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Extra, Extra! On This Day in 1703, Russia Got Its First Printed Newspaper

2. January 2013 by Lorena 0 Comments

Engraving from the cover of VedomostiOn January 2, 1703, the first issue of Russia’s first printed paper, Vedomosti, came out. Tsar Peter the Great established the newspaper as a means of spreading news and providing information about his policies. The paper did not look like modern newspapers – instead, it was published as a small book that would fit in a pocket. Issues ranged from four to twenty-two pages, depending on how much there was to report. Issues could be purchased for a few pennies.


The paper was published irregularly; issues generally were printed when there was important news to spread. Some years, 70 issues would be printed; others, just a single issue would come out. Most of the stories were written by Peter the Great himself, or translated from Dutch newspapers. Russians living abroad also wrote letters about their travels to include in the paper. Vedomosti also included book reviews, local social news, and even a glossary to help new readers with unfamiliar words.


Tsar Peter the GreatPreviously, Russia had a newspaper that was hand-copied, Kuranty. Because of the time and effort required to create copies by hand, only enough copies of Kuranty were made for the very small circle of subscribers. Kuranty was published regularly starting in 1621, and continued until Peter the Great established Vedomosti. Because of the extremely limited number of readers, publishers knew them all by name, and could even recognize them in the streets. As a result, the paper was tailored quite closely to what those readers – generally, wealthy citizens and high ranking government officials – wanted to read. Vedomosti, on the other hand, could be distributed to any citizen with the ability to read. As a result, the sorts of news stories covered had to be targeted to a wider audience.


When Peter the Great died in 1725, the paper lost its most prolific contributor. Ownership of Vedomosti was transferred to the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 1727, they renamed the paper Sankt-Peterburgskie Vedomosti. The paper was published twice a week during the 18th century, and became a daily in the 1800s. Vedomosti published news and editorials in favor of European-style reforms and democracy during the late 1800s. But, when it was taken over by The Imperial Ministry of Education, the content changed. Vedomosti lost readers when it embraced Octoberist. The paper closed its doors in 1917 as a result of The Russian Revolution. It was not until 1991 that publishers of the former Communist daily Leningrad Pravda began publishing Sankt-Petersburgskie Vedomosti again. The paper is now a daily with 190,000 readers. They also put out a business paper, called simply Vedomosti.