Primary Documents - The Assassination of Rasputin, 29 December 1916

Grigory Rasputin Reproduced below is Russian Colonel Stanislaus de Lazovert's account of the assassination of Grigory Rasputin, the Russian monk who acted as close adviser to the Tsar and (most especially) Tsarina.

Widely held responsible by contemporaries for the downfall of the Romanov monarchy through his tight hold over the Russian royal family, numerous accounts of Rasputin's eventual demise at the end of December 1916 were circulated in early 1917.

Today it is believed that Rasputin was invited to dinner at the home of the Russian nobleman Felix Yusupov, who then shot him; and that he was shot again by a second conspirator, Vladimir Purishkevich, before finally being dropped through a hole in the Neva river, where he finally died by drowning.  His corpse was later discovered on the Neva's banks.

De Lazovert's somewhat sensational (and in parts highly improbable) memoir, below, largely supports Yusupov's account but chiefly attributes Rasputin's death to the hands of Purishkevich.

Stanislaus de Lazovert on the Assassination of Rasputin, 29 December 1916

The shot that ended the career of the blackest devil in Russian history was fired by my close and beloved friend, Vladimir Purishkevich, Reactionary Deputy of the Duma.

Five of us had been arranging for this event for many months.  On the night of the killing, after all details had been arranged, I drove to the Imperial Palace in an automobile and persuaded this black devil to accompany me to the home of Prince Yusupov, in Petrograd.

Later that night M. Purishkevich followed him into the gardens adjoining Yusupov's house and shot him to death with an automatic revolver.  We then carried his riddled body in a sheet to the River Neva, broke the ice and cast him in.

The story of Rasputin and his clique is well known.  They sent the army to the trenches without food or arms, they left them there to be slaughtered, they betrayed Rumania and deceived the Allies, they almost succeeded in delivering Russia bodily to the Germans.

Rasputin, as a secret member of the Austrian Green Hand, had absolute power in Court.  The Tsar was a nonentity, a kind of Hamlet, his only desire being to abdicate and escape the whole vile business.

Rasputin continued his life of vice, carousing and passion.  The Grand Duchess reported these things to the Tsarina and was banished from Court for her pains.

This was the condition of affairs when we decided to kill this monster.  Only five men participated in it.  They were the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Prince Yusupov, Vladimir Purishkevich, Captain Suhotine and myself.

Prince Yusupov's palace is a magnificent place on the Nevska.  The great hall has six equal sides and in each hall is a heavy oaken door.  One leads out into the gardens, the one opposite leads down a broad flight of marble stairs to the huge dining room, one to the library, etc.

At midnight the associates of the Prince concealed themselves while I entered the car and drove to the home of the monk.  He admitted me in person.

Rasputin was in a gay mood.  We drove rapidly to the home of the Prince and descended to the library, lighted only by a blazing log in the huge chimney-place.  A small table was spread with cakes and rare wines - three kinds of the wine were poisoned and so were the cakes.

The monk threw himself into a chair, his humour expanding with the warmth of the room.  He told of his successes, his plots, of the imminent success of the German arms and that the Kaiser would soon be seen in Petrograd.

At a proper moment he was offered the wine and the cakes.  He drank the wine and devoured the cakes.  Hours slipped by, but there was no sign that the poison had taken effect.  The monk was even merrier than before.

We were seized with an insane dread that this man was inviolable, that he was superhuman, that he couldn't be killed.  It was a frightful sensation.  He glared at us with his black, black eyes as though he read our minds and would fool us.

And then after a time he rose and walked to the door.  We were afraid that our work had been in vain.  Suddenly, as he turned at the door, some one shot at him quickly.

With a frightful scream Rasputin whirled and fell, face down, on the floor.  The others came bounding over to him and stood over his prostrate, writhing body.

It was suggested that two more shots be fired to make certain of his death, but one of those present said, "No, no; it is his last agony now."

We left the room to let him die alone, and to plan for his removal and obliteration.

Suddenly we heard a strange and unearthly sound behind the huge door that led into the library.  The door was slowly pushed open, and there was Rasputin on his hands and knees, the bloody froth gushing from his mouth, his terrible eyes bulging from their sockets.  With an amazing strength he sprang toward the door that led into the gardens, wrenched it open and passed out.

As he seemed to be disappearing in the darkness, F. Purishkevich, who had been standing by, reached over and picked up an American-made automatic revolver and fired two shots swiftly into his retreating figure.  We heard him fall with a groan, and later when we approached the body he was very still and cold and - dead.

We bundled him up in a sheet and carried him to the river's edge.  Ice had formed, but we broke it and threw him in.  The next day search was made for Rasputin, but no trace was found.

Urged on by the Tsarina, the police made frantic efforts, and finally a rubber was found which was identified as his.  The river was dragged and the body recovered.

I escaped from the country.  Purishkevich also escaped.  But Prince Yusupov was arrested and confined to the boundaries of his estate.  He was later released because of the popular approval of our act.

Russia had been freed from the vilest tyrant in her history; and that is all.

Source: Source Records of the Great War, Vol. V, ed. Charles F. Horne, National Alumni 1923

'Push' was slang signifying a large-scale attack upon enemy positions.

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