Rasputin review – how myth and murder created a Russian legend

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Douglas Smith’s biography presents a fascinating, if far less sensational, portrait of Russia’s ‘mad monk’

Douglas Smith, the author of a substantial, meticulously researched and fluently written new life of Rasputin, calls it “possibly the most recognised name in Russian history”.

Everyone knows the story: Rasputin the mad monk; Rasputin the insatiable satyr; Rasputin the faith healer who bewitched a hysterical empress; Rasputin, whose crazed advice destroyed an empire; Rasputin the indestructible, who survived poison, bullets and the freezing river his assassins threw him into; Rasputin, whose very name in Russian means something akin to “libertine”.

Rasputin was an extraordinary but minor figure. He contributed little to the tragedy that was to engulf Russia

Related: The Romanovs: masterful account of Russia’s doomed royal family

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