We are very fortunate to have, as a partner in this effort,
Sofia Slutskaya from Krasnodar, Russia. Sonya, as a part of her doctoral work, studied the general issue of community and "community networking" in pre-revolutionary (19th century)
Russia. Sonya will be sharing with the CIVNET-Russia project the results of her studies, including a bibliography on the subject.
Please take the time to read this page - the material posted here should be very helpful in exploring the historical roots of "community" and community networking in Russia.
We are grateful to Sonya who recently rewrote the entire
telecommunications server of Friends and Partners. Much of this material is being made
available on this site for user convenience.
The Russians associate the "community" with an especially American concept.
There seems to be difficult to find the exact equivalent in Russian not
only of the phenomenon itself but even of the term. Whether this point of
view is correct? To answer this question we should know what do Americans
mean by the word "community".
The word "community" has got at least three meanings. First, people living
in one place, district or country; second, a group of people having the
same religion, race, occupation or with common interests, and third, people
having things in common, being alike in some way. The term "community"
unites all three meanings. So, it means people living together, having
common opinions and convictions and joint activity; they together working,
pleasantly occupying their time after work, doing shopping, selling,
celebrating festive occasions etc.. From this definition we could say
about "a sense of the community", a sense of belonging to the united social
formation. The main features that characterize the "community" are self
awareness and willing and ability to create.
The notion of "local community" unwittingly revives a memory of strong
Russian local lore movement in the second half of the XIXth century as well
as of the philosophy of this movement.
Of course, local lore movement in the XIXth century was not just the union
formed according to the regional principle . Trying to formulate this
phenomenon, a well-known Russian literary scholar and historian,
N.K.Picsanov, used the concept of "regional culture family". In his book
N.K.Picsanov wrote: "Let us call culture family not mechanical but close,
organic uniting culture events and figures" . "Regional culture
family" is featured not only by the interest to the local community, its
history and current state. The main feature due to which the family is
formed is "...uniting living figures. The other sign of the family is not
its organizers but successors; the culture family could not be supposed
without bringing up the youngers by elders, without promotion of some or a
whole group of pupils. This family could not exist without joint activity
that leads to the steady objective results" . Is not this a definition
of local community united by place, opinions and ideas and activities on
studying, developing and improving the place. Numerous particular examples
from the history of various regions in Russia prove the existence of local
communities, "regional culture families" in many regions.
The Russian culture families as the American "communities" were
characterized not only by specific, typical for one region, features but
also by general, common for many regions, features. The Russian meaning of
the notion "regional culture family" is supported by the united mechanism
of self-identification and self -awareness developed in many regions. This
mechanism was developed by order of the center or on the initiative of
local forces, various organizations uniting local intellectuals and people
interested in studying and development of the region. Among those
institutions we should mention statistic committees of provinces, the
amateurs of place-studying societies, church-archeological and
church-historical committees and commissions.
However, the presence of the institutions that could be the centers of the
regional culture life is not a sufficient condition to speak about the
existence of local culture family. The other, not less important feature,
is an active role of local press and peculiarity of local publishing
Regional periodicals played actually the role of the center in all regions
uniting local intellectuals and created the original informative
infrastructure due to which the information could be shared between the
authorities and population, between the representatives of different layers
of population and due to which it became possible to have dialogue with the
population on the most important events in local live.
Characterization of the research and publishing activity of regional local
lore organizations, determination of the role which these organizations
played in local community once more proved the possibility of carrying out
the comparison between the philosophy of the American "community" and
Russian "regional culture family". To support this idea we consider in
detail the activity of some organizations which were functioning in various
regions in Russia before the revolution in 1917.
Statistic committees of provinces were established in 1834 together with
the formation of Statistic Department at the Ministry of Domestic Affairs.
Although provincial statistic committees were officially in the Center's
subordinate, they were fully dependent upon the provincial officials. The
chairman of the committee was governor. The members of the committee were
all regional officials, known well-to-do persons of the region, the head of
local clergy. However, a real work was done by the "real members", i.e.
teachers, world mediators, office workers, educated church attendants.
Most of them were young people who were enthusiastic about the progressive
ideas. They lived not only in the town of a province but also in the
remote places of the region. It was a circle of provincial intellectuals
who gathered and systematized statistic information for central
bureaucratic bodies. The major, official function of statistic committees
was to gather statistic information on various subjects required by the
central statistic committee and to prepare statistic registers enclosed to
the reports of the officials of provinces. But the important thing is that
the active forces of a province were united under the officials' names. It
was natural that the productive youth did more than just to implement
narrow official tasks given by the authorities. The main objective was to
study local place and local life in all their originality.
Printing-houses of the provincial boards were functioning in most
provinces. Editors published the local registers and closely connected
with the statistic committees. The interest to certain local
subject-matters, a group of the participants and a circle of authors
reflected in the local registers united the committees and editors.
Local statistic committees were known for their unprecedented in Russian
regions publishing activities. First of all, their publishing focused on
the issue of "Memorandum-books". The "Memorandum-books" were a regular
edition with general program in all provinces in the Russian Empire. The
first part of this book included the reference information and the second
one represented statistic tables, materials on statistics as well as the
articles on ethnography, history, archeology, geography. The second part
of the "Memorandum-book" serves until nowadays as a source of various
information on appropriate region.
The great works of the local investigators were published in "Transactions"
of statistic committees. Although "transactions" were also a regular
edition, they were published from time to time. "Transactions" contained
the works on economics, meteorology, ethnography, history, written on the
basis of the information on local area. The issues of "Transactions" were
realized not only through sale but also were loaned and free of charge
distributed. The issues of Transactions were loaned not only in the
statistic committees but also in archive commissions, church-archeological
and church-historical committees and commissions, the societies of the
amateurs of the local place-studying. It says about the interest to the
activities of one committees to another, about the relation between the
institutions (organizations) of similar type all over the Russian Empire.
Provincial cultural islets of Russia were interested in local history.
They solicitously treated to documents, which reanimated the past of local
community. The special institutions were established for preservation and
analysis of historical documents. The excerpt from a document of the past
can give us an entire characteristic of this institution : " On 13 of
April, 1884, under the imperial resolution of Committee of Ministers there
ware established Provincial Archival Academician Commissions. They dealt
with archive materials, which related to local history. Those commissions
consisted of employees and of private persons, who were not officials, but
who could be useful ..."(24)
The main goal of Archival Commissions was to create provincial historical
archive; to collect and put in order archival documents, which were of
great historical importance. These Commissions besides their own duties
were able to search for antiques, describe and illustrate them. One of the
duties of these Commissions was the compiling of inventories and indexes of
The most of these commissions had their own printing bodies, which were
published according accumulation of materials. Often the names of these
editions were : "Works" or "Proceedings". Various materials and documents,
articles and results of researches, reports of commissions working activity
were published there.
One may consider "Provincial Bulletin" to be the most ancient and the only
edition for a long time throughout all Russia. In each province it had the
own local substance. The life of these editions started in 1830 from the
moment of approving the statement about edition governmental printing
bodies in province. Towards the end of 19-th century the number of
provincial bulletins was about 80.
The main goal of the edition and it's content are formed by program, stated
in "Statement about the order of conduct of an affair in province
of 3-d of June, 1837. "Attached to each province administration special
bulletins are edited for the purpose of getting at any time information about
resolutions, orders, instructions of provincial administration" (16).
All editions are divided into two parts : official (formal) and
non-official. The contents of official part forms the orders of provincial
administration and Head of province; reproofs and awards to officials;
staff displacement; estimates of obligations and taxes; announcements about
legal proceedings, fugitive runaway and hobo; dead bodies and lost
documents; about epidemics and other disasters.
In non-official part one can put the news about extremely incidents in
province; about plants, factories, mines, trade, fairs, market prices,
state of harvest; about navigation; about meteorological researches and
extraordinary natural phenomena; about opening the new educational
institutions in province; about interesting historical news concerning
province; obituaries. In time in non-official part are published the
articles of scientific character : geographical, topographical, historical,
archaeological, statistical, ethnographic data (11) . The periods of
provincial bulletins activity raising concurred with the extension of the
amount of articles about local land (country) in them. And on the contrary
the periods of decay were remarkable for poor coverage of local life and
for great amount of faceless reprints.
There was very much done by Russian Orthodox Church for the purpose of
existing of cultural islets, for provincial local communities. In
particular for strengthening of idea about indissoluble tie between Church
and people, for study of Church history as an inseparable part of region
history there were established in last quarter of 19-th century the
The church-local lore organizations were busy with study of own territory
from the standpoint of church history, archaeology, religious life of
people. Their main goal one can turn to following statement : " Church
Historical-Archaeological Community has the goal to study the past and the
present religious and public life of local land, memorials of antiquity
collecting and preservation for the benefit of Church and Science"(9).
Their main objectives were : protection of memorials, study of church
history of the region, creation of historical descriptions of the eparchy,
studying and description of local archives, studying of religious customs
and rites, dissemination of archeological knowledge in the society, mainly
among persons of holy orders, organization of archeological exhibitions and
public lecturing. Several types of church-and-local-lore organizations
have formed in pre-revolutionary Russia: 1) church historical depositories;
2) church-archeological and church-historical committees and commissions;
3) commissions for historical and statistic description of eparchys; 4)
commissions for analysis of consistory archives. They included
traditionally museums (historical depositories) and libraries. Just
founding of eparchial historical museum, which dealed with collection of
material and written relics of the past, often initialized an activity of
church-archeological committees and commissions. explainment of religious
and moral life of orthodox local land residents"  in its collections.
According to its regulations, library funds of church-and-local-lore
organizations must have local lore orientation and must include
archeological, historical and ethnographic reference books and literature
devoted to specific region. So, in the journal of Perm
church-archeological society conference, the significance of the library
was defined as follows: "in due course, it may acquire a special value,
since it concentrated the works devoted to Perm land history, which are
published in limited quantity and soon become the rarities, and some of
them don't appear in book markets at all" .
Scientific and exploration activity of church-and-local-lore organizations
was not reduced to organization of museums and libraries. Many time was
devoted to archeological and ethnographic expeditions for the study of
eparchies. Besides the expeditions, archives of ecclesiastical department
were an important source of church antiquity. Archive documents and
descriptions of archives might be published in local eparchial registers,
and its editorial staff "was glad, without doubts, of such fresh and
characteristic materials promising a history full of interest to eparchy"
. However, any activity for studying of local community life and
history might be resultative only on condition that large number of
interested people are involved into it. Therefore, the propagandistic
activity was an important part of church local lore activity. For the
studying of eparchies, which sometimes took up vast territories, it was
necessary to enlist local parish priests, teachers and students of parish
schools and spiritual colleges as members and correspondents. Besides the
persons of holy orders, also secular people of both sexes might be members
of the committees.
A great importance was attached to dissemination of church-historical and
archeological knowledge, organization of exhibitions and public lecturing.
Tver eparchial historic-archeological committee even organized, jointly
with scientific archive commission, archeological courses for members of
committee and commission, graduates and teachers of Tver educational
institutions "for the dissemination of archeological knowledge in order
of more successful studying and protection of relics of the past, mainly
church relics" .
For assistance to church antiquity study amateurs, was published programs,
descriptions of temples, archeological antiquities and people's customs.
church-and-local-lore organizations actively interacted with regional
archive commissions; they realized an exchange of publications and
information. Moreover, in regions where eparchial church-archeological
committee or historical depository was not created, the archive commission
shouldered its functions. So, in Viatka, with support of all-eparchy
priesthood congress, was created a church historic-archeological museum
attached to regional archive commission. Historical depositories attached
to archive commissions existed in eparchies of Kostroma, Orenburg and
others. Publishing activity of church-and-local-lore organizations
promoted the dissemination of archeological knowledge and involvement of
new forces into the committees, stimulated an exploration activity.
The basic publishings of church-and-local-lore organizations were
historic-statistical descriptions of eparchies, catalogues and descriptions
of historical depositories and works. The works of church-and-local-lore
organizations, as well as analogical publishings of statistical committees,
were planned most often as periodical, but released episodically. Many of
them began as notifications about new receipts to church historical
depositories or as its catalogues. The other cause of works' appearance
was an impossibility to publish large research works of
church-and-local-lore nature in eparchial registers. The basic topics of
researches of committee members and reports of local priesthood were
histories of separate churches, monasteries and parishes; biographies of
local Right Reverends and eminent specimens of persons of holy orders;
histories of spiritual educational institutions, objects of religious
worship and church art. Much consideration was given to recording of
customs, rites, local songs and dialects.
All these materials, sequenced in the defined system, might compose the
full history of eparchy. Historic-statistical descriptions of eparchies
performed not only a function of historical description of given territory
from religious point of view, but also a reference function, since they
covered all parishes and churches of the eparchy with maximal completeness.
Parish descriptions, composed by local priests with(?) special program,
served as a base for publishings. Reading of eparchies description program
allows to see that the church interested not only religious aspects, but
also economic status of inhabitants, their attitude to social life, their
mode of life. Much consideration was given to description of
superstitions, rites, and customs. So, priesthood of Volyn region was
offered to introduce "various folk songs, Christmas carols, tales,
facetious sayings, proverbs, wedding and christening customs, etc."  in
their descriptions. Eparchial registers played a great role in the
creation of historic-statistical descriptions of eparchies. They published
programs of descriptions and instructions for its composition.
Many descriptions were published in the registers or as applications to
them before to be published as a separate edition. The publishers of
eparchial registers were also the compositors of the descriptions.
Sometimes, also secular local lore occupied with preparation and publishing
of the descriptions. In our story about the activity of
church-and-local-lore organizations, we already noted the eparchial
registers many times, since this itself edition was most often a center of
local lore activity of Russian Orthodox Church in different regions. The
registers began to be published in 1860s, and in 1917 were published almost
in all eparchies.
The answer to the question about the causes of eparchial publications'
appearance may be found in priesthood's speeches and articles of that time.
So, Right Reverend Dmitri (Muretov) wrote that "the existence of eparchial
registers may serve well for enlivening of whole eparchial administration,
for drawing it together with whole flock, for encouragement of subordinated
priesthood with promulgation of laudable and helpful actions and persons
fervent in their service" . As a reason of creation of local eparchial
press organ, one may to attribute a necessity of putting of directives and
measures of superior and local church administration into practice.
Moreover, the church administration used this press organ also for clearing
up community response to its directives. So, in the official part of
"Stavropol eparchial registers" the directives of eparchial administration
must was printed "...with the right of free disputation" . At second,
that is especially important for us, the registers must served as "...a
feasible expression of internal spiritual life of the priesthood itself"
Another important urgent motive of creation of namely local edition was a
necessity of regard and mirroring of specific features of each eparchy.
So, in the "Reference about Perm eparchial registers" was written: "Besides
common interests, each eparchy might have its own ones, its own puzzling
questions that are pushed by life...the specific past of given land, ethnic
composition of inhabitants, mode of life, even geographical conditions,
since some sides of priest activity depends on them and partly is defined
by them" . Thus, among the reasons of eparchial registers appearance,
the priesthood's need in specific local information and knowledge about the
features of history of development and existence of their eparchy was
almost the main need of priesthood. It's namely the task, which may be
resolved only on the local level.
The place, which was occupied by eparchial registers in provincial life,
was defined by width of local and local lore information presented in them.
It was connected mainly with the priesthood's need of knowledge of their
parishes' history. "...A novice priest must know the past life of his
parish to act more advisable and successful in his new parish" .
Satisfying this need, eparchial registers often initialized the collection
of historical, archeological, and ethnographic materials, the creation of
historic-statistical descriptions of eparchies. Moreover, the programs of
such researches were published in the edition. More than once, a summon to
parish priesthood to collect legends, to describe customs and rites of
local inhabitants, and to send parish chronicles to edition rang from its
pages. Such, on the one hand, local lore character of the edition caused
by purely practical need of local priesthood. However, the problem was not
reduced to this. Registers' creators seeked for the ways to make the
edition interest, to enlist readers and subscribers. And they saw the
solution of this problem in attachment a brightly expressed local lore
trend to the edition.
The improvement of eparchial registers, in their creators' opinion,
depended completely on local priesthood, which must be not only readers,
but also authors of articles. A summon to collaboration may be found on
the pages of Minsk, Novgorod, Voronezh and many other eparchial registers.
The publishers defined also, what information is necessary to receive from
local priesthood: "...the most desirable is to see descriptions of
religious, moral and ritual life of the flock, the picture of believes
conservated in people, both church and popular" . This and similar
desires may be reduced to several directions, in which the collaboration of
priesthood and eparchial registers was desirable; these directions are
description of customs, rites, and holidays existing among local people; of
history and modern life of the parish.
To reinforce local lore content of the edition, it was proposed to enlist
contributors not only from local priesthood, but also from other social
groups: "Contributors from all social groups are necessary; it's need to
find it, to give'em the program of desirable information and messages, to
offer'em a salary for the labor... the non-official part of edition needs
a free paid labor, with this labor it may gain readers and even free
subscribers" . The studying of activity of various
organizations, which existed in pre-revolutionary Russia, allows to talk
about come common regularities, about the rightfulness of the conception of
regional cultural nest, about existence of really local communities in
pre-revolutionary Russia, united not only with the same territory, but with
common ideas. To this ideas are related:
- an interest to the history and to the modern conditions of local community,
understanding of its unicality, yearning to collect and publish the facts
of local history, archeology, ethnography, economical and social life, to
attract community's attention to the most interesting and important sides
of region's life;
- a community of activists representing various groups of local
intelligentsia (teachers, priesthood, journalists, writers, musicians, etc.
Appearance of Regional Statistical Committees, archive commissions,
church-archeological institutions and other local organizations
considerably expanded a circle of persons occupying with collection and
proceeding of materials on and people's economy, life and art. In the
hands of local intelligentsia, that entered into new institutions, was
converted to descriptions of various sides of surrounding life. It's
typical that the same activists, as a rule, took part both in statistical
committees and in archive commissions, published their works in regional
and eparchial registers, in other local editions;
- a close interaction of local lore organizations that are situated in
different regions. Statistical committees, archive commissions, and
church-archeological institutions distributed their editions to similar
institutions through all Russia, complectated their libraries with editions
of related organizations, and their representatives met on congresses and
conferences, and exchanged experience and ideas;
- almost all local lore organizations in pre-revolutionary Russia had
their own press organs. It's connected not only with yearning for
publishing collected materials, but with necessity of live exchange of
ideas, of attracting the attention of whole local community to important
issues of social life.
Such, an address to experience of American "communities" is not only an
interest to useful and interesting foreign practice for us, but
resurrection of our own historic experience, and possibility of its
reviving on a new technological base.
(Cited sources listed in Russian version; they're not translated to
The pessimist is the man who believes things couldn't possibly be worse, to which the optimist replies: 'Oh yes they could!'. - Vladimir Bukovsky