Alex Massie

The Death of Rasputin, Daily Mail Style

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I'm reading Keith Jeffrey's history of the Secret Intelligence Service at the moment. There's plenty of good stuff in it. Including Our Man in Moscow's account of the death of Rasputin which, Samuel Hoare explained, was "a sensational that one cannot describe it as one would if it were an ordinary episode of the war." Accordingly he wrote his report "in the style of the Daily Mail":

1st January, 1917.

In the early morning of Saturday, December 30th, there was enacted in Petrograd one of those crimes which by their magnitude blur the well-defined rules of ethics and by their results change the history of a generation.

GREGORY EPHEMIC NOVICH - for RASPUTIN, "the rake", was only the name that his excesses gained him in his village - had governed Russia since the day, four years ago, when first he showed in the Imperial Palace in Poland, his healing powers over the Tsarevitch. To describe the influence he possessed, the scandals that surrounded his life, the tragedies that followed in his path, is to write a Dumas romance.

Three times he was within an inch of being murdered. Once an outraged peasant girl from his native Siberia stabbed him - the wound did not prove fatal. Next, the monk Heliodor seemed to have him at his mercy in the Petrograd cell of the Metropolitan of Kieff - Rasputin's great strength and the arrival of help saved his life. Again, in the cabinet of one of the best Petrograd restaurants - the "Bear" - certain officers of the Chevaliers Gardes would have killed him if his familiars of the secret police had not arrived in time. The papers said nothing of these things - indeed to mention his name brought a fine of 3000 roubles. Day and night the secret police were near him. Because he withdrew them, Chvestoff, the Minister of the Interior was dismissed. Only from time to time the moujik's uncontrollable appetite for debauch left him defenceless before his enemies. There is in Moscow a former officer of the Guards, now relegated to the Gendarmes, who boasts that the achievement of his career was the beating he gave Rasputin during some wild orgie. There are others who have seen him madly drunk in the streets and public places. Of one of these incidents there is a photograph, and a photograph which is said to have been shown to the Emperor. True to his nickname it was at an orgie that Rasputin met his death.

No political point here. I just like the look of the Daily Mail's 1917 style...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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