1. any person who exercises great but insidious influence;
2. named for Grigori Efimovich Rasputin, 1871 – 1916, a Siberian peasant monk who was very influential at the court of Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra.
Dictionary.com gives the following summary on the origin of this eponym (a word relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named: of, relating to.):
Grigori Efimovich Rasputin (c1871-1916) was a Russian peasant and self-proclaimed mystic and holy man (he had no official position in the Russian Orthodox Church). By 1904 Rasputin was popular among the high society of St. Petersburg, and in 1906 he became the healer of Alexei Nikolaevich Romanov, heir to the Russian throne and the hemophiliac son of Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Czarina Alexandra Feodorovna (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and a carrier of hemophilia). In December 1916 Rasputin was murdered by Russian noblemen because of his influence over Czar Nicholas and the czarina.
Rasputin, I learned, is something of a legend. He was a towering man at 6’4”, believed to be a healer with clairvoyant powers. He had a wild appearance, that earned him the nickname, the “mad monk”. Though he was married and had a daughter and two sons, he earned notoriety as a philanderer and drunkard. Oddly his promiscuous behavior was, according to him, a religious practice. He believed that in order to be redeemed of sin, one must immerse oneself in it. Word of his orgies, that he called sessions of “rejoicing”, spread, much to the displeasure of the Orthodox Church. Despite his horrible hygiene, he had plenty of willing partners and hundreds of followers who called themselves “Rasputinkis.”
Eventually his wild living caught up with him. Several attempts were made on his life. The first was made by a masked woman who stabbed his abdomen so violently his entrails spilled out. The intervention of a surgeon saved him that time.
He would eventually meet his end but, as his murderer would learn, Rasputin was not an easy man to kill. On a single night, he was poisoned, which only seemed to give him a buzz, shot four times, with one bullet directly to his head, followed by a severe bludgeoning and finally he was bound and tossed into a frozen river. An autopsy later showed that he died from drowning and hypothermia, even after being poisoned, shot, beaten and, some believe, castrated. His pickled member was supposedly displayed throughout the region, a relic of sorts, said to have properties that could cure men of impotence.
Everything about Rasputin was larger than life. But it was his sinister control over the Romanoffs that eventually led to his demise and soon after, the fall of an empire.
Today we use the word Rasputin to describe someone who has evil influence over someone in power. I can think of a few examples…
Bush’s Cheney, Trump’s Bannon,