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Fighting Words

Fighting Words: Imperial Censorship and the Russian Press, 1804-1906

Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 330
  • Book Info
    Fighting Words
    Book Description:

    First published in 1982,Fighting Wordsfocuses on the most common form of censorship in Imperial Russia: the governmental system that screened written works before or after publication to determine their acceptability.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-9786-7
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction to the 2009 edition
    (pp. ix-2)

    My research since the first issue ofFighting Wordshas added to its scope but not altered its arguments. This introduction to the workʹs reprinting in 2009 makes the present volume a supplemented edition and allows adding some of my findings over the last twenty-seven years.

    One is the evolving usage in tsarist days – by officials and strictly in the sense of the governmentʹs wider dissemination of published ideas and information – of the Russian wordglasnostʹwith credit going to an Imperial censorship official, Fedor I. Tiutchev, for its first known, to date, documented application to censorship reform...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-6)

    ʹFighting Words,ʹ the title of this study of approximately a century of censorship under the Russian emperors, serves to convey two meanings. The first is that of censorship, or the ongoing fight against objectionable words waged by the government through particular policies, statutes, and agencies. In its other meaning, my title refers to the words published legally by members of the press which served to fight the limits on printed expression. Under this rubric, ʹfighting wordsʹ are those of the writers, editors, and publishers who comprised the unofficial (as opposed to the official, or governmental) press who were bent on...

  6. 1 The European pattern and the beginnings of Russian censorship
    (pp. 7-23)

    Private presses came late to Imperial Russia and press controls came with them. Then, following the European pattern, Russia gradually freed the press from government tutelage – a process that spanned one hundred years and ended only in the early twentieth century.

    Censorship – in its strictest definition, the formal pre-publication prohibition by a government of words it finds unacceptable – was only one among such other controls as licensing, official warnings, fines, committees of persuasion, prosecutions, and directives. The Russian autocracy was to use these means and others to keep published ideas within acceptable limits, and all fall within...

  7. 2 The early administrative system and the rise of mysticism, 1801–17
    (pp. 24-37)

    Having given tacit approval to the plot against the Emperor Paul i, Alexander succeeded his father on 12 March 1801, under a mandate to correct the conditions that had provoked the conspiracy. In particular, Alexander knew that he had to remove the draconian measures which had alienated the gentry, and the new emperor therefore made immediate changes in the use of censorship. But, because he did not know the further intentions of the plotters, he kept full control over publishing by restoring the 1796 regulations of Catherine ii.

    What was shortly to emerge between government and writers, however, was a...

  8. 3 Golitsynʹs fall and the decline of mysticism, 1817–25
    (pp. 38-51)

    During the last years of the reign of Alexander i, Golitsynʹs use of the press as chief censor caused the church to fight back and to change censorship radically. In its campaign to regain control over all printed commentary on sacred matters, the church tried to portray published books as a threat to the very foundations of the Russian state. Allied to churchmen were officials already strongly opposed to the lax generosity made possible to writers by the Statute of 1804.

    Alexanderʹs close, liberal advisors had designed and implemented that statute to spread enlightenment, but the emperorʹs new subordinates after...

  9. 4 Nicholas iʹs censorship innovations, 1825–32
    (pp. 52-66)

    A Russianizer and fervent nationalist, a man who could not stomach the acidic Gallican spirit of the eighteenth century – this was the first chief censor under Nicholas i. He was Admiral A.S. Shishkov, the minister of public education inherited from Alexander i. A long-time critic of linguistic borrowings by modern writers and of foreignisms of any kind, Shishkov was finally to realize his dream of dictating both style and content to Russian authors through his all-encompassing Statute of 1826.

    But the excesses of Shishkov dismayed those under Nicholas who easily perceived the influence of writers in Russia. The emperor,...

  10. 5 Censorship and the new journalism, 1832–48
    (pp. 67-82)

    Certain that he should prescribe what Russians could read, Nicholas i dominated the printed word through his censors, his secret police, and, after 1832, his personal involvement in press matters. Besides setting such limits as tone and the number of periodicals and permissible topics, he directed his Ministry of Public Education to instill ʹofficial nationalityʹ nationwide and had agents hired to build favourable opinion about Russia in western Europe. Although he could not realize the dream of every autocrat – spontaneous praise from most writers – Nicholas did keep the press at home manageable. Readerships remained small by European standards,...

  11. 6 A system under siege, 1848–55
    (pp. 83-96)

    After the European revolutions of 1848, Nicholas i lost faith in the persuasive powers of official nationality as a component in his censorship system. He reacted fearfully and defensively against the press, ordering censors to forbid anything conceivably dangerous to the realm and subjecting a maturing press to petty whims and capricious standards. Ignoring counsels of moderation, the emperor undercut Minister of Public Education Uvarov and forced him from office; he then appointed as chief censor a man whose ideas he had found too extreme twenty-five years earlier.

    Many writers and censors saw the clumsy ʹterrorʹ unleashed by Nicholas as...

  12. 7 Confused steps towards reform, 1855–61
    (pp. 97-117)

    Abruptly thrust into power in February 1855, and burdened with the Crimean campaign and peace talks a year later, Alexander ii gave only incidental attention to censorship during the first two years of his reign. He focused next on freeing the serfs and invited his landowners to take the initiative. Their reluctance, along with the enormous implications of emancipation, led the emperor in January 1858 to permit the press to discuss the peasant question and, in turn, reform issues generally. He directed his minister of public education to prepare a new censorship statute incorporating this change. Broad dissatisfaction with existing...

  13. 8 The dilemmas of liberal censorship, 1862–63
    (pp. 118-136)

    By naming a protégé of the Grand Duke Constantine to succeed Putiatin, Alexander ii suggested a liberal course for censorship policy – an impression his new minister of public education, A.V. Golovnin, worked hard to reinforce. No minister so personally cultivated the press or so earnestly solicited its opinions; but, because circumstances dictated that Golovnin also hold firm against press offenses, a dualistic policy resulted. To complicate further the plans of Golovnin, P.A. Valuev, the minister of the interior, aggressively vied for control of censorship in 1862.

    Despite his conviction that historical progress dictated the pressʹs becoming a liberal institution...

  14. 9 The reform of 6 April 1865
    (pp. 137-149)

    Views on what role the legal unofficial press should play under an absolutist government came forward often as the Obolensky commission completed its second draft of proposals for a new censorship statute in 1863. Some imperial officials saw forthright journalists as informants about the public mood; others linked ʹfreedom of expressionʹ with the success of such ʹfree institutionsʹ as the impending new courts. Opinions like these implied a willingness to yield new latitude to journalists and writers, and reflected a mood of confidence and sense of a ʹcoming of ageʹ that buoyed the government in 1863 and 1864 and tended...

  15. 10 The first year of the reformed system, 1865–66
    (pp. 150-166)

    In administering the Statute of 1865, Minister of the Interior Valuev sought to counteract the encouragement given to writers and publishers by their newly-extended and untested ʹlegalʹ rights. One drawback of his having to rely largely on post-publication measures, however, was that outspoken journalists thrived on testing limits in full view of the public; another was that the government had far less latitude in warning or suspending a journal for its ʹdangerous orientationʹ when its contents were widely known.

    Court cases heightened the governmentʹs accountability and vulnerability, for the accused journalist enjoyed an open court in which to defend himself,...

  16. 11 Control of press freedom: warnings, court cases, and libel laws, 1867–69
    (pp. 167-180)

    Without question, the post-1865 system of press controls greatly eased the burden of censorship for most writers and publishers. Even the displaced staffs ofContemporaryandRussian Wordwere to reach an accommodation with the censorship administration within a year of the closures of those journals and were to resume publishing activities. However reluctantly, the imperial government was granting the press more agreed-upon rights, defined by laws elaborated and enforced by the new Russian courts. Press ʹrightsʹ in themselves, however, primarily mattered to journalists and members of the legal profession; the censorship administration under the Ministry of the Interior continued...

  17. 12 Censorship, repression, and the emergence of a ʹEuropeanʹ press, 1869–89
    (pp. 181-206)

    During the forty years the Statute of 1865 remained in force, the government repeatedly adjusted its policies on publishing, the better to control the uncensored press; for the press had readily seized opportunities opened to it under the 1865 regulations. From 1869 to 1890, the main developments in the censorship system rested on the consensus among officials that (1) the government could not reimpose preliminary censorship on works exempted by the Statute, and (2) the ʹtransitionalʹ administrative powers in matters of publishing had to continue.

    Although the administrative measures introduced during the two decades under discussion suggest a repressive hand...

  18. 13 The last years of the administrative system, 1889–1906
    (pp. 207-226)

    Succeeding to the throne upon his fatherʹs death, Nicholas ii (1894-1917) was to face a private publishing industry far larger and more influential than any of his predecessors had known. Its members, confident that they provided an essential service and buoyed by their commercial success in the overall industrial growth of the eighties and nineties, felt increasingly venturesome and proved more willing to organize for mutual assistance in many matters, including resistance to the censorship authority.

    Censorship continued but with diminishing impact, as the government grudgingly and then resignedly withdrew its administrative controls over the unofficial press. During the last...

  19. 14 Autocracy and the press: the historic conflict
    (pp. 227-234)

    This history of government censorship and the press in Imperial Russia bears out the statements by Nabokov and Solzhenitsyn (cited in the first chapter) that the autocracy granted extensive publishing freedom, governed by law, and did so to a degree far greater than westerners realize. The government had gone a long way towards western practices in dealing with an institution – the press – that had developed by copying western precedents. But this study also shows that the government fell far short in implementing the principles of the reform of 1865 and thereby itself contributed to the growth of opposition...

  20. APPENDIX 1 Regulations on the press: The reign of the sovereign Alexander II, April 1865
    (pp. 237-252)
  21. APPENDIX 2 Tables
    (pp. 253-258)
  22. Notes
    (pp. 259-310)
  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-314)
  24. Index
    (pp. 315-327)