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RUSSIA: Death of Rasputin

4 minute read

In all its calculated horror Prince Felix Yussupov, cousin by marriage to Tsar Nicholas II, tells in a book Rasputin* (ras-poo-teen), published in the U. S. last week, how the peasant monk wove a “tangle of dark intrigue, egotistical self-seeking, hysterical madness and vainglorious pursuit of power, which wrapped the throne in an impenetrable web and isolated the monarch from his people”; how in greasy boots he walked over the imperial parquets; how he gained almost complete mastery over the Tsar and Tsarina; how Prince Yussupov and the Grand Duke Dimitri, murdered him in an attempt to deliver the royal couple from his clutches and threw his body into the Neva from a bridge in Petrograd. Most of this was known before (TIME, Dec. 6, 1926), but it is the first time that Prince Yussupov has told it in his own words.

Describing Rasputin, Prince Yussupov says: “He was of medium height, thickset, yet rather thin, with long arms. His big head was covered with an untidy tangle of hair. Above his forehead there was a bald patch which, as I subsequently learned, came from a blow administered to him for horse stealing. He seemed to be about 40 years old. He was wearing a long coat, wide trousers and long boots. . . . His whole bearing attracted attention; he appeared unconstrained in his movements, and yet there seemed to be something dissembled about him—something suspicious, cowardly and searching.”

Believing that to the influence of Rasputin all Russia’s misfortunes in the early part of the War could be traced, the author-prince tells of the formation of a conspiracy to kill the monk: “Our house on the Moika was chosen as the place where the project was to be carried out. A suite of rooms there was being adapted for my own use and would serve our purpose better than anything else. My associations with Rasputin would afford me an opportunity of persuading him to come and visit me.

“This decision caused me much heart searching. The prospect of inviting a man to my house with the intention of killing him horrified me. Whoever the man might be—even Rasputin, the incarnation of crime and vice—I could not contemplate without a shudder the part which I would be called upon to play—that of a host encompassing the death of his guest.”

The following plan was agreed upon, according to the Prince: “On the day that Rasputin should choose to come to me, I was to call for him toward midnight, and drive him to the Moika in an open car with Dr. Lazovert as chauffeur. While Rasputin was drinking tea, I was to administer a solution of cyanide of potassium, which would cause his immediate death. His body was to be put into a sack, driven out of town and thrown into the water.”

On the night of the murder a samovar of tea and a chocolate cake were placed on a small table. Dr. Lazovert, one of the conspirators, took some crystals of cyanide of potassium out of his pocket, crushed them, removed layers of the cake, sprinkled the poison, replaced the layers. The scene was set.

Rasputin ate greedily of the cake but it did not seem to affect him. He drank poisoned wine, seemingly without effect. “Play something cheerful. I like to hear you sing,” said the monk to his worried host, Prince Yussupov. He sang.

Impatient, the Prince, according to his version of the affair, got hold of a revolver: ” ‘Where shall I shoot him,’ I thought. ‘Through the temple or through the heart.'” It was through the heart.

But even then Rasputin did not die. Alarmed and amazed, Prince Yussupov called in the other conspirators. Entering the room they saw the monk crawling across the floor “bellowing and snorting like a wounded animal.” Several more shots were fired and the body of the monk was tossed over the bridge, as planned.

*RASPUTIN— Prince Felix Youssoupoff — Dial Preis, ($5).

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