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The Space of the Book

The Space of the Book: Print Culture in the Russian Social Imagination

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
  • Book Info
    The Space of the Book
    Book Description:

    Skilfully connecting multidisciplinary sources along broad historical continuum,The Space of the Bookwill be a valuable resource as the study of Russian print culture takes on new directions in a digitized world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8644-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-28)

    There are few cultures in which printed texts have played a more pivotal role in promoting social cohesion – or, for that matter, in creating social divisiveness – than those of Imperial and Soviet Russia. Social spaces of all kinds have borne the hallmark of devotion to the printed word, to a degree not always encountered in other cultures. Whether we think of the predilection for books and disputation among Old Believer communities, the family reading groups of the pre-revolutionary nobility, the circles of young students and intellectuals at nineteenth-century universities, or the thirst for reading in overcrowded apartments of the Soviet...

  7. 1 Russian Eighteenth-Century Popular Enlightenment Literature on Commerce
    (pp. 29-53)

    Until a couple of decades ago, Russian merchant culture of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was largely ignored as a field of enquiry, in part due to a lack of agreement as to whether such a culture existed at all.¹ This confusion led cultural historians to write off, for example, the significant genre of merchant portraits as amateurish, and to pay relatively little attention to such historically important writers as Matvei Komarov and Mikhail Chulkov – let alone to consider books written specifically for merchants such as letter-writing manuals, instructions on how to conduct business, and bookkeeping manuals.

    The past twenty...

  8. 2 Dinner at Smirdin’s: Forces in Russian Print Culture in the Early Reign of Nicholas I
    (pp. 54-81)

    Late on a Friday afternoon in St Petersburg, on 19 February 1832, everyone who was anyone in the Russian book trade – writers, translators, editors, artists, academics, and censors – sat down at tables set for eighty in an elegant book-lined room. The occasion was a dinner celebrating the opening of Aleksandr Smirdin’s bookstore and lending library in its fashionable new quarters in the building (now no. 22) next to the Lutheran church on Nevskii Prospekt. Providing the food was Diume’s (Dumé’s) well-known St Petersburg restaurant.¹ Anticipating increased business, the bookseller Smirdin had two months earlier moved his wares from his shop...

  9. 3 The Proliferation of Elite Readerships and Circle Poetics in Pushkin and Baratynskii (1820s–1830s)
    (pp. 82-107)

    As George Gutsche suggests in the preceding essay, the early nineteenth century saw an increasing plurality of reading communities among diversifying social groups. This diversification was the result not only of socio-economic trends and related reader behaviour, but also of writerly practice. As several scholars of the period have noted, poets such as Aleksandr Pushkin and Evgenii Baratynskii (Boratynskii) often used obscure quotations and hints on proper names to fragment their audience. In its simplest form, this practice divides the readership into two categories: the circle of close friends who were able to decode the allusions, and the wider audience,...

  10. 4 The Archaeology of ‘Backwardness’ in Russia: Assessing the Adequacy of Libraries for Rural Audiences in Late Imperial Russia
    (pp. 108-141)

    In the second half of the nineteenth century in Russia, books were justly regarded as a bridge between the school and the outside world. In the first decade following the Great Reforms in the 1860s, which put education reform on the national agenda, S.I. Miropol’skii and others argued that building village schools would be fruitless unless libraries were also founded. Later, in a much-publicized letter of 22 July 1894 addressed to all district assemblies of the local self-governing zemstvo, the St Petersburg Literary Committee argued that ‘the establishment of village libraries is as “capital” an issue today as was the...

  11. 5 The Reading Culture of Russian Workers in the Early Twentieth Century (Evidence from Public Library Records)
    (pp. 142-164)

    The industrial revolution began in Russia in the 1880s, and its progress was remarkably rapid. By the years immediately preceding the First World War, Russia had achieved the highest industrial growth rate in the world, and the number of industrial workers had increased dramatically. However, the composition of the working class was not homogeneous. The majority were first-generation workers, retaining strong links with their home villages – although others came from a line of skilled workers, and these workers were literate. The first full Russian population census in 1897 recorded a literacy rate of about 23 per cent. However, this proportion...

  12. 6 Reading between the (Confessional) Lines: The Intersection of Old Believer Manuscript Books and Images with Print Cultures of Late Imperial Russia
    (pp. 165-200)

    The second half of the nineteenth century in Russia was a period of unprecedented expansion of literacy, a period that Jeffrey Brooks has called the time ‘when Russia learned to read.’¹ Literacy programs aimed at enlightening and indoctrinating peasants and children were proliferating, and commercial publications were rapidly expanding. While most studies concentrate on the mainstream patterns of book printing and consumption, one important segment that is often described as an archetypical ‘book culture’ and whose members are widely recognized as one of the most literate in imperial Russian society is still understudied.² This group is the Russian Old Believers.³...

  13. 7 The Moral Self in Russia’s Literary and Visual Cultures: The Late Imperial Era and Beyond
    (pp. 201-230)

    Russian culture is famously tormented by moral imperatives, ethical choices, and life-shaping dilemmas; by a stereotypical anguish of the quotidian that Woody Allen so aptly parodies inLove and Death(1975). Great Russian writers from Gogol’ onward felt impelled to instruct their readers in how to live, and to illuminate the hard choices of the human condition in a blaze of light and passion. Observers of Russian culture starting with the pre-revolutionary critics attributed the moral and ethical preoccupations of Russian literature to the nobles’ guilt about serfdom, and their anger at their own lack of rights under the autocracy....

  14. 8 Books and Their Readers in Twentieth-Century Russia
    (pp. 231-251)

    For much of the twentieth century, Russians reckoned to have a special relationship with the printed word. The Soviet people, in the well-worn phrase, constituted the ‘most active reading nation in the world’ (samyi chitaiushchii narod v mire). This patriotic cultural myth, intensively propagated by the regime from the mid-1930s onwards, did not always square with empirical observation of Russians’ preferred recreations. It also seemed to rely on research methods that were far from rigorous. The main supporting evidence was the number of people spotted reading books on the metro.¹

    Instead of trying to determine, on the basis of usually...

  15. 9 Adapting Paratextual Theory to the Soviet Context: Publishing Practices and the Readers of Il’f and Petrov’s Ostap Bender Novels
    (pp. 252-280)

    The space of the book is not a neutral one. But neither is it always and necessarily a competitive arena in which the reader and the book vie for primacy, as Roger Chartier seems to indicate here. Perhaps a better metaphor would be a stage, on which the meaning of the text is performed for a more or less receptive audience by an entire ensemble consisting of author, editor, designer, illustrator, copy editor, bindery and typography workers, and, in the Soviet case, various representatives of the ‘commanding’ authority (the Soviet Writers’ Union) or the ‘permitting’ authority (Glavlit, the literary censorship...

  16. 10 Closing and Opening and Closing: Reflections on the Russian Media
    (pp. 281-300)

    My research over the last thirty years has focused on censorship in the imperial Russian, Soviet, and post-Soviet worlds, so it is in that context that I share with you now some thoughts about the present-day Russian media.

    Citizens of imperial Russia lived with a system of openly acknowledged, bureaucratic censorship that I call ‘sovereign censorship.’¹ A large staff of censors, headquartered in the imperial capital of St Petersburg with branch offices throughout the empire and many specialized divisions, reviewed all material, printed or in manuscript, whether produced domestically or abroad. I really do meanallmaterial, including not only...

  17. Appendix: The Internet on the State of Mass Media in Russia
    (pp. 301-304)
  18. Contributors
    (pp. 305-308)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 309-310)