The Murder of the Mad Monk
Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin (1872 – 1916) was an illiterate Siberian peasant, mystic, and charlatan faith healer. He had an inexplicable ability to soothe the suffering of the Russian Tsar’s young son and heir, who suffered from hemophilia. That won Rasputin the favor of his imperial parents. That favor made Rasputin an incongruously powerful and influential figure in the Russian Empire’s final years.
Rasputin – Russian for “the debauched one” – had a reputation for licentiousness since his teens. At 18, he studied at a monastery and joined a flagellant sect, but perverted its beliefs by inventing a doctrine that nearness to God is best achieved by “holy passionlessness”. The best way to get there, according to Rasputin, was via sexual exhaustion after prolonged bouts of debauchery by the entire congregation. That would get all the base passions out of their system, and allow them to focus on God without distractions.
He became a wanderer, living off donations and gradually building up a reputation as a holy man who could predict the future and heal the sick. He ended up in Saint Petersburg in 1903, at a time when mysticism was fashionable with its decadent court and high society. Rasputin, the dirty, smelly, holy peasant with brilliant and captivating eyes and a reputation for faith healing, was a hit. He exerted a powerful animal magnetism upon high society women, and soon had a cult following of wealthy aristocratic women throwing themselves at him like groupies at a rock star.
One of them introduced him to the Tsarina Alexandria, whose son suffered from hemophilia. Rasputin was able to soothe the child’s suffering, which earned him the mother’s fierce loyalty. Soon, the royal airhead was convinced that Rasputin was guided by God. She started soliciting the illiterate charlatan’s advice on matters of state, then badgered her weak-minded husband, the Tsar, into implementing Rasputin’s recommendations. Before long, ministers and high officials were being appointed and dismissed based on Rasputin’s advice. Those seeking to advance or secure their positions were soon flocking to offer him lavish bribes or sending their wives and daughters to sexually seduce him into putting in a good word for them with the Tsar and Tsarina.
That scandalous state of affairs made the Tsarist government a laughingstock and brought it into low repute, but the Tsarina remained fiercely protective of Rasputin. So a group of aristocrats, led by Prince Feliks Yusupov, husband of the Tsar’s niece, decided to assassinate Rasputin and rid Russia of his malign influence. His murder turned out to be as weird as his life had been.
Rasputin was lured to Yusupov’s palace on the night of December 30th, 1916, on the pretext of meeting Yusupov’s wife, who was interested in “knowing” him. Many nobles had offered their wives and daughters to Rasputin before, so the invitation was not suspicious. At the palace, while waiting for Yusupov’s wife to “freshen up”, Rasputin was offered cakes and tea laced with cyanide. He ate and drank with no ill effects. He was then offered poisoned wine. He quaffed it without a problem, asked for another glass, then one more after that.
Exasperated, Yusupov then retrieved a pistol and shot Rasputin in the chest. Believing him dead, the conspirators then went about covering their tracks, only for Rasputin to rise hours later and attack Yusupov, who managed to free himself and flee up the stairs. Rasputin then left via the palace court yard, where the panicked conspirators caught up with him and shot him again. They then wrapped his body in a rug, cut a hole in a frozen river’s surface, and shoved him inside. When his body was eventually recovered, it was reported that it had not been the bullets or poison that had killed him, but drowning – he was presumably still alive when thrown into the river.
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