Culture and Society
in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century
The sudden end of the gloomy, harsh reign of Paul and the ascent to the throne of a young, humane, and liberal monarch caused a surge of ecstatic joy in Petersburg society. "In homes, in streets people wept for joy, embracing one another as on Easter day," writes the contemporary literateur Karamzin. Poets sang Alexander's praises in odes, and Petersburg ladies referred to him as "our angel."
The first acts of the young tsar, his friendly attitude toward his subjects and his entire conduct (he walked in the streets alone, without any guard) increased his popularity. Literature and journalism awakened from the lethargic state into which Paul had frightened them. These were the years of the birth of Russian journalism, which played such an important role in the course of the whole nineteenth century. In 1802 Karamzin began to edit The Herald of Europe (Vestnik Evropy), which soon became the most widely read journal. Other journals soon appeared in Petersburg--The Northern Herald (Severnyi Vestnik), The Journal of Russian Literature (Zhurnal Rossiiskoi Slovestnosti), The St. Petersburg Herald (S.-Peterburgskii Vestnik), The Herald of Zion (Sionskii Vestnik, the Masonic journal), and The Northern Post (Severnaia Pochta, the official government organ) -- and similarly in Moscow -- The Russian Literary News (Novosti Russkoi Literatury), The Friend of Enlightenment (Drug Prosveshcheniia), The Moscow Courier (Moskovskii Kur'er), and The Scholarly Gazette (Uchenye Vedomosti, published by Moscow University).