History

How Boney M’s Ra Ra Rasputin got me thinking about Rasputin’s legacy – Lewis Njie

Majestic’s rendition of Boney M’s Rasputin has recast light on an old anthem, and while I do prefer the original, it got me thinking about the man behind the lyrics. Now before I delve into the intricacies of Grigori Rasputin, I must (shamefully) admit that before listening to Boney M’s ‘Rasputin‘ I had no idea about the history surrounding the 70’s anthem. In fact, I had never heard of the song Rasputin, until it joined a list of recommended songs on my Spotify antique’s playlist. It’s unequivocally a hit, but for me, the interest derives further than the expressionistic performance by Boney M. It begins with his story…

Grigori Rasputin (i’ll refer to his surname throughout) was an interesting figure, a proclaimed holy-man, a mystic and a man of God – Rasputin was often referred to as a Mad Monk or a wanderer. However, how did he end up in the company of the Tsar and more importantly, how did this proclaimed ‘holy healer’ acquire such a reputable title?

What we do know is that in the late 1800’s, Rasputin went on a pilgrimage which would guide his new found ways. After this, he became a wanderer, visiting several holy sites and began to build up a following. He began being known as a holy man who could majestically heal people of their anxieties. Eventually, he found himself in St. Petersburg whereby he became a healer for the Tsar’s son, Alexis.

It was believed by the Tsar and others that he had cured Alexis of haemophilia which brought him closer to the royal family. This arguably was Rasputin’s rise – finding himself in the royal courts, advising the Tsar and his wife Alexandria. However, this majestic rise was not meant to last and despite Rasputin’s ‘prophecies’ that the royal family were adjusting their authoritative policy making to. Unfortunately for Rasputin, many politicians began to discredit the Tsar because of his association with Rasputin for his debaucherous behaviour. However, he was continuously defended by the Tsar and his wife, further exemplifying the discontent amongst the people and other officials.

Taking all of this into account, with rising discontent and a lack of action – a group of powerful people collaborated on inviting Rasputin over to the Yusupov Palace and fatefully Rasputin agreed. Upon Rasputin’s arrival to the palace, he was offered wine and cake – unbeknown to him, they were in fact laced with poison intended to kill him, however, it appeared to be a little more difficult than that, the poison had seemed not to work (or was taking an extremely long time to do so).

With the sense of urgency and discontent from the use of poison, the collaborators led Rasputin outside whereby they shot him several times – which inevitably killed him. To hide their conduct Rasputin was taken to a bridge where he was subsequently thrown into a lake to hide the evidence (or so they thought).

Rasputin was discovered a couple of days later and while the officials discontent was somewhat subdued, Rasputin’s proclamations had come to an end – the majestic was not so majestic. However, before his death, he had written to the Tsar predicting his own death and the consequences that would arise from it…

Rasputin’s prediction was that should he be murdered by other government official’s (which he was) the entire Romanov family would collapse as a consequence of being killed by the people.

And just over a year later, that very prophecy became a reality when the family was killed during the Russian Revolution – a violent uprising against the Tsar’s inadequate performance in World War 1, widespread food shortages and rising inflation.

So where does this leave us? I’m not exactly sure, but for me, I do ponder on the question of whether he was a holy-man a mad monk or was it purely accidentalism? For me, I have to conclude with accidentalism and there is further depth which can be found on the internet explaining the potential theories which may have attributed to his coincidental proclamations and the healing of Alexis. However, this article is to get the reader thinking and so while I share my opinion, I do not conclude with it being the definitive answer, rather that is for you to think about.

Whether the history of the song is something you find captivating or not is down to personal preference, however, I do think that it is safe to conclude that Boney M’s musical rendition of Rasputin’s life is perhaps a majestic, crazy yet enjoyable anthem, a slight reciprocation of Rasputin’s life one might argue.

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