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The Life and Death(s) of Grigori Rasputin

Alexei Romanov, Tsarevich of the Russian Empire, suffered from haemophilia, a condition of the blood common among descendants of Queen Victoria.[1] Worried for her son’s life, Alexei’s mother the Tsaritsa Alexandra summoned a spiritual healer of some renown to the palace. After the holy man’s visit, the boy recovered. Crediting him with the cure of her son, he became a favourite of the Empress for the rest of his days. In the years following Alexei’s recovery, this monk rose to both fame and infamy through his association with, and influence over, the Tsaritsa.[2] This monk is, of course, “The Mad Monk” Grigori Rasputin, also known as “The Heir of Slytherin.” “Razzmatazz Ras” to his friends. You probably know him simply as Rasputin.

Rasputin’s close association with the Tsaritsa won him few friends; he was seen as a manipulator of the royal family, an enemy of the empire who must be stopped at any cost. Rasputin’s reputation was not helped by his notoriously depraved personal predilections. In short, he had an unhealthy fondness for good food, plentiful alcohol and beautiful women. When he wasn’t hobnobbing with the Romanovs, he was indulging his bacchanalian propensities in St. Petersburg’s taverns of good reputation and houses of ill repute.


Our tale, however, does not concern the life of Rasputin, but his death. Or rather his deaths. You see, among the many reasons for his fame, Rasputin was widely considered to be the least killable man in St. Petersburg. In fact, Rasputin was killed no less than twenty-seven times with no success.[3] The Russians even have a phrase[4], колющие монах, which literally translated means “stabbing the monk” but has come to mean “having fun.”

At first, the attempts on Rasputin’s life were fairly straightforward. Once as Rasputin was leaving church, a woman and disciple of one of his rivals stabbed Rasputin in the gut. Believing her assassination attempt successful, she screamed, “I have killed the Antichrist!” Sadly for our would-be killer our would-be Antichrist survived the attack.

After the botched stabbing, the attempts to kill Rasputin were rather silly. His enemies tried tickling him with feathers, they forced him to read Melville, they even fed him Russian food on one occasion.[5] He survived every assault. Inexplicably, they only seemed to make him stronger, more insidious, and strangely, more hirsute.

A weirdy, beardy, magiciany man.

Rasputin quickly gained a reputation for unkillableness, so the plots to kill him grew both plottier and more elaborate. Knowing his predilection for decadent food and beautiful women, a group of nobles, led by Prince Yusupov, lured him to the home of Princess Irina with the promise of a late night tryst. The conspirators told Rasputin to wait for the princess in the basement where they plied him with food and drink. Unbeknownst to Rasputin, it was all laced with poison.[6] The murderers watched as Rasputin ate enough poisoned food to kill five men, yet it had no effect on him. Running out of time to dispose of the body, Prince Yusupov shot Rasputin and left him for dead. The men returned several hours later to dispose of the body.

Among Rasputin’s many reputed spiritual gifts, he was widely considered a prophet (He was also believed to be able to talk to badgers, but that’s neither here nor there). So it can only be assumed that Rasputin had foreseen twentieth century horror movie tropes, because when Yusupov leaned over Rasputin to pick up his corpse, Rasputin’s eyes shot open and he lunged at Yusupov, grasping him about the neck.

He also predicted "The Shawshank Redemption" with eerie clarity.

At this point it becomes difficult for the historian and the verendicompendian to separate truth from legend. So we will err, as is fitting, on the side of awesome.

The other assassins shot Rasputin several more times in the back, saving Yusupov’s life. When they approached the body, Rasputin was somehow still alive, so they clubbed him repeatedly. They then bound him in chains, rolled him up in a carpet, wrapped the carpet in barbed wire, doused the bundle in gasoline, lit it on fire, wrapped the charred remains in yet another carpet, which was subsequently encased in concrete, which was also wrapped in barbed wire, doused in gasoline and lit on fire. Finally, they took the smoldering remnants of the smoldering remnants of the poisoned, shot, and bludgeoned remains of the monk and threw them in the frigid Neva River.

Rasputin, the Satan of St. Petersburg, was finally dead.

…or was he?



[1] About 87% of posh European people at the time.

[2] He is also the subject of the song “Rasputin” by the Euro disco group Boney M, a song so obscure, so utterly unheard of, if anything it has somehow made him less famous.

[3] The children of St. Petersburg even made a sport of killing Rasputin. The rules were simple: the first one to kill Rasputin wins. Extra points were rewarded for every minute he stayed dead. Rasputin used to take the long way to the palace just to avoid his own assassination at the hands of an incorrigible young street urchin.

[4] No, they don’t.

[5] Contrary to popular belief, Russians do not actually eat Russian food. They invented it during the Napoleonic Wars in hopes of discouraging invasion. They later used it to great effect during The Cold War as a means of weakening the will of the people of Eastern Europe.

[6] The poison poisson was particularly pernicious.



Filed under History, Lore and Legend