| Oct 25, 2010
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PRINCE FELIX YUSSUPOV : Part II: Dead Again: Rasputin

“Either he’s dead or my watch has stopped.” — Groucho Marx

Rasputin, The Mad Monk, is an almost surreal cult figure in his both time and our own. Revered by some as a psychic and faith healer, rumored by others to be a German spy, this charismatic, depraved peasant seemed to exercise an almost demonic sway over the Russian royal family. In those dark days on the eve of the Bolshevik revolution in midst of a bloody disastrous war against Germany with the population in near revolt Rasputin became a symbol of all that was wrong with the Russian monarchy. Somehow, for the good of the country, Rasputin and his evil influence had to be removed, once and for all. Someone had to kill him. Felix Yussupov decided to be the one to do it.

Felix began by forming a conspiracy including his wife Irina, Tsar Nicholas’ cousin Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov, and a sympathetic deputy named Purishkevitch. It happened on the dark, cold, night of December 29, 1916. The lecherous Rasputin has been lured to the Yussupov palace spurred by promises of meeting Felix’s beautiful wife Irina. There the conspirators lay in wait. The accounts of happened next — the actual doing away with Rasputin — have become the stuff of legends. The plan called for Felix to do the deed himself then his collaborators would dispose of the body. While Felix’s increasing nervous conspirators waited they passed the time listening to the only gramophone record they had: Yankee Doodle. Little did they know they would be spending the night listening to it over and over and over…


Accounts of what happened next are widely disputed to this day. In the interest of fairness we present Felix’s version of what happened (after all he was there): Rasputin was first offered rose cream cakes laced with potassium cyanide and washed down with equally deadly cyanide spiked Madeira wine, both of which Rasputin consumed eagerly. But Rasputin, to say the least, would not die easily. At first he seemed completely unaffected by the poison, even dancing about merrily while Felix was forced to entertain him on his guitar. As the night grew late Felix finally excused himself to report back to his fellow conspirators. Yes, Rasputin had swallowed enough poison to kill several Cossacks and a Russian mule. No, he was not dead. Finally Felix snatched up a pistol determined to end this madness.

Upon returning Felix found a groggy but still very much alive Rasputin. Felix produced his revolver, aimed for the heart, and shot Rasputin at point blank range. On hearing the shot the conspirators rushed back in but in their frantic haste brushed against a switch and turned out the light. In the ensuing darkness someone bumped into Felix and cried out while the terrified Felix stood motionless for fear of treading on the body. At last, someone turned the light back on.

Rasputin lay on his back, his features twitched in nervous spasms, his hands clenched, and his eyes closed. A bloodstain was spreading on his silk blouse. A few moments later all movement ceased. The conspirators cautiously bent forwarded to examine the body. One of them, a doctor, confirmed the bullet had struck his heart and pronounced Rasputin dead. The conspirators then left again to begin preparations to dispose of the evidence.


Felix returned alone to check the body only to see the corpse unexpectedly regain consciousness and come back to life before his horrified eyes. As he later wrote:

“I stood rooted to the flagstones as if caught in the toils of a nightmare. Then a terrible thing happened: with a sudden violent effort Rasputin leapt to his feet, foaming at the mouth. A wild roar echoed through the vaulted rooms, and his hands convulsively thrashed the air. He rushed at me, trying to get at my throat, and sank his fingers into my shoulder like steel claws. His eyes were bursting from their sockets, blood oozed from his lips. And all the time he called me by name, in a low raucous voice: ‘Felix…Felix…Felix…”


Felix, not surprisingly, was frightened completely out of his wits. He desperately broke free and fled the building in terror screaming for help. But when the other conspirators rushed back to the scene Rasputin was nowhere to be found. They eventually discovered Rasputin in the palace courtyard crawling doggedly on all fours towards an open gate. Rasputin was quickly set upon again, this time shot repeatedly then bludgeoned once or twice for good measure. Now Rasputin’s incriminating remains had to be disposed off. The conspirators accomplished this task by tying a sheet of heavy linen around the body before shoving it into a waiting car. They then drove to remote Petrovski Island where from the top of a bridge they hurled the troublesome corpse into the Malaya Neva River, there to drift away with the current.

This plan had only one flaw — Rasputin refused to stay dead. Unbelievably Rasputin arose yet again. Later examination of the body showed his arms nearly freed from their bindings and raised in an upright position as though he had tried clawing through the ice above him. Ironically, despite the poison and his multiple wounds Rasputin’s autopsy ruled the cause of death as drowning.

More ironic still, all these exhaustive efforts in disposing of the troublesome Rasputin for the stated purpose of preserving the monarchy had the exact opposite effect. Disreputable as he was, many Russian peasants actually saw Rasputin as one of them, a lone peasant influence in an otherwise indifferent Russian court. His death by members of the monarchy was widely viewed with anger by many. The monarchy dealt with Felix comparatively lightly for his role and he suffered only internal exile by the Tsar. As luck would have it, this probably saved Felix’s life since it placed him away from Moscow when the revolution finally broke out. While other members of the monarchy were being imprisoned or executed Felix was even briefly regarded as a hero of sorts by the new Communist government for his role in dispatching a potential rival in Rasputin. The Prince and Irina quickly fled to the Crimea with their families but Felix was still able to return to St. Petersburg later and snatch up some valuables from one of their palaces. As a result, Felix and Irina were able to escape Russia and live in reasonable comfort until 1967 and 1970 respectively when they passed into history.


Lost Splendor, Prince Felix Yussupov

The Man Who Killed Rasputin, Gregory King

Prince Felix Yussupov Biography, Bob Atchison

A Treasury of Royal Scandals, Michael Farquhar

Edward VII and the Triple Entente, Webster G. Tarpley

Felix Yusupov, Wikipedia entry

The name of Felix’s brother “Nikolai” is usually anglicized as “Nicholas.” Felix’s last name has been translated from Cyrillic to English as Yussupov, Yusupov, Yossopov, Iusupov, Youssoupov, or even Youssoupoff. Take your pick.

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  1. Michelle Michelle says:

    There are many retellings of doing Rasputin in and differnt theories of what Felix’s motives were. But there’s no real evidence Felix dressed up to do the deed. Speaking of legends, Rasputin may have been even harder to kill than I wrote. When Rasputin was being cremated according some eyewitnesses his blazing body sat up amidst the flames. But there’s probably some scientific explanation for that. And there’s probably nothing to those peasants accounts afterward of Rasputin’s body wandering the countryside. Happy Halloween, girls…. Mwaa Haa Haa Haa…

  2. dina dina says:

    Michelle, did I miss something or did Felix dress as his wife Irina to murder Rasuputin?