In This Review

The Foe Within: Fantasies of Treason and the End of Imperial Russia
The Foe Within: Fantasies of Treason and the End of Imperial Russia
By William C. Fuller, Jr.
Cornell University Press, 2006, 304 pp.

In 1915, one Lieutenant Colonel Sergei Miasoedov -- at the time an interpreter with Russia's Tenth Army, but earlier in a roller-coaster career the deputy head of gendarmes in Russia's northern gateway to Europe -- was hanged for treason, and his benefactor, the former minister of war, Vladimir Sukhomlinov, eventually tried and sentenced to life in prison at hard labor. Miasoedov, although hardly a model of virtue, and Sukhomlinov, not without his sins, including malfeasance in office, were not, Fuller argues, guilty of betraying their country. Fuller, who tells a good story, with skill and verve, uses the case to expose one of the more unsavory qualities of the imperial Russian bureaucracy and government: the backbiting and backstabbing by which individuals settled scores and patronage groups dispatched competitors. He also cites the case, particularly its trumped-up character and the "spy-mania" that washed over the country in the months following, as symptomatic of the popular reluctance to believe Russia's mounting military defeats could be the result of anything other than treachery.