Remembering Rasputin

Written by Lee Harvey

1869 – 1916

Even now, over a hundred years after his murder, Grigori Rasputin is an enigma. Born a peasant in Siberia, he embeded himself with Nicholas II, the last Tsar, and became one of the most powerful people in Imperial Russia.

Despite holding no position within the church, Rasputin captivated St Petersburg high society with claims that he was both a monk and healer and met the Tsar in 1905.

A year later, Rasputin was the sole healer of Nicholas’s son Alexei who suffered from hemophilia. The strangest part of the whole situation is that Rasputin, a peasant with no medical training, actually healed Alexei on multiple occasions. Take this one (of many) examples: in 1912 Alexei developed a hematoma after a hunting accident and was on the verge of death. Rasputin was back in Siberia after Nicholas sent him away for appalling behaviour. The Tsarina Alexandra asked for Rasputin to pray for her son and Rasputin responded: “God has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Do not grieve. The Little One will not die. Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much.” The next morning Alexei was recovered. 

Scholars and doctors still debate how Rasputin healed Alexei time after time. Theories range from hypnotism, to Rasputin poisoning Alexei to maintain power over his parents, to Rasputin stopping treatment of the new blood thinning wonder medicine aspirin and much more. One of the few things we do know about Rasputin is that his mystery ability cemented himself in the Tsar and Tsarina’s hearts.

The Tsar’s blessing allowed Rasputin to get away with things no one else would. A lowly peasant untrained in etiquette, Rasputin dined with the highest of nobility in Imperial Russia, drunk obscene amounts, sexually assaulted noble ladies by the dozens and had critics dismissed from their posts. When the Tsar went to oversee the war, Rasputin essentially ruled the country alongside the Tsarina.

The spell Rasputin had over the Tsarina and all of Russia as a result is what led to his murder. Some scholars say the murder was perpetrated by British intelligence but it is more likely that Rasputin was assassinated by disgruntled Russians from high society: Prince Felix Yusupov, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and politician Vladimir Purishkevich. Rasputin’s death may just be the strangest thing about him…

The story begins with Rasputin going to Felix’s to heal his wife. Felix ushered Rasputin to the basement to wait while his wife saw her visitors out. In the basement, Rasputin feasted on food laced with far-more-than-enough cyanide. But the poison seemed to have no effect on the mystic. Rasputin even asked for wine, which was also poisoned, and drunk three glasses without ever showing any distress. After that, Rasputin had for a cup of tea which was, again, poisoned and useless.

Felix excused himself and went upstairs where the other conspirators were waiting and retrieved a pistol. Felix went back down stairs, asked Rasputin to inspect a cross on the wall and shot him in the back. Rasputin collapsed and bled on the floor. Felix enlightened his partners and, while they went to get the car to dispose of the body, came down stairs to make sure Rasputin was dead. Felix picked the body up, shook it and dropped it. No sign of life.

Suddenly, Rasputin’s eyes sprung open and the man attacked his attempted murderer. Felix fought Rasputin off and run back upstairs for his gun. Rasputin crawled up the stairs and outside. Felix and the other assassins caught up to Rasputin and shot him in the back and head. Rasputin collapsed. Finally, dead. But Felix refused to make the same mistake again. He started to beat Rasputin’s face in with a truncheon. The men dragged the body back inside but discovered that Rasputin was still breathing.

They loaded Rasputin into the car, drove to the Niva river and dumped him under the ice. Rasputin drowned to death but managed to untie himself and claw at the ice…

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