Rasputin’s background stands in stark contrast to that of Felix Yusupov II’s wealthy upbringing. Grigori Rasputin was born in 1869 to a family of peasants in the Siberian village of Pokrovskoye, a place that you can still visit today. From here he took a pilgrimage in 1897 to a monastery, during this visit he underwent a religious conversion. He became a self-proclaimed monk who wandered the lands, I say self-proclaimed as he had no official ties to the Russian Orthodox Church. In some time between 1903 and 1905 he would travel to St. Petersburg, he had begun to earn a reputation for his wisdom, aiding people with their spiritual crisis and issues. Rumours also persisted that the slept with many of his female followers, despite this he managed to peak the interests of certain religious and social leaders and it wasn’t long until he was introduced to Tsar Nickolas II. In 1906 he started practising as the Tsars healer and more importantly as his son Alexei’s who was his only heir to the throne. Alexei suffered from haemophilia and required constant medical attention. This made Rasputin a strong figure in the ranks of the court and that influence reached new heights during the Great War. In 1915 the Tsar left to oversee Russian forces, during this time Rasputin and the Tsar’s wife Alexandra grew very close, so close that rumours of an affair have often been spouted. Though that would not last long, everything would change when on December 30th 1916 Rasputin would step into Yusupov Palace.
Felix was tired of Rasputin’s influence over the court, he decided along with Grand Duke Dmitri (a Romanov himself) and Vladimir Purishkevich (a politician) to put an end to it for good. He decided to invite Rasputin to the Yusupov Palace claiming it was to help him with a “slight malady” from which he was suffering. A small room in the basement has been recently furnished, here he was given tea and cakes which were laced with cyanide. On eating the cakes however Rasputin seemed unaffected by the poison. He was then given wine which was also poisoned, he drank three glasses of this but still no effect had taken place. Beginning to panic Felix left the room to confer with his co-conspirators and returned with a gun, then he shot him in the chest. After a quick diversion, posing as the man near his home to throw people off the scent they returned to the palace to check on the body. As Felix did so Rasputin leapt up attacking him, somehow still alive. After an immense struggle between the two of them Felix fled upstairs, Rasputin followed him out onto the courtyard pf the Palace and it was here Purishkevich shot him again. After collapsing in a snowbank, the three plotters wrapped him up and threw his body off of the Petrovsky Bridge into the Malaya Nevka River.
Today you can visit this palace in all it’s glory, hear all about this scandalous affair and see where it took place. There’s also plenty more to learn on your visit though, all about a family that sat at the top of Russian Aristocracy at a time we don’t often hear about in popular culture.