With the events of the first socialist uprising in 1905, the Imperial Russian government changed into a constitutional monarchy, bringing about changes throughout all aspects of life. One such change was the lack of censorship present in the 19th Century, this gave the growing amount of revolutionaries a chance to spread their political messages.
The ‘satiricals’ as they were called, were usually small pamphlets or magazines made by various Socialist, Anarchist, and mostly notably Bundist groups and sold across the country for several Kopeks. The magazines ranged from political humor to news and discussions, although the latter was written almost exclusively by Jewish Socialist groups. As you will see in the gallery, artists were sometimes hired to provide images to accompany the periodicals, the images were often made to convey a political statement, the use of skeletons, demons and the color red was prominent. Although the exact number of magazines published isn’t known, it is said close to 300 were in existence, with most satiricals being put out of publication by the third or fourth issue.
Thanks to the efforts of the libraries of Yale and USC, we are able to take a look beyond the ominous artworks of the front cover and read the content of the periodicals themselves. Above is the first issue of the Hellish Post (Адская Почта), which was published in May of 1906. Like several others of it’s kind, the Hellish Post contains work done by poets and artists rather than provide political insight. One of the poems within, written by Ivan Alekseevich Bunin (Иван алексеевич бунин), is called “to the wise” and describes the traits of a hero and a coward. Translated, it would read as something like this:
“The hero is a whirlwind, tearing down tents.
The hero drives away his mindless enemies
But he himself has died, set aflame in an unequal fight.
Like a brilliant meteor.
But the coward lives, he too cherishes revenge.
He sharpens a dart, in secrecy.
Oh yes, he is wise! But his heart decays.
Like a flame under manure.”
Although small-time periodicals like the Hellish Post were focused on the artistic revolutionary rather the political one, larger publications such as The Common Cause (Общее дело) and Dawn (Заря) were focused on more serious topics and usually existed longer than the satiricals.
See and read more on the Russian satiricals at these links: