Life wasn’t easy for Grigori Rasputin but neither was death. A peasant, mystic faith healer and notorious libertine, Rasputin was seriously hated by the aristocracy and the masses for his immense political influence over Russia’s last Tsar and Tsarina. It was even rumored that he was sleeping with the latter.
With the exception of the Imperial couple, people from the highest and lowest levels of society believed the Motherland would be a much better place if Rasputin was dead. Getting rid of the ill-liked advisor, however, turned out to be harder than it seemed, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
The seemingly indestructible Rasputin should have died when:
1. He was stabbed in the stomach with a dagger.
In 1914, a beggar woman approached him on the street, her face concealed by a black kerchief. He didn’t think anything of it until she pulled out a dagger and stabbed him in the stomach. Still, Rasputin got away, and after more than six weeks in a hospital and a laparotomy, he recovered.
While the second assassination attempt on Rasputin’s life two years later was ultimately successful, his death did not come easy. Try as the co-conspirators might, he just wouldn’t die.
2. He consumed potassium-cyanide laced pastries and wine.
Felix Yusupov, husband of the Tsar’s only niece, hatched a plan with Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Vladimir Purishkevich and others to poison Rasputin. After Felix befriends and lures Rasputin to his palace on December 16 with the promise of sex with his wife, he serves Rasputin enough cyanide to kill him right then and there. While death isn’t always immediate, large doses quickly affect the heart and brain, causing sudden collapse, seizure or coma.
But Rasputin didn’t even blink. He just kept on gulping down potassium-cyanide laced pastries and wine.
3. He got shot in the chest.
Naturally, Felix freaks out that the cyanide doesn’t kill Rasputin and makes an excuse to leave the room. After discussing the dilemma with his co-conspirators, Felix returns with Dmitri’s revolver. At a close range, Felix shoots the unsuspecting Rasputin in the chest, the bullet penetrating his stomach and liver. Rasputin falls to the ground and doesn’t move, so Felix and his co-conspirators celebrate until they can dump the body without detection.
Later that night, Felix goes to check on the body only to find Rasputin warm and still very much alive. Rasputin tries to escape.
4. He took a bullet to the brain…and spine.
Vladimir goes after Rasputin and shoots at him as he’s running across the palace courtyard. He misses twice before a bullet hits Rasputin in the back, penetrating his right kidney and lodging in his side. The third bullet hits him in the head. Both shots should have been fatal but…
5. He got kicked in the head immediately after taking a bullet to the brain and spine.
Rasputin is still crawling. When Vladimir catches up to him, he aims a hard kick to his right eye. The “Mad Monk” has got to be dead now, right?
The conspirators tie up Rasputin’s body, roll it in a rug and dump it in the unfrozen section of the Malaya Nevka River.
When found by authorities, the cause of death appears to be from the bullet wound, but there was something odd about the way his hands were frozen near his face. It looked as if he were trying to loosen the rope his killers tied around him. Did the infamous holy man survive a bullet to the head and ultimately die of drowning?
It’s also interesting to note that while the ensuing autopsy revealed a considerable amount of alcohol in his system, there were no traces of poison.
If you’d like to learn more about the life of Grigori Rasputin and what happened the night of his death, check out the pilot episode of Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, the Parcast Network’s new podcast series.