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City View: The Yusupov Palace

Published: August 13, 2014 (Issue # 1824)



  • The Yusupov Palace is a reminder of St. Petersburgs opulence during tsarist times.
    Photo: wikimedia commons

St. Petersburgs Yusupov Palace is a gilded example of aristocratic St. Petersburg but it is best known these days for being where Grigory Rasputin, the Siberian monk who rose to prominence as a confidante of the Romanovs during the reign of the last Russia tsar Nicholas II, was murdered.

The royal family came under Rasputins spell when he began to minister to Alexei, Nicholass young son. Alexei suffered from hemophilia, a closely-guarded secret among the royal family, and Rasputin seemed at times miraculously able to control the childs bleeding. The tsarina, Alexandra, soon came to believe that without Rasputin her son would die. At the same time Rasputin was accused of scandalous misdeeds, including rape, and of having too much political control over the royal family.

As a result, a number of people tired of Rasputins influence and conspired to murder him.

One of the leading conspirators was Prince Felix Yusupov, who belonged to one of Russias most recognized noble dynasties. The sole heir to a massive fortune, the young prince used to dress in womens clothes and masquerade about the restaurants and clubs of St. Petersburg. One particular story about his cross-dressing exploits claims that King Edward VII of England tried to make his acquaintance while he was dressed as a woman. Despite his feminine behavior, he married a niece of Nicholas II.

On a cold December night in 1916, Yusupov, who hated Rasputin but faked a friendship with him, lured the healer to his palace on the Moika River under the pretext of meeting his wife, who Rasputin was curious to meet with. Irina was actually out of town at that time and instead there waiting for him was a group of Yusupovs associates.

Felix Yusupov first offered Rasputin cakes and drinks laced with cyanide. However, Rasputin was unaffected by the poison, which was seen as another sign of Rasputins seemingly supernatural powers. Experts later said the sweet food most likely had a neutralizing effect on the cyanide. The conspirators then beat and eventually shot Rasputin several time, but this also did not kill the man. The desperate murderers then dumped the man into the icy water of the Neva River. Rasputins body was later found and autopsied; the results showing that the final cause of his death was from drowning.

The assassination happened in the part of the Yusupov Palace where the duke lived with his wife. Today those rooms are home to a historical exhibition that details the event, including wax figures of Rasputin, Yusupov and the four other conspirators, outlining the dramatic night.

In 1919, the remaining Yusupovs, Felix Yusupov, his wife, their daughter Irina and his parents, immigrated to Western Europe. In 1925, the palace, which had been owned by five generations by then (from 1830 to 1917), was given to the pedagogical intelligentsia of the city. Felix Yusupov would eventually die in Paris in 1967, nearly half a century after leaving Russia.

Today, the Yusupov Palace is a relic of the St. Petersburg nobility that has kept not only the grand apartments, picture gallery halls and a miniature home theater in pristine condition but also the luxurious dwellings of the family.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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