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The Death of Grigory Rasputin

Retired Article • Written by Josh Harding

If you have kids under 10, you will probably remember the highly inaccurate, if not entertaining film "Anastasia". You should also recall the scene where Rasputin, in an attempt to get the young Anastasia, sinks glub...glub under the ice, meeting his demise and then melting away when she stomps on his magic crystal thingy. As gruesome as he is in the animated movie, the death of Grigory Rasputin is far more spooky. The man just didn't wanna go.

Rasputin has been tied in the immortality of history to the ill-fated Romanov family. Some may even say that he was the cause of their destruction. Whatever you may think about him: powerful mystic or drunken fruitcake, he wormed his way into the heart's of the imperial family and stuck there like a tick on a camel.

You might think it odd that a family rich and powerful would welcome as a close adviser and friend someone as coarse and odd as Rasputin. He prayed with the family, referred to the Tsar and Tsarina as "Papa" and "Mama". He fraternized with all their friends. His every need was provided for. Why the love?

In Russia, even as recent as the first part of the 20th Century, certain people were given misplaced respect and honor. One group was called the yurodivie. They were insane or handicapped and wandered around talking or screaming to themselves. The other type were called startsi (singular: starets). Both were considered holy people. Rasputin was considered the latter.

He was adored by the royal family, loved or endured by their friends (especially if one wanted to remain a friend), and hated by the extended family, government, and religious leaders. Rumors about him ran wild throughout the country. He allegedly dabbled in prophecy, could heal the Tsarovich's (Tsar's son) hemophilia, influenced policy, dictated government appointments and sackings (directly or indirectly), and there were even rumors of him canoodling with the Tsarina and daughters. Depending on what you have read and heard, what is truth and what is fiction is a matter for deep speculation.

In any case, the extended family was really sick of his meddling and dangerous influence. Therefore, some of them decided to take matters into their own hands. On the night of December 17th, 1916, the Great Duke Dmitri Romanov, Prince Felix Yussupov, Vladimir Purishkevich (a member of the Russian Parliament), and Dr. Lazaret invited Rasputin to the Yussupov palace under the pretence of meeting (and according to one historian, to heal) Felix's wife Irina. Upon arrival, Rasputin was taken to a dining room in the basement. He was told that Irina had some guests and Rasputin was to rest and drink tea until the guests left.

Rasputin was offered pastries and wine which he initially refused. This somewhat threw the Prince into a panic. He told the other conspirators (who were waiting in another room off the stairs), "...that animal is not eating or drinking." When Felix returned, however, Rasputin had opened the wine and began to drink. After drinking a couple of glasses, he showed no signs of having been poisoned. After a while, he may have started feeling something because he asked for tea. Then stood, walked around the room, then asked Felix to play the guitar and sing. For two hours this "nightmare" continued.

When Felix checked in with is co-conspirators next, he was pale. He said that Rasputin had eaten and drank the poisoned food and still nothing had happened. When he again returned to his guest, the only signs of the poison affecting him was that he was burping and had some excessive salivation. Nerves were beginning to give way. Felix decided to end it. He took a revolver and while Rasputin was looking at a fancy cross, shot him in the back. Rasputin gave a bestial cry and fell to the floor.

Dimitry and the doctor allegedly went for the car and to destroy Rasputin's coat and boots (they were not destroyed). In the meantime, Felix wanted to see Rasputin again, so he went and took another look. The body was still warm with small drops of blood coming from the wound. He lifted the body by the shirt and shook it and dropped it again to the floor. He then noticed that the left eye started to open, then the right eye. Suddenly the Rasputin leapt from the floor with a "devil's look" in his eyes and a wild cry and attacked Felix. Felix struggled for a moment and broke free. Rasputin fell again to the floor.

The prince ran, calling for the revolver again. When they returned, Rasputin was crawling up the stairs. He made it out and began to run through the snow near the fence crying, "Felix, Felix...I'll tell everything to the tsarina!" In a panic, Purishkevich missed twice with the revolver, then biting himself on the wrist to make himself concentrate, shot Rasputin in the back. Then again in the head. Rasputin fell, holding his head.

Felix began to beat Rasputin with a rubber truncheon. Finally Purishkevich had him pulled off the body. They took the body back into the house and discovered that Rasputin was still alive. He wheezed with each breath and was able to look at them through one eye. Finally Dimitry and the doctor returned. The body was wrapped in a cloth and taken by car to the Niva river and dumped in.

That, at least, is the version that Felix Yusupov gave in a book he wrote from exile in Paris in the 1920's. Historian's throw doubt on points of this version.

  1. The reason the wine did not poison him was that it was a weak mixture.
  2. The poison in the pastries did not affect Rasputin because he NEVER ate meat or pastries or other sweets.
  3. It was not Purishkevich who shot Rasputin, but Great Prince Dimitry. Purishkevich and Yusupov covered for the Great Prince. Everyone believed it was Dimitry, but the fact could not be argued with the other two pleading guilty. Even then, Dimitry was exiled to Paris.

When the body was retrieved two days later from the river, it appeared as if the Rasputin had tried to claw is way out from the ice. He died from drowning after being unsuccessfully poisoned, shot three times and beaten. He was buried in secret to avoid desecration. Thus ended Grigory Yefrimovich Rasputin.

Further reading:
Wikipedia article on Rasputin
English translation of a great book on Rasputin (Amazon.com)

Article written by Josh Harding, published on 29 January 2006. Josh is a contributing editor for DamnInteresting.com.

Article design by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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41 Comments
AZditz
Posted 29 January 2006 at 01:12 pm

I've read that the insane are beloved of the gods...maybe so.


RandomAction
Posted 29 January 2006 at 02:10 pm

I'd like to know where you got that photograph of my mother?

In Russia, even as recent as the first part of the 20th Century, certain people were given misplaced respect and honor. Sadly the same happens in the first part of the 21st century as well.

To continue:
Where did he come from, was he Russian? Was that his native language? When did he arrive in the lives of the Romanov's? How was he introduced to them? Why was he introduced to them? You have raised more questions than you've answered. Which I think is good.


wh44
Posted 29 January 2006 at 07:06 pm

I've heard a much simpler explanation for this tale: the tellers of the tale wanted it believed that Rasputin was a powerful warlock, and "real" warlocks need to be killed multiple (seven?) times before they finally die.


Oax
Posted 29 January 2006 at 07:49 pm

I read a similar thing about the giant Blackbeard the pirate. He got the crap shot and sworded out of him, but he just wasn't interested.

is there any coorelation between being huge and not taking a hint?


Josh Harding
Posted 30 January 2006 at 06:24 am

Rasputin (not his real name) was born somewhere out on the eastern side of the Russian Empire in a little village. He was a drunkard, married and had a daughter. Native language was Russian, although he was not educated. He was a starets which means he wandered around for a while. I believe he was introduced to the Romanov family through a friend of Alexandra's, I will have to double check the source, but I think her name was Verobyova (who actually lived through the revolution with only a bit of jail time). I'll double check and get back on that.


Josh Harding
Posted 30 January 2006 at 06:26 am

wh44 said: "I've heard a much simpler explanation for this tale: the tellers of the tale wanted it believed that Rasputin was a powerful warlock, and "real" warlocks need to be killed multiple (seven?) times before they finally die."

Actually, he wasn't a warlock, he was a Khlist. Khlists believe that you can get absolution from sin by sinning. It was one of the popular folk beliefs in the villages...kinda a mix of paganism and Russian Orthodoxy. They would go into someone's basement and have a revival meeting. There would be much singing and praying and when the "Holy Ghost" fell upon them they would strip down and have an orgy. Then they would all go home happy and free of sin.


alipardiwala
Posted 30 January 2006 at 08:26 am

Wasn't there a Boney M song about him?
If it was so open that he loved the Tsarina, then how come the Tsar still liked him?


Josh Harding
Posted 30 January 2006 at 01:12 pm

alipardiwala said: "Wasn't there a Boney M song about him?

If it was so open that he loved the Tsarina, then how come the Tsar still liked him?"

A couple reasons for that. One, according to most historians, there was no hanky panky between Rasputin and the Tsarina (or the Tsarevnas). And two, the reason that the Romanovs were the last was that Nikolai loved his wife and was rather weak in that regard. His wife had a lot of influence over his decisions. If Aleksandra liked him, then Nikolai liked him.

That Boney M song is classic.


Bucky
Posted 30 January 2006 at 03:13 pm

Actual quotes from Rasputin: "I'm not dead yet!" "I'm feeling happy!" "I want to go for a walk!"


Josh Harding
Posted 31 January 2006 at 07:41 am

Venkman: 105 years old? He hung in there, didn't he?
Stantz: He didn't die of old age, either. He was poisoned, stabbed, shot, hung, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered.
Venkman: Ouch.
Stantz: And dig this, there was a prophecy. Just before his head died, his last words were "Death is but a door, time is but a window: I'll be back."


Joshua
Posted 31 January 2006 at 12:31 pm

What's really ironic is that if the royals had just put up with Rasputin for one more year, he would probably have been offed by the Bolsheviks instead, and would likely have gone down as just another victim of Lenin's communist revolution, without nearly the same legendary status.


DigiNinja
Posted 10 February 2006 at 07:11 am

Josh Harding said: "Venkman: 105 years old? He hung in there, didn't he?

Stantz: He didn't die of old age, either. He was poisoned, stabbed, shot, hung, stretched, disemboweled, drawn and quartered.
Venkman: Ouch.
Stantz: And dig this, there was a prophecy. Just before his head died, his last words were "Death is but a door, time is but a window: I'll be back.""

~ Don't, what ever you do, cross the streams!"


snoopy4ever12
Posted 12 March 2006 at 08:41 pm

Wow. That is..interesting...I'm studying Rasputin and Russia and school. Just...wow. I heard he is back in Russia, living backwards. Well, ttyl bye

*ali*


snoopy4ever12
Posted 12 March 2006 at 08:42 pm

And...what streams?? The Niva river?

*ali*


Dementia
Posted 26 March 2006 at 11:43 am

There seems to be a correlation between this and another article here about a similar fighter against death... Perhaps Rasputin was reincarnated as Mike the Headless Chicken.


CanInternet
Posted 03 April 2006 at 08:46 am

In the Netherlands we also had an affair in the royal family;.

see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greet_Hofmans


The_Smurf_Strangler
Posted 03 April 2006 at 12:35 pm

AZditz said: "I've read that the insane are beloved of the gods…maybe so."

In America they get to be President.


TanoPrime
Posted 20 June 2006 at 10:40 am

I have the strange impression that a "starets" doesn't mean just a wandering man or so.

This slavic word is mostly used with the meaning of "abbot" - well, abbot of a Orthodox Monastery.

For example, in Romania there is : "maica stareţa" - mother staretza, and "stareţ" - each meaning the leader of a monastery (in the first case a monastery for women, and in the latter for men).
This meaning can also be followed in Bulgarian, and a few other languages with slavic influences in the region.


EuGenus
Posted 07 August 2006 at 09:27 pm

TanoPrime said: "I have the strange impression that a "starets" doesn't mean just a wandering man or so.


This slavic word is mostly used with the meaning of "abbot" - well, abbot of a Orthodox Monastery.

For example, in Romania there is : "maica stareţa" - mother staretza, and "stareţ" - each meaning the leader of a monastery (in the first case a monastery for women, and in the latter for men).
This meaning can also be followed in Bulgarian, and a few other languages with slavic influences in the region."

Actually the russian word "starets" means literally "old man". The connotation may have differed in the past, however I doubt that it meant something significantly different than "a wise old man". Elders have received respect and admiration in pretty much all cultures at one time or other. Lately our society has become much more youth-centric, which is a pity.

Also it's "Tsarevich" and not "Tsarovich". And I've also always been puzzled by the fact that in many English references the Russian word "Tsaritsa" (as in the wife of tsar) got garbled to "Tsarina". Certainly if you used the word "Tsarina" in Russian people would look at you funny.


sioleabha
Posted 14 January 2007 at 10:17 pm

This reminds me of a movie I saw about the Romanovs in school. A young Alexei sang this little song about having to be careful about his hemophilia:
"Alexei, Alexei, mustn't run and mustn't play, mustn't jump and mustn't climb, must be careful all the time."

The movie really played up the idea that Rasputin's influence came from a supposed ability to heal Alexei.


kgy121
Posted 11 February 2007 at 04:17 am

snoopy4ever12 said: "And…what streams?? The Niva river?


*ali*"

GhostBusters of course!


cerrone2789
Posted 03 March 2007 at 11:51 pm

There's really no evidence whatsoever that the Tsarina had an interest in Rasputin other than her interest in him as a holy man and healer for her son. One only has to look at the letters she wrote her husband- "Your darling wify," "My hubby" "My precious darling" "I have your love locked within my heart, and I have thrown away the key!" "I miss your touch so!" and her maniacal monarchism to see that she would NEVER have jeopardized her beloved son's position by boinking some ill-behaved peasant.
And the idea that Rasputin may have 'canoodled' with the shut up Grand Duchesses is ridiculous also (they were so sheltered they never spoke above a 13 year old level- using kid terms and behaving like little girls well into their 20s).
And Felix Yusupov's account is pretty unreliable, he was known to exaggerate a great deal. But two interesting notes: He claimed he had a record of 'Yankee Doddle Dandy' playing over and over on the phonograph when he had Rasputin over to kill him, and he also liked to dress up in his mother's clothing and visit nightclubs with his brother (he was once apparently hit on by King Edward). His mother had been desperate for a daughter, but got two sons instead, so she dressed Felix in girl's clothing till he was 13.

Sorry it's so long winded, the Romanov's are my favorite subject...
Other than those things I thought it was a great article... didn't mention the VERY weird prophecy though!


Merciless
Posted 13 June 2007 at 11:02 am

cerrone2789 said: "Other than those things I thought it was a great article… didn't mention the VERY weird prophecy though!"

Explain the "VERY weird prophecy" please.
In my opinion, some people just can't take a freakin hint and die or something.
As always, Damn Interesting.


My2Cents
Posted 06 September 2007 at 09:36 am

I've read an article about Rasputin before. It was very interesting and went more into how he grew up and what made him so important to the Romanov family. Some things that weren't included in this article was that Rasputin was a horse whisperer and a drunkend sex addict. He spent most of his teenage years as a loner and a rebel. Then I think I remember reading that he went away for a while and then came back as a self-proclaimed holy man who believed that you could rid yourself of sin by sinning. He would have orgies with a lot of the higher up family's women. The people at that time were in search of new religion and Rasputin is what they found. The Romanov family weren't really connected with their people at that time so they considered Rasputin to be a good connection and someone who could bridge the gap.
Their son was very ill and he would often go into "fits" and there was nothing that any of their doctors could do but somehow Rasputin healed him of these fits more than once and the doctors couldn't explain how.
So whether or not the stories of how he just wouldn't die are true or just something made up to scare any other people from following his path he did have unexplainable abilities that make him someone worth reading about.


princessmelissa
Posted 12 November 2007 at 05:07 pm

I have been told (by my history teacher and text books) that he was actually of Serbian origin, not Russian.

Regardless, the story is still interesting


kizzles666
Posted 30 April 2008 at 04:27 am

Actually, according to historian Sir Bernard Pares, among many others, it is doubtful that Rasputin and the Empress had an affair (there is no evidence whatsoever to back up this myth) but Rasputin did reportedly rape the daughters' (the Duchess's) nanny. The Empress would not believe this, but the situation being out of her hands the Director General of the Church had Rasputin banished from the city. A few nights later the Director General "died" and the Empress had snuck Rasputin back in to the palace. Rasputin then became friendly with the Director General's son - his successor. The son then died and Rasputin was named the successor, and his decisions caused mass destruction to the Romanov Dynasty. All this time the Empress stayed in debt to him as he seemed to cure her only son, after so many daughters, the only heir to the throne. She had no reason to have the affair as she is said to have loved her husband very much and was even depressed at times knowing she had not bore a son for her husband before Alex was born, and Rasputin is said to have been pleasured almost every night through illegal orgies. Any affair that did happen in the palace would have been in the spotlight, and the Empress was not often left alone during her time.


rsmsisfuncom
Posted 31 May 2008 at 10:37 pm

TanoPrime said: "I have the strange impression that a "starets" doesn't mean just a wandering man or so.

This slavic word is mostly used with the meaning of "abbot" - well, abbot of a Orthodox Monastery.

For example, in Romania there is : "maica stareţa" - mother staretza, and "stareţ" - each meaning the leader of a monastery (in the first case a monastery for women, and in the latter for men).
This meaning can also be followed in Bulgarian, and a few other languages with slavic influences in the region."[/quote rasputin proclaimed himself as a starets a heal who coupld predict the future.


rsmsisfuncom
Posted 31 May 2008 at 10:38 pm

sorry i meant a healer* who could predict the future.


rsmsisfuncom
Posted 31 May 2008 at 10:39 pm

princessmelissa said: "I have been told (by my history teacher and text books) that he was actually of Serbian origin, not Russian.

Regardless, the story is still interesting"

he was born in siberia. not russia.


orochimaru
Posted 28 June 2008 at 04:32 pm

rsmsisfuncom said: "he was born in siberia. not russia."

Siberia is a part of Russia.


elphaba
Posted 22 July 2008 at 10:13 am

Josh Harding said: "Rasputin (not his real name) was born somewhere out on the eastern side of the Russian Empire in a little village. He was a drunkard, married and had a daughter. Native language was Russian, although he was not educated. He was a starets which means he wandered around for a while. I believe he was introduced to the Romanov family through a friend of Alexandra's, I will have to double check the source, but I think her name was Verobyova (who actually lived through the revolution with only a bit of jail time). I'll double check and get back on that."

I believe he was from Siberia.


elphaba
Posted 15 November 2008 at 03:11 pm

Creep-tacular.


sweeper
Posted 02 December 2008 at 03:55 am

@ TanoPrime #18

The Slavic root/word "stare-" means old.
Starets means old man.
If you've read or seen A Clockwork Orange this is why Alex refers to old people as "starry" in Nadsat.


i_luv_demitri
Posted 08 December 2008 at 12:33 pm

i like rasputin i think hes very interesting ........ i would luv to travel back in time to meet him
..... i happen to take offence on the anastasia thing i luv that movie


i_luv_the_disturbed_schitophrinic
Posted 09 December 2008 at 03:33 am

well i think you r a lil weird...........why did u even look up rasputin........was it because of the movie?


eitak
Posted 09 March 2009 at 10:47 am

Actually, Anastasia was closely accurate to the event. Romanav dynasty existing for 300 years was ended to Rasputin. So good try with the insults to the movie.


Morzkovsky
Posted 06 August 2009 at 01:58 am

Only, you know, not. I'm fairly sure Rasputin was not a lich. Nor did he have a bat sidekick. Also, Anastasia was very, very dead a little while after the Revolution. Which Rasputin did not cause, I will add. He might have discredited the royal family slightly, but Lenin already had the Tsar's death in mind before that.


MrsC
Posted 27 June 2011 at 06:47 am

Read my book, "Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History" for a realistic picture of Rasputin. As written on Amazon:
This book is a well-documented account of Rasputin as a healer, equal rights activist and man of God, and why he was so vilified by the aristocracy that their vicious rumors became accepted as history. For nearly a century, Grigory Rasputin, spiritual advisor to Russia's last Tsar and Tsarina, has been unjustly maligned simply because history is written by the politically powerful and not by the common man. A wealth of evidence shows that Rasputin was discredited by a fanatically anti-Semitic Russian society, for advocating equal rights for the severely oppressed Jewish population, as well as for promoting peace in a pro-war era. Testimony by his friends and enemies, from all social strata, provides a picture of a spiritual man who hated bigotry, inequity and violence. The author is the great-great niece of Aron Simanovitch, Rasputin's Jewish secretary.

Rabbi Joshua Chasan says: "Delin Colon characterizes her book "Rasputin and the Jews" as A Reversal of History. What she attempts to do is correct the widely held view of Rasputin as an evil man who committed the worst debaucheries, substituting instead a view of Rasputin as a humanitarian, a courageous defender of Jews and other people vulnerable in pre-revolutionary Russia. She identifies the sources of the negative views of Rasputin, making a good case for the need for us to see that there are a lot of ways of remembering the past."
Delin Colón "bashes the popular notion of the infamous Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin as an influential anti-Semitic, power-hungry conniver in the final years of the Russian Romanov dynasty." --The Baltimore Jewish Times - Neil Rubin
"Colón has put forth the notion that Rasputin's advocacy on behalf of the country's Jews contributed to his demise." --The Jewish Literary Review - Steve Pollak


Miranda
Posted 24 November 2013 at 03:16 pm

I heard that Rasputin was introduced to Tsarina and her husband because they were trying to have a baby boy, but all they had were baby girls.
So Rasputin came to "bless" the Tsarina so she would have a baby boy to the royal name onto.


roberta shaw
Posted 09 May 2014 at 11:47 am

Rasputin did not drown! There was no water in his lungs. You bought into the myth. Read the autopsy report. Admittedly the autopsy was slap-dash but the facts stand. A bullet to the head killed the 'mad monk' instantly. He was dead when he went off the Petrosky Bridge. Eventually, as a direct circumstance of the Revolution, Rasputin's grave was desecrated and his remains destroyed with typical Soviet lack of efficientcy: again, a truck baring embarassing evidence bogs down and the contents are then set afire. Nonetheless, Gregory Rasputin was shot to death; given a fine coffin and funeral by the clueless Romanovs, (though Nicolas was said to be much releived to have him gone at last). They didn't have the time to build a chapel to his memory, or Alexandra didn't. He was discovered, dug up and untidily disposed of. Amen


Nick M
Posted 06 November 2014 at 01:49 am

RandomAction said: "I'd like to know where you got that photograph of my mother?

In Russia, even as recent as the first part of the 20th Century, certain people were given misplaced respect and honor. Sadly the same happens in the first part of the 21st century as well.

To continue:
Where did he come from, was he Russian? Was that his native language? When did he arrive in the lives of the Romanov's? How was he introduced to them? Why was he introduced to them? You have raised more questions than you've answered. Which I think is good."

Netflix has all the answers to your questions in a Documentary. Flipping amazing and creepy guy his entire life.


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