If I am killed by common men, you and your children will rule Russia for centuries to come; if I am killed by one of your stock, you and your family will be killed by the Russian people! Pray, Tsar of Russia.

RASPUTIN (1869-1916)


Legend holds that when the flames touched his corpse, Rasputin sat upright on the pyre.

Competing Theories

The story of Rasputin's long-drawn out death rested upon the claims of Yusupov whose account could be said, at best, to be patchy and full of contradictory statements. Many historians suggest that he exaggerated how difficult Rasputin was to kill in order to make himself seem braver.

In fact, the autopsy didn’t show any poison in Rasputin’s stomach at all and what seems likeliest is that Rasputin was beaten and stabbed and then shot twice. Then, upon finding that he still had a pulse, a third man shot him in the head. What killed Rasputin was being shot through the forehead, which would kill anyone.

Another interesting facet to the affair is the suggestion that it may have been an MI6 officer that killed him; the only man present with the sort of revolver which would have fired the fatal bullet was a British Intelligence officer called Oswald Rayner. MI6 had been involved in planning Rasputin’s death, worried that he was going to persuade the Tsar to pull Russia out of World War I and probably lose it for Britain. It is possible that British Intelligence actively ordered Rasputin’s death. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing for sure because Rayner burnt all of his papers before his death in 1961.

Rasputin's body was originally buried in the grounds of Alexander Palace near St Petersburg, but it was removed by workers during the February Uprising and taken to the woods for an impromptu cremation. 


It’s easy to see Rasputin as a bit of colour in the Russian Revolution, stories of his orgies at restaurants, his legendary penis and so on.

Rise and Fall

Rasputin made pilgrimages around Russia and then the Holy Land before arriving in St Petersburg where his alleged powers as a mystic and faith healer were employed to treat the Tsarevich (Tsar’s son) Alexei’s haemophilia. He appeared to effect a cure and soon became a favourite at the palace. His influence grew until he had the ear of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra, who began hiring and firing people purely on the basis of whether they were friends or enemies of Rasputin who they called ‘our friend’. In a single year under Rasputin's influence Russia had five interior ministers, three war ministers, four agriculture ministers and three justice ministers. By January 1916, at the height of his influence, 300-400 people were calling on Rasputin daily with petitions and bribes.

A group of Russian nobles led by Prince Felix Yusupov decided that Rasputin was too close to the Tsarina – it was alleged that they were lovers but most modern historians think this was unlikely - and therefore dangerous to the empire. They decided to murder him.

The story then goes that Rasputin was fed enough cyanide to kill him several times over, but it had no effect. Yusopov’s men then beat him severely, shot him and left him for dead but when Yusupov went back to the body, Rasputin jumped up and started to strangle him. Rasputin was then beaten again, shot twice more and eventually thrown in the river. When his body was found it was alleged that only drowning had killed him, rather than anything else. 


Rasputin was often described as giving off a goat-like smell.

Autopsy records show that Rasputin’s allegedly 13 inch long penis was removed (after his death) by a group of nobles.


Russia's greatest love-machine


Sin to Drive Out Sin

Grigory Yefimovitch Novykh (1869-1916) was a Siberian peasant who was so badly behaved at school that he acquired the nickname Rasputin ('debauched one'). Rasputin never learned to read or write. He became a horse-thief, but underwent a religious conversion aged 18 when he was forced to stay in a local monastery. Contrary to his popular nickname of ‘the mad monk’ he was never a monk but part of a banned sect - the khlysty - that practiced self-flagellation and believed that enlightenment was found after becoming sexually exhausted. Their central tenet was ‘sin to drive out sin’; the more women you slept with, the holier you became. 

Manhood of the Monk 

After Rasputin's death, his penis was supposedly pickled and kept in a wooden box by his daughter Maria and stayed in her possession until she died in California in 1977, though there were rumours that it was worshipped by a female cult in Paris in the 1920s.

In the 1980s, an American man called Michael Davenport claimed to own the penis and he sold it at auction. However, the object actually turned out to be a sea-cucumber. The ‘true’ penis, or so it is claimed, today can be seen in a jar of formaldehyde in the museum of erotica in St Petersburg. 


Saying the Washington Post is just a newspaper is like saying Rasputin was just a country priest.

Rasputin began his career as a horse-thief, but underwent a religious conversion at 18.

In 2004, any picture of Rasputin in a Russian-Orthodox church had to be removed.