While he was alive, Grigori Efimovich used to predict, "If I die, the Emperor will soon after lose his crown." Although Grigori saw himself as a holy man used by God to prop up the throne of the Romanovs, others believed that his evil influence was ruining Russia. He had wrapped the royal family around his finger, but his rude behavior, plain talk, cursing, drunkenness, and seduction of high-ranking women earned him intense hatred. Various state officials toyed with the idea of killing him. But it was two bored noblemen, a hate-filled politician, and some servants who actually did Grigori in.
Grigori was a peasant who had had a vision of the Holy Virgin of Kazan at eighteen and became convinced he was chosen for some special purpose. He began wandering around Russia as a "holy" man, exorcist and healer, visiting monasteries and religious sects along the way. He adopted the doctrine of rebirth through sin, the unbiblical idea that communion with God and Christ comes once you are totally fatigued and overwhelmed by sin. Naturally this belief encouraged a life full of drunken orgies. Grigori's behavior was so shocking that he was nicknamed "Rasputin" meaning "dissolute" or "profligate."
In 1903 Rasputin arrived at St. Petersburg. Since the peasant "holy" man seemed able to predict the future and cure ailments, the nobility latched onto him. After 1905, Rasputin's influence spread to the royal family itself, owing to his skill in treating the hemophilia (bleeding disease) of Alexis, heir to the throne. The "Holy Devil" was revered by court and peasant alike.
Prince Yusupov hated Rasputin. Bored with wealth and beauty, he thought murder would relieve his jaded existence. He wormed his way into Rasputin's confidence, and invited him to his palace on this day, December 16, 1916.* There he fed Rasputin poisoned cake and wine, but the poison had no effect on the burly peasant. Yusupov and his accomplices then shot and stabbed Rasputin repeatedly and dumped his bound body into the Neva River in St. Petersburg where it was found several days later. The autopsy showed that Rasputin was still alive when thrown into the water.
The following year, the Romanovs toppled from power.
*Russia was still on the old calendar, which was by then 14 days out of synchronization with the Gregorian calendar. On western calendars, he was attacked on the 30th and died sometime in the wee hours of the 31st.
- Based on an earlier Christian History Institute story.
- "Efimovich, Grigori," and "Rasputin." Encyclopedia Americana. Chicago: Americana, 1956.
- Fulop-Miller, Rene. Rasputin; the holy devil. New York: Viking, 1929.
- Iliodor (Sergei Michailovich Trufanoff). The Mad Monk of Russia, Iliodor. Life, Memoirs and Confessions of Sergei Michailovich Trufanoff, 1918.