Remembering Rasputin

The village of Pokrovskoye was the birthplace of one of the most frightening figures in Russian history. His name was Grigory Rasputin, Czar Nicholas II’s favourite, also known as the Siberian mystic healer whose life is still considered very mysterious.

His birthplace and home was the village located in Tyumen region of Siberia. Pokrovskoye is on the Toura River not far from the Ural Mountains. In the late 1800s, when Rasputin lived in Pokrovskoye, the village had only a few streets lined with spacious wooden houses.

The Tobolsk tract, along which convicts were once herded to Siberia, used to run through the village and the windows of Rasputin’s house used to overlook this road. Today, the road skirts the village and Rasputin’s house has been pulled down.

But opposite the place where it stood with a brightly painted wooden fence and carved lintels is a museum devoted to “the most famous Russian.” Not Stalin or Lenin, nor Kruschev or Gagarin, not even Gagarin or Laika, but a peasant from a Siberian village.

Museum of Grigory Rasputin

By the gates stands a stone engraved with a brief excerpt from the diary dated April 1918 of Czar Nicholas II: “We changed horses in the village of Pokrovskoye. We waited for a long time just opposite Grigory’s (Rasputin’s) house.” Two months after that day, the Czar II, his entire family and three servants were murdered in the cellar of the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg, about 400 km from Pokrovskoye.

A married couple from Tyumen, Vladimar and Marina Smirnov opened a private museum, the first of its kind in Russia. The couple has been collecting Rasputin’s documents, letters, photographs and belongings since the 1970s. In 1991, they opened the museum and dedicated it to Rasputin, who, in their opinion, is “the world’s most famous Russian.”

They bought the old two-story house in Pokrovskoye. The museum consists of two small rooms and has some belongings from Rasputin’s house: photographs and documents, which the Smirnov’s found in archives, bought at auctions (Sotheby’s), and obtained from people whose ancestors had known the “great Russian mystic.” They established Rasputin’s exact date of birth and even found a Rasputin’s great-granddaughter who lives in Paris.

Rasputin’s name comes up in literature, cinema and even music. The pop group Boney M had a hit single “Rasputin” in 1978 with the memorable lyrics “Rah, rah, Rasputin, lover of the Russian Queen.” Interestingly, Boney M travelled to Pokrovskoye, visited Smirnov’s museum and played their famous song in the village. In Fox’s animated film “Anastasia”, Rasputin is portrayed as the traitor monk who casts a curse on the Romanov family.

Another place of interest historically and culturally is the Bryanchaninovs’ country estate opened to the public in January 2010. Historical and archival documents, pictures of the settlement of Pokrovskoye and photos of the Holy Hierarch St. Ignaty and other representatives of the noble family are on display. An exposition depicting all stages of the scientific restoration of the manor merits special attention.

In 1803, the settlement of Pokrovskoye had been inherited by Alexander Semyonovich Bryanchaninov, father of Ignaty, belonging to a family of long-standing nobility. Being a person of great enterprise, the owner decided to construct a new manor next to the rural churchyard. The construction was completed in 1812.

Music can be heard in the ancient manor again. It has become home to literary and theatrical events and performances. The Bryanchaninovs’ manor is a major draw for both residents and visitors.

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