What you never knew about Rasputin

Today, most people have probably heard the name Rasputin. We know that he was a mystic, a divisive confidant to the Romanovs, and, as has been uniformly noted by contemporary scholars, a cat that really was gone. But who really was Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin? How can we define him, besides "Russian guy with a sinister stare" and "staple antagonist in comic books and cartoons?"

Longtime fans of the events surrounding the fall of the House of Romanov will remember that the Mad Monk, after becoming the Tsarina's favorite faith healer/creepy babysitter, was assassinated in 1916. Recountings of his murder have snowballed over the years to include a laundry list of attacks – it's been said that he was shot, stabbed, poisoned, drawn and quartered, drowned, beheaded, and even castrated. At every blow, Rasputin, like the noble Weebles of old, wobbled but wouldn't fall down.

The truth of the matter isn't nearly as metal, and Grigori was a hell of a lot less invulnerable than pop history has given him credit for. As reported by Smithsonian Magazine, Rasputin's cause of death was actually listed as single bullet to the head. His reputation as an unkillable, unholy juggernaut seem to have come courtesy of a guy trying to boost his book sales.

An inflated rasput-ation

The guy in question was Felix Yusupov, the Russian aristocrat credited with shuffling off Rasputin's mortal coil. The now ubiquitous legend of his struggle to snuff out the mystic comes from Yusupov's memoirs, in which he casts himself as a shining, patriotic force for good, embroiled in battle with demonic forces.

In reality, Rasputin was roughly as killable as the rest of us shmoes. Little known fact: he almost bit it hard when he was attacked by a woman with no nose. How did she smell? It was 1914, decades prior to the widespread popularity of deodorant, so, you know. Probably not great. But that's beside the point.

According to a century old New York Times article, Khioniya Guseva tracked Rasputin to his home town and rushed him with a knife, stabbing him right in the gut. She would later state that she wished "to remove from this world the false, infamous prophet who has led so many people astray" before being summarily institutionalized. Rasputin, in an unusual move for a faith healer who claimed to be able to cure any ailment, was rushed to a hospital and received emergency surgery. It's been said that the wound caused him pain for the rest of his life. All two years of it.