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Autopsy Reveals How Grigori Rasputin Really Died

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer


Rasputin, surrounded by his many admirers. Image credit: Everett Collection/

There aren't many people out there whose death has been turned into a song, let alone an absolute banger. In fact, pretty much the only one we can think of is Rasputin, whose death people dance to, thanks to it being set to music by Boney M. But despite all the legends surrounding his murder, his autopsy tells a very different tale.

For those uninitiated, Grigori Rasputin was a Siberian monk born in 1869, who went on to befriend Emperor Nicholas and Empress Alexandra in late Imperial Russia. At 28, he was married with children, when he developed a hankering for religion and left his village to go on a pilgrimage, wandering the land to visit various holy sites. With his trademark charisma, he soon attracted his own followers, and then influential followers, and was introduced to the Emporer and Empress.


Rasputin's favor with the rulers grew after he "treated" their hemophiliac son, who for a time did seem to improve, and the bleeding stopped after Rasputin's interventions. Of course not due to some mystical powers, the improvement likely came about because Rasputin insisted that the boy stop taking aspirin. It wasn't known at the time, but aspirin thins the blood, and was likely contributing to his problems.

So far, so "why would anyone want this guy dead". It seems unlikely that you'd amass many enemies by traveling the land and healing sick children. 

The man, unlike most self-described holy men, also had a reputation as an absolute sex-machine. He was mainly in the line of Holy Man for the rumpy-pumpy, using his fame as a way into women's beds. His habit of sleeping with everyone from ladies of high society to prostitutes was scandalous, and the influence he had over the rulers of the Russian Empire was concerning to those who would like that influence for themselves. Rumors spread that he was having an affair with Empress Alexandra, and stranger rumors (both untrue) that he had started a cholera epidemic in Saint Petersburg to undermine the war effort.

Several nobles disliked the perceived influence Rasputin had over the monarchy and sought to take that influence away through the old-fashioned and time-tested method of making him dead. They planned to kill Grigori by inviting him over to the house of one of the conspirators – aristocrat Felix Yussupov – before dispatching him there.


According to the story you probably know, Rasputin arrived at Yussupov's house and was offered cakes that had been poisoned, as well as wine laced with cyanide. He ate the cake and guzzled a glass of wine, before asking for more, during the portion of the evening that Yussupov had reserved for Rasputin dying a horrible, poisoned death. When he refused to die, Yussupov moved onto the more traditional method of shooting him right through his blood pump. Still, he went on living and ran out into the courtyard pursued by his attacker.

“This devil who was dying of poison, who had a bullet in his heart, must have been raised from the dead by the powers of evil," the most famous of accounts goes. "There was something appalling and monstrous in his diabolical refusal to die.” 

Finally, after a few shots to the head followed by a drowning in the ice-cold Neva River, he died, though some accounts say that he was pulled out of the river whilst still alive. Other accounts say there were claw marks in the ice, because why not.

For some reason, this has become the prevailing version of events, despite two factors:

  • It contained him being reanimated by the powers of Satan
  • It was written by his actual murderer

Yes, the main version of events that everyone remembers, and were eventually turned into a song, was written by Rasputin's murderer, who had a vested interest in making the murder seem more like a struggle between good and evil than what it was. Because what it was, was much less heroic, as the autopsy revealed.

Rasputin was dragged out of the river a full two days after his death, with no claw marks on the ice, and no indication that he had drowned, as his lungs were not filled with water, suggesting he had been thrown into the ice post-mortem.

What's more, there was no indication that he had been poisoned either, and his daughter insisted that Rasputin never ate sweets, making that part of events seem unlikely too. 

What they did find was three bullet holes; one in the head, one in the back, and one in the chest, from which he died pretty much instantaneously. Which, admittedly, is more difficult for Boney M to turn into a song. 



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