“The tale of the corpse found on the banks of the Neva River is only theatrical claptrap, aimed at hiding the figure of Rasputin from the public for a while.” – wrote Az Est on January 9, 1917 referencing a Swedish paper (Nya Dagligt Allehanda). It was on January 4 that the Hungarian press reported for the first time on the death of Grigori Rasputin, the Russian tsar’s repository, based on information from various – Italian, English, Swedish, German – papers. It was written right away that the perpetrator must have been Prince Felix Jusupov, one of the richest aristocrats in Russia, the husband of the zcar’s niece.
Since a number of legends revolved around Rasputin’s person and goings-on, and it was a miracle itself how the Siberian-born peasant boy (his father was actually a wealthy peasant and postilion – or miller according to the news in Az Est –) managed to get so high that it is no wonder his death was surrounded by so many uncertainties. And it was not only owing to the war conditions, when editorial offices in Budapest often received news from various foreign papers, distorted by multiple adoptions, without any control. It was also reasoned by the fact that there were many obscure details, contradicting – and not public – statements in Petersburg as well. No wonder, as there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding his death even today: supposedly he consumed multiple lethal doses of cyanide in wine and cakes at Jusupov’s, and despite being shot in the chest and head, he was thrown to the water of Neva alive (some sources claim that water was found in his lungs). The mystery was reinforced by the fact that Rasputin “foretold” his own death: one week before his death he wrote to the Tsar that he would be a victim of a murder still in that year, and if the perpetrator is of noble origin, the Tsar family would follow him to the beyond within two years, and even more, no nobles would be left in Russia.
The official Russian report, published in Hungarian on January 19, only acknowledged that Rasputin’s corpse was swept ashore of Neva, and added that there was an ongoing investigation in the case. At least this information refuted the theories stating that it would not have been the first and last unsuccessful assassination attempt against Rasputin. The worldly monk had been attacked a lot due to his political influence and orgies – including actual murder attempts, as a result of which his death news spread several times. It was Iliodor monk who stood behind the actual attempts. The latter hostility was also referenced by Az Est in a summary, mentioning that the church man, first being exiled to a monastery and then escaping to the West, was likely to return from the United States.
Interestingly, these days the only thing not written about in the news on Rasputin was how he established his “miraculous” influence with the Tsar – and even more the Czarina: he successfully treated (not healed) the heir’s haemophilia. However, they wrote about what made him popular among the nobles in Petersburg: “The neurotic company in Petersburg, which is different from the nobles of other big cities in their Russian-like wishing for mystic, belief-related sensations, soon hyped the strange, preaching, sanctimonious peasant.” With his good manners and weird appearance, Rasputin became the favourite – and for some, the enemy – of the aristocracy in the fever of a religious renaissance, thirsty for occult miracles. The affair of his alleged sexual orgies was brought before the religious investigation commission in 1908 in Tobolsk, but no evidence was found against him. Az Est still recalled the surviving rumours: „His religion was based on the doctrine that salvation is in repentance, and in order to be a repentant, we must commit sins. As part of this religious rite, and as a supreme testimony of his doctrines, he went to public baths with his followers, men and women, where they bathed together.”
So the Hungarian audience learnt about the murder some days after the happenings, then they were informed that it might have not happened, and then that the first news were correct. Western allied powers did not mind the death of the Russian Tsar’s repository either. Rasputin was not pro-war, so in the last months of 1916, it was primarily England that feared that he could convince the Tsar about the separate peace, which would have rearranged the power relations of the Western front. Another theory says the English secret service killed Rasputin – with dumdum bullets. It is a fact, however, that Rasputin was attacked also politically by many (in the duma as well), he was condemned to be a traitor.
Just two weeks after the assassination, the Tsar replaced his prime minister and appointed Nikolai Dmitriyevich Golitsyn in place of Alexander Trepov, who reproved Rasputin’s influence and governed for only one and a half months. However, neither this, nor the political murder against Rasputin could stop social dissatisfaction: 1917 has become the year of revolutions in Russia.
Rasputint egy herceg ölte meg = Az Est, 1917. január 4.
Rasputint békevágya miatt ölették meg? = Az Est, 1917. január 8.
Rasputint nem ölték meg? = Az Est, 1917. január 9.
Rasputin különös vallása = Az Est, 1917. január 11.
Trepov orosz miniszterelnök utóda Galicin herceg = Az Est, 1917. január 12
Rasputin meggyilkolása és a cári udvar = Az Est, 1917. január 17.
Hivatalos jelentés Rasputin haláláról = Az Est, 1917. január 19.
Hogyan ölték meg Rasputint? = Az Est, 1917. január 28.
Tarján M. Tamás: Raszputyin meggyilkolása = Rubicon website
Smith, Douglas: Rasputin. London, 2016.
Written by: Takács Róbert