of me bawling like a stuck pig. Mama laughed.

‘For this gift, I allowed the starets to stay in our home for a fortnight and gave him a hindquarter of my favorite cow. I guess it was worth it. I guess you were worth a cow."

I am only worth a hindquarter of a cow?

She grunted. She was a good milking cow, Matushka said flatly.

Mama’s strong beliefs in the Almighty melded into the mystical. When I became pregnant with Katinka, again I asked for prayers. That same starets frozen to the post guaranteed me a second son for a yak hide and two kopecks. Instead, I gave him some of your father’s old clothes and six of my hard-earned kopecks. But Katinka came next. What happened to the blessings? It was not the fault of the starets, no, no. I must have angered God by not praying enough. He always answers when I pray hard. And so, I was punished by having a daughter with a muddled mind.

I sat back in the cart and pondered the mysteries of God. Maybe Mama was correct. She had pleased the starets and I was born healthy. The second starets was displeased and Katinka was born . . .  not quite right. My sister was slow and could not work in the fields like the other girls her age. At night many times she sat in her chair and rocked back and forth, her head moving from side to side.

Matushka grunted again. Katinka is a good girl and helps her old mother as best she can. It was God’s will. Starets can help in times of need, Mama concluded. "Look how much they suffer. They must be close to God to endure such hardship."

Yes, Mama.

Hours later we passed through the village to our cabin of pine and thatch. Snowdrifts rose above the windows of a few of the homes. Life was at a standstill. Swirling smoke from the smokestack above the wood and straw shingles was the only sign of life. I unhooked Boris from his harness and put him in the shed attached to our home. The aroma of my sister’s good cabbage soup mingled with the stale air of the interior as I opened the door.

You look like giant snowman, Sergei Mikhailovich, screeched Katinka, laughing in that deep-throated cackle of hers.

God helped us on our journey, sister. I rushed to our massive potbellied stove to warm my hands. Oh, and sister, we saw the holy man that Mama paid to give birth to a second son, I teased. Unfortunately, she angered him and God presented her with you.

What! She took two giant steps toward me and picked up an iron pan along the way, indignation showing on her pretty face. I raised my arms in defense just as Mama entered.

Mama, she yelled, Sergei said you wanted a boy and not me. I must hit him for that.

Put the pan away, daughter. He is but half right. We did see the starets. But I am blessed that God sent you to me.

She lumbered to the wall of her wall of icons and sent an aerial kiss to all the saints for delivering us safely. Votive candles had blown out when the door was opened and she proceeded to re-light them. She turned to me, The fire gives YOU warmth, Sergei. My icons give ME warmth. Then to Katinka she observed, Your brother thinks he is very funny. She pointed to an icon. But the Blessed Lady is watching him always and is judging his misdeeds. Your brother is not devout. He deserves to be hit, but not tonight. Hit him tomorrow, daughter, but not tonight!

I will do that, Mama, compliant with the opportunity to do me harm at the morrow’s sun..

The heavy snowfall continued all night. We awoke the next morning to discover that we were prisoners—the snow had blocked the door and smothered our cabin. It was dark save for the glow from the stove.

The smokestack must still be clear, I said to Mama. Smoke is still escaping. I could see the relief in her eyes.

The three of us could only guess that the rest of the villagers were in the same plight. My small family was shivering and safe, at least for the time being.

A single floorboard was our only buffer from the Siberian turf. I brought Boris in from the unheated shed so he would not freeze to death. His infernal bleating was deafening. When he bellowed, all conversation ceased. But that annoyance was trivial to the smell that permeated the space when he did his business. That odor could be cut with a knife.

The three of us grew short-tempered as the long hours passed. Surely a search party from the village would free us, we thought. The confinement affected Katinka in another way, as well. She began pacing the perimeter of the cabin, a repetitive action that soon got on my nerves. I tried to ignore her by putting my nose in my book but her every step became a reverberating thud on my brain.

Sister, you are driving me mad! I screamed. She made no reply and kept walking.

After another hour of this Katinka stopped and crouched in a corner, rocking back and forth like a child in a mother’s arms. She began crying uncontrollably and curled herself into a little ball. Before Mama or I could react my sister had grabbed clay serving dishes and shattered them on the wooden floor. Mama saw Katinka eye the wall of icons and made a mad dash to protect them, crossing herself and screaming to the Almighty as she ran to their defense.

My soft-headed sister had lost all sense of reality! She had gone crazy! When Mama grabbed her arms, she commenced to strike out with her fists. She kicked her hard in the shins, leaving Mama so stunned she could not react. I leaped between the two of them and wrestled my raving sister to the floor rolling over one another. Mama was wailing and crying out to the Blessed Lady to come to her aid and help her maniacal daughter. This provoked my sister even more.

Katinka is possessed, cried Matushka. She is bewitched! My sister screeched louder.

She was half my size—I grant you—but the demon inside her had given her the strength of a man. I wrapped my arms and legs around her and pressed my muscles as tight as I could. Our heads were level to one another. She grabbed my cheek in her teeth and bit hard. I shrieked in pain and surprise as blood spurted on both of us.

Ma was above the two of us but was in a frenzy of indecision. She was crying for God’s intervention and I was screaming for hers. God does not need your help, Matushka, I do!

There was only one thing to do. I reared back my head and crashed it squarely into my sister’s forehead. (I had won many fights in the village with such a tactic.) She looked at me with a wild glaze. Her eyes crept back into her head and she went limp. I rolled over her, my head pounding, blood pouring from my face.

Mama rushed to the unconscious Katinka, whose face showed as much color as the frosted Siberian landscape. Her blond ringlets were dripping sweat. She wrapped her in her stocky arms and with my help carried her to her straw mattress. She took off her lapti shoes of birch bark and covered her with a yak skin rug. Matushka grabbed the icon of The Lady of Kazan and began reciting a tearful prayer over her.

It is evil spirits that have taken her over. Oh, Blessed Lady of Kazan, my daughter is not unholy. She prays, she worships the icons; she is not unholy! Mama shrieked. This is God’s punishment. The spirits have entered her body. I must light my candles and pray harder.

Whatever was the reason for Katinka’s outburst, I knew we had to escape from this tomb immediately.

Turning toward the wooden door I tore at its hinges with new found strength. When finally it creaked open a solid wall of snow stood before me. Mama wailed even louder.

I turned toward her and clenched her shoulders with my hands. Matushka, don’t worry. I said. I will free us. I will dig a tunnel.

Sergei, you are our only hope. Her body was shuddering in a vain attempt to control her emotions. She turned and walked back toward Katinka, leaned down and patted my sister’s cheeks and forehead with a cloth.

Sweat was still pouring off my sister and her breathing came in short bursts.

Sergei, said Mama, what will you do with the snow? It cannot fit in our home. We will soon bury ourselves in it.

We will store the snow in Boris’s shed, Mama.

How long will it take to dig, Sergei? Mama whined.

The Good Lord is the only one that knows. Pray the drift against the house is not deep. While I dig, you must keep the fire going. I eyed the wooden table and chairs.

No, no! Not my chairs, Sergei, she implored. My own Mama gave them to me when I married your father.

Our fuel is running out, Matushka. Soon there will be nothing left to burn!

Please, Sergei, take the table first. My dear grandfather -God rest his soul—made the chairs. We will take the straw from Boris’s stall and burn that, too.

Yes, Mama. We will make it out before the chairs are sacrificed. I promise you. Mama would rather freeze to death than die of a broken heart.

I closed my eyes and prayed, ‘God, give me the power of ten men. I must not fail.’ I placed wooden pails near the door and attacked the ice wall with the iron shovel. I set about to dig an escape tunnel. When or if I would ever see daylight, I did not know. Was my path in the direction that would lead my family to safety?

Dig. Dig. Dig. Fill bucket, crawl backward from the tunnel. Dump the snow. Crawl back in my cave. Hour after hour after hour.

I was losing feeling in my hands and arms. I packed straw from Boris’ corner inside my mittens but they were soon in tatters. The ice felt like ten thousand little daggers jabbing at my fingertips. Mama gave me some tea from time to time that helped my spirits. Desperation showed in her eyes. That look became my fuel and my inspiration. I dragged myself back to my dark tunnel and continued to dig. My body lengths measured my progress. Being a little over six feet tall, my first count measured that I had

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