Nikolai Yanushkevich

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Nikolai Yanushkevich
Никола́й Никола́евич Янушке́вич
Nikolai Yanushkevich.jpg
Chief of the General Staff
In office
5 March 1914 – 1 August 1914
MonarchNicholas II
Preceded byYakov Zhilinsky
Succeeded byMikhail Belyaev
Personal details
Born(1868-05-13)May 13, 1868
DiedFebruary 1918 (aged 49-50)
near Oredezh station, Saint Petersburg Governorate, Russian SFSR
Military service
Allegiance Russian Empire
Branch/serviceRussian Empire Russian Imperial Army
Years of service1885–1918
Battles/warsWorld War I

Nikolai Nikolaevich Yanushkevich (Russian: Никола́й Никола́евич Янушке́вич) 13 May [O.S. 1 May] 1868 – 1918) was a Russian General who served as Chief of Staff of the General Headquarters (Stavka) of the Imperial Russian Army from August 1914 to September 1915.


A graduate of the Nikolaevskii Cadet Corp (1888) and Mikhailovskii Artillery School (1888), Yanushkevich was commissioned sub-lieutenant in the artillery of the Life Guards. He graduated from the Nikolaevskii General Staff Academy in 1896. Yanushkevich briefly served as a staff officer in the provinces before returning to the Life Guards as a company commander. From 1898 he served in a series of important administrative roles within the ministry of war, inc. Head of the Legislative Section of the Chancellery of the Minister of War (1905-1911) and Assistant Manager of the Chancellery of the Minister of War (1911-1913). Yanushkevich was appointed professor at the Nikolaevskii General Staff Academy (1910-1911) and became its head in 1913-14. He was appointed Chief of the General Staff in March 1914 and became Chief of Staff to the Supreme Commander in Chief, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, at the outset of the war.

Yanushkevich was poorly qualified for the post of chief of staff. He had spent most of his career occupied by administrative duties in the Ministry of War. He had never held a field commission and his command experience was extremely limited, being confined to a short period as a company commander.[1] Historian Norman Stone derisively describes Yanushkevich as a ‘clerk’.[2]

The British military attaché to the Russian Army during the war claims that Yanushkevich owed his high position largely to his skills as a courtier and was rumoured to have found favour with the tsar when serving as a captain of the palace guard.[3] Stone alternatively ascribes Yanushkevich’s position to War Minister V.A. Sukhomlinov’s practice of appointing officers unlikely to threaten his own position, and only for a short period of time, to the post of Chief of the General Staff – ‘[He was]…chosen in the usual Sukhomlinov way to prevent anyone dangerous from taking over the job, and surviving in it from sheer force of characterlessness.’[4] Historian David R. Jones is less harsh in his assessment, pointing out that whatever his shortcomings Yanushkevich was a supply expert whose ideas were incorporated in the 1914 field regulations.[5]

Yanushkevich apparently played only a minor role in the opening campaigns of the war. According to Stone both he and the Supreme Commander, Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, were mere figureheads—command of the Russian armies was effectively exercised by the ostensible third-in-command, Quartermaster-General Yu. N. Danilov, a close associate of Sukhomlinov. Danilov was supported by a staff of fifteen whereas Yanushkevich had a single adjutant and spent part of his time developing his taste for pornography.[6] According to the Russian Minister of War Sukhomlinov in his memoirs he did not, all the briefing with through the hands of Nikolai Yanushkevich, his assistant.[7] The deeply anti-Semitic Yanushkevich, however, played a leading role in the savage pogroms and deportations to Siberia of Jews, Muslims, and ethnic Germans that accompanied the so-called "Great Retreat" of 1915.[8]

Yanushkevich was dismissed from his post in September 1915 as Tsar Nicholas II took personal charge of the Russian armies, with M.V. Alekseev as his chief of staff. At the insistence of Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich, Yanushkevich continued to serve as his chief of staff after the latter’s dismissal as supreme commander and appointment to the post of Viceroy of the Caucasus.[9]

Retired from active service after the February Revolution, at the start of 1918 Yanushkevich was arrested in Mogilev and sent to Petrograd but was killed by his guards en route.

Honours and awards[edit]


  1. ^ Alfred Knox, With the Russian Army 1914-1917 (London, 1921) vol. I p42
  2. ^ Norman Stone, The Eastern Front 1914-1917 (London, 1975) p26
  3. ^ Knox, With the Russian Army vol. I pp42, 331
  4. ^ Stone, The Eastern Front, p52
  5. ^ David R. Jones ‘Imperial Russia’s Forces at War’ in Allan R. Millet & Williamson Murray (eds.), Military Effectiveness, Vol. I: The First World War (Cambridge 2010) pp249-328 p256
  6. ^ Stone, The Eastern Front, p. 52
  7. ^ Vladimir Sukhomlinov (1924). Erinnerungen, pp. 360–365
  8. ^ See Eric Lohr. "The Russian Army and the Jews: Mass Deportation, Hostages, and Violence during World War I", Russian Review 2001 60(3), pp. 404–419
  9. ^ Knox, With the Russian Army vol. I p 332

External links[edit]

  • Short biography
  • V.I. Gurko. Features And Figures Of The Past. Government And Opinion In The Reign Of Nicholas II.
  • "Yanushkevich, Nikolai" . Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). 1922.