Thin Journals

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Whereas "thick" journals circulated among the intelligentsia and established a critical forum for political discussion among Russia's elites, "thin" journals were marketed toward those developing a civic consciousness and awareness of the outside world in postGreat Reform society. Combining the journalistic tradition of specialized, entertaining journals such as the humorous Oskolki (Splinters ) or Teatr i zhizn' (The Theater and Life ) for theatergoers with informative and educational features, thin journals helped to give the reading public a broad worldview.

The most successful of these journals was A.F. Marx's Niva (The Cornfield ), founded in 1870. Though Marx was aiming for a family audience, he quickly tapped into the expanding provincial audience, especially schoolteachers and those whom they educated, Russia's burgeoning middle classes. Offering Russia's literary classics as supplements, Niva enjoyed a circulation of 200,000 by the turn of the twentieth century. Readers who could not afford even its modest price could still find this and other thin journals in their village libraries.

Eventually, Niva faced competition from other journals that adapted its formula of combining didactic and entertaining features. A. A. Kaspari's Rodina (The Motherland ), for example, founded in 1879, appealed specifically to members of the lower classes who desired self-improvement. Two preeminent newspaper publishers also entered the thin journal market, S. M. Propper and I. D. Sytin, both of whom lowered prices and increased the news component. Propper's Ogonek (The Flame ), founded in 1908, ultimately became the most widely circulated of these journals, reaching 700,000 subscribers by 1914. Sytin purchased Vokrug sveta (Around the World ) in 1891, and though circulation never topped 50,000, the journal offered a vision of life beyond Russia's borders. Both of these journals continued publication into the Soviet era, with modified editorial content.

Thin journals stimulated the voracious Russian reading appetite, which the subsequent Soviet government fed with its own variety of thin journals, from the satirical Krokodil (The Crocodile ) to the informational Za Rubezhem (Abroad ). Despite censorship, the tradition of thin journals helped many Russians develop interest and glean information about the world.

See also: glasnost; intelligentsia; journalism; new economic policy; perestroika; thick journals


Brooks, Jeffrey. (1985). When Russia Learned to Read: Literacy and Popular Literature, 18611917. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Lovell, Stephen. (2000). The Russian Reading Revolution: Print Culture in the Soviet and Post-Soviet Eras. London: Macmillan.

Louise McReynolds