Grigori Rasputin (1869-1916) is a figure of near mythical proportion. There is so much information available about his life, yet he is completely shrouded in mystery. His story seems to be a collection of crazy, inexplicable phenomena. He was the close, personal friend of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, this relationship forming only after Rasputin miraculously healed their son, Alexei, who was on the verge of death.
Alexei suffered from hemophilia (probably due to the rather narrow family tree of Nicholas… who was directly related to Queen Victoria of England) and fallen earlier in the day. He was bleeding internally and everyone feared he would die…until Rasputin arrived. He spent a few minutes alone with the heir and voila! Healed. How in the actual hell was he able to do this? No one has a clue.
Less wholesome and way more disgusting are the stories about Rasputin’s ‘kickstand’. Women heralded his giant man-piece and spoke of his ‘healing powers’, which were more than likely the product of a very well placed wart.
Alright…enough about that.
His death. There is no greater mystery than Rasputin’s death. Many in Russia hated the fact that Rasputin was so cozy with the Tsar and his family. As a result, a group of high-powered nobles, led by Prince Felix Yusupov (husband of the tsar’s niece), plotted to kill him.
Rasputin was lured by Yusupov to his palace on the eve of December 29, 1917, reportedly to meet his wife. They went into the basement to have wine and dessert, while Yusupov’s co-conspirators waited upstairs for a signal that the deed was done. Yusupov then invited Rasputin to help himself to some cakes (laced with cyanide) and wine (also laced with cyanide). Rasputin initially refused but, after some insistence on Yusupov’s part, he finally obliged.
After eating several cakes and drinking a carafe of wine, Rasputin was not showing any signs of being affected by the poison. Yusupov began to panic, leaving the room several times to pass the frightening information along to his men. Finally, growing tired of waiting, Yusupov resolved to shooting Rasputin. He entered the cellar, aimed, and pulled the trigger. Rasputin fell out of his chair and onto the floor. Yusupov immediately ran upstairs to boast about what he had done and quickly returned to the basement with his co-conspirators. Yusupov leaned over the corpse.
At that moment, Rasputin’s eyes popped open and he whispered “You bad boy!’ before tossing Yusupov aside and darting from the room, up the stairs, and out into the courtyard. Yusupov and his men followed behind. As they entered the courtyard, they saw Rasputin nearing the gate that led to the street. They immediately began firing their pistols, striking him at least three times. Yusupov wrote in his memoirs that they missed once, then struck him in the shoulder, and then finally the head. The final shot to the head is the one that dropped him.
The conspirators rushed to the body and, according to many accounts, beat and mutilated his body, stabbing him multiple times. He was then bound with rope, wrapped up in a curtain and dumped into the freezing Neva River. His body was discovered a few days later. His hands were free and he was frozen solid with his hands up, like he had been clawing from under the ice.
Initial autopsies suggest that it was not the poison, the gunshot wounds, or the stabbing that killed him. He had water in his lungs and died from drowning and hypothermia. After all that, he was still breathing when he was tossed into the river.
Some have disputed these accounts, including Rasputin’s own daughter, Maria, who, in her own book, questioned the plausibility of Yusupov’s account for the simple reason that Rasputin didn’t enjoy sweets. He wouldn’t have eaten the cake. Multiple autopsies performed, prior to Rasputin’s body being burned following the Russian Revolution, which resulted in varied findings (1, 2). The life and death of Rasputin played a pivotal role in the downfall of the royal family and the rise of the Bolsheviks. Provisional Government leader, Alexander Kerensky, was quoted as saying “Without Rasputin, there would have been no Lenin.” His mark upon history is irrefutable, and the mysterious nature of his death, and the eery occurrences of his life, simply add to the legend that is Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin.