Assassination of Rasputin, the Suspected Complicity of Dmitri
The Grand Duke gone, I went back with new ardour to my labours in the workroom. Some officers' wives, ladies living at Tsarskoe or even in Petrograd, had grouped themselves round me. Our conversations at teatime were concerned with the events of the day, and the internal politics of the country often came under discussion. It was reported that Protopopoff was suffering from a particular disease and was sometimes the subject of attacks of real madness. Formerly Leader of the Left, he had made a complete volle-face, having found it more advantageous to side with the Government. He was despised and hated by all. He was suspected of having been at Stockholm to concoct with M. de Lucius and the German bankers the preliminaries of a separate peace. And public opinion at this moment - in absolute accord with that of the Sovereigns - was in favour of war a outrance. As Protopopoff owed his rapid advancement to Rasputin, the conviction that the latter was an agent in the pay of Germany did but increase. This conviction it was that led to the drama of the Youssoupoff palace on the night of December 16th/29th - the drama which I shall now narrate as I knew of it at the time and which I regard as the beginning of the Revolution. I have already intimated that the effervescence of the social world was very great. The names of Rasputin, of Sturmer, the President of the Council, of Protopopoff, Minister of the Interior, of General Voilekow, first in command at the Palace, and of Mme. Wirouboff, the intimate friend of the Empress, were uttered only with a gnashing of teeth. Some people pitied the Sovereigns for having such evil counsellors around. them, others held them responsible for having by them persons unworthy of their confidence. God knows how sincere the Emperor and Empress were in their desire to see their people happy! How wholeheartedly they both threw themselves into the visiting of hospitals and into all other efforts possible to assuage misery! I have seen the Empress at work in her hospital, surrounded by her four daughters. No one was kinder or more completely forgetful of self. She assisted at the most painful operations, helped to dress the most repellent wounds. Not one of all those whom she had tended and helped to save came to her support! Not one was ready to shed for her the blood which she, with her own hands, had stopped from flowing! On the evening of December 17th/30th, a Saturday, there was a concert at the Town Hall of Tsarskoe. The Grand Duke had been at Mohileff since December 7th/20th, and Vladimir, suffering from a sore throat, had not been able to accompany him thither. Feeling better that evening, he asked to go to the concert with me. Towards eight in the evening, the telephone bell rang and some seconds later Vladimir rushed into my dressing-room: "The old staretz is dead!" he cried out; "they have just telephoned to tell me! Now we shall be able to breathe more freely! No details are known as yet. In any case, he has been gone from his house for twenty-four hours; perhaps we shall learn something at the concert." I shall never forget that evening. No one listened either to the orchestra or to the individual performers. The news had spread like wild-fire. During the interval I noticed that people were looking more particularly towards us, but I was too much in the dark to understand the reason. At last Jacques Ratkoff-Rojnoff came up to me and, alluding evidently to the question of the moment, said:
"It seems that the authors of the deed belong to the highest aristocracy. Felix Youssoupoff is being named, also Pourichkevitch, and. . . a Grand Duke! . . ."
"Come, what is the matter? is it? Speak!"
Scarcely venturing to breathe, I stammered out: "They say it was Felix Youssoupoff' and Pourichkevitch and-and Dimitri! "
My husband now told me of an impression which had just struck him and which coincided with the notions of his son. As I have said above, the Grand Duke had left Mohileff on the Sunday. He had started at about seven o'clock. At about five o'clock that day, he had taken tea with the Emperor and had been struck-without knowing the cause-by the look of serenity and the expression. of happiness on the Emperor's face. The Emperor had been gay and goodhumoured to a degree he had not been for a long time past. It is evident that the Empress was keeping him informed, hour by hour, regarding the tragic event, that he knew all, down to the suspicions which were attaching themselves to Youssoupoff and Dimitri. The Emperor did not breathe a word on the subject to the Grand Duke Paul who, later, explained to himself this smiling attitude of the Sovereign by ascribing it to the inner joy he felt at being at last freed from the presence of Rasputin. Loving his wife too much to go against her wishes, the Emperor was glad that the fates had delivered him from the nightmare which had been weighing on him so heavily.
As soon as Rasputin's body had been found, the Empress gave orders for it to be brought to the Tschesmenskaya Bogadelna, at the fifth verst on the way from Petrograd to Tsarskoe, where the body was embalmed and placed in a chapelle ardente. Mme. Wirouboff and other women admirers of Rasputin conducted a funeral service in front of the coffin. The Empress came with her daughters and remained a long time praying and weeping. She placed on Rasputin's breast a little ikon, on the reverse of which each of them had signed her name: Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Marie, Anastasia and Anna (Mme. Wirouboff)*...
Three days later, at three in the morning, in the Park of Tsarskoe, near the Arsenal and not far from the Alexandrovskaia Station, took place the burial of Rasputin. The Emperor, the Minister Protopopoff, General Voiekoff, and an officer named Maltzoff, bore the coffin to the grave. The Empress gave way to desperate grief. Thus ended the drama which so many people regarded as a deliverance for the country, and which was only the prelude to the most appalling of tragedies... Later, after the Revolution, when Rasputin's body was disinterred, an American collector bought this ikon at a very high price. It is curious to note that this strange and mystic creature, Rasputin, passed through the four elements-water, earth, fire and wind.