ANTYUKHOVA E.A., BLOKHIN V.F. Transformation of the Public Sphere During World War I: Attitude to War and Peace


Ekaterina A. Antyukhova

Candidate of Sciences (Politics), Associate Professor,

Department of World Political Processes, MGIMO University,

Prosp. Vernadskogo, 76, 119454 Moscow, Russian Federation

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Valerii F. Blokhin

Doctor of Sciences (History)

Professor, Head of the Department of Russian History,

Bryansk State Academician I.G. Petrovski University,

Bezhitskaya St, 14, 241036 Bryansk, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. The paper analyses the Russian public sphere during World War I. Special attention is paid to the peculiarities of the functioning of the periodical press under the conditions of military censorship. The paper demonstrates how censorship restrictions regulated the discussion of issues that were of special political importance and transformed the publicity regime in the country.

Methods and materials. The presented work is based on the principles of historicism and objectivity. The methodological framework for writing the article is the public sphere model proposed by J. Habermas, as well as special methodological approaches developed in the works of N. Luhmann. With a view to understanding and analysing the processes taking place in the public sphere, the research method of case studies is used. The source base of the study, in addition to publications in periodicals, consists of official documents regulating the activities of military censorship institutions in Russia.

Analysis. The study reveals and demonstrates the possibilities of the periodical press to create a special sphere of publicity in the country through the information impact on the population. The article states that the press at the early stage of World War I did not differ in the variety of opinions, made no attempt to develop an objective overview of what was going on. First of all, the issues of the “fair war” and “inevitable victory” were brought up, which fueled the atmosphere of patriotic euphoria. At the same time, the military censorship suppressed any attempts to discuss the possibility of making peace between belligerent countries, even if they came from the supporters of military conflict, as it was the case with the article by P.A. Sorokin. The same trend was observed both in 1915 and 1916. Mentioning peace on the pages of the periodical press was equated with violations that the enemies could use to their advantage.

Results. Thus, the press acted as only one, albeit very important, element of the public sphere within which the formation of public opinion took place during World War I. The mechanisms of the public sphere fulfilled one of the key tasks: due to its influence the population was mobilized in all areas of its practical activity. At the very beginning of the war, the press stood in solidarity with the authorities regarding the inevitability of the future victory of Russia and the need to protect the Fatherland from enemy attacks. The question of the duration of hostilities and the advent of peace was more complicated. However, as the war continued and the internal political crisis grew, the attitude towards the early conclusion of peace was changing, gradually transforming into hatred of all the actors of the war in the public sphere, with its own authorities taking the place of the enemy governments. Throughout the war, the pressure on the media by the censorship striving to maintain a pro-government publicity regime increased. However, at some point the transformation of the public sphere became irreversible and in many ways predetermined the events of 1917. The authors’ contribution. E.А. Antyukhova has defined the methodological approaches to the interpretation of the documents of the periodical press of World War I in terms of the public sphere, demonstrated its possibilities in the formation of public opinion. V.F. Blokhin has analyzed the existing points of view in the domestic and foreign historiography on the features of the functioning of the periodical press under the conditions of World War I, demonstrated the work of military censorship at different stages during the military conflict.

Key words: World War I, periodical press, censorship, public sphere, problem of war and peace.

Citation. Antyukhova E.A., Blokhin V.F. Transformation of the Public Sphere During World War I: Attitude to War and Peace. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2022, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 6-19. (in Russian). DOI:

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Transformation of the Public Sphere During World War I: Attitude to War and Peace by Antyukhova E.A., Blokhin V.F. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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