On March 20, 1915, the Russian Army Headquarters announced the execution of Sergei A. Myasoedov, a gendarme officer, for espionage only days after his arrest and hasty conviction by military court. The event was a major scandal in the press and is significant for a number of reasons. First, it occurred in the midst of a series of Russian losses on the German section of the front, losses that marked the beginning of what would become known as the Russian Great Retreat that led Russia out of all the Polish provinces and parts of what are now Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Myasoedov, who had plenty of enemies in the army command, security services, and elsewhere, was likely set up as a convenient scapegoat for the extensive Russian losses at the front. After his execution, a wave of arrests targeted anyone who had been associated with him.
If the execution was meant to calm public opinion, it probably had the opposite effect. A series of raids, arrests, and deportations led by the unofficial head of the domestic military counterintelligence service, Mikhail Dmitriyevich Bonch Bruyevich, and especially the hysterical accusations of spying that the Army Chief of Staff Nikolai Yanushkevich leveled against Jews, Germans, and foreigners in the front zones added to what became a wave of popular spy mania that became a constant and important feature of domestic politics for the rest of the war.
Only two months after the arrest of Myasoedov, Moscow erupted into one of the largest riots in Russian history—directed against Germans and foreigners. The scandal also undermined the position of the minister of war, Vladimir A. Sukhomlinov, who had been a close associate of Myasoedov. In fact, the entire episode may also have been part of political intrigues to try to undermine Sukhomlinov, who was forced to resign in June 1915 under a cloud of rumors of his own treasonous acts. Perhaps most importantly, the scandal lent credence to rumors of treason among members of the Russian elite. Such rumors continued to grow through the rest of the war, and came to center on the empress Alexandra, Rasputin, and various individuals with German names in the Russian court, government, and army command. These rumors did a great deal to undermine respect for the monarchy and contributed to the idea that the monarchy stood in the way of an effective war effort—in short, that it would be a patriotic act to overthrow the monarchy.
See also: february revolution; october revolution
Katkov, George. (1967). Russia, 1917: The February Revolution. London: Longman.