Pravda (the name means "truth" in Russian) was first issued on May 5, 1912, in St. Petersburg by the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Party. Its aim was to publicize labor activism and expose working conditions in Russian factories. The editors published many letters and articles from ordinary workers, their primary target audience at the time.
Pravda was a legal daily newspaper subject to postpublication censorship by the tsarist authorities. These authorities had the power to fine the paper, withdraw its publication license, confiscate a specific issue, or jail the editor. They closed the
paper eight times in the first two years of its existence, and each time the Bolsheviks reopened it under another name ("Worker's Truth," etc.). In spite of police harassment the newspaper maintained an average circulation of about forty thousand in the period 1912 to 1914, probably a higher number than other socialist papers (but small compared to the commercial "penny newspapers"). About one-half of Pravda 's circulation was distributed in St. Petersburg. After the authorities closed the paper on July 21, 1914, it did not appear again until after the February Revolution of 1917.
Pravda reopened on March 5, 1917, and published continuously until closed down by Russian Republic president Boris Yeltsin on August 22,1991. From December 1917 until the summer of 1928 the newspaper was run by editor in chief Nikolai Bukarin and Maria Ilichna Ulyanova, Lenin's sister. When Bukharin broke with Josef Stalin over collectivization, Stalin used the Pravda party organization to undermine his authority. Bukharin and his supporters, including Ulyanova, were formally removed from the editorial staff in 1929. By 1933 the newspaper, now headed by Lev Mekhlis, was Stalin's mouthpiece.
Throughout the Soviet era access to Pravda was a necessity for party members. The paper's primary role was not to entertain, inform, or instruct the Soviet population as a whole, but to deliver Central Committee instructions and messages to Soviet communist cadres, foreign governments, and foreign communist parties. Thus, as party membership shifted, so did Pravda 's presentation. In response to the influx of young working-class men into the Party in the 1920s, for example, editors simplified the paper's language and resorted to the sort of journalism that they believed would appeal to this audience—militant slogans, tales of heroic feats of production, and denunciation of class enemies.
Pravda also produced reports on popular moods. This practice began in the early 1920s as Bukharin and Ulianova played a leading role in organizing the worker and peasant correspondents' movement in the Soviet republics. Workers and peasants (many of them Party activists) wrote into the newspaper with reports on daily life, often shaped by the editors' instructions. Newspapers, including Pravda, received and processed millions of such letters throughout Soviet history. Editors published a few of these, forwarded some to prosecutorial organs, and used others to produce the summaries of popular moods, which were sent to Party leaders.
After the collapse of the USSR nationalist and communist journalists intermittently published a print newspaper and an online newspaper under the name Pravda. However, the new publications were not official organs of the revived Communist Party.
See also: journalism; newspapers
Lenoe, Matthew. (1998). "Agitation, Propaganda, and the 'Stalinization' of the Soviet Press, 1922–1930." Pittsburgh, PA: Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, no. 1305.
Roxburgh, Angus (1987). Pravda: Inside the Soviet News Machine. New York: George Brazillier.
Matthew E. Lenoe