Saturday, December 17, 2005

Happy 'Gregory Rasputin Is Finally Dead' Day

Actually, it was yesterday, but since it's just a bit past midnight here, I'll go with this breathtakingly critical report, anyway.

Rasputin had managed to endear himself to Tsar Nicholas II, or rather, to his beloved wife Alexandra, because of the mad monk's eery influence over the Tsar's only son and heir, Alexander. Alex suffered from hemophilia, inherited from Britain's Queen Victoria. Keep in mind that intermarriage between European royal families was common and the British royal family was the most powerful at the time and therefore royal brides and grooms from Britain were highly prized. Anyway, the story of Rasputin's entrance on the scene in the Russian court and his activities there are a long story which you can read here.

The upshot of all this was that various members of the Tsar's staff decided that Rasputin had to go. On 16 December, 1916, after a lot of planning, this is how they did it:

They invited him to a party. There they fed him cakes and wine laced with potassium cyanide. Rasputin ate enough cake and guzzled enough wine to kill six men. It didn't kill him, although he did compain of a burning stomach and being drowzy. He laid down on the floor to take a nap. The conspirators thought he was dead. Suddenly, he jumped up and began walking around the room, examining artwork. One of the shocked conspirators left and came back with a pistol. As Rasputin was admiring a piece of artwork, the conspirator shot him in the chest. Sure that he was dead, another of the conspirators bent over Rasputin's body when the monk suddenly rose up and grabbed him by the throat. It required repeated stabbings with a knife to loosen his grip. They again were convinced he was dead until Rasputin got up and ran for the door. He was chased down and shot several more times. Then his still undead body was beaten, wrapped up in a carpet and dumped into the river through a hole chopped in the ice.

One account of the trials and tribulations of the conspirators and their attempts to make Rasputin really truly dead can be found here. One thing I learned in my exhaustive 10 minutes of research for this post was that Rasputin was a follower of a little known sect of the Russian Orthodox Church called the Skopsty. Followers of the Skoptsy believed that to be forgiven for your sins and to reach God, you had to commit sins, and the more the merrier. Rasputin was a rabid follower of the Skopsty creed and traveled the countryside sinning to his heart's content. He became such an expert at drunkeness, gambling and debauchery of the ladyfolk that he soon began wearing robes and calling himself a Staretz, or monk.

A Skoptsy Staretz. I've got to look into that as soon as I can say Skopsty Staretz three times rapidly in succession.

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