Following the Old Style Julian calendar (the Gregorian calendar was not introduced in Soviet Russia until the 14th of February 1918) today is the 98th anniversary of the murder of Rasputin. I just finished two books (and beginning a third) on Tsar Nicolas II and the Romanovs, so I have this period of history currently stuck in my brain. The former Yusupov Palace in Saint Petersburg is open to the public as a museum (visitors have to pay extra to see the cellar in the basement where the murder took place). The palace’s last owner was the eccentric Prince Felix Yusupov, who not only liked to occasionally dress in female clothing but was also the richest man in Russia, even richer than the Romanovs (he was married to the Tsar’s only niece). He was also the murderer of Rasputin.
No one will know exactly what happened the night of Rasputin’s death. Felix, along with Vladimir Purishkevich and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, invited him to the Palace, where they served cakes and red wine laced with cyanide – supposedly enough poison to kill five men. When Rasputin seemed unaffected, Felix retrieved a revolver and shot Rasputin from the side. Taking him for dead, Felix went upstairs but returned a short while later to find Rasputin still alive. Rasputin succeeded to flee through a secret door into a courtyard (now occupied by a kindergarten playground adjacent to the palace) but Vladimir shot Rasputin in the back on the doorstep. A third bullet at close range entered his forehead. Rasputin’s body was then wrapped in a carpet, drove outside the city and tossed into the Malaya Neva. An autopsy was later performed – there was alcohol in his body, no water found in his lungs (disproving the legend that Rasputin was still alive when thrown into the water), no cyanide in his stomach, and his genitals were crushed.