The Many Murders of Russia’s Mad Monk Rasputin

Monk Grigori Rasputin
Russian Monk Grigori Rasputin

How many murder attempts did it take to finally kill the infamous Siberian monk Rasputin?  FIVE, that’s right, five, and all in the same night!

Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, was a Siberian-born peasant and monk.  At the young age of 23, he left his wife and three children to follow his calling and join an Orthodox monastery.  After only 3 months however, he quit and began wandering westward as a pilgrim, towards the Russian capital.  It was in St. Petersburg, remarkably, his fame as a self-proclaimed religious mystic began to grow.  He possessed a certain magnetism and allure that attracted zealots.  He was soon believed to be both a proven Healer and Prognosticator.

In 1906, he was introduced to Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra.  The couple was desperate for help to stop the bleeding of their hemophiliac son, and heir to the throne.  The 4 year old Czarevich Alexei had been injured and lay near death.   Before he even arrived at the Winter Palace, Rasputin boldly predicted the boy would live!  By ordering the discontinuation of aspirin (the newly discovered wonder drug), the bleeding slowed and the boy lived.  Thereafter, Rasputin held high favor in the eyes of the Czarina Alexandra.  She invited him back often to the Winter and Peterhof Palaces and he became her closest confidant and advisor.

Rasputin began to slowly exert a powerful influence on the royal family, infuriating nobles, priests, and politicians alike.  He particularly influenced the Czarina Alexandra, and was rumored by the press to be her Secret Lover!  Though an ungroomed , unwashed monk in appearance, he projected a hypnotic animal-magnetism over women (and even some men), especially in the royal court.  Rasputin was no pious, saintly monk however.

He relished his influential position and was widely criticized for his frequent drunken orgies.

When Czar Nicholas departed St. Petersburg to lead the Russian Army in World War I, Rasputin effectively ruled the royal family through Alexandra. He granted access to the Czarina in exchange for bribes or sexual favors.  Wary of the “Mad Monk’s” growing power, an unlikely trio of nobles planned his demise.  Led by Prince Felix Yusupov, husband of the czar’s niece, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Nicholas’s first cousin, and Vladimir Purishkevich, an outspoken member of Parliament.  Their plan was simple, poison the monk to avoid the alarm of gunshots and ensure their escape.

Prince Felix lured Rasputin to Yusupov Palace on the night of 17 December 1916 with a request to help his supposedly ill wife.  In a basement apartment, potassium cyanide crystals were crushed and added to both his favorite pastries and his wine glass.  Afterwards, they would wrap the body in a rug and dispose of it in a hole cut in the frozen Nevka River.

Rasputin arrived after midnight and over the course of the night ate several pastries and drank numerous glasses of tainted wine, but showed NO ill effects!  Beginning to anger, Prince Felix excused himself and returned with Purishkevich’s revolver.  The Prince promptly shot Rasputin at close range in the chest before he could utter a word.  His fellow conspirators rushed into the room and watched the monk convulse on the floor, then lie still.

They went upstairs to celebrate their success, planning to dump the monk’s body later in the dead of night.  The Prince however, remembering well the cyanide’s lack of affect, felt the sudden urge to double check Rasputin’s body again.  Going downstairs, he discovered the body still warm!  Rasputin suddenly gasped, staggered to his feet, and grabbed Prince Felix about the neck. The Prince shook himself free and ran off, screaming: “HE LIVES! HE LIVES!”

The trio ran back downstairs and found Rasputin limping across the snowy courtyard, trying to escape! 

I will inform the Czarina!” he somehow managed to shout back.  Purishkevich’s shot him twice more in the back and the monk fell to the frozen ground. Vlad ran to the monk and kicked him repeatedly in the head for good measure.  Dragging his body to the palace, the Prince then took his turn, beating the monk’s body with a dumbbell.   A policemen arrived at the door, having heard the gunshots, and they managed to convince him all was in order.

Not to be outdone, once the officer left, Rasputin moanedThe bastard was still alive!  The men tied his hands and feet, then wrapped him in bed linens.  Tossing him in Valdimir’s car, they drove to the Petrovsky Bridge over the River Nevka.  By now it was almost dawn and they were running out to time!  They rushed and neglected to weigh down the body first, dumping him into the first hole they found in the freezing river.

Rasputin’s sodden corpse was discovered under the ice about 200 meters downriver two day later. Amazingly, his arms were found frozen over his head, trying to escape the sheets.  He was still alive when dumped in the river by the noblemen and had ultimately died by drowning! The Czarina ordered an immediate investigation. The three main conspirators were all arrested, found guilty and exiled.

Grigori Rasputin's corpse
Grigori Rasputin’s corpse

There would be little rest for the royal Romanov family however.  Within three months in 1917, Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Revolution put an end to their imperial regime and the beginning of Communist Soviet Union. Nicholas and Alexandra were forced to abdicate, and were placed under house arrest in Alexander Palace.  Later, they were moved to Tobolsk in Siberia.  They tried to escape into exile, their entire family in disguise, but were recaptured in Yekaterinberg. 

Then in 17 July 1918, at 2:00 am in the morning, the Czar and Czarina of Russia were forced into a basement room and executed by their Bolshevik captors via firing squad, followed by all five of their young children, 4 daughters, including Anastasia and the Czarevich Alexei. As a final insult during the Russian Revolution, Rasputin’s body was dug up by the Bolsheviks and burned to ashes.

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LOST IN HISTORY Blog/Podcast about key forgotten history still relevant in today's world. Paul Andrews also has 5 historical adventure novels, all available on Amazon.

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