As Rasputin’s power grew, so did the legends of his crimes and misdemeanours … What made these rumours so damaging politically was the widespread belief, which Rasputin himself encouraged, that he was the Tsarina's lover. … Similar pornographic tales about Marie Antoinette and the `impotent Louis' circulated on the eve of the French Revolution. There was no evidence for any of these rumours. ... Nevertheless, it was the fact that the rumours existed, rather than their truth, which caused such alarm to the Tsar's supporters.


[On 22 August 1915 , the Tsar took over supreme command of the army and left St Petersburg .   Power in the capital passed to Rasputin and the Tsarina.]


With the Tsar at the Front, [The Tsarina] now became the real autocrat … She liked to boast that she was the first woman in Russia to receive government ministers since Catherine the Great, and in these delusions she was encouraged by Rasputin, who effectively used her as a mouthpiece for his own pretentions to power. …

            Most of the Tsarina's ink was used on recommendations for appointments. She saw the world in terms of friends and enemies of the `hidden cause' waged by Rasputin and herself. Ministers, commanders of the armed forces and members of the court all rose or fell in her favour according to where they stood in relation to the `cause'. The patronage of Rasputin was the quickest way up the greasy pole - and criticism of him the quickest way down. In the seventeen months of the `Tsarina's rule', from September 1915 to February 1917, Russia had four Prime Ministers, five Ministers of the Interior, three Foreign Ministers, three War Ministers, three Ministers of Transport and four Ministers of Agriculture. This `ministerial leapfrog', as it came to be known, not only removed competent men from power, but also disorganized the work of government since no one remained long enough in office to master their responsibilities. Bureaucratic anarchy developed with competing chains of author­ity: some ministers would defer to the Tsarina or Rasputin, while others remained loyal to the Tsar, or at least to what they thought the Tsar was, although when it came to the crunch he never seemed to know what he stood for and in any case never really dared to oppose his wife. Boris Sturmer, the longest-lasting Prime Minister of the `Tsarina's rule', who replaced the senile Goremykin in January 1916, was best known as a provincial governor who had been accused of venality, and as an Assistant Minister of Interior who had been charged with incompetence. In Sazonov's memorable phrase, he was `a man who had left behind a bad memory wherever he had occupied an administrative post'. The affairs of state proved utterly beyond him....


Orlando Figes, A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924 (1996), pp. 32-33, 277-278.


Orlando Figes is University Lecturer and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge University .  

The respected historian Norma Stone wrote: ‘I doubt if there is anyone in the world who knows the revolution as well as he does’.