Skip to main content

Internal Responses and Parallel Developments in the Former Russian Empire and East and Central Europe

W5 H8-Astrakhanskii listok_provincial point of view_Nov 15.jpg

"V Petrograd 25 Oktiabria” [To Petrograd on the 25th of October]

W5 H8-Delo naroda_27 Oktober anti-bolshevik.jpg

Cover page, Delo Naroda [People's Cause]

Reporting the Russian Revolution: Selections from Newspapers from the Russian Revolutionary Era, Media Commons

The temporary suspension of press censorship by the Provisional government resulted in a proliferation of socialist and Bolshevik newspapers. The selection of newspapers from the collection Newspapers from the Russian Revolutionary Era, Media Commons (based on the holdings at Columbia University's Herbert Lehman Library), provides a glimpse into reporting on the revolution in the provinces and in Petrograd. As Astrakhanskii listok covered the breakdown of communications with Petrograd and cited the dissolution of the Provisional government, the Petrograd newspaper of the Party of Socialist Revolutionaries (SR), Delo naroda, condemned the “Bolshevist coup,” warning that if Bolsheviks “continue to develop this tactic of terror-and it seems unavoidable-that the country will be drowned in blood.” Almost immediately following the Bolshevik seizure of power, Lenin signed “The Decree on Suppression of Hostile Newspapers,” outlining “temporary and extraordinary measures” to suppress “bourgeois” publications.

Posters and Propaganda

The revolutionary propaganda poster was a new mass media phenomenon created in the aftermath of the October Revolution and mobilized during the Civil War (1918-1922) to encourage and recruit supporters to join the Red Army and to belittle opponents, as well as to promote Bolshevik ideology. “Litizdat” (Literary-Publishing Department) was established in 1919 to centralize publishing activities for military purposes and played a major role in the preparation and distribution of posters, drawings, and pamphlets. Early Soviet posters were varied in style and in methods of artistic expression. Some referred to more traditional imagery, such as iconic associations, folk art and vernacular language, as, for example, in works by Dmitry Moor.

To combat widespread illiteracy, the new Soviet government employed poster art deploying effective graphic language to represent ideas about the importance of mass education while simultaneously spreading Bolshevist ideas. The poster art assumed mobile forms as well. “Agit-trains,” decorated with propaganda imagery and slogans and often carrying propaganda materials and were equipped to show films, became one of the methods of spreading revolutionary ideas and imagery to the peripheral and remote areas of post-revolutionary Russia.

A communist odyssey - Copy.jpg ONLY TITLE PAGE- W8 H11ONB_klw_19171109.pd_Page_01.jpg

“Obalenie rzadu Kerenskiego.” Kurjer Lwowski, 9 November, 1917.

Hungary and Poland

The Hungarian Soviet Republic was established by the communists Béla Kun and József Pogány in Budapest in March 1919. Although his history is understudied, Pogány played a major role in the Hungarian Soviet Republic, serving as its commissar of war, commissar of education, and army commander. The Republic lasted only 133 days, ending with the Romanian occupation of parts of Hungary.

In Polish territories in February 1919, a Soviet-Polish war broke out, an armed conflict between Soviet Russia and Soviet Ukraine against the Second Polish Republic and the short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic. The outcome of the war determined the Soviet–Polish border up until the Second World War. The city of Lviv was fought over in 1918-1919 by both Poland and Ukrainian forces. Scholars suggest that Lviv was one of the most contested cities of the civil war period and exemplifies the “transnational and multiethnic aspect” of the civil wars (Smele 2015, 152).

Internal Responses and Parallel Developments in the Former Russian Empire and East and Central Europe