Citizens and Tsars: Russian Caricature Postcards of the Provisional Government Era

In: Experiment
Tobie Mathew Independent Scholar London UK

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Postcards, long used to mark significant occasions in the lives of individuals, were deployed in early 1917 to herald wholesale change in the life of the nation. Following the downfall of the Tsar, censorship was nominally abolished and amid a fast developing market economy, many different publishers sought to take advantage, both to profit and to persuade. Within days of Nicholas II’s abdication, postcards carrying revolutionary imagery were being offered in shops and kiosks, and within a few months, a wide range of different photographic, artistic, and satirical cards had also become available. This article focuses on commercially produced caricature postcards, adopting a broad remit to examine both anti-tsarist images satirizing the Imperial Family, and artist-drawn cards commemorating and critiquing the February Revolution. To this end, it has two main aims; first, to analyze the role of postcards as a political bridge between contemporary events and the Russian population; and second, to examine the key part played by private and commercial publishers in disseminating a broadly liberal interpretation of revolutionary events in the months after the Tsar’s overthrow.

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