Nov. 28, 2020

Dark forces

Dark forces

Was the murder of the Romanov's linked to a dark force behind the throne? Could a simple man of God have been the reason for their downfall? What were the events surrounding the downfall of this300 year Dynasty?

Was the murder of the Romanov's linked to a dark force behind the throne? Could a simple man of God have been the reason for their downfall? What were the events surrounding the downfall of this300 year Dynasty?

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When the revolution came in February 1917, the Royal family were placed under house  arrest by by the provisional government and forcefully relocated to the  Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. 

Later that year, in October, the Bolshevik revolution overthrew the provisional government and civil war in Russia began. It was amidst this chaos, in July, that the Royal family, were moved by the Bolsheviks, to Yekaterinburg, to the house of… “special purpose”. On the 17th of July, at around 2 AM, the family were woken from their sleep, and led downstairs to a basement room at the back of the house. They were told the anti Bolsheviks were coming, and  the house may be fired upon, and not to worry, they would be safe in the cellar. 

In the adjoining room, the 9 man firing squad waited patiently for the order to commence their grisly task.



The terrors of the great war are ripping Europe apart, mighty empires are locked in a Titanic struggle, wrestling for supremacy in a murderous stalemate of never-ending mud, and death and destruction. 


By 1916, there were many Russian voices calling for an exit from the war. British secret service agent Samuel Hoare is oh too well aware of this, and he is particularly keen to keep Britains ally Russia, fighting the Germans. (You see,) For without the might of the Imperial Russian army, Britain, France and the rest of the allies would struggle to contain the power of Kaiser Wilhelm’s forces. Samuel Hoare’s (SIS) duties were to gather information on Rasputin & his cliche, who Hoare believed to be the hidden power behind the anti war movement.



The Russian political pot was on the fire and bubbling away rapidly. Scheming politicians with an eye to their own rise to power were secretly adding to the stew. Some of the Nobles within the Tsars immediate family, concerned for the ongoing stability of the Monarchy, and angered by the so called “Dark forces” that they believed were influencing the Tsar & Tsarina, were also angling for a resolution to the ongoing crisis. In many ways, the Tsar & Tsarina themselves contributed to these conspiracies and whisperings. Alexandra’s primary function was ceremonial, as consort to the Emperor, but she lacked the social skills to successfully carry off this function, so grand social events were something to be avoided wherever possible.

Unlike the previous court held by Alexander III, Nikolai & Alexandra secluded themselves away from the prying eyes of the titled aristocracy, this angered the majority of the privileged social classes, for they had become far to accustomed  to enjoying the never ending cycle of receptions, banquets and balls. And, yes, there was more to come…


In the years since 1905, the wandering Stranik, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin had become a close, and dare one say beloved friend of Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra. Nicolai’s diary often contained fond entries such as “…saw Grigori and chatted for a long time…” and “During the evening had the joy of seeing Grigory”. This strikingly unlikely friendship would send shock waves through all levels of Russian society, from the Noble’s and their courtesans, through the ranks of the political elite, all levels of the military, right down to the very peasantry. It was a friendship that would ring alarm bells with the British ambassador George Buchanan, as well as his cohorts in the British Secret Service.


In 1892 Grigory left his home in Siberia and began the first of his religious pilgrimages. He would travel far and wide visiting monasteries across Russia, travelling in all weather for up to 25 miles in a day. His travels would lead him to sacred places from Northern Russia, through Ukraine and even to the Holy sites in Jerusalem. He was a taught to read and write by the monks whom he met and stayed with along the way. Even though he had poor literary skills, his knowledge of the scriptures stunned every cleric whom he ever met, it was also said that he had a distinctly profound skill, that of an extraordinary memory.


It was when he arrived at St. Petersburg that he came to the notice of senior church authorities, who were greatly impressed by this peasant, dressed in rags. He was invited to stay for a time at the home of Archpriest Feofan. It was through Feofan that Grigory first entered the circles of the aristocracy. At that time in St Petersburg many of the aristocracy were interested in the supernatural and the occult. This attracted them to Girgory, fascinated by his mysterious ways and unusual ideas. People were intrigued by his seemingly Godly presence and his simple, intense religious commitment.


And so it was, that from the summer of 1907, a series of curious events lead to Rasputin to become particularly Close to Tsarina Alexandra. The Tsarina would, in time, come to believe that Grigory, was truly a man of God, gifted by the Holy Spirit to perform miracles that could save the life of her precious young son, and heir to the Russian throne. The first of these miracles occurred when Alexei, then aged three, had fallen and was in a great deal of pain, he was a haemophiliac and a medical crisis ensued, his life was in the balance. Professor Botkin was unable to ease the Childs pain, and hope for his recovery was vanishing. At that moment Alexandra remembered Grigory and had him summoned to the palace. It was very late when he arrived, he went to Alexei and prayed for him throughout the night. By morning, the boys temperature had decreased and the swelling in his leg had reduced. From that moment, Alexandras’ reliance upon Grigory became absolute. Later, during the summer of 1912, Alexei developed a large haematoma after a rough carriage ride near the royal hunting grounds. In severe pain and close to death, Alexandra sent for Grigory. Grigory however was in Siberia at the time and was never going to get to the prince in time. Instead, he sent a telegram saying “God has seen your tears and heard your prayers. Do not grieve. The Little One will not die”. And as if by a miracle, the child recovered.

For the Empress, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin had become the answer to her prayers, a holy healer sent from God to look after her son.


Well as things often go, rapid social elevation combined with his newfound popularity, meant that important and influential noses began to be put out of joint. Many nobles see Grigoris’  proximity to the crown and his influence upon the royals as dangerous. Important members of the church also have reason to be miffed by the their former peasant Stranik, now so close to the throne and pushing more senior clergy aside. All manner of colourful accusations and rumours begin to surface, and it is not long before things begin to come to a head. 


1915, and the most destructive conflagration ever beset on humankind is in its full devastating fury.


Many of the nobles, most notably, the powerful Dowager Empress, Tsar Niklai’s mother, see Rasputin with his pacifist ideas, and  rumoured pro-German sympathies as a dark force that will harm the monarchy. As it is, the Dowager Empress isn’t particularly fond of her daughter in law, mainly because of the Tsarina’s German heritage. The Dowager doubts her loyalty to Russia, and believes that she is being influenced by Rasputin to encourage Germany to sign a seperate peace with Russia - This is a rumour which is believed to have been started by Alexi Khvostov, the Minister of Internal Affairs - The Dowager believes that Alexandra and Rasputin are involved in espionage against Russia. So by now, there were so many rumours circulating of Rasputins meddling and debauchery that it helped to create a toxic atmosphere that was encouraged by many of the elite, who’s aim was to protect the monarchy, under the influence of the Dowager.

Also circling, were a number of other nefarious characters with an eye to their own goals.


All that was required now, was a match to light the fuse, and the powder keg of the Mighty Russian Empire, it’s 300 year old Romanov dynasty -  descended from Peter the Great - would be on course for an explosion that would rock the entire the world. The Tsar put his hand into his pocket and felt a small object, pulling the object out of his pocket and examining it, he smiled and thought ah, a box of matches.


The war was not going well for Russia, and after a number of disastrous losses, Tsar Nicolas sacked the Commander in Chief of the Russian Imperial Army, his uncle Grand Duke Nicholai Nikolaevich. He decided the best thing would be, for he himself to go to the front and take direct control of the Imperial Russian Forces. He believed, that as Head of State, it was his duty to assume command of his dispirited army so that they may Raleigh and fight with increased vigour. 

It seems however, that the only person who thought this would be a good idea was Tsar Nikolai himself. Everyone else thought this to be a disaster on an unimaginable scale, after all, practical military experience was not something the Tsar could boast of.


The now disgruntled former Commander in Chief blamed his dismissal on Tsarina Alexandra. It was no secret that she detested him, and he believed that she was being encouraged by Rasputin. The Dowager also blames the Empress and sees Rasputins influence at work. To make matters worse for the Dowager Empress, as the Tsar leaves for the front, he passes all supreme power, and all his encouragement to his beloved wife, Empress Alexandra. 


By 1916 at the height of a desperate and bloody struggle for national survival, suddenly, competent ministers in the Duma and other officials were beginning to be dismissed at an alarming rate, and replaced by seemingly less talented individuals. This was said to be happening under the shadowy influence of none other than Rasputin himself, the guiding hand and dark force influencing every decision of Tsarina Alexandra. SIS agent Samuel Hoare was also becoming very concerned, the Duma represented public opinion, and with so many ministers now being removed from office, the people were becoming evermore concerned with the so called dark forces.


Ambassador Buchanan was fully convinced of the court's pro-German sympathies, he complained to the Duma President, Rodzianko, that he found it difficult to get an audience at court, and expressed his view `that Germany was using Alexandra to set the Tsar against the Allies. He also stated that it was his view, that the Empress was `the unwitting instrument of Germany'. Reports now flowing into the British embassy stressed that the Russian soldiers were becoming increasingly critical of the royal family and that the idea of fighting and dying for them was becoming repugnant. Along with this, was his increasing alarm at the turnover of ministers, and with the growing unrest within the Duma. He said that the country was ready for overthrow. He worried that Russia may be close to opting for a seperate peace with Germany. 


By August most of the Grand Dukes believed that in order to save the monarchy, they needed to align themselves with the imperial provisional government. The Duma was rocked by explosive speeches accusing dark forces for all the ills of the government, and worse still, the Empress was linked to the word treason. The cry on the streets was “Save the monarchy from the monarch”. The media reported that the “Progressive” Bloc in the Duma reflected what the people were thinking and their left leaning newspapers were calling out the government for their so called treasonous ideas.


In the maelstrom of all this chaos, Ambassador Buchanan was contacted by his good friend Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich, who was able to suggest a potential solution to his… “political difficulties” Following on from this, on November 1st, Deputy of the Duma Vladimir Purishkevich held a meeting with Buchanan and Hoare, were he advised both men, that he and his friends had resolved to liquidate the affair of Rasputin.


A cohort of 5 powerful and influential conspirators, led by Grand Duke Nikolai Michailovich set about planning their barbarous business.


Prince Felix Yusupov was supposedly the wealthiest man in Russia, he was the sole surviving male heir to the family fortune. As a younger man he had lived a playboys life, he was Educated at Oxford, and was now married to the Tsars niece Irina. He owned four palaces in St. Petersburg, but his favourite residence in the city was the Moika palace. Originally belonging to Peter the Great’s niece, it was passed to the Yusupov family in 1830. 

Now here’s where the yarn begins to get a little bit murky. Felix first met Grigory in 1909 before he left for Oxford. Some say the Yusupov family hoped that Grigory could cure Felix of his homosexuality, others say that Felix & Rasputin had embarked upon such a relationship of their own accord. Such as it was, Felix and Grigory could be said to have once been close, and this would be the key for the conspirators in the entrapment of Grigory.  Felix once again struck up his friendship with Grigory, and the pair began spending many long, late nights together discussing matters of, mutual interest. The plan was clear, regain Rasputin’s confidence, lure him to the Moika palace and execute him there, in the basement room were no prying eyes or ears could come to  bear witness.  


Now, all the pieces were in place, and the time for the foul deed was nigh. Felix had invited Grigory to the Moika palace late at night for as some claim, to meet Felix’s wife Irena, others say it was for much more  Bohemian reasons.  Whatever the truth, Felix had a car owned by fellow conspirator Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich pick up Grigory, this was because the car was emblazoned with a regal emblem and would not be stopped along the way for breaking the nighttime curfew that was in place due to the war. The plan from there was simple, take Rasputin down into the cellar room and poison him. 

When Felix & Grigory entered the room, it was said that a table was already set with wine and cakes. The wine was laced with potassium cyanide and sat awaiting its unsuspecting victim. Time passed, as the pair deep in conversation relaxed and chatted. Grigory finished off a number of glasses of wine, belched and sat back on the comfortable sofa with the warmth from the log fire making for a cosy scene. Felix begins to to fear that something’s amiss, the poison is not having any effect, he begins to panic, and makes an excuse to leave the room for a short moment. 


He rushes upstairs to his study where his fellow conspirators await. He tells them that the poison isn’t working. Dimitri, unsettled by this news, says the plot should be called off. Felix takes a pistol from his desk drawer and goes back downstairs to finish the deed. 


Felix returns to the cellar room followed closely by Dimitri, he faces Grigory, aims his pistol, and shoots. The bullet rips into Grigori’s chest and he falls to the bearskin rug adorning the floor. Felix and Dimitri drag the bleeding body off the rug and onto the granite floor. Felix then shakes the body, to confirm his kill. Grigory, opens first one eye, then both “green eyes”, frothing from the mouth a violent struggle begins, before Grigory collapses on his back. Felix and Dimitri go back upstairs and lock the door behind them. The conspirators prepare to rid themselves of the body and destroy the evidence. From downstairs however, a noise is heard. Felix and Dimitri armed with hand guns and a baton, return to the cellar and are shocked and more than a little surprised to see Grigory on all fours attempting to get up. As he sees his would be assassins reenter the cellar, he somehow finds the strength to rise and flee clumsily towards to door leading the courtyard. A struggle ensues, but he makes it outside and begins a stumbling run for freedom. Dimitri fires two shots but misses, his third shot doesn’t miss, and their victim collapses to the ground. The assassins run over to their victim, Dimitri lashes out with his boot and kicks Grigory in the temple opening up a gaping wound, before shooting him in the head, at point plank range. Felix’s soldiers then take the body back downstairs to the cellar where Felix, in a fit of rage, begins a violent assault, beating Grigori’s body mercilessly with a truncheon. The blood spattered Felix was shocked to see that Grigory, laying face up was still breathing laboriously, the pupil however, slowly disappearing in his one open eye. 

The body was dumped in the Neva river, the Dark force had been extinguished, and he monarchy is saved. 

The Times newspaper in London wrote, “it is no exaggeration to say that the whole of Russia breathes more freely for the removal of a most hateful influence...”

And… “There was universal joy on the occasion of the great deed”. People in Petrograd congratulated each other on  the streets “ the beast had been crushed”, Rasputin’s “deprived soul was no more.”


But alas, our yarn doesn’t finish here. You see the Tsar and Tsarina upon learning of the murder of their friend are both angered and aggrieved. Tsarina Alexandra was devastated, she feared for the monarchy, but most of all, she feared that the only person who could save her son Alexi was murdered. Alexi asked “Mother, who shall help me when I become ill again?”

A proper burial is arranged at a consecrated site, Grigory is buried on the site where a new church was proposed to be built. The Imperial family attended a brief and private ceremony, and Grigory is laid to rest in a zinc coffin. Afterwards, the road to the site was guarded by soldiers so that the Tsarina could visit daily in privacy. 


The Imperial family now set out to bring to justice those that had conspired to murder their friend. 

Alexandra sent a house arrest order against Dimitri Pavlovich. However, many members of the Royal family objected and came to the palace to show support for both Felix and Dimitri, exposing the now widening rift within the family. 

Grand Duke Nikolai Michailovich sent a telegram to the Dowager asking for her to pressure the Tsar not to punish Felix and Dimitri. This puts poor old Nikolai in a tricky place, right in the middle between his mother who detests his wife, and his wife, who wants justice for Grigori’s murder.


In the end, Felix is exiled to his family’s estate in Near Kursk and Dimitri is sent to Persia to join a cavalry division. Nikolai sent a telegram saying that Dimitri was not to return to Russia.

Rasputin’s murder was the final breakdown in the relationship between the  grand dukes and the Tsar. But it wasn’t just members of the Royal family, a number of ministers in the Duma were also sacked by the Tsar for their complicity in the plot.



Perhaps, for Alexandra, one of the most difficult realisations of treachery was when she learned of a telegram sent by her own sister, to Grand Duke Dimitri congratulating the murderers, and confirming her involvement in the conspiracy. 



The law of the land was on the side of the Tsar, and demanded punishment for the murderers. However, due to their royal status, Dimitri and Felix were not able to be put before the court. The Tsar signed a manifesto of clemency to ensure that certain issues would not become a matter of public record, ensuring that none of the Royals could be indicted on Rasputins murder, this would further break down the link between the people and the monarchy preparing the scene for the bloody revolution to come.


The Chairman of the State Duma, Mikhail Rodzianko, was also chamberlain of the Imperial family, and he detested both Alexandra and Rasputin. Alexandra referred to him as a scoundrel and had demanded that his court rank be taken from him. He in turn, had called for the Tsarina to be exiled to the Crimea until after the war. Rodzianko and the Tsarina despised one another. Rodzianko however, had a fair measure of influence over the Dowager, which he leveraged to his favour.


In one of those ironies that historical events often seem to serve up, A petition was raised by members of the Royal family asking for clemency for the murderers, Nikolai’s response so annoyed them, that when the February uprising began, most of them welcomed the provisional government that would end up forcing the Tsars abdication and ending an Empire created in 1721 by Peter the great. 


Oh, and the Dark force, Rasputin… Rest in peace? Well, no, he was exhumed and taken to the cauldrons of the polytechnic institute where he and his zinc coffin were consumed in the inferno.


And Rodzianko? Well, he went on to be one of the leaders of the February revolution.