This article examines when and how playing cards were introduced in Russia and links the adoption of card playing in the Russian Empire to the process of Westernization in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The author examines the role of card playing in noble culture and in the context of wider historical problems: the transition from medieval to modern culture; the translation and perception of cultural novelties; and the relationship cards and card playing had with other forms of celebration and leisure. The article is based on various sources, including Russian laws, import-export (customs) records, private sources in noble family archives, and literary works.
Over the course of the nineteenth century, Russian ideas of society (obshchestvo) shifted from being limited to the noble estate to referring to educated people more broadly. This article is the first to explore how this shift played out on the pages of provincial newspapers (gubernskie vedomosti) in European Russia and Siberia, which were government-run periodicals that included an unofficial section in which local intellectuals could and did discuss the meaning of society at different scales, from the small size of the district to the vastness of Siberia. Russians both ordinary and extraordinary wrote for the provincial newspapers, expressing their views that: 1) nobles were society; 2) nobles should lead and enlighten a broader, multi-estate society; or, 3) society consisted of all educated groups, primarily the nobility and the clergy, but also the merchantry. Envisioning society at a smaller scale allowed the connections between estates to became more evident.