Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Death of Rasputin

If all you knew about the life of Grigori Rasputin was that he had spooky eyes and held the Russian Royal Family in a kind of a thrall - and even that you learned from the 1978 song about him by Boney M - that would be all you needed to know. The details of his life, influence, and especially death have all been muddied to the extent that sorting the truth out of the lies may well be impossible at this late date...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhile initially engaged by the Tsaritsa Alexandra to heal her ailing, hemophiliac son, the Tsarevich Alexei, he soon came under the scrutiny of the court for his profligate ways, some or even all of which rumours may have been slanderous. After a dozen years as confidante to Tsar Nicholas II and his family, other nobles at court had had enough, especially one Prince Felix Yusupov (who presumably was jealous that the Romanovs were lavishing so much attention on a peasant).

Luring Rasputin to Yusupov's Moika Palace near Saint Petersburg on this day in 1916, they plied him with wine and cakes laced with 'enough cyanide to kill five men' by Vasily Maklakov, to no effect. Yusupov then got a gun and shot Rasputin in the back; when even this didn't kill the monk he got his friend (and, some say, lover) Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich to handcuff Rasputin and throw him into the icy Neva River, which seems to have done the trick.

Of course, Yusupov's subsequent versions of these events varied to the extent that no two accounts match, which makes him an unreliable source at worst, and a talented fabulist at best; a 2004 autopsy of Rasputin located no active poison in his stomach, nor any water in his lungs. He'd obviously been stabbed, shot, and assaulted, but even this evidence contradicts reports given by Yusupov in 1916, 1917, 1927, 1934, and 1965.

All in all it was the perfect crime; despite numerous admissions that he had shot and killed Rasputin, Prince Felix Yusupov was never charged with any wrongdoing in connection with his death.
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