December 30

This Day in History

World War I

Dec 30, 1916:

Rasputin is murdered

Sometime over the course of the night and the early morning of December 29-30, 1916, Grigory Efimovich Rasputin, a self-proclaimed holy man, is murdered by Russian nobles eager to end his influence over the royal family.

Rasputin, a Siberian-born muzhik, or peasant, who underwent a religious conversion as a teenager and proclaimed himself a healer with the ability to predict the future, won the favor of Czar Nicholas II and Czarina Alexandra through his ability to stop the bleeding of their hemophiliac son, Alexei, in 1908. From then on, though he was widely criticized for his lechery and drunkenness, Rasputin exerted a powerful influence on the ruling family of Russia, infuriating nobles, church orthodoxy, and peasants alike. He particularly influenced the czarina, and was rumored to be her lover. When Nicholas departed to lead Russian forces in World War I, Rasputin effectively ruled the country through Alexandra, contributing to the already-existing corruption and disorder of Romanov Russia.

Fearful of Rasputin's growing power (among other things, it was believed by some that he was plotting to make a separate peace with the Germans), a group of nobles, led by Prince Felix Youssupov, the husband of the czar's niece, and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Nicholas's first cousin, lured Rasputin to Youssupov Palace on the night of December 29, 1916.

First, Rasputin's would-be killers gave the monk food and wine laced with cyanide. When he failed to react to the poison, they shot him at close range, leaving him for dead. A short time later, however, Rasputin revived and attempted to escape from the palace grounds, whereupon his assailants shot him again and beat him viciously. Finally, they bound Rasputin, still miraculously alive, and tossed him into a freezing river. His body was discovered several days later and the two main conspirators, Youssupov and Pavlovich were exiled.

Not long after, the Bolshevik Revolution put an end to the imperial regime. Nicholas and Alexandra were murdered, and the long, dark reign of the Romanovs was over.

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