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RASPUTIN feature on NPR's The Salt, and Doug Smith in Daily Mail

RASPUTIN feature on NPR's The Salt, and Doug Smith in Daily Mail

Incredibly, the noxious blend of fact, myth, and infamy surrounding Russia's most notorious holy man even extends to his eating habits. Nina Martyris chatted with Rasputin author & historian Douglas Smith on The Salt on NPR about the exaggerations surrounding even the seemingly mundane aspects of the the legendary monk--and how this overshadowed his genuine compassion & advocacy for the starving Russian populace near the end of the Romanov reign.

"As Rasputin's notoriety spread and his hold over the lonely and impressionable empress tightened...whispers about him being a wicked, orgiastic cultist began to grow, as did his list of enemies. It was put about that the rube who once slurped on cabbage soup and raw garlic now glutted himself on the finest fruit, fish, caviar and champagne. It turns out that while Rasputin's love of fresh fruit – oranges, strawberries – was real enough, the rest of the menu was made up...

Genuinely stricken to learn that corn was rotting in the imperial warehouses while the people starved, he sent telegrams to Czar Nicholas II, who was away fighting the Germans on the front line, begging him to increase food supplies. But Nicholas – despite Rasputin's missives, the labor strikes, the 300 percent inflation, and simmering anger in Moscow and Petrograd (the city 's new name that replaced the German-sounding Saint Petersburg) – did nothing...

Smith's comprehensive biography portrays an intriguingly multifaceted figure who enjoyed power and had a seductive vitality, but who was also an earthy and compassionate family man."

In more recent history, Smith's incredible discovery of a photographic treasure trove of 1950s Russia is in the Daily Mail. Major Martin Manhoff took the photographs during his tour as a spy from 1952-54, but they've only recently resurfaced through Douglas's archival research efforts. He is "now working on finding the best way to make this unique visual archive available to the public and to find a permanent home for the entire Manhoff archive."

Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs is out from FSG and available from Indiebound, Amazon, and many others,

Get a "Workplace Survival Kit" with paperback pre-orders of Dan Lyons' DISRUPTED

Get a "Workplace Survival Kit" with paperback pre-orders of Dan Lyons' DISRUPTED

A powerful call for mindfulness in medical practice: Dr. Ronald Epstein's ATTENDING

A powerful call for mindfulness in medical practice: Dr. Ronald Epstein's ATTENDING