Thursday, December 26, 2013


Somebody wanted him so dead! He was first poisoned, then shot, and later drowned. In the end, when his body was reclaimed from the frigid Malaya Neva, his hands were distorted in a crooked way as if he was trying to claw his way out of the ice. Death had to struggle through that winter, which capped the river that in less than two decades would witness the grisly Siege of Leningrad. The hands and legs of the badly mutilated corpse were tied with a rope, the genitals were crushed, and one of the eyes bulged out of the socket. 

Despite being severely bruised and swollen, it didn’t take a genius to identify the carcass, as he was missing for two days and the search was still on. Moreover that infamous shaggy face of “the man of God” was lately on every cartoon that incessantly circulated all over St. Petersburg, that face of the most powerful man in Russia, the mysterious staret from Siberia whose role according to many was instrumental in the downfall of the Russian monarchy! Even today if one were to sort a list of the most enigmatic and intriguing historical figures ever, the powerful face of the scandalous Russian mystic Rasputin would certainly rush to the top.

Around that hole in the ice where the body was found, thousands flocked with buckets and flasks and jugs to ladle up the water that brined the remains of the “holy man”. But in the meantime the other half of Russia rejoiced to the good news and prayed for the murderers. This divided perspective on the slain riddle called Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin, the semi literate peasant form a distant Siberian bog, reflects pretty much on everything we know of him to date through heresy and legends. While some described his fresh breath in vivid details with white teeth “perfect down to the last one”, all some others could recollect was “blackened stumps” for teeth and gagging at his intolerable foul breath. For some he was the savior and healer, and for some others he was that drunk and debauch who hypnotized and openly fornicated with countless noble women of St. Petersberg. While he was known to have recently become one of the most influential factors in Russian politics, some even believed he was a German agent who managed to send the Tsar off to the war front persuading the Tsarina. The wags also had it that he was her lover!
It was Rasputin’s daughter who reported his disappearance. There were reasons for panic as her father had survived an assassination attempt only two years earlier at the hands of an insane townswoman. In the absence of the Tsar who was away at the time, Tsarina ordered an investigation into the missing case, which was what brought them to the blood traces on the steps to the backdoor of the Yusupov Palace. The Tsar’s cousin by marriage, Prince Felix Yusupov, and his first cousin, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich were consequently confined to house arrest, although to their defense, they ascribed the finding on an accidental shooting of a dog in the backyard the previous night.
The Russian Imperial Family of the Last Tsar, Nicholas II, 1913
It was about a decade before his death that Rasputin gained access to the Royal family through the incurable ailment of the continually sick heir apparent Tsarevich Alexei. Tsar Nicholas summoned this so-called faith healer to cure his son who suffered from hemophilia that by then had grazed through a considerable expanse of the European royal blood. Apparently the boy who, up until then, bled like a brook from every injury, showed for the first time remarkable signs of healing at the hands of the new psychic, to everybody’s surprise, especially Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna’s who was overjoyed and charmed. There was another miracle at a near fatal incident a few years later when the doctors declared the inevitable end of Alexei while Rasputin was away. He who healed the boy with a touch saved his life with his prayers this time. This close association of Rasputin to the health of her son is what is known to have gradually firmed his effect on the Tsarina that in the due course of time wreaked havoc in the history of one of the world’s largest empires.
Rasputin surrounded by his admirers/ devotees/ followers
The second day following the disappearance of Rasputin, more traces of blood were found on the parapet of the Bolshoy Petrovsky Bridge. A brown boot was also found lodged in the wall of the bridge’s foundation. Divers were immediately sent in. By then rumors were running wild all over St. Petersburg presuming the murder of Rasputin. Price Felix, Dmitri Pavlovich and Vladimir Purishkevich from the State Duma were persistently named as being involved. Soon the divers resurfaced several miles down river from the bridge with Rasputin’s fur coat and his icy remains in a gruesome tableau of resistance. The damages done to the peasant’s body was as fresh as it could be, preserved in ice. In addition to all the pummeling to the body, he was shot thrice and the bullet that drilled his forehead was established to be the fatal one. The autopsy had to wait long for the body to thaw.

Rasputin feared his end nearing his final days according to many who dealt with him closely. He was greatly disliked more than ever since his assumption of the post as private adviser to the enchanted Empress when her husband was away at the war front. Up until then he was only sneered at for his wayward sexual excesses amongst the ladies from the upper crest of the Russian society and the hypnotic control he had on this ever-growing clique of subjects. But lately he was known for meddling with the affairs of the Russian politics by pegging his followers in positions of power and authority exerting pressure on the Tsarina who had only recently assumed power. And for his favors at the royal court, he also charged exorbitant bribes. 

Although his gift of curing sicknesses was widely believed, the public outrage about his insatiable sexual appetite only got worse with his newly assumed manipulative authority in matters of political importance. That is when a group of noble men gathered to plot a way to boot this burgeoning national danger. Although the inquiry was ended immediately after Rasputin’s body bobbed to the surface, the bizarre events associated with the episode of the murder spread like wildfire further muddling the predicament of the already murky Rasputin puzzle.

On the night of the fateful killing, Prince Yusapov lured Rasputin out of his Apartment to the Yusapov Palace where with the help of Grand duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Vladimir Purishkevich and an army officer called Sergei Michailovich Sikhotin he was first served poisoned wine and pastry laced with cyanide good enough to kill an ox, but when he refused to succumb, they battered him and shot him and later tied him up and dumped him in the icy Neva river. This version only presented Rasputin as the demon who kept on coming back after each deadly attempt further enhancing the supernatural capacity of his image. But then there are hugely varying degrees of alternating details attributed to this historically infamous manslaughter. Poisoning was chosen over shooting, as the conspirators did not want to attract attention from the police station across the Moika canal in front of the palace. Even though it was attempted, it is supposed that the pastry story (that Rasputin survived the cyanide poisoning) was a fabrication by the conspirators as Rasputin strictly followed a non-sweet diet since he suffered from hyperacidity after the first assassination attempt, and he couldn’t have eaten one at any cost. This was backed by the autopsy report wherein no trace of cyanide was found inside the body. There are also several versions as to who fired the fatal shot on the forehead. There’s one that implicates Vladimir Purishkevich, there’s another that puts Dimitri in charge, and there is a whole different new version that attributes the final blow to Lt. Oswald Reyner, an officer of the British Secret Intelligence Service who committed the political crime to rid of Rasputin’s strong pro German influence in the decision making of Russia during the First World War!

       Felix Yusupov             Dmitri Pavlovich         Vladimir Purishkevich
The Death Of Rasputin was the curtain call on the Russian empire. The disillusioned royal family did not have time enough to recover from his spell as the revolution that followed mercilessly wiped out their era. In a letter to the royal couple, Rasputin had foretold this end. “Tsar of the land of Russia”, he wrote, “if you hear the sound of bell which will tell Grigory has been killed, you must know this; if it was your relations who have wrought my death then no one from your family that is to say, none of your children or relations will remain alive for more than two years.”

Nineteen months later, following the collapse of the Tsarist reign and the Bolshevik overthrow, the Royal family including the newly abdicated Tsar, Tsarina, their son and four daughters were executed in a hail of bullets!

Rasputin is still an uncanny myth and in every possible way a paradox of supreme order. It’s still intriguing whether he was a saint or a sinner, or both! Even though he still lives on in the popular Boney M stanzas as the Lover of the Russian Queen and resurrected as the villain in the Hellboy comic book superhero franchise none of them could hold a candle to the original piece.
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