In the course of the nineteenth century, Russia’s press culture underwent a dramatic cultural, technological, and political transformation. However, the question of professionalization of the press during the same period remains relatively underexplored. This article examines the extent and the limitations of editorial professionalization in nineteenth-century Russia by focusing on an emergent generation of private newspaper editors such as M.N. Katkov, A.A. Kraevskii, I.S. Aksakov, and A.S. Suvorin during the 1860s and 1870s. The article explores the emergence of a private opinion press during the 1860s with substantial autonomy in the commercial management of their newspapers, but a censorship-restricted autonomy in the management of their content. It then examines the elements of an emerging professional ethos and solidarity in the editorial profession. Drawing on a wealth of correspondence, editorials, and diaries, this work reveals the delicate world of personal relationships which allowed editors to balance both the strictures of political censorship and the account books of their commercial enterprises. This paper argues that a limited professional autonomy and considerable competition among influential editors – i.e press lords – constrained the professionalization of the journalism in pre-Revolutionary Russia.
This forum examines the professionalization of journalism in Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union using recent revisionist approaches in press history. Four essays, ranging chronologically from the 1820s through the 1960s, use case studies of both commercial and state-owned periodicals to explore the rise of the press as a source of information and opinion in Russia. Yelizaveta Raykhlina’s article examines the institutions and networks, both formal and informal, that promoted the earliest professional and commercial periodicals in the first third of the nineteenth century. Ala Graff’s article analyzes the professionalization of the press during the 1860s–1880s, exploring how newspaper editors navigated the space between limited editorial autonomy and the growing technical complexity of the newspaper publishing business. Felix Cowan’s article examines the professionalization of the penny press in late Imperial Russia, focusing on how editors and journalists viewed their work as a vehicle for social mobility as well as a public service for the poor and marginalized. Ekaterina Kamenskaya’s article analyzes the newspaper Sel’skaia zhizn’ (Rural Life) and the role of its foreign correspondent network in both carving out space for professional autonomy as well as in bringing a unique narrative of the world to a rural Soviet audience in the 1960s.