Famous murders in St. Petersburg
Famous murders in St. Petersburg
Mikhailovsky Castle. 1801. The murder of Paul I
Also known as Inzhenerny Castle. Paul I built it for himself as an impenetrable sanctuary, but from the moment in was built it was doomed to become the place he would spend his final moments. Subsequent modifications to the space in front of the castle make it difficult to conceive just how serious the fortifications once were.
Despite the moats, ramparts and guards, there was never any doubt about Paul’s fate – even the castle guards were in on the plot. The chief guard, a man called Argamakov, led the conspirators directly to Paul’s bedroom. The conspirators claimed they merely acting out of concern for the country’s fate, given that the emperor was insane, and they were a group of high dignitaries. It is thought that the son of the victim, Alexander I, knew of the plot and had given his approval.
It was never the plotters intention to kill the tsar, they just wanted to remove him from power. But, as memoirists recall, “the fateful catastrophe happened unexpectedly”. Paul hid himself, but the perpetrators found him and tried to arrest him. One version claims Paul was immediately killed by a blow to the temple, others say he was beaten before being strangled with a silk scarf. Officially it was announced that the tsar had “died of a stroke”.
Paul only managed to live forty days in Mikhailovsky Castle. Several times before he died he claimed he saw himself reflected in a mirror, strangled with a collapsed neck, and in these moments he would experience an unexplainable shortness of breath.
Cathedral of the Spilt Blood. 1881. Murder of Alexander II
Built in traditional Russian style to emulate Vasily Blazhenny Cathedral at Red Square –stands in sharp contrast to the sad event it was built to commemorate.
There were no obvious motives for the tsar’s assassination. Alexander II was neither a tyrant, like his father and his grandfather, nor was he a weak ruler, like his son and grandson. His official title as ‘the giver of freedom’ was well deserved – he was the ruler who finally abolished serfdom in Russia. But the assassins were brutally determined; first they attempted shooting him while he was out walking, then they attempted to blow him up in his own palace and on a train, without a second thought about the collateral victims.
On 1 March Alexander II was on his way back to the Winter Palace. The exact place where the tsar was mortally wounded – part of the railings and the cobble stone pavement – has been preserved inside the cathedral, under the western cupola.
Angleterre Hotel. 1925. The death of Esenin
In 1925 Russia’s premier poet, Sergei Esenin, was preparing for the release of a full collection of his works. At the end of November the typeset for all three volumes of his works was in place. But then, on 28 December 1925, Esenin was found dead in a room at the Angleterre Hotel.
His final poem, “Goodbye, my friend, goodbye…” was written in blood – Esenin had actually complained that there was no ink in the hotel and he was forced to write in blood. Most historians and biographers agree that Esenin, who was going through an episode of depression at the time, took his own life a month after being treated in a psychiatric hospital. In the 1970s-1980s rumours spread that the poet was in fact murdered and that the suicide was a cover-up. The perpetrator could have been motivated by money or jealousy or the murder could have been committed by the secret police.
This are only a few examples of famous murders that caught my attention around St. Petersburg …
Until our next mystery…
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