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Genesis: Historical research

Commercial and industrial world of Moscow and periodical press of the pre-revolutionary Russia

Nadekhina Yuliya Petrovna

ORCID: 0000-0002-3059-2620

PhD in History

Docent, the department of Sociology, Psychology of Management and History, State University of Management

109542, Moscow, Ryazansky prospect, 99, 4

Geokchakyan Artem Gevorgovich

ORCID: 0000-0002-3666-367X

Assistant, the department of Project Management, State University of Management

109542, Moscow, Ryazansky prospect, 99, 4




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Abstract: After St. Petersburg was proclaimed the capital of the Russian Empire, Moscow retained status of the first capital, which gave the city some substantial advantages. On the one hand, this is remoteness of the city from the central government, while on the hand – a well-developed infrastructure of the capital city. These peculiarities strongly affected the development of the Moscow periodical press. The author notes a considerable role of Moscow as one of the leading commercial and industrial centers of the Russian Empire. The goal of this article lies in the analysis of the areas of common interests of the Russian pre-revolutionary journalism and Moscow entrepreneurship. For achieving the set goal, the author analyzes the periodical press, memoirs of the contemporaries, and certain other sources. The conclusion is made that the close interaction between the Russian periodical press and Moscow entrepreneurship begins at the time of development capitalist relations in Russia. The three directions of such cooperation are observed by the early XX century: the press as a branch of entrepreneurship; periodical press as the sociopolitical platform for the representatives of commercial and industrial world of Moscow; and Russian entrepreneurs as the object of publications. Overall, the interaction of the press and Moscow entrepreneurship contributes to the formation of a unique image of pre-revolutionary Moscow.

Keywords: journalism, commercial and industrial world, Moscow publishers, periodicals, domestic entrepreneurship, historical sources, press, Moscow Telegraph, newspapers, publishing
This article is automatically translated. You can find full text of article in Russian here.


In this article, the terms entrepreneurship and the commercial and industrial world will be used as synonyms, although from the point of view of the history of Russian entrepreneurship, this is certainly not entirely correct.

In Russian, the word "entrepreneur" means to be enterprising, i.e. a practical person who knows how to make a decision in time, start a new business

"Entrepreneurship" refers to human activity related to production, trade, services, which involves certain risks and at the same time is aimed at making a profit.

"Commercial and industrial world" is a narrower concept, causing an association with the concept of "merchant class", but referring to the history of Moscow before the revolution of 1917, it is appropriate to use this term, which is due to a number of factors. Firstly, the commercial, industrial and merchant traditions of Moscow are very old. Since ancient times, the city has been a major hub of industry and trade in pre-revolutionary Russia. By occupation, Moscow merchants were merchants and engaged in light industry (weaving, dyeing fabrics, making shawls, hats and shoes, etc.). Since the XIX century, heavy industry has also been developing. Since the middle of the XIX century, the first credit and financial institutions began to appear. Secondly, it was representatives of the commercial and industrial world, especially representatives of the Old Believer merchant dynasties, who largely determined the appearance of the capital of the Mother See. Thirdly, this term is used in the memoirs of contemporaries of Moscow of the XIX – early XX centuries [3].

The origins of the formation of the commercial and industrial estate in Russia, as well as the domestic periodical press, go back to the second half of the XVII century. For a century we have been observing how the social stratum of entrepreneurs is being formed in the country, and almost simultaneously the process of the birth of the domestic periodical press is taking place. Note that at this stage, these processes occurred independently of each other.

Having passed the way from the first handwritten newspaper "Chimes" through Peter's "Vedomosti" (published in the country since 1703), by the end of the XVIII century in Russia there was a sufficiently flexible press system in order to meet the needs of a few readers. Official and private publications appeared, newspapers and magazines specialized, and the foundations for the formation of censorship legislation were laid. Over the past time, domestic journalism has acquired special features peculiar only to it. The most distinctive of them was the close connection of the periodical press with literature. 

In the second half of the XVIII century, Catherine II continued the transformative policy, the impetus of which was set by Peter's reforms. The changes have affected all spheres of social and political life, in particular, special innovations have come to the Russian economy. For the first time in Russian history, a public organization dealing with issues of agriculture and economic development from a scientific point of view was created – the Free Economic Society. In 1769, due to the increase in trade turnover, paper banknotes were introduced. The number of manufactories has doubled, and large industrial areas have emerged. From former artisans and peasants came the founders of large dynasties of domestic entrepreneurs: Demidovs, Morozovs, Grachevs, and many others. In many ways, thanks to their business acumen, Russian industry developed. Thus, by the end of the XVIII century, the Demidov brothers had built about 50 factories in the Urals and Altai, which formed the basis of the country's heavy industry.

The result of the transformative policy of Catherine the Great were Charters granted to the nobility and cities, granted to subjects in 1785. According to the apt expression of V.O. Klyuchevsky, after the nobility, the commercial and industrial estate "loosened up". "Both classes," the historian wrote, "made up an insignificant part of the entire population, but now they have become in an exceptional position" [5, p.423]. In the future, this will lead to the fact that the commercial and industrial estate will gradually turn into an influential socio-political force, its role will be especially noticeable in Moscow.


The main part

Petersburg, the capital of Russia, was primarily a noble and official city. The merchants there were not as socially active as in Moscow. The Mother See set a different example, the whole life in Moscow was somewhat freer. It is not surprising that over time, representatives of the commercial and industrial world gain significant influence in the public life of the ancient capital. Yu.A. Petrov, a well-known researcher of Russian entrepreneurship, writes about this in his article: "Since the end of the XIX century, the Moscow bourgeoisie has been increasingly claiming the role of "city fathers" instead of the nobility. It was the entrepreneurial strata that defined the face of the Mother See capital as an All-Russian commercial and industrial center, and to a large extent thanks to their efforts, a huge metropolis with more than a million people was being improved and grew" [10, p.3].

Of course, the basis of these processes was laid at the beginning of the XIX century. It was during this period that Nikolai Alekseevich Polevoy, a native of the Siberian merchant class, appeared among Moscow entrepreneurs, who gained his fame through journalistic activities.

Apparently, there was a craving for knowledge in the family of N.A. Polevoy, because the childhood of the future famous publisher was surrounded by books and magazines. At the end of the first quarter of the XIX century . Polevoy came to Moscow on behalf of his father to purchase a factory for the production of alcoholic beverages, which in 1822, after the death of his parent, he inherits. During the same period, the formation of N.A. Polevoy as a talented journalist and writer took place. Business at the plant does not distract him from scientific and literary pursuits. Nikolai Alekseevich reads a lot, studies foreign languages, makes acquaintances with Moscow writers and scientists, joins the Free Society of Lovers of Russian Literature. Since January 1825, Polevoy has been publishing the Moscow Telegraph magazine, which has become a kind of political mouthpiece for the journalist. N.A. Polevoy was a genuine defender of the rights of Russian entrepreneurship. In the early years, the publication was no different from the literary magazines familiar to Russian society, but over time, the publisher begins to pay considerable attention to economic issues. The articles of the magazine draw a line emphasizing the advantages of the development of industrial production for the well-being of the country.

The position of the Moscow Telegraph on public education deserves special attention. A modern researcher of journalistic creativity N.A. Polevoy notes that his journalism defended the interests of the commercial and industrial estate of Russia, advocated advertising the successes of developing industries, advocated for its improvement, promoted the need for: "merchant education as a means to improve their activities and secure a worthy place in society, as "one of the main reasons state welfare and national wealth" [6]. This position of the publisher was reflected, first of all, "in the articles, notes and feuilletons published by Polev in the Moscow Telegraph (more than 200), in speeches read in the Society of Lovers of Commercial Knowledge at the Moscow Practical Commercial Academy" [6].

It is worth noting here that it was during this period that commercial education was actively developing in Russia. In 1772, the first commercial school was established in Moscow, which gave a significant impetus to the formation and development of education in the commercial and industrial sphere. Since the foundation of the first commercial school, such educational institutions have been created and maintained at the expense of entrepreneurs. Various merchant societies provided the material and technical base of commercial schools, and also provided scholarships to students from insolvent families.

In 1804, in Moscow, entrepreneur K. I. Arnold created another commercial school, which in 1806 was transformed into the Moscow Practical Commercial Academy. It has become one of the most outstanding educational institutions in the country in its field. Within the walls of the Academy in 1828, the publisher of the Moscow Telegraph, N.A. Polevoy, delivered his famous speech "On Immaterial Capital" at a solemn meeting of the Academy. According to the publisher, it is impossible to achieve prosperity of the state without the dissemination of enlightenment, namely, education constitutes "immaterial capital" [6].

N.A. Polevoy's active publishing and journalistic activity took place during the period of the so-called "Nikolaev reaction". The more surprising seem the bold views of the publisher of the Moscow Telegraph, expressing opposition to the official authorities. This opposition has not been ignored by the authorities. The magazine was closed in 1834 for publishing a negative review of the playwright N.V. Kukolnik's play "The Hand of the Almighty saved the Fatherland". It should be noted that the review was only a reason for the closure of the journal, and the real reason was the political position of N.A. Polevoy. He sought equality of rights for nobles and merchants, considered the monument to Minin and Pozharsky, erected in 1818 in Moscow, a symbol of the state structure of Russia.

During the period when the Moscow Telegraph was published, there was a differentiation of writers into "aristocrats" and "merchants" [1, p.88]. This division does not occur according to the class principle, but according to the varying degree of interaction between literature and society. "Literary merchants" – this epithet flashes in the letters of Pushkin, Vyazemsky, Delvig…Even such writers as I.V. Kireevsky and S.P. Shevyrev, who, loudly talking about the benefits of enlightenment, cannot but recognize the positive significance of large-circulation novels as distributors, at least, of the love of reading in a low-cultural environment" [1, p.88]. This is a very important trend that is spreading everywhere in Russian society by the end of the XIX century. Historians of journalism and literature, as well as writers and publicists who are contemporaries of the formation of the "commercialization" of literature and the press have repeatedly written about this [4, p.74].

It can be argued that the traditions of interaction between entrepreneurship and journalism were laid by Nikolai Alekseevich Polev. In the future, not all Moscow entrepreneurs who linked their fate with publishing and journalism held oppositional views. Not every representative of the commercial and industrial world of Moscow, who took up journalism, had the same writing gift as N.A. Polevoy. Many of the journalists who worked after the Field belonged to the "literary merchants", but all the same, together they pushed forward the publishing and magazine-newspaper business of the country, gradually introduced the broad strata of our population to reading.

In the conditions of the development of capitalism in post-reform Russia, in the process of intensive industrial development and rapid technological progress, Moscow is becoming one of the main centers aggregating new conditions. In parallel, we observe the development of domestic journalism, the formation of publishing as a new branch of entrepreneurship. Thus, in Moscow, as nowhere else in the Russian city, the commercial and industrial world and the periodical press collided and developed in parallel. It is not surprising that over time, when the publication of newspapers and magazines turned into a profitable industry at the end of the XIX century, many entrepreneurs will be attracted to this industry.

There are several aspects of interaction between the Moscow commercial and industrial world and domestic pre-revolutionary journalism. First of all, for many representatives of the world of commerce, journalism has become another area of entrepreneurship. At a certain stage, due to the rapid pace of technical development of publishing, periodical printing becomes a very profitable and profitable business [7]. It was during this period that business publishers I.D. Sytin, A.A. Levenson, A.Ya. Lipskerov, N.I. Pastukhov and others appeared in Moscow, owning printing houses, bookstores and periodicals, themselves often acting as editors and journalists. Of course, they not only sought profit, but also introduced the general population to the need to read books and periodicals.

Here it is worth noting the trend of widespread advertising in periodicals of the late XIX century. Entire pages of daily newspapers were given over to advertisements, and magazines did not lag behind in the possibility of easy earnings. "The newspaper "Russian Courier" of the manufacturer of "effervescent waters" N. Lanin, the newspaper "Minute" E. Dobrodeeva and many others, printed advertisements of their own enterprises in their own publications" [2, p. 29].

Secondly, with the development of capitalist relations, an increasing number of educated, comprehensively developed and politically active people appeared among Russian entrepreneurs who realized their place and role in the economic, social and political life of Russia in the late XIX - early XX centuries. Periodicals become an important means for them to express their socio-political views, to defend their interests. They use for this purpose already existing print media that meet their views, or create their own, as, for example, the richest entrepreneur and active public and political figure P.P. Ryabushinsky did. It was through his own newspaper "Morning of Russia" that he proclaimed his political credo: "The merchant is coming!". As Yu.A. Petrov noted, "the confrontation between the bourgeoisie and the ruling aristocratic bureaucracy has become a favorite topic" for P. Ryabushinsky's publications and public speeches [9, p. 87].

D.I. Ilovaisky, a native of a merchant family, used his own Kremlin newspaper as a means of expressing his socio-political position; and F.I. Guchkov, a representative of the famous Moscow dynasty owning a wool factory, editor–publisher of the Voice of Moscow newspaper; and some other representatives of the commercial and industrial world who closely linked their fate with journalism.

Thirdly, since the middle of the XIX century, the Moscow entrepreneur has increasingly become an object for articles, feuilletons, news reports. This is due not only to the development of the periodical press, but also to the development of the Moscow commercial and industrial world. As P.A. Buryshkin noted in his memoirs, the process of turning the Mother See capital into an industrial center accelerated after the abolition of serfdom in 1861. By the beginning of the twentieth century in Russia, "Moscow was the most extensive reservoir of domestic industrial and commercial capital" [3, p. 54]. Large-scale industry was developing in the city, new commercial and financial enterprises were emerging. These processes were accompanied by the growth of the working class, and in parallel by the class of entrepreneurs.

Some Moscow publications devote most of their publications to the description of the commercial and industrial world of Moscow, as it happened, for example, on the pages of the newspaper Moskovsky Leaf. As V.A. Gilyarovsky recalled, the publisher of the newspaper N.I. Pastukhov was a very bright personality: "Only a peculiar, original trading Moscow could create such a phenomenon as this publisher was" [4, p.74]. The Moskovsky Leaf acted as a mouthpiece for exposing all the vices of Moscow entrepreneurs, "... the eminent and educated merchants were ashamed to pick up this newspaper, never subscribed to it, but through the back door the servants ran to the newspaperman early in the morning and slowly brought "himself" the number, which he carefully unfolded and looked mainly at the column "Tips and Answers". "I wonder if this one has caught me!" I was glad if I survived, but someone from my friends was caught" [4, p.74]. Many journalists acted as imitators of N.I. Pastukhov, but only he was a genuine life writer of the Moscow commercial and industrial world of the late XIX - early XX centuries.



Thus, the origins of the development of relations between the Russian periodical press and Moscow entrepreneurship go back to the beginning of the XIX century, but only at the end of the century, during the rapid development of capitalist relations in Russia, their close interaction begins. At the beginning of the twentieth century, this process moves in three directions: the periodical press falls into the sphere of capitalist relations and the press develops as a branch of entrepreneurship; the periodical press becomes a socio-political platform for representatives of the commercial and industrial world of Moscow, and many Russian entrepreneurs become objects for newspaper and magazine publications, regardless of their political preferences. In general, the interaction of the press and Moscow entrepreneurship contributes to the formation of a special, unique image of pre-revolutionary Moscow [8].

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