The Birth of the Russian Bear? The Bear Symbol in the Satirical Journals of the Russian Revolution of 1905
- Region: Regional Studies of Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia
- Slavica Publishers
- Volume 9, Number 1, January 2020
- pp. 139-168
- Additional Information
The study focuses on the way in which the satirical graphic art of the Russian Revolution of 1905 used the image of the bear to represent revolutionary events and both supporters and opponents of the autocracy. The author comes to the conclusion that this time period saw the emergence of the bear as a political symbol in Russia. The use of the bear as a political image became part of the symbolic struggle in which some political forces sought to delegitimize power, while others pursued the goal of discrediting the revolution. Left-wing journals used the image of the bear to designate both "us" and "them"; in some cases, the image served as an allegory of the oppressed and rebellious people, and in others it personified the autocracy and its supporters, particularly, the reactionaries of the Black Hundreds. Right-wing journals used the bear image as a symbol representing "us," and the bear was associated only with positive characteristics. Despite the differences mentioned, however, left- and right-wing journals also had something in common: the bear symbol was used to identify "Russianness," with both its positive and negative aspects. In the "political bestiary," therefore, the bear received the status of national animal symbol. At the same time, the semantics of the bear as a political symbol during this period were not yet fully established and it had not yet become an allegory personifying Russia.