Who doesn’t like to hear stories with mysterious twists? Very few, for sure. One such story is of the life of a man named Grigori Rasputin, Russia’s “Mad monk.” The murder of this infamous monk of Russia has become a historical legend, and the death of Rasputin seemed to have explosive effects on Russia that ripped the revolution.
The death of Rasputin occurred in mysterious ways despite many theories, the true circumstances under which the death of Rasputin took place are still unknown and hazy. Since the death of Rasputin, or rather Rasputin’s murder, everyone has been after solving this one astounding murder mystery.
1. Who was Grigori Rasputin?
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a Russian mystic and a holy man by self-proclamation. Rasputin’s influence was immense in the court of Tsar Nicholas ii.
However, his life came to a mysterious end on the night of December 30, 1916, when he was assassinated in St. Petersburg. But how did Rasputin’s influence in his court increase so much?
1.1. The Early Life of Rasputin
The life of Grigori Rasputin is remarkable from being a boy born to a small peasant family in a remote Siberian village to becoming a confidant of Russia’s ruling family, the man came a long way.
Born on January 21, 1869, in the small Siberian village of Pokrovskoye, now known as Russia’s Tiumen Oblast region.
Rasputin was one of nine children born to a peasant family. His father, Efim, was a farmer and church elder, while his mother, Anna, was a deeply religious woman who encouraged her son to embrace spirituality from a young age.
Growing up, Rasputin showed little interest in education and was largely illiterate. Instead, he spent much of his time outdoors, hunting and fishing. He also reportedly displayed a fascination with the Orthodox Church and its teachings influenced by his mother’s faith.
At the age of 18, Rasputin married Praskovia Dubrovina, a local girl, and they had four children together. However, Rasputin’s behavior during his early years of marriage was reportedly erratic, and he was known to drink heavily and frequent taverns and brothels.
1.1.2. Spiritual Awakening
In 1892, Rasputin got a spiritual awakening after visiting a monastery on Mount Athos in Greece. After this experience, Rasputin spent his following years in a more ascetic lifestyle and became increasingly interested in religious mysticism and faith healing. He began to travel throughout Russia, offering his services as a holy man and healer, and his life started changing.
2. Rasputin’s Increasing Influence
Rasputin’s unique and charismatic personality gradually started to get a lot of attention from the Russian Orthodox clergymen and senior members of the imperial family. The mad monk was introduced to Tsar Nicholas ii and his wife Tsarina Alexandra.
Several factors helped Rasputin get close to the Russian imperial family, such as Rasputin’s alleged healing powers, his charismatic personality, his spiritual advice, and the political connections Grigori Rasputin had.
The Tsar family had a history of consulting unconventional spiritual healers from early times. Rasputin fitted that space quite perfectly. Rasputin was able to read the minds of the heads of the Russian empire and told them what they wanted to hear therefore, his advice gave Tsar Nicholas ii much more confidence as the ruler and soothed Tsarina Alexandra.
He also gained much trust from Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra because it has been said that Rasputin appeared in their lives and treated their son, the ailing heir to the throne. Rasputin gained a reputation as a healer and was able to provide relief for Tsarina Alexandra’s son, Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia. His ability to alleviate Alexei’s symptoms endeared him to the royal family and helped to increase his influence in court.
His frequent visits to the imperial court, made the rulers notice him more and his charismatic personality which he was known for drew the tsarina Alexandra, in particular, more towards him. His anecdotes and humor entertained the guests and boosted his influence over people. Some people called his personality hypnotic while others thought he resorted to black magic.
2.1. Rasputin’s Role as a Spiritual Advisor
Rasputin claimed to have a direct line to God and offered spiritual guidance to the Tsarina and other members of the royal family. His advice was often considered in decision-making. He soon became a trusted confidant of the Tsarina.
2.2. Rasputin’s Political Connections
Rasputin influenced the royal family to advance the interests of his friends and allies. He was known to use his position to help secure political appointments and to lobby for certain policies.
Over time, Rasputin’s influence in the court grew, and he exerted considerable power over the royal family. However, his bizarre behavior and rumored sexual exploits made him unpopular with many members of the Russian elite and ultimately contributed to his downfall.
3. Fears of the Russian Elite About Rasputin’s Influence
The increasing affinity of the Romanovs towards Grigori Rasputin was not well received by the Russian aristocracy and was rather frowned upon. The increasing influence of the mad monk, who knew little about state affairs, was now advising the Russian royal family in matters of statecraft, utterly annoyed the aristocracy and feeding their fears of him becoming way too powerful.
Some members of the aristocracy feared that Rasputin’s influence over the Tsar and Tsarina would lead to a breakdown in the traditional power structures of Russian society.
3.1. Raputin’s Influence
Rasputin was seen as a threat to the established order, and there were concerns that his influence would lead to a more democratic or egalitarian system of government that would undermine the aristocracy’s privileges and status.
It was even said that Rasputin was planning to start a cholera epidemic with poisoned apples, sayings about his relation with the tsars’ young daughters, and many tales circulated about the man and his closeness with the Romanovs.
Rasputin’s behavior was not universally accepted or respected, even among those who initially admired him. Many members of the Russian aristocracy viewed him as a charlatan and a threat to the stability of the Tsarist regime. Some accused him of using his influence over the royal family for personal gain, and of engaging in immoral behavior, which was not wrong.
Rasputin’s ability to moderate the symptoms of hemophilia of the heir to the Russian throne made him an important part of the Royal family. Rasputin was smart enough to exploit this dependency and trust of the Royal family for his gains.
To the surprise of the Russian elite, Rasputin was by the First World War also offering political counsel and suggesting ministry positions. How could this not harbor jealous feelings among the aristocracy? He was doing their job.
4. Two Sides of Grigori Rasputin
What is more important to note is the duality of the nature of Rasputin which made him even more hated by the aristocracy and the general public. Rasputin was known to maintain a very dignified and wise man attitude with the Russian royal family and as soon as he turned his back to the gates of the royal palace, people got to see another side of the man.
Outside of court, he resumed his previous licentious behaviors. He attracted mistresses and made many additional attempts to seduce women while preaching that having physical touch with his person had a purifying and curing effect.
When Tsar Nicholas was made aware of these things about Rasputin. It was hard for him to accept therefore, he refused to believe any of it. Eventually, the accusers of Rasputin were either dismissed totally from their positions of power or were relocated to other parts of the empire.
These fears ultimately contributed to a growing sense of unease and mistrust toward Rasputin among the Russian aristocracy and played a role in his eventual downfall.
5. Rasputin and Tsarina Alexandra
Tsarina Alexandra had always been under the scrutiny of the Russian people because of her German lineage, and soon Rasputin appeared in their lives and was associated with the Tsarina as her lover and was said to have bewitched the family with some sort of black magic.
The constant watch of the Russian people and the birth of an ailing heir, Tsarevich Alexei gave the Queen immense mental stress, and in these times Rasputin’s power to heal Alexei made her trust the man more than ever. Rasputin somehow soothed their fears and anxieties of Empress Alexandra and got closer.
5.1. Rasputin’s Relationship with Empress
A book by author Douglas smith published in 2016 name, “Rasputin: Faith, Power and the Twilight of the Romanovs” examined the relationship between Grigori Rasputin and the empress. According to Douglas Smith, the empress found some kind of peace in the sayings of the monk toned down her anxiousness, and in turn, she was filled with immense confidence that she transferred to her son, who got better each day.
When Tsar Nicholas left to lead his forces in World War I. Rasputin virtually ruled the country through Alexandra, and the Romanov family lost its prestige and was regarded as corrupt and chaotic.
The royal couple was not ready to believe anything other than that Rasputin was a holy man. This led to a great scandal regarding his behavior. In 1911, prime minister P.A. Stolypin presented a report of the mad monk’s misbehavior outside the palace led to his expulsion by the Tsar.
But, the Tsarina’s affection and spiritual dependency on Rasputin led Tsar to bring back the monk within months of expulsion. Due to this, future allegations against him were chosen to be ignored by the Tsar.
6. Plotting of Rasputin’s Murder
The death of Rasputin was a well thought plan to kill Rasputin. The primary conspirator of this murder of Rasputin was Prince Felix Yussupov, the husband of the Tsar’s niece, Irina.
Prince Yusopov was the richest man in Russia. He along with some known monarchists, his co-conspirators, such as the Tsar’s cousin Grand duke Dimitri Pavlovich, and Vladimir Purishkevich, a Duma deputy executed the plan of Rasputin’s assassination. These men were the guardians of the monarchy, and they wanted to prevent it from disintegrating.
Rasputin’s removal would make Nicholas less reliant on Alexandra and more receptive to advice from his extended family, the nobility, and the Duma. It was speculated that he might return from the military command and resume ruling from Saint Petersburg.
Yussupov wrote a memoir that could be regarded as the best-known and well-documented account of the death of Rasputin. The description of Rasputin’s murder by Prince Felix Yusupov got into popular culture. Several movies about Rasputin and the Romanovs dramatized the graphic event. Bony M mentioned it in a disco tune released in the 1970s.
7. The Death of Rasputin
On the night of 29th December 1916, Prince Felix Yusupov invited Rasputin to his palace in Saint Petersburg to kill the man. It was not very hard to lure Rasputin to Yusupov’s palace as they promised him it was a meeting of the allies of empress Alexandra.
The soon-to-be assassins initially poisoned the monk’s wine and food, but since Rasputin didn’t appear to be responding to the poison, they shot him, threw him in the Neva river, and left him to die.
7.1. The Night of Assassination
The Yusupov palace, known as the Moika Palace was all set to be the murder scene of Rasputin 0n 29t December 1916. Prince Yusupov was set to meet Grigori Rasputin for some fine wine and pastries in his St Petersburg estate, where Rasputin was picked up and dropped.
The meeting was organized in a cellar within the palace with the reason given by Prince Felix Yusupov was that his wife Irina was hosting a gathering above. Though, she was not at home that night. The co-conspirators, Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich and Vladimir Purishkevich played some music on the main floor to give a base to the lie.
The Flow of Events
The meeting commenced in the cellar, where the food and wine laced with cyanide were presented before Grigori Rasputin. Rasputin ate the pastries and had a sufficient amount of wine from the glasses laced with enough cyanide to kill not one. But, for many people, the poison seemed not to be working on the holy man, and probably Rasputin continued to eat with only some discomfort!
When the poison seemed to not be working, Prince Felix Yusupov had to use a gun to kill Rasputin. According to the memoir, Yusupov told Rasputin to say a prayer. Rasputin turned to a bullet in his chest.
The monk fell to the ground, but later when Prince Yusupov returned to the cellar with the others. To their surprise, Rasputin’s murder was not a success as Rasputin’s body seemed alive, and he opened his eyes!
Yusupov ran in horror as Rasputin chased the prince from the cellar. As the memoir states, there was something strange about his diabolical refusal to die. It felt like he was being brought back to life by some evil dark forces.
Rasputin ran into the courtyard, and the men chased him as they feared the consequences if he reached Alexandra in such a condition. Purishkevich shot twice at the monk, missing the first, but he wounded Rasputin on the second attempt. The bullet pierced through his head, and the mad monk collapsed.
Later, Prince Yusupov had two of his loyal servants wrap Rasputin’s body in heavy carpets with feet and hands tied with chains and ordered him to throw the body into the Neva river. Ultimately, Grigori Rasputin probably finally died of Hypothermia and drowning since the water was found in his lungs.
It has been said that Rasputin had been warned by the Russian Interior minister that his life was under threat and that he should stay lowkey for some time to which Rasputin told the minister that it was too late now. Therefore, his reason to agree to visit Yusupov’s palace in St Petersburg remains unclear.
8. The Aftermath of the Death of Rasputin
The murder of Rasputin did not bring about any changes in Russian politics, until the beginning of the Bolshevik Revolution, in March 1917. But Rasputin’s death had a great impact on the Tsarina.
Tsarina knew Yusupov and his accomplices were responsible for the death of Rasputin, but she could not prove it without much evidence, all that she could manage to do was to convince Nicholas to exile Yusupov and others from St Petersburg.
With Rasputin’s death, the people of Russia could now only point their fingers at Tsar Nicholas II for their misery, the poor leadership, and the failures of the Russian state. When the Russian people ultimately rose for the Russian revolution in March 1917, it was not to defend the Tsar out of patriotism, as Yusupov had predicted.
Instead, it was to deny that there even needed to be a Tsar in the first place. Rasputin symbolized corruption at the very center of the imperial court to the Bolsheviks. They perceived the killing of Grigori as a noble endeavor to maintain power at the expense of the working class.
So it seems like Yusupov’s anticipation turned out wrong, or maybe Rasputin’s words that there will be nothing after he was gone turned out to be true!
Two days after the murder, Rasputin’s body was pulled out of the Neva river. Rasputin was buried in St Petersburg with an icon signed by the Grand Duchesses on the opposite side.
9. British Involvement in Rasputin’s Death
It has also been anticipated that there was the involvement of Britishers in Rasputin’s death, and it does seem feasible because Britishers did have some reason to be involved in killing a man who was now exercising pseudo-control over Russia.
This murder created a sensation all over the world, and several outlandish stories circulated around the globe. One such story mentioned Russia’s ally Britain’s hand in it
It is believed Rasputin had been murdered for allegedly wanting to forge a separate peace with Germany. The English had the ideal reason for wanting to keep Russia in the war and Rasputin was trying to prevent that. According to the Britishers, if Russia did not enter the war all of the German military rages would be unleashed on the Britishers.
However, there isn’t evidence on the murder scene that says anything about the presence of British agents on the night of the assassination. Yet this is a theory people do not want to overlook.
The death of Rasputin is one of the most confusing and unsolvable murder mysteries of the 20th century since there are so many contradictory statements and shreds of evidence that say things with concrete confidence seem impossible.
One such contradiction to name, as we have seen above, Prince Yusupov told Rasputin had been thrown in the river with hands and feet tied with chains, but when the body was recovered two days later. There was nothing as such. And as far as we know, the man was no escape artist to have opened his hands and feet in the freezing water.
Yussopov was also said to have changed his statement many times that night. Yusupov may or may not be telling the truth. Whether the man killed Rasputin because he genuinely was a true patriot or he just wanted to maintain or increase his influence in the imperial court, nobody knows the truth.
But we do know one thing for sure- Yusupov’s reason that he put forward for killing Rasputin, which was “protection of the monarchy” certainly did not happen. The people of Russia decided they needed no Tsar at all and made the Russian revolution happen. Or was this his plan after all? It’s all a mystery.
The Romanov family met a very tragic end as well. They were also assassinated inside a cellar just two years after the Death of Rasputin in the year 1918 by the Bolsheviks. So, was Rasputin a lucky charm for the Romanov family? What do you think?