Thesis: Murder of Rasputin 1916

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¶ … Murder of Rasputin

Rasputin's murder is one of the more interesting and controversial elements in Russian history. One of the reasons that the murder is so intriguing is that Rasputin had survived an earlier assassination attempt, which supported the rumors that he was somehow a mystic or holy man who may have been unable to die. Another of the reasons that the murder is so intriguing is that the killers used multiple methods to kill Rasputin. The fact that they, in effect, repeatedly murdered him provokes interest, and makes his murder stand out from other assassination-type murders throughout history. However, what may be the most fascinating thing about Rasputin's murder is that credible authorities suggest that the wrong people were thought guilty of the crime. Instead, they suggest alternate theories, some of them seemingly-outlandish conspiracy theories, to help explain not only who murdered Rasputin, but why.

The generally accepted theory surrounding Rasputin's murder is that the Russian aristocracy was concerned that Rasputin, who was the confident of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Aleksandra, was having a negative impact on the Russian government. Nicholas and Aleksandra refused to listen to anyone's concerns, perhaps because they credited Rasputin with saving their son's life. The aristocracy did not feel indebted to Rasputin for this, and several of its members hatched a plan to kill Rasputin. The murderers included Prince Felix Yusopov, an wealthy and handsome aristocrat who was married to the tsar's niece; Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich, a cousin of the tsar; Vladimir Purishkevich, a member of the Duma, a lower house of the Russian parliament and outspoken critic of Rasputin; Lieutenant Sukhotin, an officer of the Preobrazhensky Regiment; and Dr. Lazavert, the driver.

The killers decided that Felix Yusopov would befriend Rasputin, and then lure him to the Yusopov palace to the killed.

The night of the murder was to be December 16-17, because Pavlovich was busy until December 16th and Purishkevich was leaving town on the 17th. The conspirators decided to use the idea that Rasputin could have sex with Yusopov's wife, Irena, as the bait to lure Rasputin to the palace.

They determined that they would kill Rasputin in the basement with potassium-cyanide laced pastries and wine.

In order to avoid detection, the conspirators determined that Yusopov would instruct Rasputin to remain quiet about the rendezvous with Irena, and that Yusopov would pick up Rasputin via his back stairs. They determined that, once Rasputin was dead, they would wrap up his body in a rug, weight it down, and throw it in a hole in the ice in the Malaya Nevka River.

The evening of the murder commenced much as the conspirators had planned. Lazavert laced some pastries and wine with cyanide, though he left some pastries unpoisoned so that Yusopov could eat them. Yusopov went to Rasputin's apartment around 12:30 A.M.; his presence was documented by Rasputin's maid. They were driven to Yusopov's palace by Lazavert. However, once Yusopov got Rasputin to the basement, the carefully constructed plot began to fall apart. Rasputin initially refused all food and drink. Yusopov got worried and went upstairs, where he said Irena had been unexpectedly detained, to talk to his coconspirators. However, Rasputin changed his mind and agreed to refreshments, eating the pastries and drinking the wine. "Though potassium cyanide was supposed to have an immediate effect, nothing happened. Felix continued to chat with Rasputin waiting for something to happen. Noticing a guitar in the corner, Rasputin asked Felix to play for him. The time wore on and Rasputin wasn't showing any effects from the poison."

Yusopov again went to talk to his coconspirators. Deciding that the poison was not going to work, Yusopov got a gun from Pavlovich and went downstairs, and shot Rasputin. "The other conspirators rushed down the stairs to see Rasputin laying on the ground and Felix standing over him with the gun. They moved Rasputin's body off the bear rug so that the seeping blood wouldn't stain it. Rasputin was still breathing. After a few minutes, Rasputin "jerked convulsively" and then fell still. Since Rasputin was dead, the conspirators went upstairs to celebrate and to wait for the night to get later so they could dump the body with no witnesses."

At this point, the conspirators' versions of the story begin to diverge. Pavlovich and Lazavert may have left Yusopov's palace in order to get rid of Rasputin's fur coat, or they may have remained at the palace. Regardless of whether Lazavert and Pavlovich left the palace, Yusopov went down to see Rasputin's body about an hour after the murder, and, for whatever reason, touched the body. "It still seemed warm. He shook the body. There was no reaction. When Felix starting turning away, he noticed Rasputin's left eye start to flutter open. He was still alive! Rasputin sprang to his feet and rushed at Felix, grabbing his shoulders and neck. Felix struggled to get free and finally did so. He rushed upstairs shouting, "He's still alive!"

Purishkevich was upstairs and had just placed his revolver in his pocket. Yusopov came running up the stairs, clearly upset, and Purishkevich rushed down the stairs. He found Rasputin running across the courtyard, threatening to tell the tsarina what had occurred. Purishkevich chased after Rasputin. "While running, he fired his gun, but missed. He fired again, but missed again. And then he bit his hand to regain control of himself. Again he fired. This time the bullet found its mark, hitting Rasputin in the back. Rasputin stopped and Purishkevich fired again. This time the bullet hit Rasputin in the head. Rasputin fell. His head was jerking but he tried to crawl. Purishkevich had caught up now and kicked Rasputin in the head."

A policeman named Vlassiyev heard the shots and went to investigate, but when he asked Yusopov and his servant Buzhinsky if they had heard any gunshots, they answered that they had not. The conspirators brought Rasputin back into the palace and placed him by the basement stairs. "For some reason, Rasputin's mutilated face put Felix into a rage. Felix grabbed a two-pound dumbbell and began indiscriminately hitting Rasputin with it. When Felix was finally pulled off, he was splattered with blood."

Buzhinsky told Purishkevich about the encounter with the policeman, and the conspirators became concerned that the policeman would report the suspected gunshots to his superior. Therefore, they decided to send for the policeman. They told him that Rasputin was dead and extorted him to remain silent about it. The policeman reported that event to his superiors. After the policemen left, the conspirators made a discovery. "It was amazing and shocking, but after being poisoned, shot three times, and having been beaten with a dumbbell, Rasputin was still alive. They bound his arms and legs with rope and wrapped his body in a heavy cloth."

Worried that the dawn was fast approaching, the conspirators drove to their pre-selected location and threw Rasputin's body over the bridge, but neglected to weigh down the body, as planned.

Although Rasputin's dead body was recovered from the river, the accepted forensic evidence suggests that he was alive when he was thrown into the river; there was water in his lungs, and he was found, frozen, with his hands above his head, as if trying to untie his hands.

Though some of the conspirators were punished, they never faced a trial because of the tsar's concerns that they would be viewed as heroes by the public.

While most commentators believe that Rasputin was murdered because of a political conspiracy, not everyone agrees with that theory. There are some who suggest that Yusopov killed Rasputin because Rasputin rejected his romantic advances. That theory is bolstered by the idea that "Maria, Rasputin's daughter, claimed she once found Youssoupov [Yusopov] in her father's study, completely naked."

Under that theory, Rasputin's murder was not a convoluted politic plot, but an opportunistic killing at a party. If that was the case, then instead of being conspirators in a murder, Pavlovich and Purishkevich were merely accessories after the fact, because they did not participate in the killing, but simply helped Yusopov dispose of the body.

Richard Cullen undertook a forensic investigation of Rasputin's murder, and came to the conclusion that it could not have occurred in the manner described by the conspirators. First, Cullen looks at the fact of the poison, which was reportedly grated into the pastries and placed in a wine cup. First, Yusopov and Purishkevich's accounts of how the pastries and the wine were poisoned were not the same, which seems suspicious given that Yusopov could have accidentally ingested some of the poison if there was confusion on the day of the murder.

Moreover, the differences in their accounts were substantial: Purishkevich talked of Lazavert grating the cyanide with a knife, while Yusopov talks of Lazavert grinding up the cyanide.

The alleged source for the cyanide denied selling it to Yusopov. Even more troubling is the fact that Rasputin's autopsy reports that there was… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Murder of Rasputin 1916."  Essaytown.com.  April 27, 2009.  Accessed May 22, 2019.
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