Through case studies of five prominent journalists, editors, and publishers, this article explores journalism at late imperial Russia’s kopeck newspapers. Exploring the lives and careers of journalists from wide-ranging backgrounds who shared a view of their work as both a business and a form of service to poor Russians, this article argues that kopeck journalists thought their profession combined entrepreneurship and upward mobility with activism and civic responsibility. The life stories and views of kopeck journalists reveal that civil society was not limited to small groups of educated middle-class Russians but rather included a wide range of actors and initiatives. Viewing these figures as members of late imperial Russian civil society also demonstrates that civil society activity could coexist with business concerns and operate within Russia’s emerging free market, despite the critiques of contemporary observers who saw commercial and social goals as inherently contradictory.
This article analyzes gender non-conformity in late imperial Russia through a selection of newspaper articles on the lives of gender non-conforming individuals. It examines the potential motives for gender non-conformity and argues for including gender dysphoria as a reason why Russians chose to perform a gender that did not correspond to their assigned sex. The article explores these individuals’ lives as well as their interaction with authority figures, the justice system, and Russian journalists and newspaper readers, to assess how late imperial Russians experienced and reacted to instances of public gender non-conformity. Finally, the article argues that gender non-conformity was a matter of great interest for the late imperial public but was treated leniently by figures in positions of power, from journalists who chose not to expose gender non-conforming Russian to judges who chose not to punish them for their defiance of gendered norms.