Everyone has problems with their government. The death of Rasputin is no different. It’s a twisted tale of drunkenness and torrid sexual encounters. But while the United States is currently led by a very elderly man, at least the president isn’t guided by a self-proclaimed “holy man” who spent half his time whoring and drinking – Hunter doesn’t have a role in the Biden Administration.
The Unknown Truth Behind The Death of Rasputin
That was one of Russians’ major problems with Tsar Nicholas II more than 100 years ago when Grigori Rasputin showed up at the Imperial Court. Called the “Mad Monk,” he became a close associate of the Tsar, who eventually wore out his welcome with the nobility. After a decade of service, they got rid of him the best way they knew how: stone-cold murder.
One day in 1905, a peasant from the middle of nowhere appeared at the Russian Imperial Court. Grigori Rasputin was basically the leader of what we would today consider a sex cult, but he had charmed all the right people. That’s how he ended up in Saint Petersburg and became a favorite in the highest levels of Russian society.His spirituality quickly aroused the curiosity of the Russian elite. It also landed him an audience with the most powerful couple in the country, the Tsar and Tsarina, who were as enamored with Rasputin as anyone else. He asked to pray for their son Alexei, who was known to be suffering from hemophilia, which prevents blood from clotting properly.
Historians dispute whether it was a prayer that cured Alexei’s condition. Some believe it was folk medicine; others say it was keeping the quackery of Russian doctors away from the boy that cured him. All Tsarina Alexandra saw was prayer, and the royal family became firm believers. Saving the son of the most powerful man in Russia has its perks. As the Tsar’s favorite, Rasputin had free rein of Saint Petersburg and took full advantage of the opportunity.
Drunk And Disorderly
His drunkenness became so legendary that it was reported in newspapers, and keep in mind: this is Russia we’re talking about. A third of Russia’s wealth came from vodka sales back then. Today, a full quarter of Russian men die before the age of 55 because of vodka, and they drank even more in Rasputin’s day. Now imagine how drunk a Russian would have to be for it to make the evening news. That was Rasputin.
If his drinking wasn’t enough, Rasputin also loved the ladies. It didn’t matter what kind of lady he didn’t care. Peasants and prostitutes were all fair game; he wouldn’t have paid Stormy Daniels a dime. His access to the elites meant he could also aim higher on the social ladder – and he did. The lurid affairs of the so-called “Holy Man” scandalized the Russian public (this is still the Victorian age, after all). His sexual exploits weren’t just the talk of Russia; they were the talk of the entire continent in an era before the Internet. Europe hadn’t been so concerned about a Russian’s sex life since rumors flew about Catherine the Great’s tryst with a horse.
None of that mattered to the royal family. In fact, Rasputin moved in with them and became a close advisor to both the Tsar and Tsarina, which only intensified the rumors. Russians began to believe Rasputin was having a sexual affair with the Tsarina and cast some spell over the Romanovs. What he did with the royals is way less important than what people thought he was doing, but he was definitely using his status to accept bribes and sexual favors. Nothing could turn the Imperial Family away from Rasputin’s influence. It got so bad Russians began to think he was causing the country’s slow decline.
The Assassination Attempt
By the time the Russian Empire entered World War I, the economy was declining (the Tsar outlawed alcohol), and the war wasn’t popular among the peasantry, who had to fight it. They blamed Rasputin and their German-born Tsarina for their bad luck, even accusing them of conspiring with Germany. It came to a head in 1914 when a 33-year-old peasant woman stabbed Rasputin in the stomach, seriously wounding him but not killing him.
Even aristocrats who once flocked to him turned against him. Prince Felix Yussupov, a wealthy and shiftless noble who refused to enlist for the war like other men of his class, decided the easiest way to serve the country would be to kill the man responsible for all of its illnesses. Yussupov invited Rasputin into his home in December 1916 with the intent to kill him. Yussupov wrote in his memoirs that he served Rasputin tea, wine, and cakes, all laced with potassium cyanide, in his basement.
Finally, The Death of Rasputin
Over the course of more than two hours, Rasputin ate the poison, but it seemed to have no effect. Frustrated, the prince went upstairs to where his conspirators were waiting, took one of their revolvers, and shot Rasputin in the chest. Rasputin didn’t die then, either. Instead, he got up and attacked Yussupov, who managed to escape and ran upstairs, with Rasputin following. The two men grappled in the palace courtyard, where one of the conspirators finally reshot Rasputin. This time, the monk collapsed into a snowbank, apparently dead. He was wrapped in cloth and tossed into the freezing Malaya Nevka River.
Yussupov’s story goes that when Rasputin’s body was pulled from the river, his lungs were full of water, meaning he was alive when thrown into the river, and his actual cause of death was drowning. Rasputin’s daughter Maria later said her father would never have eaten cakes and that the prince shot him three times in the face – everything else was made up to sell his memoir.
Either way, the nobles were happy Rasputin was dead, but the peasants were not. They saw his assassination as an example of the wealthy keeping a peasant down. It changed nothing for the Tsar or the Russian people, who rose to topple Nicholas II and usher in a new leader, Vladimir Lenin.