Grigori Rasputin, born in 1869, was a Russian mystic who gained significant influence within the Russian imperial court of the last Romanov monarch, Tsar Nicholas 2 Romanov.
He hailed from a Siberian peasant family and attained his religious ‘experience’ after visiting a monastery in 1897.
Rasputin met the Tsar for the first time in the Peterhof Palace on November 1 in 1905.
Returning to St Petersberg in July 1906, Rasputin met the Tsar’s children for the first time and it was then that the Romanov monarch asked the monk to pray for the health of his son, Tsarevich Alexei.
The Tsar’s son suffered from haemophilia and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, became fond of the mystic because she began to believe that he had special healing powers and could cure her son, the Tsarevich.
In the summer of 1912, a haemorrhage developed in Alexei’s thigh and it seemed that the young prince would die soon.
The desperate Tsarina sent a telegram to Rasputin, who was in Siberia at the time, to pray for the Tsarevich.
Rasputin responded and said, “God has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Do not grieve. The little one will not die. Do not allow the doctors to bother him too much.”
A day later, Alexei’s bleeding stopped and he was saved.
The incident left had a tremendous impact on the royal family and the Russian imperial court.
During the first Great War, Rasputin was accused of spreading unpatriotic and anti-Russian influence in the imperial court following which the Tsarina, who was of anglo-german descent, was also blamed for being a spy and accused of working against Russia’s interests.
When Rasputin showed interest in visiting the soldiers at the front, Commander-in-Chief Grand Duke Nicholas responded by saying that he would hang the monk if he dared to show his face at the front.
Later, Rasputin claimed that he had a vision and he was shown that the Russian armies would be defeated unless Tsar Nicholas himself took control of the armies.
With the Tsar away at the war, the mystic’s influence over the Tsarina and the court increased considerably.
He was even able to get his handpicked favourites appointed to important government posts.
An outspoken member of the Duma, the Russian Parliament, said, “The tsar’s ministers who have been turned into puppets, puppets whose threads have been taken firmly in hand by Rasputin and the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, the evil genius of Russia and the Tsarina … who has remained a German on the Russian throne and alien to the country and its people.”
A like-minded group of nobles, led by Prince Felix Yusupov and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, decided to kill Rasputin to save the country and the court.
The plan was to lure the monk into the prince’s Moika Palace and murder him there.
The most vivid description of the murder was given by Prince Yusupov himself.
According to him, Rasputin was invited to the Yusupov’s primary residence, where the prince led the monk to the palace’s basement.
There, Rasputin was offered cake and tea which was laced with cyanide.
Rasputin showed no signs of being poisoned and asked for wine, which the prince had also laced with poison.
After having three glasses of the poisonous wine, Rasputin did not show any signs of being poisoned.
Yusupov went upstairs where his accomplices were waiting and on his return, he shot the mystic.
An accomplice wore Rasputin’s clothes and entered his apartment so that people would think that the monk had returned.
After going back to the palace, the prince went downstairs to confirm the monk’s death during which Rasputin leapt up and tried to attack Yusupov.
The prince ran upstairs and into the courtyard, and the mystic followed.
Once in the courtyard, Rasputin was shot once more.
His body was wrapped and then thrown by the conspirators in the Malaya Nevka River under the Petrovsky Bridge.
Rasputin’s body was later found by the police and his subsequent funeral was attended only by the Russian imperial family and a few of their intimate associates.
Rasputin’s daughter, Maria Rasputin, later emigrated to France and then to the United States (US).