Mad monk's member features in new museum
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By Marina Koreneva
Saint Petersburg, Russia - In a more innocent age, it was said that Gregory Efimovich Rasputin's legendary power over women was due to his piercing eyes.
But a new museum of erotica here suggests that the mad monk's charm may instead have been, ahem, concealed beneath his cassock.
Measuring 28,5 centimetres (about 11 inches) - allowing, of course, for shrinkage caused by pickling - Rasputin's penis displayed in a tall glass bottle is, to put it delicately, a big attraction at the museum.
Director Igor Knyazkin said he bought the object from a French antiquitarian for €6 600, along with several of Rasputin's hand-written letters.
It was not known if he had a certificate of authenticity for such a remarkable piece.
Reputed both for his mysticism and his debauchery, Rasputin was a powerful influence at the court of the Romanov Tsars.
Concerned about his unusual hold over the Empress Alexandra, a group of aristocrats decided to kill him to save Russia.
They lured him to an assignation in 1916, fed him drugged cakes, shot him and finally killed him by wrapping him in a carpet and throwing him into the frozen Neva river.
The aura of sexual power and mysticism lives on. Some Russians think just by staring at the object, they can cure sexual impotence.
One visitor asked Knyazkin if this is true.
"Without a shadow of doubt," he replied with a smile.
Knyazkin, 37, a urologist and sexologist, set up the museum in the clinic he runs, partly with the aim of helping his patients overcome impotence. The atmosphere of the museum makes patients "more optimistic and relaxed," he said.
"The aim of the doctor is to free his patient from anxiety and fears. Men who come here are ill at ease because of their problems, and our light and happy atmosphere reassures them."
Only part of Knyazkin's collection of 12 000 erotic objects is displayed in the clinic, which is staffed by buxom nurses wearing short white blouses and high heels.
"I keep the valuable stuff at home," he said.
Nevertheless, the museum still contains an impressive collection of ceramic phalluses and bawdy drawings.
Many of the exhibits come from his patients, said the doctor, rattling off the names of several members of Russian high society.