Intrigued is the word that best describes how I felt after discovering this photo. The moment I saw the face of Grigori Rasputin, my mind zipped back to 1978. Suddenly, I was 14 years old again and leaping around the living room while “Ra Ra Rasputin, lover of the Russian queen” boomed from the hi-fi speakers. Each time the music skipped, I’d race over to the reset the needle on the vinyl album and begin the song again.
This photograph leaves me with so many questions. Who would look so pleased about publicly aligning herself with such a man? Matryona Grigorievna Rasputin, daughter of the Mad Munk, is the mysterious subject of the photo. She changed her name to Maria — a more socially upward and marketable name. And yes, it is a look of pride she’s wearing as she shares the frame with her father’s image.
Maria was born in a Siberian village in 1899 to Grigori Rasputin and Praskovia Fyodorovna Dubrovina. After her father’s notoriety spread, the family moved to St. Petersburg where she attended a private school and socialized in royal circles. She was 17 years old at the time of her father’s death. How does one survive the exploits of a an infamous parent?
She broke off an engagement, to a Georgian officer, to marry an up-and-comer who was a great admirer of her father. Maria made this decision based on the advice of people who claimed they’d communicated with Rasputin’s spirit during a séance. He’d reached out from beyond the grave, they said, to tell her that this marriage was meant to be.
Her new husband turned out to be philanderer and an unscrupulous con artist with a knack for making poor financial choices. He died of tuberculosis in 1926, after they’d fled to Paris. Maria supported herself and their two children by working as a governess. She unsuccessfully sued her father’s murderer; the Paris courts dismissed the case and declined involvement in a crime stemming from Russian politics.
So many questions and creative thoughts are swirling through my mind. I’m sipping a cup of tea as I write, trying to think of how to funnel them into one succinct paragraph. I think I’ve arrived at the two words to begin with — resilience and tenacity. No matter what life threw at Maria Rasputin, she bounced back covered in sequins, arms raised above her head, and radiating that “look at me world, I’m back” kind of smile. I find myself reflecting on the nature versus nurture question and heritable traits.
My impression is that she was a larger than life character. Surely, Maria must have inherited some of the personality traits that moved her father from poverty to palace. There are aspects of this woman that will most certainly inspire my pen.
“They ask me if I mind to be in a cage with animals and I answer, “Why not? I have been in a cage with Bolsheviks.”” ~ Maria Rasputin
What are your impressions of Maria Rasputin? Is there some trivia you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.