The Murder

Alexandra was the most hated woman in Russia by early 1916. Popular opinion held that she was leader of the "dark forces" driving the nation to destruction. Millions of Russians assumed that the German – born Alexandra favored peace with the Kaiser; some swore she was a German agent.

Rasputin was also considered part of the "dark forces," second only to the empress in usefulness to the German cause. Grigory had often stood against xenophobia and war, which probably sparked the idea that he was pro – German. The situation got tense; gaining an enormous popularity in Russia invited frequent enemies along. Serious attempts were made to kill Rasputin. A troika at full speed tried to run Grigory over as he strolled on Nevsky Avenue one night. He suffered a minor head wound. Rasputin and Anna Vyrubova were sleighing when a car attacked their vehicle and flipped it over. Rasputin was only bruised, but Vyrubova was said to be seriously injured. Rasputin was increasingly gloomy a the end. He still believed in his religious mission and never doubted that he should be at the royal family’s side. Friends, especially women, began to see a new troubled Grigory Rasputin. "Some power he wanted to control was carrying him somewhere" Rasputin was in state of deep depression during the last three days of his life. But he didn’t take one positive step.

Conspiracy: We are not certain why Felix Yusupov murdered Rasputin. He said he feared that Grigory was undermining Nicholas’s government and opening the path to revolution. Friends assumed that Felix was fascinated by the mystery and intrigue – that he enjoyed a titillating new adventure. Family pressure and affection for Nicholas and Alexandra clearly played a roll in setting Yusupov against Rasputin. The idea of killing Rasputin first occurred to Yusupov when his family was discussing Grigory’s influence. Felix thought that Nicholas and Alexandra could be persuaded to break with Rasputin. However his parents pointed out that those appeals had been made and failed. Murder now took an increasing hold over the prince’s thoughts. Felix came to believe "not a single important event at the front was decided without a preliminary conference" between Alexandra and Rasputin.

Felix Yusupov

Mutual friend arranged a meeting. Felix was amazed at hoe Rasputin had changed in the last seven years. Yusupov claimed he feared for Nicholas’s welfare. "The empress is a very wise ruler," Rasputin said. "She is a second Catherine the Great; but as for him, well, he is no Tsar Emperor, he is just a child of God. Yusupov concluded that Grigory was privy to a plan to remove Nicholas and install Alexandra as their son’s regent. Yusupov and his comrades, Vladimir Purishkevich was harsh anti – Semite and advocated absolute monarchy and Russian nationalism, Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich a member of the royal family, and Lt. Ivan Sukhotin. The men were eager to rid Russia of Rasputin, but they feared that an open murder would seem to be a demonstration against the tsar. Rasputin had best "disappear," and those responsible would keep silent. Yusupov knew that Rasputin’s disappearance would devastate Alexandra, but he felt it was in her interest. "Only Grigory’s death would free her from his spell, and permit Nicholas to emerge as a constitutional monarch."

The conspirators decided to act at Yusupov’s mansion. Felix would lure Rasputin there and poison him while the conspirators stood close at hand. The assassins would put Grigory’s body in the sack and stuff it under the ice to be carried out to sea. Yusupov admitted that murder was a sin; offering the victim hospitality would make the deed even more dastardly. The prince was now in a state of religious ecstasy. This helped Yusupov cope with the most difficult problem of all: to spend time with Rasputin, to pretend to be his friend, and to draw him into a fatal trap. Yusupov and his cohorts made careful preparations. Poisoning was the answer. They crushed the potassium cyanide crystals into a fine powder. He then removed the tops of the cakes reserved for Grigory, each a strong dose. The amount of poison applied was enormous; Dr. Lazavert assured his colleagues that the dose would cause death many times over. However the poisonous cakes did not affect Rasputin. Then Felix fired one shot, where the bullet struck the region of the heart. They were assured that Rasputin was dead. However Rasputin came back to life and at the end of a struggle he was shot again, one in the back and one in the head. Finally Rasputin was taken and thrown to the Neva River.

Rasputin's body recovered from Neva River

The cover story – By the morning of December 17th, the prince was claiming that Rasputin phoned about 12:30 A.M. to suggest they find gypsy entertainment. Felix had guests and declined Grigory’s invitation. About 2:30 the ladies wanted to leave. (As a gentleman he could not give their names to the police.) One of Felix’s comrades was tipsy; he shot and killed a dog as he escorted the ladies through the courtyard. This explained the gunfire and traces of blood. Now came the ultimate bluff: "The people who organized Rasputin’s murder – if that has actually occurred – planned carefully and deliberately to connect the crime with me and my party." Events stood suspended as everyone waited for the body to be recovered.

The news of Rasputin’s disappearance shot through Petrograd. The press was under heavy censorship where Grigory was concerned; every word of the brief announcement was in headline type: "This morning at 6 o’clock Grigory Rasputin suddenly passed away at one of the most aristocratic houses in the center of Petrograd after a party." The police reaction seemed to confirm the tale, and the news spread like wildfire. Joy was also widespread on the streets. Strangers embraced; cabbies refused tips. People hoped the "dark days were at last at an end, and with Rasputin gone the military as well as the political situation would improve."

However some didn’t share the same pleasure. One soldier said "Yes, just one peasant reached the tsar, and the nobles killed him!" he continued "He was a man of the people; he let the tsar hear the voice of the people; he defended the people against the court people, so they killed him." Paranoia has become common to both friends and enemies of Rasputin. Grigory’s friends heard their names were on a list marked for execution. It was Rasputin’s lot to pass through the four elements. He was born and died in water; his body was committed to the earth. Fire consumed his corpse. Spring came, the snows melted, and his ashes were carried away by the wind.

Next: End of Imperialism