Grigory Rasputin, the 'Mad Monk' who was hard to kill

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Grigory Rasputin, whose life and times is to be the subject of a new Franco-Russian film, led a life less ordinary.

Born in a small village in Siberia in 1869, he first came to the attention of the Russian aristocracy in 1903 when he arrived in the imperial capital St. Petersburg and set himself up as a holy man who claimed to be blessed with supernatural healing powers.

When the Tsarina, Alexandra, became desperate to find a cure for her haemophiliac son Alexei she turned to Rasputin.

In the years that followed, the heavily bearded monk won her confidence and that of her husband Tsar Nicholas II.

There are credible reports that British secret agents may have had a hand in his murder as London was alarmed by his apparent insistence that Russia should withdraw its troops from the First World War.

In a ghoulish and tasteless twist, a museum in St. Petersburg has displayed what it claims to be Rasputin's severed penis in a glass jar. Experts doubt it is the real thing however....

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