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|Born||21 January 1869|
Pokrovskoye, Siberia, Russian Empire
|Died||30 December 1916 (aged 47)|
Cause of death
|Occupation||peasant, wanderer, healer, advisor|
|Spouse(s)||Praskovia Fedorovna Dubrovina|
|Parents||Efim Vilkin Rasputin|
|Born||21 January 1869|
Pokrovskoye, Siberia, Russian Empire
|Died||30 December 1916 (aged 47)|
Cause of death
|Occupation||peasant, wanderer, healer, advisor|
|Spouse(s)||Praskovia Fedorovna Dubrovina|
|Parents||Efim Vilkin Rasputin|
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin (Russian: Григорий Ефимович Распутин, IPA: [ɡrʲɪˈɡorʲɪj jɪˈfʲiməvʲɪtɕ rɐˈsputʲɪn]; baptized on 22 January [O.S. 10 January] 1869 – murdered on 30 December [O.S. 17 December] 1916) was a Russian peasant, mystic and private adviser to the Romanovs, who became an influential figure in the later years of tsar Nicholas. This was especially the case after August 1915 when the Emperor left Petrograd for Stavka at the front, leaving his wife Alexandra Feodorovna to act in his place. Some people—then and now—believe that Rasputin's personal influence over the Tsarina became so great that it was he who ordered the destinies of Imperial Russia, while she compelled her weak husband to fulfill them.
Brian Moynahan describes him as "a complex figure, intelligent, ambitious, idle, generous to a fault, spiritual, and - utterly- amoral." He was obsessed by religion and impressed many people with his knowledge and ability to explain the Bible in an uncomplicated way. Rasputin was neither a monk nor a saint; he never belonged to any order or religious sect. He was considered a strannik ("pilgrim"), wandering from cloister to cloister, and regarded as a starets ("guru") and a Yurodiviy (holy fool)[note 1] by his followers, who also believed him to be a psychic and faith healer. Rasputin himself did not consider himself to be a starets. Rasputin spoke an almost incomprehensible Siberian dialect and never preached or spoke in public.
In 1907, Rasputin was invited by Nicholas and Alexandra Feodorovna to heal their only son, tsarevich Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia. "In the mind of the Tsarina Rasputin was closely associated with the health of her son, and the welfare of the monarchy." The Tsarina saw Rasputin as a "Man of God", a holy fool and clairvoyant. Rasputin's involvement with the Nicholas II of Russia originated in the royal family's isolation from the public; his role is seen as a factor that widened that isolation, especially towards the end of the reign of Nicholas II.
There is much uncertainty over Rasputin's life and influence, as accounts are often based on dubious memoirs, hearsay and legend.[note 2] In Russia, Rasputin is seen by many ordinary people and clerics, among them the late Elder Nikolay Guryanov, as a righteous man. However, Alexy II of Moscow said that any attempt to make a saint of Rasputin would be "madness".
While his influence and role may have been exaggerated, historians agree that his presence played a significant part in the increasing unpopularity of the Tsar and his wife immediately prior to the February Revolution of 1917. The conspirators, who did not accept a peasant being so close to the Imperial couple, had hoped that Rasputin's removal would cause the Tsarina to retreat from political activities. They also believed that Rasputin was an agent of Germany, but he was more of a pacifist, opposed to all wars.
Grigory Rasputin was born the son of a well-to-do peasant in the small but prosperous village of Pokrovskoye in the Tobolsk guberniya (now Yarkovsky District in the Tyumen Oblast) in the immense West Siberian Plain. The parish register contains the following entry for January 9, 1869: “In the village of Pokrovskoe, in the family of the peasant Yefim Yakovlevich Rasputin and his wife, both Orthodox, was born a son, Grigory.” The next day he was baptized and named after Gregory of Nyssa, whose feast day is on 10 January.
Grigory was the fifth of nine children. He never attended school; according to the census of 1897 almost everybody in the village was illiterate. In Pokrovskoye the young Rasputin was regarded as an outsider, but one endowed with mysterious gifts. "His limbs jerked, he shuffled his feet and always kept his hands occupied. Despite physical tics, he commanded attention." The little that is known about his childhood was passed down by his daughter Maria. On February 2, 1887, Rasputin married the three-years-older Praskovia Fyodorovna Dubrovina. The couple had three children: Dmitri, Varvara and Maria; two earlier sons died young. In 1892  Rasputin abruptly left his village, his wife, children and parents. He spent several months in the famous Verkhoturye monastery; Spiridovich suggests after the death of a child. Not far from the monastery lived a monk by the name of Brother Makary. Makary had a strong influence on Rasputin, which led to Grigory giving up drinking, smoking, and eating meat. When he arrived home he had learned to read and write and had become a zealous convert.
Rasputin's claimed vision of Our Lady of Kazan turned him towards the life of a religious mystic. Around 1893 he travelled to Mount Athos, but left shocked and profoundly disillusioned, as he told Makary. By 1900 he was identified as a strannik, although it seems that Rasputin always went home to help his family with the harvest. In 1903 he spent some time in Kiev where he visited the Monastery of the Caves. In Kazan he attracted the attention of the bishop and members of the upper class. Rasputin then walked to the capital to meet with John of Kronstadt, a famous healer. Pierre Gilliard writes that Rasputin arrived in 1905, M. Nelipa thinks Autumn 1904, Iliodor believed it was already in December 1903. He carried an introduction to Ivan Stragorodsky, the rector of the Theological Faculty. Rasputin stayed at Alexander Nevsky Lavra; there he met with Hermogenes and Theophanes of Poltava who was amazed with his psychological perspicacity. He was invited by Milica of Montenegro and her sister Anastasia, who were interested in Persian mysticism, spiritism and occultism. Milica presented Rasputin to tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra on 1 November 1905 (O.S.).
Prior to his meeting with Rasputin, the Tsar had had to deal with the Russo-Japanese War, Bloody Sunday, the Revolution of 1905, bombs and a nation-wide railway strike. In a city without electricity the Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias was forced on the 17th by Sergei Witte to sign the October Manifesto, to agree with the establishment of the State Duma and give up part of his unlimited autocracy.
In October 1906, at the request of the Tsar, Rasputin paid a visit to the wounded daughter of Prime Minister Pyotr Stolypin. A few weeks before, 29 people had been killed after a bomb attack, including one of Stolypin's children. A few months later,
... on December 15, Rasputin petitioned the Tsar, seeking to legally change his name. Grigory explained that six families in Pokrovskoye bore the surname Rasputin, and this was producing "every sort of confusion." Rasputin asked Nicholas "to end this confusion by permitting me and my descendants to take the name Rasputin-Novyi (Новый)," which means "Rasputin-New" or the "New Rasputin."
In April 1907 Rasputin was invited again to Tsarskoye Selo, this time to see tsarevich Alexei. The boy had received an injury which caused him painful bleeding. It was not publicly known that the heir to the throne had hemophilia, a disease that was widespread among European royalty. When doctors could not supply a cure, the desperate Tsarina looked for other help; she had lost her mother, her brother, her younger sister when she was young. Rasputin was said to possess the ability to heal through prayer and was able to calm the parents and to give the boy some relief, in spite of the doctors' prediction that he would die. On the following day the Tsarevich showed significant signs of recovery.
In early October 1912, during a particularly grave crisis in Spała, in Russian Poland, the Tsarevitch received the last sacrament. The desperate Tsarina turned to her best friend, Anna Vyrubova, to secure the help of the peasant healer, who at that time was out of favor. The next day, on 9 October Rasputin responded and sent a short telegram, including the prophecy: "The little one will not die. Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much." Alexandra, like Rasputin obsessed with religion, believed that he had cured her son through the power of prayer.
It has been claimed that Rasputin's apparent healing powers arose from his use of hypnosis, but Rasputin was not interested in this practice before 1913 and his teacher was expelled from St. Petersburg. Rasputin's enemies suggested that he secretly drugged Alexis with Tibetan herbs which he got from the quack doctor Badmayev. For Maria Rasputin it was magnetism. For Greg King these explanations fail to take into account those times when Rasputin healed the boy, despite being 2600 km (1650 miles) away. For Fuhrmann these ideas on hypnosis and drugs flourished because the imperial family lived such isolated lives. (They lived almost as much apart from Russian society as if they were settlers in Canada.) For Moynahan, "There is no evidence that Rasputin ever summoned up spirits, or felt the need to; he won his admirers through force of personality, not by tricks."
Even before Rasputin's arrival the upper class of St Petersburg had been widely influenced by mysticism. Individual aristocrats were reportedly obsessed with anything occult. Papus had visited Russia three times, in 1901, 1905, and 1906, serving the Tsar and Tsarina both as physician and occult consultant. According to Lili Dehn Rasputin visited the palace (allowed to take a side-door and avoiding all the security measures) once a month. While fascinated by Rasputin, favoured by the Imperial family, the ruling class of St Petersburg became envious and turned against him. Around 1910 the press started a campaign against Rasputin. In the next year the strannik supposedly went on a trip for a few months. He sailed to Constantinople, Patmos, Cypres and Beirut. Around Easter 1911 he paid a visit to the Holy Land.
In early 1912 Hermogen started rumours that Rasputin had joined the Khlysty, an obscure Christian sect with strong Siberian roots. Similar charges had already been investigated in September 1907, but proved to be a false. Iliodor, hinting that Alexandra and Rasputin were lovers, showed Makarov a satchel of letters, one written by the Tsarina and four by her daughters. The stolen letters were given to the Tsar. Rodzianko requested Rasputin to leave the capital. When Vladimir Kokovtsov became prime minister he asked the Tsar to authorize Rasputin's exile to Tobolsk. Nicholas refused; "I know Rasputin too well to believe all the tittle-tattle about him." Kokovtsov had offered Rasputin 200,000 rubles, a substantial amount of money, and ordered the newspapers not to mention his name in connection with the Empress. Alexandra became sick and refused to meet with Rasputin for a period of time. Rasputin had become one of the most hated people in Russia  and was under surveillance day and night.
There is little or no proof that he was a member of the Khlysty, but Rasputin does appear to have been influenced by their practices. He accepted some of their beliefs, for example those regarding sin as a necessary part of redemption. One of the sect's practices was known as "rejoicing" (радение), a ritual which sought to overcome human sexual urges by engaging in group sexual activities. He believed that those deliberately committing fornication and then repenting bitterly, would be closer to God. Suspicions that Rasputin, a good dancer, was one of the Khlysty tarnished his reputation right until the end of his life. Recently found documents (a 500-page document archive provided by Mstislav Rostropovich and investigated by Edvard Radzinsky) suggest that accusations about Rasputin's sexual dissoluteness were false. The basis for the denunciation of Rasputin as a Khlyst was mixed bathing, a perfectly usual custom among the peasants of many parts of Siberia.
He had ... survived public scandal, allegations of rape and lewdness, the criticism of two prime ministers, the contempt of the Duma, the hatred of churchmen, and a vitriolic press campaign - all before he was called on as a last resort to save the heir.
After the Spala accident, when the Tsarevich fell and became seriously ill, Rasputin regained influence at court and also in church affairs. His position as an intermediary had been dramatically validated. An attempt was made to push through the Synod an authorization to ordain Rasputin a priest, but the Holy Synod frequently attacked Rasputin, accusing him of a variety of immoral or evil practices. Rasputin was variously accused of being a heretic, an erotomaniac or a pseudo-khlyst. On 21 February 1913 Rodzianko ejected Rasputin from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan shortly before the celebration of 300 years of the Romanov rule over Russia. He had established himself in front of the seats which Rodzianko, after great difficulty, had secured for the Duma.
Rasputin's behaviour was discussed in the Fourth Duma, and in March 1913 the Octobrists, led by Alexander Guchkov and President of the Duma, commissioned an investigation. Worried with the threat of a scandal, the Tsar asked Rasputin to leave for Siberia. Nicholas accepted investigations on Rasputin being a Khlyst, but quickly decided to criticize the politicians  and the investigations were stopped by the Tsarina. He and his wife referred to Grigori as our "Friend" and a "holy man", emblematic of the trust that the family had placed in him. "Anyone bold enough to criticize Rasputin found only condemnation from the Tsarina." The Tsar dismissed Kokovtsov on 29 January 1914 for a "lack of control over the press".
At first sight Rasputin looks like a symbol of decadence and obscurantism, of the complete corruption of the imperial court in which he was able to float to the top. And so he has usually been treated in the history books. The temptation to wallow in the rhetoric of the lower depths in describing him is almost irresistible. And yet the truth is somewhat simpler: Rasputin was only able to play the part he did because of the dispersal of authority which very much deepened after Stolypin's death, and because of the bewildered and unhappy isolation in which the royal couple found themselves.
In 1914 Rasputin travelled with his father, who had been visiting him, from the capital to Pokrovskoye. After dining on the afternoon of Sunday 12 July [O.S. 29 June] 1914, Rasputin went out from the house and was suddenly attacked by one Khionia Guseva. This woman with an affected nose and her face concealed with a black kerchief approached him, and then jerked out a dagger. She stabbed Rasputin in the stomach, just above the navel, exposing his entrails. Rasputin fell, covered with blood and was brought into his house. After ten hours a doctor arrived and operated on him in the middle of the night. On 3 July, Rasputin was transported by boat to Tyumen for treatment, accompanied by his family. The Tsar sent his own physician and after a laparotomy and almost seven weeks in the hospital, where he had to walk around in a gown, unable to wear ordinary clothes, Rasputin recovered. On August 17, 1914 Rasputin, who believed Iliodor and Vladimir Dzhunkovsky had organized the attack, left the hospital, but his daughter Maria records that he was never the same man afterwards.
After the attack, the former monk Iliodor, once a leader in the Union of the Russian People, fled all the way around the Gulf of Bothnia to Oslo. Gusseva, a fanatically religious woman, had been his adherent in earlier years "denied Iliodor's participation, declaring that she attempted to kill Rasputin because he was spreading temptation among the innocent." The local procurator decided to suspend any action against him for undisclosed reasons  and Guseva was locked up in a madhouse in Tomsk.
Most of Rasputin's enemies had by now disappeared. Stolypin was dead, Count Kokovtsov fallen from power, Theofan exiled, Hermogen illegally banished and Iliodor in hiding.
On 25 March 1915 (O.S.) Rasputin left for Moscow by train, accompanied by his guards. On the next evening he is said to have opened his trousers and waved his genitals in front of shocked diners at the Moscow Yar restaurant whilst inebriated. It has been claimed that this story was fabricated by Dzhunkovsky in order to discredit Rasputin. A Moscow governor and Stepan Beletsky verified that Rasputin never visited the Yar restaurant. According to Nelipa he was petrified of going to an unknown restaurant, and partying with an 78-year-old woman with whom he stayed in Moscow and only left her house to attend a church is not very credible. The police did not interview any witness in the restaurant; an unreliable report was presented a few months later. Another explanation is from Tatyana Mironova. She came up with a Rasputin look alike.
During the Second Balkan War, when the Bulgarians had decided to go to a war with Serbia, the Tsar tried to stop the upcoming conflict, since Russia did not wish to lose either of its Slavic allies in the Balkans. Rasputin warned the Tsar not to get involved and promoted peace negotiations in 1913. It seems Rasputin became the enemy of Grand Duke Nicholas, a panslavist, his brother Peter and their wives Milica and Anastasia of Montenegro, eager to go in war and push the Austrians out of the Balkan.
According to Pavel Milyukov, in May 1914 Rasputin had become an influential factor in Russian politics. Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, Rasputin spoke out against Russia going to war with Germany. He begged the Tsar to do everything in his power to avoid war. From the hospital Rasputin sent quite a few telegrams to the court expressing his fears on the future of the country. "If Russia goes to war, it will be the end of the monarchy, of the Romanovs and of Russian institutions." The belligerent countries expected the war would last till Christmas, but after a year the situation at the Eastern front had become disastrous: more than 1.5 million Russian soldiers had died. When the German army occupied Warsaw in August 1915 the situation looked extremely grave, because of a shortage in weapons and munition due to bad train connections. As a result the Russian army had to withdraw (Great Retreat). Vladimir Sukhomlinov left on charges of abuse of power and treason. There was a shortage of food and high prices and the Russian people blamed all on "dark forces" or spies for and collaborators with Germany; in May 1915 shops in Moscow, owned by foreigners, were attacked.
On the eve of the war the government and the Duma were hovering round one another like indecisive wrestlers, neither side able to make a definite move. The war made the political parties more cooperative and practically formed into one party. When the Tsar announced his departure for the front in Mogilev, the Progressive Bloc was formed, fearing Rasputin's influence over tsarina Alexandra would increase. Alexandra hated the Duma because of its discussion of Rasputin. On August 19, 1915, after an unsuccessful attempt to discredit Rasputin and the Tsarina in a newspaper, prince Vladimir Orlov  and Vladimir Dzhunkovsky were discharged from their post. The Tsar then pronounced the affair between Rasputin and the Romanovs to be a private one, closed to debate.
Tsar Nicholas took supreme command of the Russian armies on August 23, 1915 (O.S.), hoping this would lift morale. He was undoubtedly led to this fateful decision by the insistence of the Tsarina and of Rasputin. "Having one man in charge of the situation would consolidate all decision making." However, there proved to be dire consequences for himself as well as for Russia. All the ministers, even Ivan Goremykin, realized that the change would put Rasputin in charge and threatened to resign. The Emperor got rid of those of his Ministers who were at best half-hearted about the war, Ivan Shcheglovitov and Vladimir Sabler, as the head of the Holy Synod, and replaced them by men who had the confidence of the country. In September the Duma was sent into recess and would not gather again till February 1916. Vasily Maklakov published his famous article, describing Russia as a vehicle with no brakes, driven along a narrow mountain path by a "mad chauffeur", a reference to the Tsar.
While seldom meeting with Alexandra personally after the debate in the Duma, Rasputin had become her personal adviser through daily telephone calls or meetings with Vyroubova. According to Fuhrmann a symbiotic relationship developed between the Tsarina and Rasputin, in which "each fed from the other". According to Pierre Gilliard "her desires were interpreted by Rasputin, they seemed in her eyes to have the sanction and authority of a revelation." Alexandra then persuaded her husband that all the ministers who had, so to speak, struck work against Premier Goremykin should be replaced as soon as possible.
|“||The Tsar had resisted the influence of Rasputin for a long time. At the beginning he had tolerated him because he dare not weaken the Tsarina's faith in him - a faith which kept her alive. He did not like to send him away, for if Aleksey Nicolaievich had died, in the eyes of the mother he would have been the murderer of his own son.||”|
In 1915 Alexei Khvostov and Iliodor planned to kill Rasputin. Khvostov had come to the conclusion that Rasputin was a German agent or spy; the evidence that Rasputin actually worked for the Germans is, however, flimsy. According to Kerensky people around Rasputin (his secretaries) were interested in strategic information and speculated on the financial market. Rasputin himself never estimated money and gave it away as soon he had received it. According to the French ambassador, Maurice Paléologue, he was not very sensitive for being bribed. He had built up a reputation of being at once a generous and a disinterested man. Besides alms Rasputin spent large sums in restaurants, cafes, music halls and in the streets...
On 3 February Rasputin learned about a new plot against his life by Alexei Khvostov after he had refused to leave the city until the approaching Duma session was over. Rather paranoid, he went to Alexander Spiridovich, head of the palace police. Rasputin seems to have been constantly in a state of nervous excitement. According to his daughter Rasputin had started to drink dessert wines after his last meeting with the Tsar. Since 1912 he was placed under Imperial protection, but in January 1915 Stepan Petrovich Beletsky, head of the police, exercised 24-hour surveillance of him and his apartment. Two sets of four detectives were attached to his person, two were to act undercover. Reports from Ochrana spies from 1 January 1915 - the famous "staircase notes" - provided evidence about Rasputin's lifestyle, that was given to the Tsar in an attempt to convince him to break with Rasputin. In reading it the Tsar observed that on the day and hour at which one of the acts mentioned in the document were alleged to have taken place Rasputin had actually been at Tsarskoe-Selo. For Bernard Pares, it was taken that police were the enemies of Rasputin, and that the many stories which reached the public were simply their machinations.
Khvostov had to resign in March 1916; Boris Stürmer was appointed in his place. In the same month Minister of War Alexei Polivanov, who in his few months of office brought about a recovery of the efficiency of the Russian army, was removed. The Minister of Foreign Affairs Sazonov, who had pleaded for an independent and autonomous Russian Poland, was replaced in June. In July Aleksandr Khvostov, not in good health, was appointed as Minister of Interior, but in September Alexander Protopopov, an Octobrist , had been appointed as his successor. This time the public was outraged. Protopopov, an industrialist and landowner, and a friend of Rasputin, was widely suspected of contacts with a German banker in Sweden after visiting France and the UK. Protopopov was a questionable politician and showed signs of mental disorder. He was fanatically convinced that he had a mission to save Russia.
On 1 November (O.S.) the government under Boris Stürmer  was attacked by Pavel Milyukov in the State Duma, not gathering since February. In his speech he spoke of "Dark Forces", and highlighted numerous governmental failures with the famous question "Is this stupidity or treason?" Alexander Kerensky called the ministers "hired assassins" and "cowards" and said they were "guided by the contemptible Grishka Rasputin!" Two days later Vasily Maklakov held an eloquent speech. Soon Stürmer would ask in vain for the dissolution of the Duma. Grand Duke Alexander and his brother George Mikhailovich requested the Tsar to fire Stürmer. Also Sir George Buchanan attempted to influence the Tsar, but the latter did not appreciate the British ambassador's advice.
Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich, according to M. Nelipa one of the key players, prince Lvov and general Mikhail Alekseyev attempted to persuade Nicholas to send the Empress away either to the Livadia Palace in Yalta or to England. Also Mikhail Rodzianko, Zinaida Yusupova, Alexandra's sister Elisabeth, Grand Duchess Victoria and the Tsar's mother tried to influence the Emperor or his stubborn wife to remove Rasputin, but without success. In short, there was practically no one ... who did not see the need for a fundamental change in the structure of the government, but the Tsar and his wife were convinced of upholding their autocracy, against the influence of the Duma, and not accessible for any advise.
On 19 November the reactionary Vladimir Purishkevich, one of the founders of the Black Hundreds, held a speech the Duma. The monarchy - because of what he called the 'ministerial leapfrog' - had become fully descredited.
The Tsar's ministers who have been turned into marionettes, marionettes whose threads have been taken firmly in hand by Rasputin and the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna—the evil genius of Russia and the Tsarina ... who has remained a German on the Russian throne and alien to the country and its people.
Purishkevich, a famous, but buffoon character, stated that Rasputin's influence over the Tsarina had made him a threat to the empire: "... an obscure moujik shall govern Russia no longer!" “While Rasputin is alive, we cannot win”.
Prince Felix Yusupov was impressed by the speech. He visited Purishkevich, who quickly agreed to participate in the murder of Rasputin. Maklakov refused to cooperate. Also Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich (who as a boy was raised in the Alexander Palace as a possible husband for the eldest daughter Olga), joined the conspiracy. His father, Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, had tried to persuade the Tsar, to change his policy and accept a new constitution in order to save the monarchy. (In the Russian Constitution of 1906 the Tsar retained an absolute veto over legislation, as well as the right to dismiss the Duma at any time, for any reason he found suitable.)
On 10 November (O.S.) Alexander Trepov had been appointed as the new prime minister, but had made the dismissal of Alexander Protopopov, who obviously had problems making up his mind and decide, an indispensable condition of his accepting the presidency of the Council. The Tsarina tried to save Protopopov in his influential position in the ministry of interior. Trepov threatened to resign. Alexandra traveled to Stavka to convince her husband to have the exceedingly nervous Protopopov staying; Rasputin and Vyrobova sent five telegrams to support her. The appointment of Protopopov wasn't approved until 7 or 8 December 1916. Trepov, having failed to eliminate Protopopov, tried to bribe Rasputin in the next days. With the help of general A.A. Mosolov, his brother-in-law, Trepov offered a substantial amount of money, a bodyguard and a house to Rasputin, when he would leave politics.
In the seventeen months of the `Tsarina's rule', from September 1915 to February 1917, Russia had four Prime Ministers, five Ministers of the Interior, three Foreign Ministers, three War Ministers, three Ministers of Transport and four Ministers of Agriculture. This "ministerial leapfrog", as it came to be known, not only removed competent men from power, but also disorganized the work of government since no one remained long enough in office to master their responsibilities.
The politicians tried to bring the government under control of the Duma. For the Octobrists and the Kadets, the liberals in the parliament, Rasputin, who believed in autocracy and absolute monarchy, was one of the main obstacles. Alexander Guchkov had come to the painful conclusion the situation could only improve when the Tsar was sent away. The Progressive Bloc supported a resolution that the Tsar was to be replaced by his son Alexei, and the Grand Duke Michael was to be the regent. Alexandra suggested to her husband to expel Prince Lvov, Milyukov, Guchkov and Polivanov to Siberia. Protopopov banned in the end of December 1916 the zemstvos from meeting without the police in attendance. "To the Okhrana it was obvious that the liberal Duma project was superfluous, and that the only two options left were repression or a social revolution."
"To the nobles and Nicholas’s family members, Rasputin was a dual character who could go straight from praying for the royal family to the brothel (bathhouse) down the street." Rasputin apparently feared that he would die before the end of the year. It seems he accepted his destiny. According to Simanovich he burned his correspondence and moved money to his daughters from his bank account on 13 December. Simanovich also published a strangely prophetic letter "The Spirit of Gregory Efimovich Rasputin of the village of Pokrovskoe", intended for the Tsar. According to Edvard Radzinsky the prophecy is not by Rasputin.
On Friday afternoon, December 16, Rasputin returned from the bathhouse at 3 p.m. Around 8 p.m. he told Anna Vyrubova, who presented him a small icon, signed at the back by the Tsarina and her daughters, of a proposed midnight visit to Yusupov in his palace. Protopopov, a frequent visitor to Rasputin's flat, had begged him earlier that evening not to go out that night.
The murder of Rasputin has become something of a legend, some of it invented, perhaps embellished or simply misremembered. There are very few facts between the night he disappeared and the day his corpse was dredged up from the river. The official police report, with details gathered in two days, and stopped with the idea the murder was solved, is unconvincing. What is left are the memoirs of the murderers, the 29-years-old Felix Yusupov and 47-years old Vladimir Purishkevich. "Unfortunately, after the Soviets came to power, many of the documents that formed part of the official secret investigation have either been destroyed, or have disappeared." Also the accounts of Iliodor, Vladimir Dzhunkovsky, Stepan Beletsky, Anna Vyrubova, Maria Rasputin and Lili Dehn are not regarded as reliable. This is why it still is so difficult to discern the actual course of events.
A few days before the night of 16/17 December (O.S.) Rasputin had been invited to the Yusopov palace at an unseemly hour, intimating Yusupov's attractive wife, Princess Irina, would be present. In point of fact, she was away in the Crimea, staying with her parents-in-law. Yusupov, who had visited Rasputin regularly in the past few months for treatment, went with Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert to Rasputin's apartment. When Rasputin had found his boots, that were hidden by his daughters, they drove to the palace. A sound-proof room in the basement in the east wing had been specially prepared for the crime. In a window they had placed four bottles, containing Marsala, sherry, a cherry liquor and Madeira. Waiting on another floor were the fellow conspirators: the young Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich, Purishkevich and Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an army officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment. A gramophone in the study played interminable the Yankee Doodle, when Rasputin came in.
According to Yusupov he offered petit fours, laced with a large amount of cyanide to Rasputin. According to Purishketvich the Prince climbed the stairs three times, as Rasputin refused the cakes or to drink anything. Maria Rasputin asserts that, after the attack by Guseva, her father suffered from hyperacidity and avoided anything with sugar. In fact, not only his daughter but also his former secretary Simanotwitsch express doubt that he was poisoned at all.
After an hour, still waiting for Rasputin to collapse, Yusupov played his guitar and sang a few gypsy ballads at the request of Rasputin, who was fond of gypsy music. Purishkevich does not mention this, although he writes he could hear bottles were opened. Determined to finish the job, Yusupov became anxious about the possibility that Rasputin might live until the morning, leaving the conspirators no time to conceal his body. Yusupov went upstairs to consult the others and then came back with a revolver to shoot Rasputin down. Rasputin was severely hit by a bullet that entered his left chest and penetrated the stomach and the liver; a second entered the left back soon after the first and penetrated the kidneys. Purishkevich writes Yusupov had missed and did not succeed killing Rasputin.
At some time Yusupov went down to check on the body and writes Rasputin opened his eyes and lunged at him. He is supposed to have grabbed Yusupov, tore an epaulette off his tunic and attempted to strangle him. (Yusupov was keen on describing Rasputin as a monster, that did not die from poison. So he could hide the real course of events, and become the "Savior of Russia"). The pathologists D. Kossorotov, V.V. Zharov, and M. Nelipa  think Rasputin would have died within ten or twenty minutes. Rasputin seems to have climbed the stairs to the ground floor stumbling through the courtyard in the direction of the gate. At that moment, according to Purishkevich, he fired four times (but missed twice) at Rasputin, who fell into the snow. The nervous Yusupov clubbed his victim severely. A curious policeman on duty on the other side of the Moika who had heard the shots, rang at the door but was sent away. Half an hour later another police man arrived and Purishkevich invited him into the palace. Purishkevich told him he had shot Rasputin, and asked him to keep it quiet for the sake of the Tsar. However, the policeman told his superiors everything he had heard and seen.
They had planned to burn Rasputin’s possessions and call from the train station a popular restaurant to ask if Rasputin was in. Sukhotin put on Rasputin’s fur coat, his rubber boots, and gloves. He left together with Dmitri Pavlovich and Dr. Lazovert in Purishkevich' car, suggesting Rasputin had left the palace alive. Because Purishkevich' wife refused to burn the fur coat and the boots in her small fireplace in Purishkevich' ambulance train, the conspirators went back to the palace with the mentioned items. When the body was wrapped in a curtain, the conspirators drove in the direction of Krestovsky island and at about 5am threw the corpse from a bridge into the Malaya Nevka River in an ice-hole. They forgot to attach weights so that the body would sink deep, dropped his fur coat over the railing with the chains, and drove back, without noticing one of Rasputin's goloshes, a rubber boot (size 10), was stuck between the piles of the bridge.
The date of Rasputin’s death is variously recorded as being either 17 December 1916 (Old Style) or thirteen days later on 30 December 1916 using New Style, but the murderers left after midnight to Rasputin's apartment, when his guards were gone. The initial attempts to kill Rasputin began in the early morning and he died on Saturday 30 December 1916 between 3 and 4 o'clock.
Rasputin's disappearance was reported by his daughter early that morning to Vyroubova. When Vyroubova spoke of it to the Empress, Alexandra pointed out that Princess Irina was absent from Petrograd. When Protopopov mentioned the story reported by the police at the Moika, they began to believe that Rasputin had been lured into an ambush. On the Empress' orders, a police investigation commenced and traces of blood were discovered on the steps to the backdoor of the Yusupov Palace. Prince Felix attempted to explain the blood with a story that by accident one of his dogs was shot. Then Prince Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri were placed under house arrest in the Sergei Palace. She had refused to meet the two, but told they could explain to her what had happened in a letter. Purishkevich assisted them and left the city to the Rumanian front at ten in the evening.
From 1912 newspapers were forbidden to print Rasputin's name in connection with the Empress and referred to the victim as a "person living on Gorokhovaya Street". On a concert in that Saturday evening by Alexander Siloti, the national hymn was sung at the request of the audience.
When traces of blood were detected on the parapet of the Bolshoy Petrovsky bridge on Saturday or Sunday afternoon, and one of his boots was found, the police knew where to investigate. On Monday, 19 December (O.S.), Rasputin's furcoat and the frozen body were discovered by divers in the icy river. On the same day the police were ordered to stop her inquest by the Director of the Police Department, A.T. Vasilyev. An autopsy on the thawed corpse by Kossorotov in a poorly lighted mortuary room of the desolate Chesme Almshouse on the evening of 20 December established that the cause of his instant death was the third bullet in his forehead. The second bullet was extracted. Another one had passed through the body. All shots were made at close range. There was alcohol (cognac according to Kossorotov) in his body, no water found in his lungs and no cyanide in his stomach. There were a number of injuries, many of them caused after his death. The corpse had hit the pile of the bridge. One eye was almost out of the socket. Kossorotov found that Rasputin’s genitals were crushed. According to Purishkevich, Vasily Maklakov had supplied a dumb bell and two weights but the Kadet politician and lawyer denied it in the preface to Purishkevich' book. He wrote to the publisher that Purishkevich account was more or less true, but not without errors.
"Margarita Nelipa, author of The Murder of Grigorii Rasputin: A Conspiracy That Brought Down the Russian Empire (2010), has done scholarship a great service by basing her discussion of the autopsy on Kosorotov’s original interview." "There is no evidence that Rasputin swallowed water after being pushed into the Neva or that he had freed his arm to make the sign of the cross."
On 21 December Rasputin's body was taken from the Chesme Church to be buried in a corner on the property of Vyrubova  in Tsarskoye Selo; the private early-morning service was held by Isidor, former Metropolitan bishop of St. Petersburg, and attended by the Imperial couple with some children, Vyrubova, and a few of Rasputin's friends, as Lili Dehn and colonel Loman. It is not sure if the two daughters of Rasputin were present. It is told the Tsarina placed a note in the coffin addressing Rasputin as "my dear martyr" and asking him to "remember us from on high in your holy prayers". Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich wrote the Tsar to close the case. Without a trial  the Tsar sent Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich, and Yusupov in exile, Purishkevich was already on his way to the front.
On 27 December the hesitating Nikolai Golitsyn became the successor of Trepov, who was allowed to retire. Also Pavel Ignatieff, Alexander Alexandrovich Makarov and Dmitry Shuvayev were replaced. The struggle between the Tsar and the Duma became more bitter than ever. After the February Revolution, when the monarchy was deserted by all the élites of the old society, the landowners, the army officers, the industrialists, and the politicians of the Duma, the Tsar resigned in the company of Vladimir Freedericksz and Grand Duke Nicholas on 2 March 1917 (O.S.). According to Figes ".. the whole of 1917 could be seen as a political battle between those who saw the revolution as a means of bringing the war to an end and those who saw the war as a means of bringing the revolution to an end."
The investigation on Rasputin had been stopped on 4 March (O.S.) by the democratic and liberal Russian Provisional Government, led by Georgy Lvov. It seems members of the new Cabinet were worried, that the place of the grave of Rasputin would become widely known and provocations could be expected there. According to Moynahan:
His body was exhumed on March 9 by members of an anti-aircraft battery stationed in the imperial park at Tsarskoye Selo. The task was overseen by an artillery officer, Klimov. Rasputin’s face was found to have turned black, and an icon was found on his chest. It bore the signatures of Vyrubova, Alexandra, and her four daughters. The body was put into a packing case that once held a piano and was driven in secret to the imperial stables in Petrograd. The next day it was loaded onto a truck and taken out of Petrograd on the Lesnoe Road.
Eight men were aboard the truck. Koupchinsky, a representative of the Duma provisional committee, which was emerging as the revolutionary government; V. Kolotsiev, a captain in the Sixteenth Lancer Regiment; and six student militiamen from the Petrograd Polytechnic. They signed an affidavit saying that they had burned the body at the roadside near the forest of Pargolovo, "in the absolute absence of persons other than the signatories."
It was, perhaps, inevitable that even this final accounting for Rasputin was untrue. Koupchinsky later admitted that he had been ordered by Alexander Kerensky, soon to be head of the new provisional government, to rebury the corpse at an unmarked spot in the countryside. But the truck broke down on the Lesnoe Road. A crowd gathered. They forced open the packing case looking for gold, and discovered the corpse. Koupchinsky decided to burn it on the spot. His men cut down trees for a pyre, doused the corpse in gasoline, and set fire to it by the roadside. The ashes were lost to the wind and the mud.
Authors do not agree what happened after the truck broke down on Lesnoe Road, on its way north in the direction of Pargolovo. The corpse was taken into a field in the Vyborgsky District and burned. It seems the cremation was carried out in an amateurish way, so the remains had to be destroyed in the boiler shop of the Saint Petersburg State Polytechnical University.
The theatrical details on the murder given by Felix Yusupov have never stood up to scrutiny. He changed his account several times; the statement given to the Petrograd police, the accounts given whilst in exile in the Crimea in 1917, his 1927 book, and finally the accounts given under oath to libel juries in 1934 and 1965 all differ to some extent, and until recently no other credible, evidence-based theories have been available. Yusupov's role in the murder has been called into question being "consumed by the thought that "not a single important event at the front was decided without a preliminary conference" between Alexandra and Rasputin. Besides the murderers did not know what he had on, a beige or a blue shirt, and where Rasputin’s wounds were. Purishkevich said he fired at Rasputin from behind at a distance of twenty paces and hit Rasputin in the back of the head. There is no photo of the rear of Rasputin’s head. Neither Purishkevich nor Yusupov mention the close quarter shot to the forehead.
According to the unpublished 1916 autopsy report by Professor Dmitry Kossorotov, as well as subsequent reviews by Dr. Vladimir Zharov in 1993 and Professor Derrick Pounder in 2004/05, no active poison was found in Rasputin's stomach.
It could not be determined with certainty that he drowned, as the water found in his lungs is a common non-specific autopsy finding. All three sources agree that Rasputin had been systematically beaten and attacked with a bladed weapon; but, most importantly, there were discrepancies regarding the number and caliber of different handguns used.
This discovery may significantly change the whole premise and account of Rasputin's death. British intelligence reports, sent between London and Petrograd in 1916, indicate that the British were not only extremely concerned about Rasputin's displacement of pro-British ministers in the Russian government but, even more importantly, his apparent insistence on withdrawing Russian troops from World War I. This withdrawal would have allowed the Germans to transfer their Eastern Front troops to the Western Front, leading to a massive outnumbering of the Allies, and threatening their defeat. Whether this was actually Rasputin's intent or whether he was simply concerned about the huge number of Russian casualties (as the Tsarina's letters indicate) is in dispute, but it is clear that the British perceived him as a real threat to the war effort.
Professor Pounder states that, of all the shots fired into Rasputin's body, the one which entered his forehead was instantly fatal. This shot also provides some intriguing evidence. In Zharov and Pounder's view, with which the Firearms Department of London's Imperial War Museum agrees, the third shot was fired from a different gun from those responsible for the other two wounds. The "size and prominence of the abraded margin" suggested a large lead non-jacketed bullet. At the time, the majority of weapons used hard metal-jacketed bullets, with Britain virtually alone in using lead unjacketed bullets in their officers' Webley revolvers.[unreliable source?] Pounder came to the conclusion that the bullet which caused the fatal shot was a Webley .455 inch unjacketed round, the best fit with the available forensic evidence. Fuhrmann thinks it is not very likely a Webley and an unjacketed bullet was used; its impact would have been different.
There were two officers of the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in Petrograd at the time. Witnesses stated that at the scene of the murder, the only man present with a Webley revolver was Lieutenant Oswald Rayner, a British officer attached to the SIS station in Petrograd, who had visited the Yusupov palace several times on the day of the murder. This account is further supported by an audience between the British Ambassador, Sir George Buchanan, who knew about an assassination attempt before it happened, and tsar Nicholas, when Nicholas stated that he suspected "a young Englishman who had been a college friend of prince Felix Yusupoff, of having been concerned in Rasputin's murder ...". Rayner certainly had known Yusupov at the University of Oxford. The second SIS officer in Petrograd at the time was Captain Stephen Alley, born in the Yusupov Palace in 1876. Both families had very strong ties so it is difficult to come to any conclusion about whom to hold responsible.
Confirmation that Rayner met with Yusupov (along with another officer, Captain John Scale) in the weeks leading up to the killing can be found in the diary of their chauffeur, William Compton, who recorded all visits. The last entry was made on the night after the murder. Compton said that "it is a little-known fact that Rasputin was shot not by a Russian but by an Englishman" and indicated that the culprit was a lawyer from the same part of the country as Compton himself. There is little doubt that Rayner was born some ten miles from Compton's hometown and, throughout his life, described himself as a barrister-at-law.
Evidence that the attempt had not gone quite according to plan is hinted at in a letter which Alley wrote to Scale eight days after the murder: "Although matters here have not proceeded entirely to plan, our objective has clearly been achieved. ... a few awkward questions have already been asked about wider involvement. Rayner is attending to loose ends and will no doubt brief you."
On his return to England, Oswald Rayner not only confided to his cousin, Rose Jones, that he had been present at Rasputin's murder but also showed family members a bullet which he claimed to have acquired at the murder scene. "Additionally, Oswald Rayner translated Yusupov’s first book on the murder of the peasant, sparking an interesting possibility that the pair may have shaped the story to suit their own ends." Conclusive evidence is unattainable, however, as Rayner burned all his papers before he died in 1961 and his only son also died four years later.
Newspaper reporter Michael Smith wrote in his book that British Secret Intelligence Bureau head Mansfield Cumming ordered three of his agents in Russia to eliminate Rasputin in December 1916. According to Sir Samuel Hoare, head of the British Intelligence Service in Russia: "If MI6 had a part in the killing of Rasputin, I would have expected to have found some trace of that".
After his death the memoirs of those who knew Rasputin became a mini-industry. The basement where he died is a tourist attraction. Numerous film and stage productions have been based on his life. He has appeared as a fictionalized version of himself in numerous other media, as well as having several beverages named after him.
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|Wikisource has the text of a 1922 Encyclopædia Britannica article about Grigori Rasputin.|