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Today in History: December 30, 1916, Rasputin is murdered
Rasputin was believed by many Russians to be a psychic and faith healer with supernatural powers. He had a significant influence over the Tsarina Alexandra of Russia and was assassinated by a group of nobles, who believed him a threat to the Russian empire.
The murder of Rasputin has become something of a legend, some of it perhaps invented, embellished or simply misremembered by the very men who killed him, which is why it has become so difficult to discern the actual course of events.
The date of Rasputin’s death is variously recorded as being either the 17th of December, 1916 or the 29th of December, 1916. This discrepancy arises due to the fact that the Gregorian calendar (New Style) was not introduced into Soviet Russia until 1918. Using the Gregorian calendar the initial attempts to kill Rasputin may have commenced before midnight on 29th December though he may well have died in the early hours of December 30th 1916.
What is known is that a group of nobles led him down to the cellar, where they served him cakes and red wine laced with a large amount of cyanide. According to legend, Rasputin was unaffected, although Vasily Maklakov had supplied enough poison to kill five men. Conversely, Maria’s account asserts that, if her father did eat or drink poison, it was not in the cakes or wine because, after the attack by Guseva, he suffered from hyperacidity and avoided anything with sugar. In fact, she expresses doubt that he was poisoned at all. It has been suggested, on the other hand, that Rasputin had developed an immunity to poison due to mithridatism.
Determined to finish the job, Prince Yusupov became anxious about the possibility that Rasputin might live until the morning, leaving the conspirators no time to conceal his body. Yusupov ran upstairs to consult the others and then came back down to shoot Rasputin through the back with a revolver. Rasputin fell, and the company left the palace for a while. Yusupov, who had left without a coat, decided to return to get one, and while at the palace, he went to check on the body. Suddenly, Rasputin opened his eyes and lunged at Yusupov. He grabbed Yusupov and attempted to strangle him. At that moment, however, the other conspirators arrived and fired at Rasputin. After being hit three times in the back, he fell once more. As they neared his body, the party found that, remarkably, he was still alive, struggling to get up. They clubbed him into submission. After binding his body and wrapping him in a carpet, they threw him into the icy Neva River. He broke out of his bonds and the carpet wrapping him, but drowned in the river.
Three days later, Rasputin’s body, poisoned, shot four times, badly beaten, and drowned, was recovered from the river. An autopsy established that the cause of death was drowning. It was found that he had indeed been poisoned, and that the poison alone should have been enough to kill him. There is a report that after his body was recovered, water was found in the lungs, supporting the idea that he was still alive before submersion into the partially frozen river.
Subsequently, the Tsarina Alexandra buried Rasputin’s body in the grounds of Tsarskoye Selo, but after the February Revolution, a group of workers from Saint Petersburg uncovered the remains, carried them into the nearby woods, and burned them. As the body was being burned, Rasputin appeared to sit up in the fire. His apparent attempts to move and get up thoroughly horrified bystanders. Consequently, when the body was heated, the tendons shrank, forcing the legs to bend and the body to bend at the waist, resulting in its appearing to sit up.
The official report of his autopsy disappeared during the Joseph Stalin era, as did several research assistants who had seen it.
Here is a pretty different, more in depth account of how he died: http://collective-history.tumblr.com/post/33576898880/the-murder-of-grigory-rasputin-the-mysterious