Moika Palace

St. Petersburg, Russia | C.1776

Photo Credit: @melekeska

The Moika Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia was once the primary residence of the House of Yusupov, one of the most distinguished noble families in the nation. However, the building is better-known as the site of Grigori Rasputin’s murder in December 1916.

The palace was first built in 1776 by the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe. Over the years, a number of architects worked on the palace including the famous Italian sculptor Emilio Sala. This combination of expertise resulted in a diverse clash of architectural styles.

A more thorough reconstruction took place in the 1830s when the Yusupovs became owners of the building. The present-day palace retains the same look that this reconstruction thrust upon it.

Members of the House of Yusupov resided in the palace from 1830 to 1917, where the family became known for their philanthropic endeavors and vast art collection featuring over 40,000 sculptures and paintings composed by world-renowned artists. The structure became known as the Yusupov Palace in this time, and is often referred to as such today.

The early 20th century in Russia saw the rise of a peculiar Christian mystic by the name of Grigory Rasputin. Rasputin had gained favor with the queen in the absence of Tsar Nicholas II, who was off fighting wars. He was thought to be a miracle worker whose presence provided relief to Tsar Nicholas’ son, who suffered from severe hemophilia. Rasputin’s strong political influence and his sexual promiscuity behind closed doors angered the Russian elite, who had him assassinated on the grounds of the Yusupov Palace in 1916. Prince Felix Yusupov’s memoirs relay Rasputin’s assassination as a shocking affair, as he was not affected by enormous amounts of cyanide put in his food and wine. Rasputin’s assailants shot him in the chest, and thought him dead until he leapt up and fled. They then shot him in the head, and some surmise that even that didn’t kill him, as they then drove to a nearby river and drowned him.

The Russian Revolution followed shortly after Rasputin’s death. Once the Soviets came to power, they confiscated the property of the nobility. In 1925, the palace was handed over to the city’s Education Commissariat. The courtyard where Rasputin attempted to flee from his killers is now occupied by a kindergarten playground adjacent to the main building.

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