The Yusupov Palace – Murder and Riches

by Elena on January 7, 2014

yusupov palace moika st petersburgNo tour of St. Petersburg is complete without visiting at least one palace and there are certainly plenty to choose from! Ask Ulko Tours to add in a trip to the Winter Palace, the Peterhof Palace, or how about the Moika Palace?

Sometimes known as Yusupov Palace, the Moika Palace was once the main residence of the House of Yusupov although it wasn’t the Yusupovs who built the palace back in the 18th Century. The original palace was actually a wooden construction belonging to Tsareyna Praskovia Ivanovna, Peter the Great’s niece. Her palace stood close to what is now the Mariinsky Theatre, retaining its wooden structure even after it was bought by Count Peter Shuvalov in the mid 18th century.

The Moika Palace as we see it today is mostly the vision of the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe who oversaw its construction in 1770 as commissioned by Andrei Shuvalov, the Count’s heir. Many more architects have influenced its reconstruction over the years, creating a rather idiosyncratic conglomeration of styles.

Prince Felix Yusupov

The Yusupov Palace came into the hands of the eponymous family in 1830 and stayed with them until 1917 when it was seized by the Bolsheviks. The Yusupovs were rich and generous, collecting art and dispersing wealth through philanthropical endeavours. As such, the Moika Palace fared well in comparison to the royal palaces in terms of artistry and finery. Indeed, Prince Felix Yusupov could boast riches as fine as the tsar, owning some 57 palaces across Russia including four in St. Petersburg.

The Murder of Rasputin

Acquiring such riches did not keep Prince Felix busy enough, however, as perhaps the most infamous happening at the Moika Palace is the murder of Grigori Rasputin in 1916. Legend has it that Rapsutin was lured to the basement of the Yusupov Palace where he was poisoned with enough cyanide to kill many men, shot multiple times, and then beaten with a club before being thrown into the icy waters of the Malaya Nevka River. His autopsy apparently showed that Rasputin didn’t die of any of these injuries but of hypothermia. Such details (which most now consider extremely far-fetched) come from the autobiography of Prince Felix Yusupov and are part of the Palace museum’s display featuring photographs, documents, and wax figures to tell the story of the Mad Monk and the investigation into Rasputin’s death.

One of the Best Maintained Palaces in St. Pite’s!

The Yusupov Palace art collection was nationalised many years ago and many of the more than 40,000 works of art were rehoused in the State Hermitage and elsewhere. The Palace became the property of St. Petersburg’s Education Commissariat in 1925 and the decision was made to preseve the palace as a public museum, despite many other palaces being turned into more functional buildings. This means that the Moika Palace retains much of its original splendour and is one of the best maintained palaces in St. Petersburg. If you’re lucky, during your city tour of St. Petersburg you may be able to catch a classical music concert or theatrical performance at the Yusupov Palace Theatre or the White Columns Hall.

Book a Guided Tour with Ulko Tours

Now a Palace of Culture for Educators, the Yusupov Palace now houses the museum detailing Rapsutin’s death as well as a kindergarten playground. To see the museum visitors need to have booked a guided tour in advance so make sure to talk to Ulko Tours today for a chance to full explore the modern museum including the reception rooms and living quarters.

The Moika Palace can be found at 94, Naberezhnaya Reki Moiki, and is open daily from 11am to 5pm. Admission costs 300 Rubels and audioguides are available in a variety of languages with private tours to be arranged in advance. The palace is wheelchair accessible with the exception of the private rooms, the Rapsutin exhibit, and the exhibit ‘Last Owners of the Palace.’

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