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Russian Satirical Journals Caricatures of 1905-1906 in the Context of Mass Politics.docx
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Chapter X. Satirical Journals on the Political Spectrum

Scholars of Russian satirical journals of 1905-1906 do not have a common opinion about the political orientation of satirical journals:

The range of political opinion expressed in these images spans the entire spectrum from radical left to reactionary right.

The satirical journals of the era of the first revolution reflected exclusively the intellectual opposition: they had little in common with the popular masses.

Summing up the review of the satirical journals of 1905-1906, we have to admit that we have not sustained both in terms of the political program and in the sense of the literary and illustrative material of the publications.

The confusion of political views and the complete lack of a sense of the scale of the mocked phenomena, which, together with the extremely opposition tone, characterizes almost all of the then journals.

The overwhelming number of satirical journals came forward from liberal-bourgeois or revolutionary-democratic positions.

…it is hardly worth trying to identify the line of each journal with the line of one of the many political programs that existed in those years - such a classification would lead to a simplification of the complex picture of the development of a revolutionary satirical society.

Although their separation into those of the left (e.g. oppositional, anti-tsarist) and those of the right (anti-liberal, pro-monarchist, protective of autocracy) may somewhat simplify the situation, such a taxonomy gauges the basic political division between the satirical journals of the period fairly accurately.… The majority of the left-wing journals, including the ones discussed in this study, were more moderate. Leaning toward the liberal bourgeois agenda, they were less conspicuous when it came to revealing or publicizing any political affiliations.

The vast majority of satirical journals were not ideologically interconnected with the programs of any parties, they did not have an informed political vision, defended the basic liberal values of freedom, equality and democracy, were critical of the state, but not showed sympathy for certain parties and as a whole were very abstract and remote from reality in their representations:

Naive utilitarianism, or rather, the nihilistic moralism of the beautiful Russian intelligentsia is the distinguishing feature of the political satire of 1905-1906.

In the whole mass of satirical magazines, you can find some magazines with a more certain position on the political spectrum. For example, Knut, Zhgut, Pliuvium and Vittova Plyaska where basically right-wing journals (last two got compliments from V. Gurko), Svoboda and Devyatiy Val noted that editors agreed with the program of the Social-Democratic Party (but this journals appeared in 1907 only). This couple of politically-determined journals doesn’t affect to understanding of the space of party-neutral and independent magazines. But, it should be mentioned, that even content of right-wing journal was somewhere identical to basic paradigm of satire: already in name of Vittova Plyaska we can see mockery about Sergei Witte, one of the commonest heroes of caricature. Knut, Zhgut, Pliuvium and Vittova Plyaska, as well as majority of journals, laughed at count Durnovo (even he was very conservative), dysfunctionality of constitution, venality of Gapon and so on. Feature of these journals were only in anti-Semitic grotesque.

Let’s check how satirical journals determined their position themselves:

…to be a "convinced" journalist, one should, like a sponge, soak in the program of any party. But life has not yet divided people by party partitions. The reader feels that satire moves freely through these partitions ...

…Our organ will be all-different and international and all who have an itches in a back can take part in it...

In their views, people are divided into various parties, some or other society, certain unions, etc. Satire, who denounced the current reality in general, unwillingly does not have to reckon with diverse parties, societies.

Juvenal in literary and artistic images will reflect the mood of the experiences and experiences of the recent events. Juvenal, avoiding the primitive, uses all efforts to remain artistic…

A good illustration is the impression of the censor about the content of illustrated caricature magazines of those years:

... the vast majority of it [works] are symbolic, none of them has a developed plot, the majority is not even a definitely developed and formulated thought, all these are images and expressions of moods, and all of them are not so much about thought as to mood of the reader.

The lack of party affiliation cannot be a catch to weaken the attention of censors: parties and their activities were legal. But in that case question rise: why parties didn’t use such media tool? We can find answer in audience. Audience of such media, everyman, on a middle between reactional and revolutionary political powers, nonpartisan citizen. They support achievements of the October Revolution 1905 (and felt pain about its inconsistency with ideals), was disappointed about results of war, was unsatisfied with cruelty of government. Satirical journals fixed the traumatic memory of 1905-1906 (“common politicized emotions”), but did not suggest any solution.

The complexity of the association of satirical magazines with political parties and ideologies can be related to the fact that the concepts presented in satirical journals are elements of the political perception of a mass society and laughter culture as an attribute of a mass society.

In Bakhtin's view, culture is a dualistic system of people's and official cultures, while popular culture distorts the official through carnivalization. Carnivalization, as an artistic form of festivity, has cycles and become actualized at certain moments in history:

At the same time, festivities at all stages of their historical development were associated with crisis and turning points in the life of nature, society and man. Moments of death and rebirth, change and renewal have always been leading in a festive attitude. It was these moments - in specific forms of certain holidays - that created the specific festivity of the holiday.

Satirical magazines were designed to comprehend the Russian Revolution of 1905, the Bloody Carnival, using the explanatory and aesthetic tools of the laughter culture. Researchers found it difficult to determine the ideological focus of journals because satirical journals are the opposite element of culture to which the positions of political parties in a pure form are alien.

A. Semenov describes the features of the language of the Cadet self-description language, including the “modern” merger of the political and scientific lexicon. Declaring, as O. Minin, the interrelation of satirical magazines and cadets as elements of the liberal bourgeois public sphere, we mean the existence of an information interdependence between these elements forming the structure of the public sphere. In the content of satirical journals, we just do not find any connection with the Cadets program or even any interest in them: an essential, personalized interest in the Cadets arises in satirical magazines only after winning the elections to the First State Duma, already in the period of their popularity decline.

Criticism and, in the case of satirical journals, anti-governmentism, is not a political position, but an artistic form of existence:

Laughter not only makes no exception for the supreme, but, on the contrary, is mainly directed at this supreme. Further, it is not directed to particulars and parts, but specifically to the whole, to the universal, to everything. It seems to be building its own world against the official world, its own church against the official church, its own state against the official state.

Cartoons and satirical magazines are politically neutral, since political programs, ideologies and concepts are part of the "serious" world, mockery or grotesque destruction is the fixation of the importance and influence of the image of a "serious" culture on popular or folk culture. This anti-govermentalism, the criticism of Witte or the ministry cabinet, in fact, is not a real criticism: "seriousness is always relative in laughter culture".

The satire of the end of 1905-1906 cannot be the only embodiment of the "laughter culture". It should be in aesthetic relationship with other products of mass culture of that time. As J. Brooks shows, theme of “freedom and rebellion” was “the most important” theme for Russian popular fiction in the second half of XIX – early XX centuries12. The struggle with the devil or demonic creatures was a frequent storyline for adventure stories. Eschatological representations were also very common.

The carnivalization of politics in the years 1905-1906 by satirical magazines is the involvement of the political process in the trails and plots of mass culture. So the type of robber, the hero of the criminal novel, is transformed into an image of the Black Hundred and loses his positive connotation, romantic, freedom-loving image passes to the image of a terrorist from "underground Russia". The struggle against the demons is identified with the struggle against the government. Eschatological images are also politicized, for example, images of punitive expeditions and pogroms.