December 30th 1916: Rasputin killed
On this day in 1916, by the new style calendar, Russian mystic Grigori Rasputin was killed in St. Petersburg, aged 47. Born to a peasant family around 1869, Rasputin received little formal education, and joined a monastery before leaving to travel around Europe and the Middle East. He eventually arrived in St. Petersburg, where he cultivated a reputation as a mystic and a faith healer, and found a place in the Russian court of Tsar Nicholas II. Rasputin acted as an adviser to the tsar’s wife Alexandra, who sought help for her son Alexei’s hemophilia, which the mystic appeared to help alleviate; he thus secured a place as Alexandra’s personal adviser. As the credibility and popularity of the tsar’s rule began to wane, his critics used the position of the peasant ‘mad monk’ in the court to call for reform. While Rasputin’s influence over the Romanovs was limited, Alexandra’s defiant defence of him gave rise to rumours of impropriety and even an alleged affair between the tsarina and the mystic. On the evening of December 29th 1916, a group of conspirators invited Rasputin to the palace of Prince Felix Yusupov, who had cultivated a friendship with Rasputin, intending to kill him to save the monarchy. They fed him poison, which had no effect, then shot him, which he initially survived, and finally shot him in the head and threw his body into a river in the early hours of the morning. Rasputin’s body was found a few days later, with his hands frozen in a raised position, giving rise to rumours that he was still alive while underwater and had tried to untie the rope on his hands, only to finally die by drowning. A few months later, in March 1917, the tsar’s government was toppled by Bolshevik revolutionaries, and, the next year, Nicholas, Alexandra, and all their children were executed. The remarkable story of Rasputin’s murder is the final chapter in a peasant monk’s rise to becoming one of the most influential and notorious figures of Russian history.
100 years ago