In This Review

The Rasputin File
The Rasputin File
By Edvard Radzinsky
Doubleday, 2000, 524 pp

In 1995, Mstislav Rostropovich bought at a Sotheby's auction the long-lost file of the investigation into the court of Nicholas II conducted by the provisional government immediately after the Romanov dynasty's overthrow, and he gave it to the playwright and historian Edvard Radzinsky. It contained the often intimate testimony of grand dames, court officials, monks, and fellow mystics, not to mention police. From this and other recently discovered documentation, Radzinsky retells the endlessly fascinating story of Rasputin's rise to power, his special hold over Nicholas and Alexandra, and his brutal demise. More than a well-retold tale enhanced by a dramatist's sense of character and tension, Radzinsky's account adds valuable new detail and makes Rasputin a far less unfathomable, although no less excessive, figure. Rarely is an artist given a canvas like this, and Radzinsky makes the most of it.