Yusupov Palace is one is one the main historical sites a top attraction in St Petersburg. The Palace was built in the mid of the 18th century for the Shuvalov family and was owned by the Yusupov family in the 19th century. The Palace is one of the few examples of an aristocratic mansion. It is famous for its art gallery, luxurious theatre, music room, and the private quarters of the Yusupov’s family, and it remained in the ownership of the family until seized by the Bolsheviks in 1917.
Originally Yusupov Palace was built for the niece of Peter the Great, Princess Praskovia and in the mid-1740’s it was merged with a larger mansion belonging to Count Pyotr Shuvalov. Count Shuvalov was a politician and had a large influence during Tsarina Elizabeth’s reign. The Count would host lavish parties and private balls in the Palace and was a part of the Shuvalov family until his son, Count Andrei, sold the mansion to the government.
Eventually Empress Catherine gifted Yusupov Palace to Countess Alexandra Branitskaya in 1795. The Countess was the wife of Crown Hetman of Poland and owned the Palace for nearly 35 years. At this point the mansion was sold to her relatives in the Yusupov family for 250,000 Rubles on March 5, 1830. Once in the hands of the Yusupov family, the Palace was remodeled in a more classical style and enlarged to include an art gallery, banquet room, a garden pavilion, greenhouses, and a new three-story eastern wing fitted in true Russian Empire style. In the early 1890’s the Yusupov family again ordered changes to the mansion by famous Russian architect Alexander Stepanov. Stepanov added water, heating, sewage, and electricity to modernize the mansion. The most famous addition of Stepanov was the private theatre which is still in use today for special theatre performances.
Grigory Rasputin – Murdered in Yusupov Palace
Yusupov Palace was made famous as the place where the Siberian peasant and Russian mystic Grigory Rasputin was assassinated on December 17, 1916 in the private room of Prince Felix Yusupov. Over the years there has been controversy, myths, and a great deal of mystery surrounding the death of Rasputin. As part of a tour in Yusupov Palace visitors can see a recreation of the events that took place on this fateful evening. Rasputin was known throughout Russia as a mystic healer, prophet, and visionary. However, many believed him to be a religious charlatan who used his powers of persuasion over Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their only son Alexei, to partake in excesses of drinking and sex. He was certainly a controversial figure and in some circles has been credited with the eventual fall of the Romanov dynasty in Russia. A group of nobleman including Prince Felix Yusupov had decided that Rasputin’s influence over the Royal Family was so great that the only recourse was to assassinate him. On the night of December 16th Rasputin was given an open invitation to visit Yusupov Palace to visit with Princess Irina. Once in the Palace Rasputin was brought by Prince Yusupov to the cellar where he was offered red wine and various cakes, all laced with enough of the poison cyanide to kill up to 5 men. As Yusupov anxiously waited, there was no result and he quickly ran upstairs to consult with the other conspirators. It was believed later that the mystic had an immunity to poison or that in fact he never tasted the wine and cakes due to a medical condition. Prince Yusupov returned to Rasputin and shot him in the back with a revolver and quickly left the palace along with the other conspirators. Upon his return and to his astonishment, Rasputin was still alive and whispered to Yusupov “you bad boy” and proceeded to unsuccessfully strangle him. Rasputin was quickly shot 3 more times, beaten, sexually abused (apparently having his penis severed), wrapped in carpeting, and thrown into the icy Neva River. It was determined that Rasputin died from drowning, although the poison should have killed him much earlier. Eventually Rasputin’s body was taken to the woods and burned. In the flames Rasputin apparently sat up and tried to move, shocking those people overseeing the horrifying event. The most believable explanation for this was an improper cremation, although many still believed that Rasputin contained some mystical powers and that he simply refused to die.
After the October Revolution, the palace was handed to the educational authorities, which fortunately opted to preserve many of the original interiors and used the building as a type of clubhouse for the city's teachers. Over the years many of the rooms have been meticulously restored to give tourists the feeling of a lifestyle reserved for a few elite families in St. Petersburg.