**TW: GRAPHIC PICTURE.
Ra Ra Rasputin, Russia’s greatest love machine… I’m sure you can finish the rest. Many have heard not only the song but the legend behind Grigori Rasputin. His image is also very infamous – straight hair down to his shoulders with an even longer beard, deep-set dark eyes, and a shroud of mysteriousness. He was born a peasant in Siberia, and became a wandering mystic, only to end up in Saint Petersburg. Nicholas was originally drawn to him because Rasputin seemed to be the only person who could heal his son and only heir, who was suffering from hemophilia at the time. However, when war drew Nicholas away from the crown, Rasputin and Alexandra (Nicholas’ wife) held the power, which upset many of the other royals.
One of these royals, Prince Felix Yusupov, played a part in Rasputin’s eventual murder. This past week, my classmates and I made a trip to the Yusopov Palace; home to Felix and his wife Irina, and location of Rasputin’s demise. Set in the more central part of the city, the palace is quite big for such an area and beautifully decorated. Inside is a stunning entrance hall, with marble banisters and chandeliers. I feel like I should be used to the grandeur by now, but it still leaves me in awe. While it was nice to walk through the different rooms, all dedicated to French-inspired decor and different colors (the blue room, crimson room, and green room..), its the basement that drew my eye.
In the basement, is a small authentic room, with a table and wax figures set up. One is Rasputin and one is Felix. It was to demonstrate the situation going on – Rasputin was eating cakes and drinking tea waiting to meet Felix’s wife. Little did he know that a doctor had poisoned both the food and drink with cyanide. However, the poison had little effect on Rasputin, which started to worry Felix. After a small, secret conference with his conspirators, he came back downstairs to see Rasputin kneeling in a corner, praying to the cross situated there. He sensed Felix entered the room, stood up to face him, and Felix shot him close range in the forehead and chest. Thinking Rasputin was dead, he went over to check his body. According to Felix’s memoirs, Rasputin awoke and started to struggle with him. It frightened Felix so badly that he passed out. He awoke to realize that Rasputin had started to crawl out of the basement. Felix and the other royals found Rasputin outside. They finished the job, and then took his body to the Peter the Great bridge. They dumped his body from there, not realizing that Rasputin’s body had hit the ice, not water since it was the wintertime. The next morning, the police found Rasputin’s body.
As I’ve said before, it is very surreal to stand in the same place as history. For me, Rasputin never seemed real, he was more of a Russian myth and the subject of a catchy 70’s song. But the more I’ve learned about him, the more real he became. And standing on the same ground that he prayed and nearly died on, made it even more so.
To me, these experiences can never be replaced or replicated. I’m so lucky to be living in a place that holds such cultural experiences and historical happenings. It makes me so excited to learn about something, and then see and feel it for myself. As my professor Ilya had said before, you need to feel history in order to appreciate it.