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Rasputin No Help to the Tsarevich
08.13.2004 12:02

rasputin_tsarevich_alexey ST PETERSBURG TIMES

By Galina Stolyarova



As Russia observes the 100th anniversary of the birth the nation's last heir to the throne, Tsarevich Alexei, a Canadian investigative journalist has written a report questioning whether Alexei had hemophilia and Grigory Rasputin's healing powers.

"If we are to accept the popular diagnosis of history and call it a clotting factor deficiency, then the boy's now famous sudden recoveries will remain a complete mystery," John Kendrick writes in an article published on the Internet in the September issue of the respected American Journal of Hematology. "The so-called 'Mad Monk' Rasputin, as a direct result of the revolutionary propaganda of the time, is then overblown into a larger-than-life legend," he added.

"If, however, we are to change the diagnosis and call it a platelet disorder, then the air is let out of the legend, and Rasputin is revealed to have been nothing more than a very ordinary middle-aged Siberian hippie who did not possess any healing powers at all," the abstract to Kendrick's article says.

Born Aug. 12 1904, Alexei was the only son of Russia's last tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, but from an early age he was afflicted with an illness believed to be hemophilia.

Most history books assume that the diagnosis was correct, without doubting it or mentioning that it is a matter of debate. No laboratory tests or medical records have ever been found to confirm Alexei's diagnosis.

Alexei, a descendant of Britain's Queen Victoria whose descendants included several people who suffered from hemophilia, is thought to have inherited the illness through his mother.

Nicholas and his family were murdered by the Bolsheviks in Yekaterinburg in July 1918.

Forensic tests carried out by the Forensic Science Service laboratory in Aldermaston, England, in 1993, identified the remains of Tsar Nicholas II, the Empress Alexandra and three of their four daughters. But the bodies of Tsarevich Alexei and his sister Anastasia were not with those remains that were removed from a burial pit in the Koptyaki forest outside Yekaterinburg, and have not been found elsewhere.

As Kendrick points out "it is not yet known if samples from the identified remains of Empress Alexandra have ever been tested for the genetic evidence that might confirm whether Alexei's mother actually had been a carrier of a faulty Factor VIII or IX gene."

The only official statement issued by imperial court physicians about Alexei's blood condition, is dated Oct. 21 1912, Kendrick said. The doctors described the boy's symptoms as "significant anemia," Kendrick said.

Neither Nicholas nor Alexandra ever used the word hemophilia in any of their private letters or diaries from the birth of their son until their deaths, Kendrick writes. The journalist quotes a 1917 interview with family friend Anna Vyrubova in which she said, "The child had a rare disease ... The blood vessels were affected, so that the patient bled at the slightest touch."

But Swiss-American writer and historian Suzanne Massie, who researched several books on the last Russian royal family, said Anna Vyrubova can't be considered a reliable and trustworthy historical source.

"She wasn't present there at any of the accidents, and she was such a follower of Rasputin," Massie said Thursday in a telephone interview from Maine. "Proof could be found in medical archives which were seized by the Bolsheviks, and, as you know, [the family doctor] Dr. Botkin was killed."

Alexei's blood disease has always been given as the reason for Alexandra's dependence on the alleged healing abilities of the infamous Rasputin, Kendrick writes.

Massie said Thursday that six weeks after the birth of Alexei, Nicholas noted in his diary: "Alix [Alexandra] and I have been very much worried. A hemorrhage began this morning without the slightest cause from the navel of our small Alexis [Alexei]. It lasted with but a few interruptions until evening. "

However, Kendrick's article says the most acute evidence of Alexei's blood disorder does not appear until two months after his eighth birthday.

The royal family was vacationing in Spala, Poland in October 1912. Alexei was very pale, and his mother took him for a ride, which almost killed him.

"The shaking of the horse-driven carriage had caused the boy to cry with extreme abdominal and back pain," Kendrick said. "As the days passed, his fever climbed ever higher. By the end of the first day, his temperature had reached 39.7 degrees Celsius, and by the sixth and seventh day it had soared to a peak of 40.5 C."

It was then that Rasputin made his first legendary appearance, although in a physical sense he was thousands of kilometers away from the royal family, at his Siberian home in Pokrovskoye.

"The Empress Alexandra had telegrammed to ask for his prayers," Kendrick writes. "Rasputin responded by wire: 'God has seen your tears and heard your prayers ... The Little One will not die. Don't allow the doctors to bother him too much.'

"Following Rasputin's reply, the fever finally broke, and Alexei's temperature had dropped significantly within just a few short hours."

However, Kendrick attributes Alexei's sudden healing not to the so-called Father Grigory's mystical healing powers, but to a different diagnosis.

He argues that the accident in Spala could "possibly be the result of excessive swelling of the spleen by viral infection, and the occasional bleeding episodes that followed that initial event may well have been triggered by viral rather than physical causes."

The journalist writes that the condition called thrombocytopenia - which he proposes was actually what the tsarevich suffered from - has a natural tendency heal spontaneously. This could well be the explanation of the immediate improvement in Alexei's condition in Spala.

"The excessively high fevers appearing consistently throughout the record of each of Alexei's episodes are not a primary symptom of hemophilia," Kendrick said. "Symptoms of delirium, high fever, and heart problems, described in the writings of both Nicholas II and the tutor Pierre Gilliard, can be said to be inconsistent with that historically popular, but still unproven, diagnosis [of hemophilia]."

But Massie, whose son and grandson suffer from hemophilia, disagreed. "The symptoms described by Gilliard, Nicholas and Alexandra are very consistent with hemophilia," she said. "My son had them, including high fevers."

Ivan Danilov, the principal researcher with the Hematology Institute of the Russian Health Ministry, last month supported those who believe that the tsarevich's illness was indeed hemophilia.

In his work "Hemophilia," quoted in the online journal Retsept, or Prescription, he said that there is a clear relationship between the emotional condition of the mother of a hemophiliac child and its physical condition.

The study says that stable and positive emotional state of the mother reduces the number of spontaneous bleedings in their hemophiliac sons. Tsarevich Alexei is cited as an example.

"All archive material shows that Tsarevich Alexei suffered from a severe form of hemophilia," Danilov wrote. "As Pierre Gilliard witnessed, the empress was frustrated to see the boy's bleedings, and Dr. Botkin appeared helpless, and only Rasputin's entrances coincided with improvements of the boy's condition. But the royal family had an incredible faith in Rasputin, so they were all always relieved to see him."

As Danilov explains, it is well known that hypnosis narrows minor arteries. As a person calms down, the blood circulation slows down, and vice versa.

"As Rasputin was entering the tsarevich's room, he was confidence personified; he would say loudly that the pain would soon go and the boy trusted him," Danilov said. "Positive emotions reduced the bleedings, the boy was falling asleep, and the bleedings eventually stopped."

Massie's knowledge and first-hand experience confirm Danilov's words.

"Hemophilia is a very complicated condition," she said. "Even today, a lot is not understood about the connection between stress and the illness. Medicine knows today that there is a clear connection between psychological state of the person and their medical state, especially in the chronic conditions."

As for Rasputin, Massie said over a half, if not two-thirds of all literature ever written about him is rumor and speculation.

"What he did to Alexei was that he calmed the child. There is no evidence whether he studied classical hypnosis."

Kendrick's article concluded that until the tsarevich's remains are found and given a medical examination, there will always be room for various theories.

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