By Art Cashin of UBS Financial Services
On this day (+2) in 1916, one of history’s most celebrated but most inept assassinations began. In the retelling of most assassinations we hear how the victims might have been spared if….! You know the drill – if the guy guarding Lincoln’s box had not gone for a drink or if the Archduke Ferdinand had not had his car forced up a side street, etc. etc.
But this assassination was more like Larry, Moe and Curly plan the Normandy Invasion.
The proposed victim was a semi-literate preacher who passed himself off as a Russian monk. Pre-dating some TV preachers, in an age with no TV, he preached that you needed God’s forgiveness. And, to give God a wide enough target, it is necessary that you sin a lot. So, many of his convocations turned into what we might secularly call today – drunkfests or orgies. (But, he said God does need a large target.) Critics of the preacher called him “The Mad Monk”. He called himself “Rasputin”.
Anyway, Rasputin hit pay-dirt when he appeared to cure the hemophiliac son of Czar Nicholas II. Viewing the cure as a miracle, the Czarina demanded that all decisions be cleared with the miracle-maker, Rasputin. That made him the most powerful man in Russia, which did not sit well with the nobles. Thus, the assassination attempt.
On this night Prince Yussupov, the Czar’s nephew-in-law, invited Rasputin over for some late-night cakes and wine.