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Angela Cannon, Reference Specialist, European Division
Note: This guide is extracted and adapted from a guide on Russian newspapers that first appeared on the European Reading Room website in 2010.
Created: June 17, 2020
Last Updated: January 24, 2022
From 1868 to the present day, Russian speakers in the United States have published more than 1,000 periodicals, over 150 of which were general or special interest newspapers. The unique conditions of diaspora or émigré publishing make it difficult to count such newspapers throughout Russian history, especially in the 20th-21st centuries. For the purposes of this introduction the number of Russian-American newspaper publishing given here should be considered an estimate, because there is no one bibliography or database that lists them all. The Library of Congress collection of Russian-American newspapers is far from comprehensive, with approximately 65 titles, many of which are held in very small runs. This guide provides detailed holdings for those titles, as well as resources for further reading on the topic.
The first newspaper in the United States with Russian-language content was Alaska Herald, a bilingual Russian and English title published in San Francisco from 1868-1876. In the early years the Russian word svoboda [freedom] appeared as a subtitle. The Library of Congress holds this title on microfilm from 1868-1876. Although Russian publishing in the United States began in California, the expansion of the industry did not occur on the West Coast, but on the East Coast, in New York City several decades later.
The 1890s saw the rise of Russian-American periodical publishing correspond to the rise in Russian immigration, strongly influenced by the the labor movement and left-wing activism. The second Russian newspaper published in the U.S., the short-lived socialist weekly Znamia (1889–1892), and the third, Russkie novosti (1892-1893), represent the beginning of this kind of newspaper publishing. The third title, published by George Moses Price (1864–1942), a Jewish immigrant activist and sanitation specialist, and Jacob Gordin (1853–1909), a notable Russian-Jewish-American playwright, Russkie novosti from New York City is the oldest Russian-American newspaper in the Library of Congress collection after Alaska Herald. Its masthead for some issues claimed it was "the only Russian newspaper in the country," and in 1892 that was true. The Library of Congress holds 9 months of Russkie novosti in bound volumes, but no issues at all of Znamia.
Russkoe slovo, published from 1910 through 1920, followed by its successor Novoe russkoe slovo, from 1920 through 2010, was the most important Russian-American newspaper in the country. Its founding editor, Ivan Okuntsov, recognized a need for a more general circulation Russian newspaper in New York at a time when all of the other titles had definite slants and targeted circulation. Having been a rather controversial leftist figure in the community, Okuntsov also had broken with the other papers and editors, so he had to start fresh with a new approach. The title was successful, becoming the first Russian newspaper in the United States to publish on a daily basis. In later decades, after Okuntsov had moved on, the title was known for its preeminent role in Russian culture abroad. The Library of Congress holds 1918-1920 of Russkoe slovo on microfilm and an almost complete run of Novoe russkoe slovo from 1920–2010 on microfilm and via a subscription database.
After 1917, and especially into the 1920s, Russian newspaper publishing began to expand to large cities in the Midwest and West with swelling concentrations of Russian-speaking communities. Titles such as the more culturally focused Russkaia zhizn' in San Francisco and Rassvet, the trade unionist paper in Chicago, were influential in their regions for many years. Russkaia zhizn' is still being published to this day and has replaced Novoe russkoe slovo as the longest-running Russian newspaper in the United States. The Library receives this title in print, but has only some early volumes in its newspaper collection. For Rassvet, the Library has only some volumes from the 1920s.
With many religious, cultural, anti-communist, and other kinds of titles, Russian periodical and newspaper publishing in the United States retained its vitality up until the 1990s when many newspapers began to fold. Of those newspapers that are published today, most are smaller venues for community advertising or very local news, with notable exceptions such as Panorama from Los Angeles and Kstati in San Francisco.
Also included in this guide are a number of Russian titles published by Moscow-held companies, but produced for diaspora readers in the United States and Europe such as Argumenty i fakty Amerika and Komsomol'skaia pravda v Amerike. These titles have content produced in both Moscow and the United States and reflect the Russian media's interest in maintaining some influence among these groups, as well as the difficulty for smaller foreign-language communities in the U.S. to affordably produce regular news content on their own.
While this introduction to the topic is very brief, further research on the topic of Russian-American or Russian émigré newspapers in general is possible with the references provided on the page titled "Bibliographies, Reading Materials, and Online Catalogs for Diaspora Newspapers." In addition, searching the Library of Congress online catalog using the following subject headings will lead to more sources. For New York, substitute other states of interest to conduct additional searches.