Association With Grigori Rasputin
Her mother relied on the counsel of Grigori Rasputin, a Russian peasant and wandering starets or "holy man," and credited his prayers with saving the ailing Tsarevich on numerous occasions. Anastasia and her siblings were taught to view Rasputin as "Our Friend" and to share confidences with him. In the autumn of 1907, Anastasia's aunt Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia was escorted to the nursery by the Tsar to meet Rasputin. Anastasia, her sisters and brother Alexei were all wearing their long white nightgowns.
"All the children seemed to like him," Olga Alexandrovna recalled. "They were completely at ease with him." Rasputin's friendship with the Imperial children was evident in some of the messages he sent to them. In February 1909, Rasputin sent the imperial children a telegram, advising them to "Love the whole of God's nature, the whole of His creation in particular this earth. The Mother of God was always occupied with flowers and needlework."
However, one of the girls' governesses, Sofia Ivanovna Tyutcheva, was horrified in 1910 that Rasputin was permitted access to the nursery when the four girls were in their nightgowns and wanted him barred. Nicholas asked Rasputin to avoid going to the nurseries in the future. The children were aware of the tension and feared that their mother would be angered by Tyutcheva's actions. "I am so afr(aid) that S.I. (governess Sofia Ivanovna Tyutcheva) can speak...about our friend something bad," Anastasia's twelve-year-old sister Tatiana wrote to their mother on March 8, 1910. "I hope our nurse will be nice to our friend now." Alexandra eventually had Tyutcheva fired.
Tyutcheva took her story to other members of the family. While Rasputin's visits to the children were, by all accounts, completely innocent in nature, the family was scandalized. Tyutcheva told Nicholas's sister, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia, that Rasputin visited the girls, talked with them while they were getting ready for bed, and hugged and patted them. Tyutcheva said the children had been taught not to discuss Rasputin with her and were careful to hide his visits from the nursery staff. Xenia wrote on March 15, 1910 that she couldn't understand "...the attitude of Alix and the children to that sinister Grigory (whom they consider to be almost a saint, when in fact he's only a khlyst!)"
In the spring of 1910, Maria Ivanovna Vishnyakova, a royal governess, claimed that Rasputin had raped her. Vishnyakova said the empress refused to believe her account of the assault, and insisted that "everything Rasputin does is holy." Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was told that Vishnyakova's claim had been immediately investigated, but instead "they caught the young woman in bed with a Cossack of the Imperial Guard." Vishnyakova was kept from seeing Rasputin after she made her accusation and was eventually dismissed from her post in 1913.
However, rumours persisted and it was later whispered in society that Rasputin had seduced not only the Tsarina but also the four grand duchesses. The gossip was fueled by ardent, yet by all accounts innocent, letters written to Rasputin by the Tsarina and the four grand duchesses which were released by Rasputin and which circulated throughout society. "My dear, precious, only friend," wrote Anastasia. "How much I should like to see you again. You appeared to me today in a dream. I am always asking Mama when you will come...I think of you always, my dear, because you are so good to me ..."
This was followed by circulation of pornographic cartoons, which depicted Rasputin having relations with the Empress, her four daughters and Anna Vyrubova. After the scandal, Nicholas ordered Rasputin to leave St. Petersburg for a time, much to Alexandra's displeasure, and Rasputin went on a pilgrimage to Palestine. Despite the rumors, the imperial family's association with Rasputin continued until his murder on December 17, 1916. "Our Friend is so contented with our girlies, says they have gone through heavy 'courses' for their age and their souls have much developed," Alexandra wrote to Nicholas on December 6, 1916.
In his memoirs, A.A. Mordvinov reported that the four Grand Duchesses appeared "cold and visibly terribly upset" by Rasputin's death, and sat "huddled up closely together" on a sofa in one of their bedrooms on the night they received the news. Mordvinov recalled that the young women were in a gloomy mood and seemed to sense the political upheaval that was about to be unleashed. Rasputin was buried with an icon signed on its reverse by Anastasia, her mother and her sisters. She attended his funeral on December 21, 1916, and her family planned to build a church over the site of Rasputin's grave. After they were killed by the Bolsheviks, it was discovered Anastasia and her sisters were all wearing amulets bearing Rasputin's picture and a prayer.
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