Stanislaus de Lazovert was born in Poland. He moved to Russia and during the First World War he met Vladimir Purishkevich while he was in charge of a medical aid train on the Eastern Front. In 1916, Purishkevich, the leader of the monarchists in the Duma, recruited Lazovert, to muder Grigory Rasputin. Other members of the conspiracy included Prince Felix Yusupov, Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin, an officer in the Preobrazhensky Regiment.
Prince Felix Yusupov later admitted in Lost Splendor (1953) that on 29th December, 1916, Rasputin was invited to his home: "The bell rang, announcing the arrival of Dmitrii Pavlovich Romanov and my other friends. I showed them into the dining room and they stood for a little while, silently examining the spot where Rasputin was to meet his end. I took from the ebony cabinet a box containing the poison and laid it on the table. Dr Lazovert put on rubber gloves and ground the cyanide of potassium crystals to powder. Then, lifting the top of each cake, he sprinkled the inside with a dose of poison, which, according to him, was sufficient to kill several men instantly. There was an impressive silence. We all followed the doctor's movements with emotion. There remained the glasses into which cyanide was to be poured. It was decided to do this at the last moment so that the poison should not evaporate and lose its potency. We had to give the impression of having just finished supper for I had warned Rasputin that when we had guests we took our meals in the basement and that I sometimes stayed there alone to read or work while my friends went upstairs to smoke in my study."
Vladimir Purishkevich supported this story in his book, The Murder of Rusputin (1918): "We sat down at the round tea table and Yusupov invited us to drink a glass of tea and to try the cakes before they had been doctored. The quarter of an hour which we spent at the table seemed like an eternity to me.... Once we finished our tea, we tried to give the table the appearance of having been suddenly left by a large group frightened by the arrival of an unexpected guest. We poured a little tea into each of the cups, left bits of cake and pirozhki on the plates, and scattered some crumbs among several of the crumpled table napkins.... Once we had given the table the necessary appearance, we got to work on the two plates of petits fours. Yusupov gave Dr Lazovert several pieces of the potassium cyanide and he put on the gloves which Yusupov had procured and began to grate poison into a plate with a knife. Then picking out all the cakes with pink cream (there were only two varieties, pink and chocolate), he lifted off the top halves and put a good quantity of poison in each one, and then replaced the tops to make them look right. When the pink cakes were ready, we placed them on the plates with the brown chocolate ones. Then, we cut up two of the pink ones and, making them look as if they had been bitten into, we put these on different plates around the table."
Felix Yusupov added: "It was agreed that when I went to fetch Rasputin, Dmitrii, Purishkevich and Sukhotin would go upstairs and play the gramophone, choosing lively tunes. I wanted to keep Rasputin in a good humour and remove any distrust that might be lurking in his mind." Stanislaus de Lazovert now went to fetch Rasputin in the car. "At midnight the associates of the Prince concealed themselves while I entered the car and drove to the home of the monk. He admitted me in person. Rasputin was in a gay mood. We drove rapidly to the home of the Prince and descended to the library, lighted only by a blazing log in the huge chimney-place. A small table was spread with cakes and rare wines - three kinds of the wine were poisoned and so were the cakes. The monk threw himself into a chair, his humour expanding with the warmth of the room. He told of his successes, his plots, of the imminent success of the German arms and that the Kaiser would soon be seen in Petrograd. At a proper moment he was offered the wine and the cakes. He drank the wine and devoured the cakes. Hours slipped by, but there was no sign that the poison had taken effect. The monk was even merrier than before. We were seized with an insane dread that this man was inviolable, that he was superhuman, that he couldn't be killed. It was a frightful sensation. He glared at us with his black, black eyes as though he read our minds and would fool us."
Vladimir Purishkevich later recalled that Yusupov joined them upstairs and exclaimed: "It is impossible. Just imagine, he drank two glasses filled with poison, ate several pink cakes and, as you can see, nothing has happened, absolutely nothing, and that was at least fifteen minutes ago! I cannot think what we can do... He is now sitting gloomily on the divan and the only effect that I can see of the poison is that he is constantly belching and that he dribbles a bit. Gentlemen, what do you advise that I do?" Eventually it was decided that Yusupov should go down and shoot Rasputin.
According to Yusupov's account: "Rasputin stood before me motionless, his head bent and his eyes on the crucifix. I slowly raised the crucifix. I slowly raised the revolver. Where should I aim, at the temple or at the heart? A shudder swept over me; my arm grew rigid, I aimed at his heart and pulled the trigger. Rasputin gave a wild scream and crumpled up on the bearskin. For a moment I was appalled to discover how easy it was to kill a man. A flick of a finger and what had been a living, breathing man only a second before, now lay on the floor like a broken doll."
Stanislaus de Lazovert agrees with this account except that he was uncertain who fired the shot: "With a frightful scream Rasputin whirled and fell, face down, on the floor. The others came bounding over to him and stood over his prostrate, writhing body. We left the room to let him die alone, and to plan for his removal and obliteration. Suddenly we heard a strange and unearthly sound behind the huge door that led into the library. The door was slowly pushed open, and there was Rasputin on his hands and knees, the bloody froth gushing from his mouth, his terrible eyes bulging from their sockets. With an amazing strength he sprang toward the door that led into the gardens, wrenched it open and passed out." Lazovert added that it was Vladimir Purishkevich who fired the next shot: "As he seemed to be disappearing in the darkness, Purishkevich, who had been standing by, reached over and picked up an American-made automatic revolver and fired two shots swiftly into his retreating figure. We heard him fall with a groan, and later when we approached the body he was very still and cold and - dead."
Felix Yusupov later recalled: "On hearing the shot my friends rushed in. Rasputin lay on his back. His features twitched in nervous spasms; his hands were clenched, his eyes closed. A bloodstain was spreading on his silk blouse. A few minutes later all movement ceased. We bent over his body to examine it. The doctor declared that the bullet had struck him in the region of the heart. There was no possibility of doubt: Rasputin was dead. We turned off the light and went up to my room, after locking the basement door."
The Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov drove the men to Varshavsky Rail Terminal where they burned Rasputin's clothes. "It was very late and the grand duke evidently feared that great speed would attract the suspicion of the police." They also collected weights and chains and returned to Yuspov's home. At 4.50 a.m. Dimitri drove the men and Rasputin's body to Petrovskii Bridge. that crossed towards Krestovsky Island. According to Vladimir Purishkevich: "We dragged Rasputin's corpse into the grand duke's car." Purishkevich claimed he drove very slowly: "It was very late and the grand duke evidently feared that great speed would attract the suspicion of the police." Stanislaus de Lazovert takes up the story when they arrived at Petrovskii: "We bundled him up in a sheet and carried him to the river's edge. Ice had formed, but we broke it and threw him in. The next day search was made for Rasputin, but no trace was found."
Rasputin's body was found on 19th December by a river policeman who was walking on the ice. He noticed a fur coat trapped beneath, approximately 65 metres from the bridge. The ice was cut open and Rasputin's frozen body discovered. The post mortem was held the following day. Major-General Popel carried out the investigation of the murder. By this time Dr. Stanislaus de Lazovert and Lieutenant Sergei Mikhailovich Sukhotin had fled from the city. He did interview Yusupov, Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov and Vladimir Purishkevich, but he decided not to charge them with murder.
The shot that ended the career of the blackest devil in Russian history was fired by my close and beloved friend, Vladimir Purishkevich, Reactionary Deputy of the Duma.
Five of us had been arranging for this event for many months. On the night of the killing, after all details had been arranged, I drove to the Imperial Palace in an automobile and persuaded this black devil to accompany me to the home of Prince Yusupov, in Petrograd.
Later that night M. Purishkevich followed him into the gardens adjoining Yusupov's house and shot him to death with an automatic revolver. We then carried his riddled body in a sheet to the River Neva, broke the ice and cast him in.
The story of Rasputin and his clique is well known. They sent the army to the trenches without food or arms, they left them there to be slaughtered, they betrayed Rumania and deceived the Allies, they almost succeeded in delivering Russia bodily to the Germans.
Rasputin, as a secret member of the Austrian Green Hand, had absolute power in Court. The Tsar was a nonentity, a kind of Hamlet, his only desire being to abdicate and escape the whole vile business.
Rasputin continued his life of vice, carousing and passion. The Grand Duchess reported these things to the Tsarina and was banished from Court for her pains.
This was the condition of affairs when we decided to kill this monster. Only five men participated in it. They were the Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich, Prince Yusupov, Vladimir Purishkevich, Captain Sukhotin and myself.
Prince Yusupov's palace is a magnificent place on the Nevska. The great hall has six equal sides and in each hall is a heavy oaken door. One leads out into the gardens, the one opposite leads down a broad flight of marble stairs to the huge dining room, one to the library, etc.
At midnight the associates of the Prince concealed themselves while I entered the car and drove to the home of the monk. He admitted me in person.
Rasputin was in a gay mood. We drove rapidly to the home of the Prince and descended to the library, lighted only by a blazing log in the huge chimney-place. A small table was spread with cakes and rare wines - three kinds of the wine were poisoned and so were the cakes.
The monk threw himself into a chair, his humour expanding with the warmth of the room. He told of his successes, his plots, of the imminent success of the German arms and that the Kaiser would soon be seen in Petrograd.
At a proper moment he was offered the wine and the cakes. He drank the wine and devoured the cakes. Hours slipped by, but there was no sign that the poison had taken effect. The monk was even merrier than before.
We were seized with an insane dread that this man was inviolable, that he was superhuman, that he couldn't be killed. It was a frightful sensation. He glared at us with his black, black eyes as though he read our minds and would fool us.
And then after a time he rose and walked to the door. We were afraid that our work had been in vain. Suddenly, as he turned at the door, some one shot at him quickly.
With a frightful scream Rasputin whirled and fell, face down, on the floor. The others came bounding over to him and stood over his prostrate, writhing body.
It was suggested that two more shots be fired to make certain of his death, but one of those present said, "No, no; it is his last agony now."
We left the room to let him die alone, and to plan for his removal and obliteration.
Suddenly we heard a strange and unearthly sound behind the huge door that led into the library. The door was slowly pushed open, and there was Rasputin on his hands and knees, the bloody froth gushing from his mouth, his terrible eyes bulging from their sockets. With an amazing strength he sprang toward the door that led into the gardens, wrenched it open and passed out.
As he seemed to be disappearing in the darkness, Purishkevich, who had been standing by, reached over and picked up an American-made automatic revolver and fired two shots swiftly into his retreating figure. We heard him fall with a groan, and later when we approached the body he was very still and cold and - dead.
We bundled him up in a sheet and carried him to the river's edge. Ice had formed, but we broke it and threw him in. The next day search was made for Rasputin, but no trace was found.
Urged on by the Tsarina, the police made frantic efforts, and finally a rubber was found which was identified as his. The river was dragged and the body recovered.
I escaped from the country. Purishkevich also escaped. But Prince Yusupov was arrested and confined to the boundaries of his estate. He was later released because of the popular approval of our act.
Russia had been freed from the vilest tyrant in her history; and that is all.
The body is that of a man of about fifty years old, of medium size, dressed in a blue embroidered hospital robe, which covers a white shirt. His legs, in tall animal skin boots, are tied with a rope, and the same rope ties his wrists. His dishevelled hair is light brown, as are his long moustache and beard, and it's soaked with blood. His mouth is half open, his teeth clenched. His face below his forehead is covered in blood. His shirt too is also marked with blood. There are three bullet wounds. The first has penetrated the left side of lhe chest and has gone through the stomach and the liver...
Examination of the head: the cerebral matter gave off a strong smell of alcohol. Examination of the stomach: the stomach contains about twenty soup spoons of liquid smelling of alcohol. The examination reveals no trace of poison. Wounds: his left side has a weeping wound, due to sonic sort of slicing object or a sword. His right eye has come out of its cavity and falls down onto his face. At the corner of the right eye the membrane is torn. His right ear is hanging down and torn. His neck has a wound from some sort of' rope tie. The victim's face and body carry traces of blows given by a supple but hard object. His genitals have been crushed by the action of a similar object...
Haemorrhage caused by the wound to the liver and the wound to the right kidney must have started the rapid decline of his strength. In this case, he would have died in ten or twenty minutes. At the moment of death the deceased was in a state of drunkenness. The first bullet passed through the stomach and the liver. This mortal blow had been shot from a distance of 20 centimetres. The wound on the right side, made at nearly exactly the same time as the first, was also mortal; it passed through the right kidney. The victim, at the time of the murder, was standing. When he was shot in the forehead, his body was already on the ground.
On the night from the sixteenth to the seventeenth the point duty policeman heard several shots near 94 Moika, owned by Prince Yusupov. Soon after that the policeman was invited to the study of the young Prince Yusupov, where the prince and a stranger who called himself Purishkevich were present. The latter said: "I am, Purishkevich. Rasputin has perished. If you love the Tsar and fatherland you will keep silent." The policeman reported this to his superiors. The investigation conducted this morning established that one of Yusupov''s guests had fired a shot in the small garden adjacent to No. 94 at around 3 a.m. The garden has a direct entrance to the prince's study. A human scream was heard and following that a sound of a car being driven away. The person who had fired the shot was wearing a military field uniform.
Traces of blood have been found on the snow in the small garden in the course of close examination. When questioned bv the governor of the city, the young prince stated that he had had a party that night, but that Rasputin was not there, and that Grand Duke Dmitrii Pavlovich had shot a watchdog. The dog's body was found buried in the snow. The investigation conducted at Rasputin's residence at 64 Gorokhovava Street established that at 10 p.m. on 16 December Rasputin said that he was not going to go out any more that night and was going to sleep. He let off his security and the car in his normal fashion. Questioning the servants and the yard keeper allowed police to establish that at 12:30 a.m, a large canvas-top car with driver and a stranger in it arrived at the house. The stranger entered Rasputin's apartment through the back door. It seemed that Rasputin was expecting him because he greeted him as somebody he knew and soon went outside with him through the same entrance. Rasputin got into the car, which drove of along Gorokhovava Street towards Morskava Street. Rasputin has not returned home and has not been found despite the deployed measures.
Rasputin was under triple police protection. Besides the imperial detective, there was one appointed by a group of bankers and another, it is alleged, by the Germans. On the fatal evening Rasputin visited
the house of Prince Yusupov... There some bottles of port and madeira specially prepared for him were set out. The wine had previously been tested upon one of the dogs that infest the courtyards of Russian houses, and the dog had died almost immediately. Rasputin drank altogether six glasses without any apparent effect, and his companion became persuaded that this sinister, herculean monk was under satanic protection. Making some excuse, he climbed the winding staircase to the room above, where his companions were assembled, and returned to the room with a revolver which they lent him. He found Rasputin leaning on his hands, and puffing as if he was not feeling well. Presently he staggered to his feet and went over to an icon. At that moment while he was standing before the icon the pistol was fired. He uttered a great cry and tell backwards on the floor.
On hearing the shot those who were waiting upstairs came down with a doctor, who examined the wound and pronounced life extinct. They then went awav to make arrangements about the removal of the body, but one of them came back after a few minutes to make sure that he was really dead, for they all seemed to have believed that a satanic power had given him superhuman strength. The pulse was not beating. The man drew aside the monk's habit to feel the heart, and at that moment Rasputin with a terrible cry seized him by the throat. There was a terrible struggle, but the other succeeded in throwing him and escaping from the room. Upstairs he found a member of the Duma, who still had three cartridges left in his revolver. The two men came out on the landing and looking down saw the great bullet-head of Rasputin ascending the stairs. He was crawling up on all fours like a bear. They withdrew again into the room and saw him stagger to his feet and make for the door into the courtyard. The snow was thick upon the ground and it was dark, but they could see him against the background of snow and the second man fired three shots. Rasputin continued to run a few paces then fell close to the gateway leading into the street. He had been shot through the head.
One of the assassins was standing by the body when there came an incessant knocking at the gate... The police had heard the shots and had sent to inquire what was wrong. The body was lying only a few feet from the gate. Boldness was the only course, so the assassin opened the gate and took a high tone with the constable, explaining there had been a dinner party and that one of the guests had fired his revolver at a dog in the courtyard and killed it. The man went off apparently satisfied. There were now several things to do, the body had to be dragged into the house, and a dog had to be killed and laid in its place. My informant was doing this single-handed when he heard voices in the house. The same policeman had been sent back to the front door to make further inquiries. He was questioning the assassin, who had entirely lost his head and had blurted out, "Yes, we have killed Rasputin." My informant stepped boldly into the breach. "Look at him," he said. "The wine has turned his head; when the dog was shot I said what a pity it was not Rasputin, and this friend of mine in his fuddled state has taken it literally and thinks we have done it."
As part of the Timewatch production I had the opportunity to interview Professor Zharov about his findings. A short excerpt from the interview is included in the transmitted programme. Three of the questions I asked Zharov and the answers he gave are, I believe, of particular importance.
"I wonder if you could give me your opinion about Professor Kosorotov's evidence that the three bullet wounds were caused by different -calibre weapons."
"Yes, I think that is the case, if we accept the wound to the left side was caused by a Browning, the one to the back by a Sauaage, and then the one to the forehead was caused by a larger-calibre weapon than both of the other guns."
"In your view does the contact wound to the forehead discredit Purishkevich's evidence?"
"Of course it does. Purishkevich said he fired at Rasputin from behind at a distance of twenty paces and hit Rasputin in the back of the head. The picture of Kasputin's forehead shows an entry wound; the standsmark around it means it was fired at close range."
"In your view, as the forensic evidence tells us that three weapons of different calibre were used, does this mean that there was a third person involved in the shooting?"
"As a scientist I cannot say that a third person was involved in Rasputin's murder. What I can say is that as an individual I am certain someone else was involved, because neither Purishkevich nor Yusupov mention the close-quarter shot to the forehead. If they didn't do it, who did?"
So, to sum up Zharov's findings:
There is no forensic evidence that Rasputin was poisoned by the use of potassium cyanide (although the Zharov report identifies how the cyanide might have been neutralised). This is the problem of following what Yusupov and Purishkevich reported as fact. At the time of his demise Rasputin was in a state of drunkenness.
Rasputin did not die of drowning.
There is evidence that Rasputin was shot three times. All three weapons were fired from a range of no more than 20 centiinetres. All three bullets were from different calibre weapons. It is impossible to know the sequence of the shots but the shot to the forehead would have been immediately disabling and was therefore in all likelihood the last. Both the shot to his left side (stomach/liver) and the one to the right side of his back (kidney) would individually have been fatal in 10-20 minutes.