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RUSSIA: Debauchee’s Daughter

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Rasputin is a Russian nickname meaning the “Debauchee.” For twelve years the Black Monk, Gregory Novihh, famed as Rasputin, dominated the Tsaritsa Alexandra, and through her swayed Tsar Nicholas the Last,* and through him warped the destiny of All the Russias.

Today Prince Felix Youssoupov, one of a patriotic group of Russian noblemen who slew Rasputin in 1916, is being sued at Paris for 25,000,000 francs ($1,000,000) damages, by the Black Monk’s surviving daughter, Mme. Boris Soloviev, once Mlle. Matrona Novihh (TIME, June 25).

Last week Mme. Soloviev told Paris correspondents, for the first time, about the night of Dec. 30, 1916, when her father went to meet Death.

Debauchee or Staretz? “My father had his defects, like everyone else,” said Monk Rasputin’s daughter, “but he was a good father and a good man. He was a staretz, a man inspired by God. I carry his name with pride. . . .

“Prince Felix Youssoupov was to my father apparently one of his dearest friends. He often came to our house in Petrograd. That evening in 1916, which was to be his last, my father said to me:

” ‘Felix is coming to get me. You must tell nobody about it. I am to go to his house incognito to a reception that he and the Grand Duke Dimitri have organized for me.’

“At midnight they came. Youssoupov was admitted by the servants’ stairway. He embraced my father, crying: ‘Ah, my dear friend,’ and took him away.”

“When my father did not return the next morning I telephoned the Prince. He assured me that he did not know where my father could be. I then telephoned the Tsaritsa Alexandra. She sent a carriage to get me.

“My sister and I were taken to the Palace of Tsarskoe-Selo into the presence of the Tsaritsa. She told me that my father had met a horrible death. She said that he had been her faithful counselor, the man in whom she had put all her confidence.

“She did not weep. She looked at us with an expression of infinite tenderness and sadness. I did not then know all that had happened.

“I was to know one other grief. Two years ago, here in Paris, Boris, my husband, died in the Cochin Hospital of exhaustion and privation. But my two children and I are well. And I have work…”

“My suit for damages against Prince Felix Youssoupov and the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich [both resident in Paris] is not primarily a struggle for money. It is an effort to clear my slandered father’s name!”

Slayer’s Boast. Prince Felix Youssoupov has written autobiographically that he offered Rasputin poisoned wine, after first pretending to take a sip himself. When the Debauchee’s potent digestion resisted liquid poison, Rasputin was induced to eat several pastries containing cyanide of potassium. Expectantly the nobles waited for their victim to collapse, and blanched with fear as the Black Monk, who was believed to possess occult powers, became merely hilarious after absorbing enough poison to kill a healthy elephant.

Prince Youssoupov boasts that he finally drew a revolver and put shot after shot into Rasputin. Even then the period before Death came was so appallingly long that the Grand Duke Dimitri is said to have rewound a phonograph 20 times in an effort to keep up the morale of all concerned. He later remarked with a shudder:

“It was like watching some horrible reptile die—something that writhed and spit slime though dead a thousand times.”

Rasputin’s Prophecy. To Nicholas the Last a cryptic prophecy was made by Gregory the Debauchee:

“Sire, my murder will be your murder.”

On May 8, 1918, the Imperial Family, then setting out for Siberian exile, chanced to drive through the village of Pokrovskoie, where Rasputin was born, and as they clattered past the murdered Monk’s house, the Tsaritsa Alexandra waved to his daughter, Mme. Soloviev, who was standing in the doorway. Boris Soloviev, was serving at this time as a secret emissary between the Tsar and his White Russian adherents. Some historians maintain that he betrayed a project for the rescue of the Imperial Family to the Bolsheviki, thus precipitating the mass murder of the Romanovs, at Ekaterinburg, on July 16, 1918.

Whether or not Son-in-Law Soloviev was the means of carrying out his father-in-law’s prophecy, it is significant that he was gifted in lesser degree with the prodigious hypnotic powers of Rasputin.

Two statesmen of strongest will who testified that they could barely resist these powers were onetime President of the Duma Michael Rodzianko and onetime Prime Minister Peter Arcadevich Stolypin.

The latter thus describes an encounter with the Monk, who had been summoned to answer to the Cabinet for his gross immorality. “He ran his pale eyes over me,” declared Stolypin, “mumbled mysterious and inarticulate words from the Scriptures, made strange movements with his hands, and I began to feel an indescribable loathing for this vermin sitting opposite me. Still I did realize that the man possessed great hypnotic power, which was beginning to produce a fairly strong moral impression on me. … I was able to pull myself together.”

President of the Duma Rodzianko, a man of huge physique, told thus of a similar encounter: “Rasputin faced me and seemed to run me over with his eyes; first my face, then the region of the heart, then again he stared me in the eyes. … I, speaking literally, felt my own eyes starting out of my head. … I felt myself confronted by an unknown, tremendous power.”

*His Imperial Majesty once distractedly exclaimed, “I prefer twenty Rasputins to one hysterical woman” [—the Tsaritsa Alexandra].

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