12/30/1916 - Feed up, members of the Russian aristocracy decide to rid themselves of the mysterious peasant that they believe has brought misery to their country by having the ear of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna and giving her and her husband horrible advice on national and international matters ... a peasant named Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin.
The fifth of nine children, born to a coach driver in the small Siberian village of Pokrovskoe in 1869, Rasputin never attends school, disturbs neighbors with his assortment of physical tics, and as an adult, becomes a monk and then a charismatic traveling holy man that has important visions that must be shared with his fellow Russians. And one is a real doozy ... he must go to St. Petersburg and help the Tsarina and her sick son, Alexei. Making his vision real, twice, praying for the boy at his bedside, Alexei escapes death from the rare blood disorder he was born with (no one is really sure how he gets better ... hypnosis is one guess that has been suggested), a disease doctors say they are powerless to do anything about ... and from then on Rasputin is golden with the Romanov Family.
Tsarina, her kids, and Rasputin
Others, not amused that they have been replaced by Rasputin in the Tsarina's inner circle, almost immediately beginning plotting to remove a man they consider a lusty (despite being "holy," Rasputin enjoys a good shagging from time to time), stupid drunken dirty lying lout. In 1916, with Russia being badly mauled by German forces during WWI, the animosity that 29-year-old Prince Felix Yusupov (married to Tsarina's niece), 47-year-old Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich (the Tsar's cousin), Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert, Duma member Vladimir Purishkevich, and Lt. Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin feel for the man finally boils over into murder.
Trying to escape the wrath of the Tsarina when their crime is discovered, the conspirators create a tale in which they save Russia from a human monster ... a monster that is doesn't die despite being poisoned with tea and petits fours laced with cyanide, beaten, shot multiple times, and when those methods prove unsuccessful, drowned in the frigid waters of the Malaya Nevka River. The reality of the killing though is somewhat different.
Rasputin - 1915
Lured to the Yusupov Palace with intimations of a wild evening with Yusupov's wife, Princess Irina, and two Russian actresses, Marianne Pistohlkors and Vera Karalli, sometime after his arrival, Rasputin is hit by a variety of different caliber bullets (the shooters are never fully identified, though Yusupov later confesses to the crime) ... one enters his chest and holes his stomach and liver, another round enters his back and tears into his kidney, and a third hit at point-blank range that blasts through his forehead and into his brain. All three shots are fatal hits, with death being instantaneous from the lead Webley revolver slug that penetrates his skull (rumors persist to this day that the head wound comes by way of British operatives assisting in Rasputin's removal so that the Tsarina and Tsar will stop hearing his advice that Russia should quit fighting the Germans).
Body removal butchered (a size 10 rubber boot of Rasputin's that falls off his body when he is thrown into an ice hole starts searchers looking around a bridge over the Malaya Nevka River), Rasputin's corpse is soon found (an autopsy establishes that no poison is in Rasputin's body and his lungs are free of water ... death came from his being shot and nothing more), with lots of clues that lead back to the perpetrators of the crime. Embarrassed at who the killers turn out to be, instead of a trial, to hush things up, the Tsar exiles Pavlovich and Yusupov, and has authorities close the case (extremely peeved, the Tsarina wants both men shot immediately).
Yusupov lives to the ripe old age of 80 and dies in Paris in 1967, Pavlovich dies at 50 in Switzerland in 1952, and Purishkevich dies of typhus in 1920 at the age of 50. The other conspirators escape the wrath of the royal family and fade from history.
The Yusupovs in exile
As for Rasputin, his body is first buried in a zinc coffin near the royal palace on the grounds of an admirer, Fraulein Anna Vyrubova, in a ceremony attended by the Imperial couple, their daughters, and a handful of his friends. But there will be no rest-in-peace for the former self-proclaimed holy man. A symbol of all that was wrong with Russia to the country's revolutionaries, in 1917 Rasputin's body is dug up, placed in the packing case for a piano, driven out of town, placed in a snowy field, and burnt to ashes ... or, it is taken to the St. Petersburg State Polytechnical University, zinc coffin and all, and cremated entirely in a cauldren of the school's boiler room; gone in a goodbye of mysteries ... a fitting farewell for both the man and his many myths.