Russia’s Outlooks on the Present and Future, 1910–1914: What the Press Tells Us

  • Michael Melancon


Russia’s cataclysmic dual 1917 revolutions, her 70-year Communist experience, and the stunning events of the last two decades, taken as a whole, lay the basis for a complete reevaluation of modern Russian history, a virtual intellectual caesura between everything that went before and now. Mikhail Bakhtin once wrote, “the ultimate word … about the world has yet to be spoken, … the world is open and free, everything is still … and will always be in the future.”1 At no point during the saga of twentieth-century Russian development, stasis, and stunning revolutionary turnabouts have scholars provided analysis that bears the test of time. No one has had the last word and new words are badly needed, now that so many traditional interpretations of Russian and Soviet experience have gone awry. A good case in point is the topic chosen for this essay. Historians often view pre-1917 Russian society as hopelessly fragmented, with various social elements at odds both with the government and with one another. In this interpretation, the ultimate failure of the February 1917 revolution to bring about liberal constitutionalism rested squarely upon society’s acute internal contradictions. A corollary was that only radical authoritarianism, such as imposed by the Bolsheviks, offered the prospect of maintaining the state intact in the face of powerful centrifugal forces allegedly unleashed by social strife.2


Labor Union State Council Russian Society Business Newspaper Press Freedom 
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  1. 1.
    Quoted in David Danow, The Thought of Mikhail Bakhtin: From Word to Culture (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991), 21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 50.
    For analysis of the Russian press over a broader time period that supports this study’s interpretation, see Louise McReynolds, The News under Russia’s Old Regime: The Development of a Mass Circulation Press (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991).Google Scholar

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© Susan P. McCaffray and Michael Melancon 2005

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  • Michael Melancon

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