Poison pies in the Moika; Mithridates’ magic cure; Inoculating the Commie Cancer. Part three of three.
A duke, a prince and a politician walk into a bar…
( This is part three. Click here for part two )
Into the Moika Palace, actually, with Rasputin in company. Cakes and wine a-plenty, laced with enough cyanide to kill five russian mules. Rasputin, that trickster: He survives again! Perhaps it was mithridatism that saved our noble hero. Perhaps the old fox had been poisoning himself for years, building up in his rippled body a steely-bronze immune system. That’s what Mithridates the Great, the slippery young turk of Pontus and Armenia Minor, did, always suspicious that his enemies would try to do him in. A group of loyal shamans would supervise the 54-ingredient routine, while a horse, a stag and a bull, loyal in their own way I’m sure, would guard his royal bedchamber. Unfortunately for Mithridates, he became so immune to poison that, when it came to his defeat at the hands of Pompey, his attempt at suicide didn’t go exactly as planned. The drugs didn’t work (unless you’re talking about his wives and children) but the sword of his Gaulish comrade made sure the Turk didn’t fall into Roman hands:
Seeing a certain Bituitus there, an officer of the Gauls, he said to him, “I have profited much from your right arm against my enemies. I shall profit from it most of all if you will kill me, and save from the danger of being led in a Roman triumph one who has been an autocret so many years, and the ruler of so great a kingdom, but who is not unable to die by poison because, like a fool, he has fortified himself against the poison of others. Although I have kept watch and ward against all the poisons that one take with his food, I have not provided against that domestic poison, always the most dangerous to kings, the treachery of army, children, and friends.” Bituitus, thus appealed to, rendered the king the service that he desired.
Returning to the story: Grigori’s daughter, Maria, named after her epileptic aunt, reckons that her father couldn’t have been so easily tricked by the political pudding, for he avoided sweets like he avoided baths, due to his trouble with hyperacidity. Either way, the plot failed, so Prince Yusupov went up to shoot the mystic in his room. Killing Rasputin is like killing 2pac, however, and several slugs later he still wasn’t dead. Even after being clubbed into submission, for he was busy strangling Yusupov while all this was happening, and then tied up and rolled into a carpet Godfather-style, the legend has it that in the freezing water of the the river in which he was thrown he did an Incredible Hulk and burst out of the ropes. Rasputin did end up drowning, finally. If the attackers were standing along the sides of the river, watching him burst free of the knots, I imagine him being like a fat friend who you trap inside your swimming pool, pushed back in at every attempt to reach land, eventually succumbing to the cold, the exhaustion and the bleeding. I imagine him finally realising it was up, giving them one last judging stare, leaning backwards serenely, and slowly disappearing into the depths, flipping them the bird as he sunk down and filling them with the fear of God. If that’s not bad-ass enough, his body sat itself up in the fire when he was cremated days later, just sat right up! Picture that. I’m told that if your tendons shrink, which they do under intense heat, it can make you sit up in a fire, but I think it might have been homeboy’s last practical joke: “ Fuck you, Yusupov! I slept with your mother, by the way. Oh death, where art thou sting!“
I’m just about running out of breath but the intrigue surrounding our hero’s demise doesn’t end there. A few full-circle pills later we come right back to where we started. See, a whole lot of evidence has come out about the death since then, and it gets interesting not in terms of cyanide cookies, water-filled lungs or a beaten-up body but the bullets lodged in his inflated corpse. The third shot went right into his swollen dome, and, if it wasn’t Rasputin we’re talking about, that bullet was the sure killer. But here’s the twist: the non-jacketed large lead bullet, discerned from the size of the wound, or the margins or something, was: Used. Only. By. The. British. (my goodness!) in their beasty Webley revolvers, and not by the Russians. It turns out the English were quite pissed off about Rasputin’s political meddling. His opinion on withdrawing Russian troops from the frontlines of the War would have let the Cousin Willy’s (Kaiser Wilhelm was Queen Victoria’s grandson too!) German army all the way to the Western Front and caused no end of trouble for the Allies. Furthermore, it turns out British SIS officers were in St. Petersburg at the time, two with family ties to Yusupov, present at the crime scene, and years later basically admitting a level of culpability. The Anglo-Russo rivalry does rarely rest, my friends, even when the countries are technically at peace. That old tension is playing out in Syria right now, another battleground for CIA, MI6 and SVR techniques. It’s fun to watch Obama and Putin declare each other’s police-states illegal, not so fun to hear the latest reports of Assad’s poison gas used as a pretext for another U.S.-British takeover.
Oh well. Maybe it wont work. Russia and China (who we still seem to think of as a collective Red Peril despite being historically Communist for all of five seconds) are Imperial in their own way, corrupt to the very core, violent against their own people and the regions they’ve swallowed up, but at least they act as a counter-balance to our own toxic military policies. In the meantime, we’ll keep playing a game of inoculating the influence of each other, and especially the influence of governments that are independent of both us and them (that’s the worst crime!). The battle that rages across the world, from Santiago to St Petersburg, Syria and beyond like a self-fulfilling LSD-fueled epidemic which we create and then, shocked at what’s happening, prescribe more violent surgery: “We must remove the Communist cancer! We must install democracy. We must stop the people from voting for the Communists! We must help them make the right decisions! Unleash the scalpel, the machete, the austerity, the mustard gas, the pliers! Diagnosis: Immediate transfer to Guantanamo Bay Private Hospital!”
It’s obvious enough. The Allies have long been sipping from the poisoned chalice they made the Nazis drink at Nuremberg, to quote (kind of) the Chief U.S. Prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson. And I don’t believe we’re as immunised as we think. The poison we’ve administered for years like a senile Bronx doctor giving scripts to poor junkies may just have the final word against us. The second 9.11 really shook us to the core, because it’s usually us doing the shaking, and Al Qaeda were meant to be working for us, the tricky bastards! I don’t think many in Chile thought “a taste of their own medicine” but they could have, and they’d be right. This is what Slavoj Zizek calls “Divine Violence.” It seems to come from no where but it’s really the half-life of our addiction to Empire. Terrorism, the terrorism others do to us, is like the emphysema I’ll enjoy in 30 years, the fruits of my toxic habit in the meantime. Turns out we didn’t learn from the Trade Centre fiasco, and we’re back acting like some maniacal surgeon, playing knifey on a load of unwilling patients, but maybe that’s an exaggeration. Hey, I’m just the messenger, and an untrustworthy sort at that! Don’t believe a thing you read, especially not from some bad Hunter S. Thompson wannabe (I swear I’ve always written like this!).
Well, to really come full circle we could talk about how Roald Dahl was a spy. Really. But that’s another story for another day. All great essays, the boy on American History X says, should finish with a quote, and our last quote ties in nicely with the hints I’ve been making this whole time, that Grigori Rasputin was more a beast than a man, his gigantic liver needing no mithridatic help to repel poison, his bulging muscles and fiery hams enduring even the grave to perform one last post-mortem spasmus-erectus and laugh at death in its stupid face. Our quote comes from a museum curator in the same St. Petersburg, who holds in his collection the 12-inch phallus belonging, supposedly, to yours truly (no, no! I mean Rasputin):
Having this exhibit, we can stop envying America, where Napoleon Bonaparte’s reproductive organ is now kept. Napoleon’s penis is but a small ‘pod’ – it cannot stand comparison to our organ of 30 centimetres.
– Igor Knyazkin.