Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The News under Russia's Old Regime

The News under Russia's Old Regime: The Development of a Mass-Circulation Press

Louise McReynolds
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The News under Russia's Old Regime
    Book Description:

    In this lively account of the rise of a commercial newspaper industry in imperial Russia, Louise McReynolds explores how the mass-circulation press created a forum for popular opinion advocating political change. From the Great Reforms of Tsar Alexander II in 1855 to the Bolsheviks' shut-down of the newspapers in 1917, she chronicles the exploits of publishers and editors, writers and readers. Arguing that this prosperous industry both expressed and shaped the development of ideas among new social groups, McReynolds provides insight into the growth in Russia of a fragile pluralism characteristic of modern societies. Her discussion of the relationship between communications and politics, which draws especially on Jurgen Habermas, combines a variety of interrelated ingredients: institutional histories of major newspapers, biographical sketches of journalists, the intellectual impact of the new language of newspaper journalism, the political ramifications of public opinion under the auspices of an autocratic government. Comparing the Russian press with independent commercial newspaper industries in the United States, England, and France, McReynolds examines the extent to which Russia was evolving according to Western political and socioeconomic patterns before the Bolshevik Revolution.

    Originally published in 1991.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6232-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Abbreviations Used in Footnotes and Tables
    (pp. xiii-2)
  2. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    The police in St. Petersburg found themselves in an unusual quandary in 1865. Young men were out in the street hawking newspapers, trying to sell single issues to passersby for a few kopecks. Although it had always been possible to buy single editions in select bookstores and kiosks, publishers customarily distributed their papers through annual subscriptions, delivered by post. One Russian newspaper—appropriately, the commerce-orientedBirzhevye vedomosti (The Stock Market Gazette)—lauded the street sales as both good business and a welcome sign of Europeanization.¹ Petersburg’s police force, however, decided that this unprecedented business of noisily selling papers was disturbing...

  3. 1 The Origins of the Mass-Circulation Press
    (pp. 11-29)

    Surveying the historical sweep of the daily newspaper, Walter Lippmann, one of the most influential figures in communications theory, believed himself to have identified the historical logic that determined the evolution of the modern press.¹ He focused his argument on the relationship between the changes in dominant political structures and the appearance of new types of newspapers that took correspondingly different political roles. He isolated a pattern: at first, under autocracies, governments controlled communications by publishing information that they wanted circulated. As social estates began demanding rights of representation and displacing autocrats, organized political interest groups began to dominate published...

  4. 2 The Transition to Commercial Independence, 1863–1876
    (pp. 30-51)

    Commerce began to replace partisanal politics as the basis for periodical publishing with the appearance of the independent newspaperGolos (The Voice)in 1863. At the onset of the Great Reforms, two forces exercised hegemony over print communications: the government and the intelligentsia. The government could afford to lease its presses and permit private businesses to share the costs of publishing because it had the Chief Administration of Press Affairs to maintain its presence. Initially, therefore, the advent of market forces to mediate communications posed a more competitive challenge to the intelligentsia, whose political effectiveness derived from its domination of...

  5. 3 The Newspaper from the Boulevard, 1864–1876
    (pp. 52-72)

    On 15 March 1864, residents of St. Petersburg welcomed the first specimen of a unique kind of newspaper targeted specifically to city-dwellers. It was nicknamed for the “boulevard” along which papers and readers circulated:Peterburgskii listok (The Petersburg Sheet). The paper’s original masthead depicted the bustle of Nevskii Prospect, the city’s main thoroughfare. The lead editorial promised that “we will speak exclusively about life in Petersburg . . . life that boils like a whirlpool.”¹ For a mere three rubles a year, four with delivery, subscribers could buy into the mainstream of Peter’s great city. The preponderance of local news...

  6. 4 The News Shapes the Medium: WAR AND ASSASSINATION, 1876–1881
    (pp. 73-96)

    Before 1876 newspapers had not yet been put to a test that could effectively measure the strength of their ability to mediate between populace and government. Rising circulations and larger editions showed growing popularity, but how could newspapers involve their readers in the national political discourse? What effect would competition among publishers have on the evolution of the daily newspaper into one public institution where various readerships contested their different opinions? How would the autocracy respond to pressure from this public sphere, and how would the censorship be affected by public outcry to set a political agenda? Atrocities committed by...

  7. 5 The Newspaper in Battle with the “Thick” Journal: COMMERCIALIZATION AND OBJECTIVITY IN THE 1880s
    (pp. 97-122)

    By the 1880s technological advances had improved the quality of many goods and increased their availability. The daily newspaper, which could now be produced faster and more cheaply, figured among the items benefiting from the changes. The result was a “new” journalism that emphasized more than ever the importance of the reader as a consumer, a person with interests to be satisfied and the ability to make choices. People also had more reason to read newspapers. A number of political changes by the second half of the nineteenth century had made it all the more important for governments to assimilate...

  8. 6 The Grounding of a Public Institution in the 1890s
    (pp. 123-144)

    In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, the cumulative effects of the Industrial Revolution were clearly recognizable in a variety of changes in newspaper journalism. Circulations everywhere continued to climb, while publishers took advantage of technological opportunities that allowed them to adapt contents to the differing tastes of their increasingly heterogeneous audiences, as well as to distribute their papers more quickly and more widely. As Russia underwent rapid industrialization in the 1890s, its mass-circulation press registered the social and political repercussions of the transformation. Enlarging the space within which public opinion could maneuver and diversifying the constituents of...

  9. 7 The Newspaper Reporter
    (pp. 145-167)

    The Great Doroshevich, soon to be cruising the streets in the same make of sleek, black automobile that transported Nicholas II around St. Petersburg, relished his position as a star of the first magnitude. Married to two actresses, the first of whom was apparently bisexual and the second of whom replaced him in his declining years with a younger man, Doroshevich shared with Nemirovich-Danchenko an eye for more than just a good story.¹ The flash and dash of his personal style, like that of his reportorial prose and the front pages he produced, announced the successful scaling by the newspaper...

  10. 8 The Journalism of Imperialism: THE RUSSO-JAPANESE WAR
    (pp. 168-197)

    As japanese soldiers stormed the Russian stronghold at Port Arthur in December of 1904, driving toward the Christmas time surrender of tsarist forces that would betray Nicholas II’s folly of fighting a “small victorious war” in the Far East, readers ofRusskoe slovolearned that one of their correspondents was steaming home from Japan with intimate details of life in the Land of the Rising Sun. V. E. Kraevskii had traveled incognito as tourist “Percy Palmer” aboard an American cruise ship in September, braving the dangers of exposure that would have surely marked him a Russian spy. Landing safely in...

  11. 9 Russian Newspapers in Revolution, 1905–1907
    (pp. 198-222)

    In his New Year’s feuilleton of 1905, Doroshevich remarked ironically that “one doesn’t need to be a prophet to predict that 1905 will be an unusual year.”¹ Although the capitulation of Port Arthur had brought 1904 to a dramatic close, it was not the defeat that had inspired Doroshevich’s comment. The war dragged on, and public opposition to the government continued to build. The civil and peasant unrest that had induced Nicholas to press for the “small victorious war” in the first place had been exacerbated rather than calmed. The circulation of news about both the dissension and the war...

  12. 10 The Newspaper Between Revolution and War, 1907–1914
    (pp. 223-252)

    Leopold Haimson raised an issue in 1964 that continues to inform all discussions of the era between the Stolypin coup and the onset of World War I. Evaluating both Soviet and Western interpretations of these critical years, he focused on how the two schools offered different explanations for the role of the Great War in the events of 1917. In the West historians argued that, despite the post-1907 reaction, Russian society was evolving according to Western socioeconomic models. Although social and political conditions were strained in 1914, peaceful evolution would have allowed liberals to realize their goal of a constitutional...

  13. 11 The Newspaper in World War and Revolution, 1914–1917
    (pp. 253-281)

    World War I brought down the House of Romanov, but Russians did not replace the dynasty with the constitutional government anticipated by their mass-circulation press. The war and revolutions of February and October 1917 are intertwined so closely that to view each independently would affect the interpretations of both. The newspapers tightened this connection, as editors consciously orchestrated news from the front to complement their demands for political reforms. Public opinion played an unprecedented role, and prominent leaders of all political persuasions began turning more often to members of the press to present information about the series of crises brought...

  14. Conclusion
    (pp. 282-290)

    To M. N. Pokrovskii, future dean of Marxist historians, fell the honor of officially closingRusskoe slovo,a sign of the paper’s recognized stature.¹ As for a number of the large dailies, pale imitations ofRusskoe slovoreopened under several mnemonic titles only to be closed by the tribunals for spreading “lies.”² Legal correspondent Varshavskii tried to explain the new system, but a less patient feuilletonist forNashe slovo (Our Word)damned the Bolsheviks for behaving as grandparents trying to give birth to the grandchild with the intermediate step of parents.³ After pleading with the new leaders to include other...

  15. Appendix A. Numbers, Circulations, and Street Sales of Newspapers
    (pp. 293-299)
  16. Appendix B. Statistics on Punishment by the Censorship
    (pp. 300-304)
  17. Appendix C. Content Analyses of Major Newspapers
    (pp. 305-310)