Who really killed rasputin?

In 2004, BBC aired the documentary, ‘Who killed Rasputin? The British plot’, claiming the whole murder plot was devised by the British MI6 intelligence office, and that it was the British officer Oswald Rayner who fired the final shot to the head. Or was it?

Why is the British account questionable?

Who Really Killed Rasputin?

Because it’s based solely on memoirs and testimonials of the British people – first of all, Sir George Buchanan, British Ambassador to the Russian Empire in 1910-1917. Newspaper reporter Michael Smith wrote that British Secret Intelligence Bureau head Mansfield Cumming ordered three of his agents in Russia to eliminate Rasputin in December 1916. 

One of them was Oswald Rayner. He studied in Oxford with Felix Yusupov (probably the wealthiest man in Russia and a husband to Princess Irina, Nicholas II’s only niece) and reportedly developed a romantic relationship with him. 

Who Really Killed Rasputin?

While Yusupov and Rayner were certainly close friends – Rayner had been present in St.

Petersburg on the day of the murder and had even visited the Yusupov palace the same evening – however, all this doesn’t prove he killed Rasputin.

Later in Europe, Rayner helped Yusupov translate Yusupov’s first book on the murder of Rasputin. It’s rumored they may have shaped the story to fit their needs. 

Who Really Killed Rasputin?

Professor Keith Jeffery, of Queen's University, Belfast, who was given unrestricted access to the surviving historic files of the Secret Intelligence Service, said he found no evidence to support recent claims that MI6 was involved in the assassination of Rasputin in 1916. “If MI6 had a part in the killing of Rasputin, I would have expected to have found some trace of that,” he said.

Who and why wanted Rasputin dead?

Who Really Killed Rasputin?

Grigoriy Rasputin earned his influence on the tsar’s family just because he really could soothe and calm down Alexei, the heir to the throne, allegedly using hypnosis techniques. However he did it, he was doing something that neither doctors nor Orthodox priests could do, to their envy. But Rasputin had more powerful enemies.

He Was Poisoned, Shot, And Left For Dead, But Rasputin Refused To Die

Who Really Killed Rasputin?

Wikimedia CommonsThe death of Grigori Rasputin has inspired endless fascination for over a century.

Grigori Rasputin’s death was as difficult as the times he lived through, much of which he had a direct hand in creating.

It reportedly took several doses of cyanide and two fatal gunshot wounds to finally put down the Mad Monk of Russia, the spiritual guru to the Tsar and Tsarina, a man widely feared as the power behind the throne of the Russian empire in the final stages of its collapse.

From Mystery To History: Grigori Rasputin’s Rise To Power

Who Really Killed Rasputin?

Wikimedia CommonsGrigori Rasputin in a Russian Orthodox monastery after his religious “awakening.”

Born in 1869 in relative obscurity to a peasant family in Siberia, Grigori Rasputin didn’t show much inclination to religion early on. His spiritual awakening came after visiting a monastery at 23.

The Murder of Rasputin, 100 Years Later

“The holy man is he who takes your soul and will and makes them his. When you choose your holy man, you surrender your will. You give it to him in utter submission, in full renunciation.” – Feodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

The murder of Rasputin, Russia’s infamous “Mad Monk,” is the fodder for a great historical tale that blends fact and legend. But the death of the controversial holy man and faith healer had a combustible effect on the tense state of affairs in pre-revolution Russia.

Rasputin was killed on December 30, 1916 (December 17 in the Russian calendar in use at the time), in the basement of the Moika Palace, the Saint Petersburg residence of Prince Felix Yussupov, the richest man in Russia and the husband of the Czar’s only niece, Irina.

His battered body was discovered in the Neva River a few days later.

In the decade prior, Rasputin had risen rapidly through Russian society, starting as an obscure Siberian peasant-turned-wandering-holy-man and then becoming one of the most prominent figures in the Czar’s inner circle.

Born in 1869 in the village of Pokrovskoye, on the Tura river that flows eastward from the Ural Mountains, where Europe meets Asia in Siberia. He seemed destined for an ordinary life, despite a few conflicts in his youth with local authorities for unruly behavior.

He married a local woman, Praskovya Dubrovina, became the father of three surviving children, Maria, Dmitri and Varvara, and worked on his family’s farm.

Rasputin’s life changed in 1892, when he spent months at a monastery, putting him on the path to international renown. Despite his later nickname, “The Mad Monk,” Rasputin never took Holy Orders.

Men in Rasputin’s position usually gave up their past lives and relationships but Rasputin continued to see his family – his daughters later lived with him in Saint Petersburg – and support his wife financially.

His religious fervor, combined with an appealing personal charisma, brought Rasputin to the attention of some Russian Orthodox clergymen and then senior members of the Imperial family, who then introduced him to Nicholas II and his wife, Alexandra.

Nicholas wrote to one of his ministers in October 1906, “A few days ago I received a peasant from the Tobolsk district, Grigori Rasputin, who brought me an icon of St. Simon Verkhoturie. He made a remarkably strong impression both on Her Majesty and on myself, so that instead of five minutes our conversation went on for more than an hour.”

The Imperial couple had consulted unconventional spiritual advisors in the past, but Rasputin filled this role by his ability to read their inner hopes and tell them what they wanted to hear.

He encouraged Nicholas to have more confidence in his role as czar, and Alexandra found that his counsel soothed her anxieties.

By the First World War, Rasputin was also providing political advice and making recommendations for ministerial appointments, much to the dismay of the Russian elite.

Rasputin cemented his relationship with the czar and czarina when he supposedly helped alleviate their only son Alexei’s hemophilia. Rasputin’s alleged healing powers continue to be debated today.

The Czar’s sister, Grand Duchess Olga, wrote that she observed Rasputin healing Alexei by kneeling at the foot of his bed and praying; the calming atmosphere that he created in the palace may have assisted with the recovery.

Alexandra’s lady-in-waiting, Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, thought that Rasputin employed peasant folk medicine used in Siberian villages to treat internal bleeding in horses.

How was Russian mystic Rasputin murdered?

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Siberian mystic, said to have healing powers, was a confidant of Empress Alexandra

  • Grigory Rasputin, a mystic peasant who captivated the Russian imperial court, met his death at the hands of aristocratic enemies 100 years ago.
  • Artem Krechetnikov of BBC Russian examines the grisly murder of Rasputin and finds that some details are more myth than reality.
  • Few characters in Russian history are as well-known as the mystic from Tobolsk in Siberia, whose name is forever linked to scandal.

He has been called a “sex machine” and “lover” of the Tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna.

The first description is probably an exaggeration, and the second is simply false.

Russians' opinions of him, at the time and later, ranged from “holy man” to “reptile”. The latter was how the reformist prime minister of the time, Pyotr Stolypin, contemptuously spoke of him.

With the outbreak of war in 1914 there was hysteria about “dark forces around the throne”.

The Empress Alexandra, wife of Tsar Nicholas II, believed Rasputin had mystical healing powers that could help her haemophiliac son Alexei, the heir to the throne.

Image caption Romanov royal family: (L to R) Olga, Marie, Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra, Anastasia, Tsarevich Alexei and Tatiana

Supporters of Russia's alliance with France, keen to see Germany defeated militarily, suspected Rasputin of undermining Russia's foreign policy.

In early 1914 Rasputin told an Italian journalist: “God willing there won't be a war, and I'll get busy on that score.”

Night rendezvous

  1. Mystery still shrouds Rasputin's last moments.
  2. Why did he go to the palace of Prince Felix Yusupov in St Petersburg?
  3. According to two of the assassins – Prince Yusupov and Vladimir Purishkevich, a member of parliament – Yusupov collected Rasputin on the night of 30 December 1916 on the pretext that his wife Irina wanted to meet him.

  4. But Irina was actually away at the Yusupovs' estate in Crimea.
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Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Prince Felix Yusupov and his wife Princess Irina Alexandrovna (circa 1925)

Yusupov claimed that he took Rasputin into a basement where he fed him cakes laced with poison.

But Rasputin allegedly did not succumb, and kept asking to meet Irina upstairs.

Yusupov's co-conspirators made lots of noise on the floor above, faking a party, and played the American song Yankee Doodle on the gramophone.

But this version of history seems improbable.

Political intrigues

Rasputin was uneducated, but no fool. The Yusupovs were fabulously rich – Irina was a member of the royal family – so Rasputin could hardly have thought she would let herself be seduced so easily.

According to Rasputin's daughter Maria, Russian Interior Minister Alexander Protopopov had warned Rasputin that there was a plot to kill him. He advised him to avoid socialising for a few days, but Rasputin told him “it's too late”.

So it remains a mystery why he visited the Yusupovs. It cannot have been just for the Madeira and jolly music.

Image copyright yusupov palace Image caption The Yusupov Palace is a landmark on the Moika River in St Petersburg

  • There were rumours that the Empress Alexandra and Protopopov were planning to dissolve parliament – the Duma – introduce a state of emergency and sue for peace.
  • It was quite feasible for Yusupov to lure Rasputin by promising a meeting with allies of the empress.

The Last Czars: Rasputin – who really murdered Rasputin? Russian conspirators EXPOSED

Rasputin is played by Ben Cartwright (Image: NETFLIX)

The Last Czars is available to stream and download on Netflix now. Across six episodes, the docudrama explores the reign of the last Tsar of Russia from 1894 until his assassination in July 1918. Rasputin was very close to the Russian Royal Family and members of the political elite and Russian citizens were beginning to distrust his powerful position int the Royal Family.

Rasputin was assassinated by members of the Russian nobility but who conspired to kill him?  Reflecting on portraying Rasputin's death, Ben Cartwright who plays him in series said: “The prosthetics I had, because obviously he meets a bit of a grizzly end, were just incredible.

I probably shouldn’t have sent those photos home to my wife to show my  kids, where I’ve been poisoned, shot and drowned.”

  • Rasputin (played by Ben Cartwright) died on December 30, 1916 in Petrograd, Russia.
  • His body was uncovered under the ice in the Malaya Nevka River on January 1, 1917.
  • Two known attempts had been on Rasputin’s life but there were potentially many more unsuccessful attempts.
  • In July 1914, a peasant woman named Khioniya Guseva attempted to kill Rasputin outside his home in Siberia.
  • She stabbed Rasputin in the stomach, severely injuring him to the point it was believed he would succumb to his injuries.
  • Guseva was the follower of Illiodor, a priest who was a personal enemy of Rasputin.
  • WHO PLAYS ALEXANDRA IN THE LAST CZARS?

Rasputin was killed by Prince Felix Yusupov (Image: NETFLIX)

  1. A successful assassination attempt occurred on December 30, 1916, at the home of Prince Felix Yusupov (Gerard Miller) in St Petersburg.
  2. Not much is known about Rasputin’s life, let alone death, with many things known about him being down to hearsay, myth and legend.
  3. According to Rasputin’s daughter Maria, the Russian Interior Minister Alexander Protopopov had warned Rasputin that there was a conspiracy to assassinate him in December 1916, to which he replied: “It’s too late.”
  4. The Tsar’s (Robert Jack) nephew Prince Felix Yusupov, the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, and the right-wing politician Vladimir Purishkevich successfully conspired to kill Rasputin.
  5. The Russian aristocracy and political right had become dissatisfied with the powerful role Rasputin was beginning to have in Russian politics.
  6. The Tsar appointed himself Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Army in 1915, leaving his wife Express Alexandra (Susanna Herbert) in charge.
  7. WHY IS CZAR SPELT WITH A C AND NOT A T?

Rasputin was the spiritual healer to the Tsar's son Alexei (Image: NETFLIX)

  • Alexandra relied heavily on the support and advice of Rasputin, who was given the freedom to appoint and remove ministers of choice from the cabinet.
  • Ignoring advice from his political advisors and members of his family, Alexandra and Nicholas II, refused to send Rasputin back to Siberia.
  • Rasputin was originally employed by the Romanov family to act as the spiritual healer for their haemophiliac son Alexei (Oskar Mowdy) who was also heir to the Russian throne.
  • On December 30, 1916, Rasputin visited the home of Prince Felix Yusupov in St Petersburg.
  • According to accounts of the two assassins, Yusupov and Purishkevich, Rasputin was lured to the home on the pretext that the latter’s wife Irina wanted to meet him.
  • In his memoirs, Yusupov claimed he offered Rasputin cakes and Madeira wine laced with cyanide, which failed to kill Rasputin.
  • HOW WAS THE TSAR OVERPOWERED BY RASPUTIN AND ALEXANDRA?

The Murder of Grigori Rasputin

Born into a peasant family in Siberia in 1869, Grigori Efimovich Rasputin grew up as a drunken, illiterate narcissist, who seems to have eagerly cherished a delusion that he was the most important being in the universe.

He joined an eccentric Russian Orthodox sect, the Khlysty, which believed that through flagellation they achieved a state of mind in which the Holy Spirit spoke to them.

He decided that a better way to that end was through exhaustion after prolonged sexual activity and prompted people to remember that rasputnik in Russian meant ‘lecher’. At 18 he married Praskovia Fedorovna Dubrovina, with whom he had three children, but he spent much time wandering restlessly about.

Travelling in Greece and to Jerusalem, living on charity, he built up a reputation as a holy man who could heal the sick and see the future. Dirty and shaggy, with blazing eyes, he evidently had a powerful presence and patients who believed in him claimed that he had healed them.

In 1903 Rasputin arrived in St Petersburg, where he attracted much attention. The event that would make him an important figure came the following year, when a son was born to Tsar Nicholas II and his German wife, the Tsarina Alexandra.

They already had four daughters and were ecstatic to have a son and heir, but the child, Alexis, had haemophilia and so suffered from episodes of severe bleeding, threatening an early death. The medical attention available was ineffective and is now thought to have been positively dangerous.

Rasputin had met the tsar and tsarina and made a good impression. When Alexis suffered a dreadful bleeding attack in 1907 Alexandra in desperation summoned Rasputin to the royal palace to help. He prayed at the bedside and somehow was able to calm both the boy and his parents.

Calming the parents may perhaps have helped to calm the boy. From then on, he came to help whenever needed.

Loving his wife and treasuring his son, the tsar mostly ignored reports of Rasputin’s persistent drunkenness and sexual exploits with numerous women who were drawn to him.

Things grew worse when Russia became involved in the First World War, in alliance with the French and British against the Germans and Austrians. In 1915 Nicholas decided it was his duty to take personal command of the Russian army.

He left for the front, putting Alexandra in charge of the administration at home. Nicholas was not a competent leader and he hampered his generals far more than he aided them.  

With Alexis still suffering attacks of bleeding and with the added burden of running the country, Alexandra made Rasputin her principal adviser. He was criticised as an incompetent upstart and a threat to the monarchy. His fiercest opponents believed that he secretly wanted the Russian army to be defeated by the Germans and there were unsuccessful attempts to murder him.

The attempt that succeeded was led by Prince Felix Yussoupov, husband of the tsar’s niece. Also involved were Vladimir Purishkevich, a right-wing member of the Russian parliament, Grand Duke Dmitry Pavlovich, the tsar’s cousin, an army officer called Sukhotin and Dr Stanislaus Lazovert, a close friend of Pavlovich. Their accounts of exactly what happened varied.

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Yussoupov, who knew Rasputin, invited him to his palace that December evening. It was freezing cold and the man who Lazovert called ‘the blackest devil in Russian history’ arrived and was treated to wine and cakes that had been poisoned beforehand. The others stayed quietly upstairs.

Rasputin grew ever more cheerful as he swallowed more and more of the wine and cakes without any ill effects, while Yussoupov played the guitar and sang songs to him. Eventually the astonished Yussoupov produced a gun and shot Rasputin. He gave a hideous shriek and fell writhing, but then struggled to his feet and attacked Youssupov.

The others rushed down and Purishkevich, it seems, fired at Rasputin several times, hitting him in the shoulders and the head. Rasputin collapsed and Lazovert pronounced him dead. They tied him up with a rope, wrapped him in a thick cloth and took him to the frozen River Neva nearby, where they found a hole in the ice and pushed him in.

When his corpse was found days later it was discovered that he had still been alive at that point and had struggled hard to free himself, but drowned.

Rasputin was dead, aged 47, but so, after centuries, was the Russian monarchy. Nicholas II was forced to abdicate a few weeks later and he, Alexandra, Alexis and other members of the family would be murdered in 1918.

Did a British agent murder Rasputin?

In the early hours of 17 December 1916, an automobile drove onto the snow-covered Large Petrovsky Bridge and came to a stop. Three men got out.

From the vehicle they hauled the lifeless body of a middle-aged man, leaned him up against the railing, and then dumped him over the edge into the icy waters of the Malaya Nevka river on the outskirts of Petrograd (now St Petersburg).

Two days later, the frozen body of Grigory Yefimovich Rasputin was hauled from the river.

The life of Rasputin was one of the most remarkable of the 20th century.

A peasant born in a remote Siberian village in c1869, Rasputin spent many years wandering the vast Russian empire as a holy pilgrim in search of spiritual enlightenment, eventually making his way to the Romanov imperial palace in 1905.

He impressed Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra as a true man of God and they soon came to rely on him as a confidant and friend, and the 
protector of their son Alexei, the sickly heir 
to the throne.

Yet from the beginning, Rasputin was accused of being a charlatan, a sexual deviant and a usurper who bent the royal couple to his evil will. He preached his own brand of Orthodoxy, took liberties with the women who came to him for succour, and insisted on telling the tsar how to rule.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, he became the scapegoat for all of the country’s ills, and many Russians were convinced that Rasputin was in fact an agent of the Germans. Two murder plots were hatched against him, but both times he survived.

And then, that fateful December night, Prince Felix Yusupov managed to lure Rasputin to his palace on the Moika river and, together with four conspirators, murdered the Siberian in cold blood.

From the beginning the killing was shrouded in rumour. Yusupov, clearly distorting what had transpired that night, claimed Rasputin had been almost impossible to kill, that his victim displayed the superhuman power of the Devil, and it was miraculous that he, Yusupov, had accomplished what no one had managed before.

Petrograders exchanged the most outlandish tales about the murder, one of which would suck in a powerful ally of Russia’s, and trigger a debate that still rages today. Rasputin, the whispers went, had been killed by an agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service.

The story quickly spread. German agents in Stockholm cabled to Berlin that they had it on good authority that “a young Englishman” had been in the Yusupov home that night. Another secret communication, sent to the king of Bulgaria, placed this same Englishman in the car that drove off with the body.

Perfidious Albion

It makes sense that the Germans would place an Englishman at the murder scene, for they, and a good many Russians, were convinced that Rasputin had been killed because of his rumoured desire to make a separate peace with Germany.

The English, desperate to 
keep Russia in the war, had the perfect motive.

As early as August of that year, a former official of the Russian ministry of foreign affairs, who had observed what he considered the perfidious machinations of the British, told Empress Alexandra that the English were preparing to kill Rasputin.

Communiques from Sir George Buchanan, the British ambassador to Russia, show that he had heard of a plot not long before the murder.

Buchanan commented in a secret cable on 18 December that: “I was told about a week ago by a friend who is in close touch with some of the younger grand dukes that a number of young officers had sworn to kill him before the end of the year.” Who, exactly, these officers were he does not say.

This is, however, the only evidence that Buchanan had prior knowledge of the murder, and there is nothing in the archives to suggest that he had anything to do with any plot.

Regardless, some in Russia undoubtedly wanted to blame the English for Rasputin’s death.

On 20 December, an article appeared in the newspaper Russian Word, titled ‘The Story of the English Detectives’, claiming that Rasputin had hired agents from Scotland Yard to work alongside the Okhrana, the tsarist secret police, for his protection shortly before his death. What he did not know, the article claimed, was that these imported agents had been bought off by Yusupov and so stood by outside the palace while he was being murdered.

The same day the article appeared, Samuel Hoare, head of the British intelligence mission in Russia, sent a cable to Mansfield Cumming, head of MI1(c), the precursor to MI6, asking whether the story were true, and if so, what were the names of the agents. But no list of any Scotland Yard agents operating in Russia was forthcoming – for the simple reason that there had never been any.

Hoare later came to the realisation that, in the days after the murder, Russian ‘rightists’ had been trying to frame the British for the crime, and him in particular.

The rumour of his guilt, he wrote, spread so far and so quickly that Ambassador Buchanan had to request an audience with Tsar Nicholas at Tsarskoe Selo on 1 January 1917 to address it.

He described the meeting that day in a secret telegram:

“At to-day’s New Year’s reception the emperor spoke to me in his most gracious 
and friendly manner.

As reports have spread, evidently by German agents, that not only had English detectives been conducting an enquiry into Rasputin’s murder, but that English officers had been associated in it, I told His Majesty that as I should be deeply grieved were either he or the empress to believe such an infamous story, I wished to give him the most formal assurance that there was not a word of truth in it.”

Nicholas was quite specific with the ambassador that day, mentioning by name the British agent he had been hearing talk about. It was not Hoare, but one Oswald Rayner.

Buchanan wrote that the story probably gained traction because Rayner, “who was temporarily employed here”, had been at Oxford with Yusupov and they had seen 
a great deal of each other in Petrograd.

“Rayner,” he continued, “positively assures me that the prince had never said a word to him about the plot, and I need hardly tell His Majesty that assassination was a crime held in abomination by British people. The emperor, who evidently heard something about Rayner, said that he was very glad that I had told him, and expressed his warmest thanks.”

See also:  Despite or in spite of

Plotting murder?

A draper’s son born into modest circumstances in 1888, Oswald Rayner entered Oxford University in 1907, and two years later met and became close friends with another young student there, Prince Felix Yusupov. The two men never forgot each other, and when, in November 1915, Rayner arrived in Petrograd to serve in the British Intelligence Service, he looked up his old university friend.

The men became close over the the next year, meeting often in the autumn of 1916. It appears that by then Rayner was no longer serving in the British Intelligence Service in Petrograd. Buchanan’s words to the emperor on New Year’s Day imply this, and a list of the active agents of a mission dated 11 December 1916 does not include his name.

In his memoirs Yusupov writes that he had told Rayner of the conspiracy and that the Briton came to see Yusupov on the night of the 17th to learn how things had gone.

Vladimir Purishkevich, another member of the murder party, had informed Samuel Hoare about the plot in early December.

So British agents did know about the conspiracy, but does this mean they come up with the idea, planned it, or helped carry it out?

For this there is no incontrovertible proof. But there is one intriguing letter, written by Captain Stephen Alley, then with the British military control department in Petrograd, on 25 December 1916. Addressed to Captain John Scale, an officer with the British Intelligence Service, it reads:

“Dear Scale […]

Although matters here have not proceeded entirely to plan, our objective has clearly been achieved. Reaction to the demise of ‘Dark Forces’ has been well received, although a few awkward questions have already been asked about wider involvement.

Rayner is attending to loose ends and will no doubt brief you on your return.”

Museum Secrets

Catherine's Pleasure Palace

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The bearded visage and hypnotic eyes belong to Rasputin, portrayed in dozens of movies as the satanic mad monk – faith healer to the last of the Russian Tsars.

Rasputin’s dark powers were said to have kept him alive, even after he was poisoned, then shot by brave noblemen, and drowned in an icy river.

One of those noblemen – Felix Yusupov – proudly admitted that he murdered Rasputin, to break his evil hold over Empress Alexandra. The assassination made him a national hero.

But British author Andrew Cook doesn’t buy it. He thinks he knows who really killed Rasputin, and why the murderer’s identity remains a state secret today.

The secret is revealed in the premiere broadcast of Museum Secrets: Inside the State Hermitage Museum

We at Museum Secrets aren’t the only ones who think Andrew Cook’s theory is fascinating. Writer Phil Gelatt and artist Tyler Crook have turned the story into a graphic novel called Petrograd. We invite you to check out some preview pages at CaptainComics.

http://captaincomics.ning.com/forum/topics/preview-petrograd-graphic-nove

How Rasputin was killed

Lost Splendour and the Death of Rasputin. By Felix Yusupov. Adelphi; 304 pages; 288 pages; £12.99.

FEW murderers boast about their crimes. But Prince Felix Yusupov was no ordinary killer, and his prey—the “mad monk” Grigory Rasputin—no ordinary victim.

On the centenary of the assassination of the Romanovs’ Svengali on December 30th, the republication of Yusupov’s memoir provides a timely glimpse into the charmed, doomed world of the Russian aristocracy, and its hectic collapse amid the Bolshevik revolution.

His grasp of facts is shaky and his motives self-serving. But the princely capers make a gripping, if sometimes repellent, read.

Yusupov’s penchants for transvestite dressing and wild evenings with gypsies show an interestingly unconventional side.

His childish pranks (such as letting rabbits and chickens loose in the Carlton Club in London) were much funnier for the perpetrator than the hard-pressed servants who had to clear them up.

The most important part of the book is the description of Rasputin’s assassination.

The humble Siberian peasant bewitched Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, the Tsarina, with his apparently miraculous powers.

His aristocratic assassins, recruited by Yusupov, believed Russia, misruled to the point of collapse, could be saved only if the royal family could be freed of the faith-healer’s malign influence.

They cast lots, obtained some cyanide, added it to cakes and wine, and tricked Rasputin, whom Yusupov had befriended earlier, into joining them for dinner. The trusting, unarmed guest consumed the poison, but it had no effect.

Yusupov, having first advised him to pray, then shot him in the chest at point-blank range. Yet a few minutes later he rose, foaming at the mouth, “raised from the dead by the powers of evil…I realised now who Rasputin really was…the reincarnation of Satan himself.

” After several more shots were fired, the assassins dumped the body in a river.

How did Rasputin really die?

When Prince Felix Yusupov invited Rasputin to his home on Dec. 29, 1916, it wasn't for pleasantries. Married to the niece of Czar Nicholas, Yusupov plotted with a group of nobles to murder Rasputin in an effort to save Russia from imminent collapse.

Since the details of the night rely on eyewitness testimony, disputes have arisen regarding what exactly happened. Generally, historians believe that the prince wooed Rasputin to his home with the prospect of meeting his attractive wife.

Yusopov laced pastries and wine with enough cyanide to poison several men. However, after Rasputin arrived and began eating and drinking, the poison had no effect, and Yuspov panicked.

Determined to end Rasputin's life, Yusupov pulled out a gun and shot Rasputin, striking him in the back [source: Yusupov].

After Rasputin fell to floor and was presumed dead, Yusupov and his friends celebrated upstairs. A little later, Yusupov checked on the body. The prince checked the pulse, feeling no sign of life and even shook Rasputin.

Somehow still alive, Rasputin opened his eyes, which Yusopov described as the “green eyes of a viper” [source: Yusupov], and he attempted to escape. Yusopov and his co-conspirators chased Rasputin out into the yard, shooting him two more times and beating him with a rubber club.

To ensure he didn't rouse again, the men tied Rasputin in a blanket and dumped his body into the Neva River.

Adding another layer of mystery to Rasputin's death, his body was found with his right arm outstretched, presumably to make the sign of the cross, indicating that he was still alive when he hit the water and managed to partially free himself [source: Wilson].

The autopsy report listed hypothermia from the freezing water as Rasputin's cause of death. However, the autopsy also revealed that he had been shot in the forehead, leading some to believe that he must have been dead before being dumped in the Neva River [source: Moynahan].

Interestingly, it showed no evidence of poison in the body.

The murder investigation was brief since Yusopov and his friends' involvement was well-known [source: Moynahan]. Additional factors about the specifics of Rasputin's death have floated around over the years, including whether he was castrated by his murderers.

Months later, the Romanov dynasty collapsed with the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. A letter reportedly written by Rasputin that his secretary Simanovich recovered after the czarina's death prophesied his demise along with the royal family's.

He wrote, “if it was one of your relations who have wrought my death, then no one in the family…none of your relations will remain alive for more than two years” [source: Wilson].

On July 16, 1918, Nicholas II, Alexandra and their five children were murdered by revolutionaries.

More recently, retired Scotland Yard detective Richard Cullen and historian Andrew Cook proposed a new theory behind Rasputin's death.

In 2004, they claimed that his death stemmed from a British Secret Intelligence plot involving two officers, Oswald Rayner and John Scales.

They based their conclusions on a connection between Yusupov and Rayner and information Scales had recorded on Rasputin [source: BBC].

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