A century ago tonight, Grigori Rasputin became the victim of an elaborate and murderous plot.

That evening, the controversial Siberian monk was lured to the palatial home of Prince Felix Yusupov for a private party. There he happily ate cakes laced with enough cyanide to kill ten men, and guzzled the wine – also poisoned – brought to him by his royal host. When it became clear that Rasputin was not even going to develop a stomachache from the poisoned treats, Yusupov and his co-conspirators became increasingly frightened, as one method after another failed to kill the monk.

At last the noblemen succeeded in murdering Rasputin. Had it not been for their desperation, the monk would no doubt have survived the poison, the gunfire, and the beating. He would probably have gone on influencing the Romanov tsar and tsarina and living a heady life in the Russian capital. Yet had he died later, of natural causes, his triumphs and misdeeds would eventually have been lost in the historical mists.


But Yusupov and his co-conspirators unintentionally guaranteed the Mad Monk immortality, and not only by the cruel and spectacular way in which they committed the deed. Two weeks before he was killed, Rasputin had written a letter to the tsar and tsarina that included this passage:

If you hear the sound of the bell which will tell you that Grigory has been killed, you must know this: if it was your relations who have wrought my death, then none of your children will remain alive for more than two years.

Prince Felix Yusupov, nephew of Tsar Nicolas, was ignorant of this letter. He had no way of knowing that it was through him that the monk’s last and greatest prophecy would be fulfilled: the tsar, tsarina, and all five of their children were murdered in Siberia 18 months later.

Click here for a detailed account of Rasputin’s death and the dreadful aftermath. 


Note: Mads Dahl Madsen colorized the pictures of Rasputin in this post. He did a wonderful job of capturing the monk’s famously icy eyes, didn’t he?

The Empress Alexandra was devastated by Rasputin’s death. He was the only man alive who could save Alexei and now he was gone.

It is unknown whether she considered the implications of a man known to be favored by her being murdered despite her protection. But looking back, it was another sign that the people were increasingly dismissive of the imperial Romanovs.

Nicholas had no military experience and the war was not going well. At the front, men starved; at home, women and children went hungry. The Romanovs, however, seemed oblivious. It is more likely that the tsar’s gestures that were meant to give courage were misplaced or misinterpreted by a struggling people. The pretty grand duchesses, the impressive uniforms, the picturesque photographs looked as though they were part of a different war than the one being fought by the Russian army.

tsar with his children
Grand Duchess Anastasia, Grand Duchess Olga, Tsar Nicholas, Tsarevich Alexei, Grand Duchess Tatiana, Grand Duchess Maria


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Nearly a century has passed since he walked amongst the living, but people still ask, “Who was Rasputin?”

R hands


Grigori Yefemovich arrived in St. Petersburg in 1903. His strange appeal introduced him to circles of society to which no peasant ever rose. It’s hard for anyone living now to understand how remarkable Rasputin’s story really is.

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