Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 4.3 (2003) 747-751
[Access article in PDF]
Sergei Sergeevich Ippolitov and Almaziia Garafovna Kataeva, "Ne mogu otorvat'sia ot Rossii..." Russkie knigoizdateli v Germanii v 1920-kh gg. Moscow: Izdatel'stvo Ippolitova, 2000. 164 pp. ISBN 5938560020.
The scope of this slight volume is carefully circumscribed. A study of publishers of Russian books in Germany after the revolution, the book focuses on the economic factors, legal issues, and personal relationships that initially underpinned, and eventually undermined, Russian book publishing in Berlin. The authors make few claims about the broader experiences and significance of the Russian emigration or the Russian colony in Berlin. They are not interested in cross-cultural influences between Russians and Germans, insisting that these already have been documented.1 Nor do they endorse the long-standing tendencies to see the emigration as one of "two Russias" spawned by the revolution and to regard the perpetuation of genuine Russian culture as the unique destiny of the emigration. Although it deliberately leaves such "big questions" off the table, Ippolitov and Kataeva's portrait of Russian book publishing implicitly adheres to what Valeriia Selunskaia has called the "civilizational cognitive paradigm" that assumes a unity of Russian culture and identifies a common national identity in the multi-faceted activities of the emigration and Russians who remained under Soviet rule.2
The authors emphasize the remarkable scope of Russian publishing in the early 1920s, listing 74 publishers in a brief appendix.3 Many factors facilitated [End Page 747] the establishment of these businesses, including the presence of a large number of Russian émigrés and POWs (approximately 500,000) in Germany at the end of the war, an intense interest among the émigrés about developments in Soviet Russia, and the strangely favorable relations between the Weimar Republic and the young Soviet state, both heavily handicapped in the international arena by the post-war settlement. But the most significant impetus for publishing Russian books in Germany came from the serendipitous convergence of economic stresses in Germany and material difficulties in Soviet Russia. The devastation of the Russian Revolution and Civil War had left the publishing industry in Russia on the verge of collapse. Ruined printing facilities, obsolete equipment, and shortages of paper and typesetters forced the Bolsheviks to look beyond Russia's borders for desperately needed books. Between 1918 and 1922, Lenin's government allocated millions of gold-backed rubles for publishing textbooks, Russian literary classics, and scientific and technical materials abroad. Representatives from the State Publishing House and other government agencies were dispatched abroad to facilitate agreements with émigré publishers, who had the unique resources and skills necessary for producing Russian books. The rampant inflation that plagued the German mark in the early years of Weimar made it possible for entrepreneurs such as Zinovii Isaevich Grzhebin and Ivan Pavlovich Ladyzhnikov to publish Russian books cheaply in Germany and export them to Soviet Russia. Ironically, despite the profound hostility of many émigrés to the Soviet regime, it was Soviet funding and opportunities for export to Soviet Russia that provided the economic foundation for Russian publishing in Germany, supporting the publication of books, periodicals, and newspapers for Russian émigrés in the early 1920s.
Although Russian book publishing continued in Berlin until the end of the Weimar Republic, its heyday was much more fleeting. As with the initial flowering of Russian publishing in Germany, the precipitous decline in the number of Russian publications and the folding of many Russian publishers after 1922 was the result of a number of developments. The size of the Russian colony in Germany shrank by nearly half in the mid-1920s, as many relocated to other European centers. Those who remained became less absorbed by events in the Soviet Union, and thus less interested in the émigré press, as they resigned themselves to life abroad. But just as Soviet policies and German economic conditions had fostered the development of Russian publishing in Berlin, so did these factors play a decisive role in...