Russian Graphic Art and the Revolution of 1905

Satirical magazines illustrated by graphic artists during the revolutionary upheaval of 1905.

On Sunday, January 9th, 1905, Tsar Nicholas II ordered trooops to fire on a peaceful procession of workers demonstrating in St. Petersburg, unleashing a storm of strikes, mutinies, violent uprisings, and brutal reprisals that raged across Russia for well over a year. Known collectively as the Revolution of 1905, these upheavals transformed the political landscape and set the stage for the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Civil War that followed.  Bloody Sunday also marked an important watershed for Russian graphic artists. With the momentary collapse of censorship, over 300 different satirical magazines were published during the Revolution of 1905, more than had seen the light of day in Russia during the entire nineteenth century. Most of them survived for only a few numbers before the censors caught up. Yet the ouput was impressive all the same. Rushing to fill the expressive void, artists and writers captured the events and personalities of the revolution with biting satire and aesthetic sophistication. While styles and subject matter varied, artists often chose to depict nightmarish scenes of bloodshed and repression, drawing on images of the macabre and the mystical that had already been in vogue in Symbolist circles across Europe at the turn of the century.

History of the Collection

Exactly one hundred years later, the Beinecke acquired scattered issues and in many cases complete runs of over forty of the 309 magazines that sprouted up during the revolutionary days of 1905/06. A rare survival of this creative, yet ephemeral flourish, these titles have been scanned in their entirety, and the Library continues to build on the collection today.