History of the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office

The establishment of the Russian military prosecution authorities dates back to the early XVIII century. It is connected with the reforms setting up the permanent Army implemented by the Russian Tsar Peter I (Peter the Great).

On January 12, 1722, Peter I in his Decree appointed “a Prosecutor General and a Chief Prosecutor in the Senate and public prosecutors in each college who shall report to the Prosecutor General”. According to his plan, prosecutorial supervision was represented as an institute on control over the activities of the State machinery.

Since then, the Russian Prosecution Service has started its operation. That time, the mission of the public prosecutors was expressed in just one concise line contained in the Decree: “And since then this position shall be like our eye and attorney in the state affairs. Therefore, one should act properly for he should be first to ask”. Further decrees appointed public prosecutors in the provinces, outer courts and a public prosecutor to the Holy Synod.

The establishment of the institute of prosecutorial ranks in the Army and Fleet took place at the same time. It was in the epoch of Peter the Great that positions of regimental auditor-lawyers combining the powers of investigators, public prosecutors and judges, were introduced in all infantry and cavalry regiments and in fleet dislocation places.

During the following 150 years, the prosecution authorities were under various reforms carried out in Russia: either abolished or established anew.

In particular, in 1864, the judicial reform performed in Russia finally defined the fundamental principles of functioning of the prosecution authorities. In 1867, during the military and legal reform, new principles of military judicial system and judicial proceedings ensuring “ an expedient, fair and merciful court equal to any person” were introduced in Russia. To that end, permanent military tribunals were set up in accordance with the changed structure of the Army.

The Military Prosecutor’s Office was also formed as an organization, its so-called “vertical”. The main law establishing the first military prosecutorial supervision in the Russian Army and the post of the Chief Military Prosecutor was the Military Judicial Statute of 1867. According to the Statute, pre-trial investigation in the Army was conducted by military investigators with the assistance of military officials and police and under supervision on behalf of military prosecutors.

On September 1, 1867, Emperor Alexander II appointed Privy Counselor, Auditor General Vladimir Dmitriyevich Filosofov as the first Chief Military Prosecutor.

Since then, the history of the Military Prosecution Service has started. Next year it will mark its 140th Anniversary. The system of the military prosecution authorities formed in the second half of the XIX century was further improved. Certain clarifications were introduced in the system and it steadily operated in the Russian Army till 1917. However, when the autocracy fell, the institute of the Military Prosecution Service was abolished.

One of the firsts Soviet legislative acts – Decree On the Court (1917) abolished “the existing institutes of court investigators, prosecutorial supervision”. That same Decree set up new courts – Soviet courts. In December 1921, it was decided to establish the State Prosecution Service within the People’s Commissariat of Justice. In November 1922, after the introduction of the judicial reform, in order to supervise over compliance of laws and in the interests of proper fight against crime, the State Military Prosecutor’s Office was set up. That time, the first 8 military district prosecutor’s offices were formed.

The Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) became a serious ordeal for our country. Since the early days, the structure of the military prosecution authorities was brought to conformity with requirements of the front-line forces. Officers of the Military Prosecutor’s Offices operated in the combat situations and, if necessary, fought with the arms against the enemy.

During the war, military prosecutors and investigators acted as true patriots, high quality professionals and brave officers. 278 officers from the Military Prosecutor’s Offices lost their lives on battlefields, more than 1800 soldiers and investigators were awarded with orders and medals for courage and heroism, and 11 officers were granted the honor title of the “Hero of Soviet Union”.

Naturally, General Colonel of Justice Artem Grigoryevich Gorny heading the Chief Military Prosecutor’s Office in 1957 and managing it for 29 years (1957-1986), was one of those people, who made the significant contribution to the development of the military prosecution authorities during the post-war period.

In early 90-ies, after the collapse of the USSR, the military prosecution authorities, as well as the whole country, suffered uneasy times: difficulties in economy deteriorated financing, military conflicts in various regions, snowballing rise in crime, numerous reorganizations caused outflow of public prosecutors and investigators, significantly complicating the securing of the legality, law and order in the Army.

Adoption of the Constitution of the Russian Federation (1993) became the turning point. Article 129 of the Constitution introduced a definition of the Prosecution Service of the Russian Federation as a unified centralized system subordinating junior public prosecutors to senior public prosecutors and to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation.

In 1995, the adoption of the new edition of the Federal Law on the Prosecution Service of the Russian Federation finalized the forming of the prosecution authorities of the Russian Federation. A separate chapter of the Federal Law On the Prosecution Service of the Russian Federation envisaged legal status of the military prosecution authorities as an independent organization unit within the Prosecution Service of Russia headed by the Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation – Chief Military Prosecutor, organization structure of the military prosecution authorities and terms of its officials.