Founded with utopian zeal and aimed at expatriates, Moscow News chronicled tectonic shifts that swept over Russia during the past lifetime. Moscow News offers a window in English toward a better understanding of the political and social upheavals in the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, providing a unique record of how the media adapted to the tumult that shook the USSR and the Russian Federation, from Stalin to Putin.
Moscow News was the oldest English-language newspaper in Russia and, arguably, the newspaper with the longest democratic history. From a mouthpiece of the Communist party to an influential advocate for social and political change, the pages of Moscow News reflect the shifting ideological, political, social and economic currents that have swept through the Soviet Union and Russia in the last century.
Moscow News was created for expatriates, particularly for workers who had immigrated to the Soviet Union from depression-era America in search of work and a better life. An American, Anna Louise Strong, was tapped to serve as editor and the first issue was published in October 1930.
Operating under the auspices of the All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, Moscow News was subject to intense scrutiny by Soviet censors. Despite intentions of providing workers an independent forum for open communication (including complaints), the newspaper’s founding editors found themselves hampered by Soviet officialdom at every turn.
The staff of Moscow News did not fare much better: Starting in the late 1930s, multiple staff members were arrested and the newspaper’s status became tenuous. In 1949, editor-in-chief Mikhail Borodin was arrested and sent to the Gulag, while Strong was expelled from the country on charges of espionage. Moscow News was ultimately shut down by the Politburo in 1949.
Moscow News was rehabilitated in 1956, during the Khrushchev thaw, with editions of the newspaper appearing soon after in French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Italian, Hungarian, Finnish and Esperanto, among others. As Moscow prepared for the 1980 Olympics, a Russian edition of the paper (Moskovskiye Novosti) was also launched.
However, it was not until the late 1980s that Moscow News really hit its stride as an independent paper, publishing content that challenged the Soviet establishment – content that could not be published in any other newspaper of the time. The newspaper’s transformation began in 1986, with the appointment of well-known publicist Yegor Yakovlev as editor-in-chief. Under his leadership, Moscow News became one of the main defenders of Gorbachev’s controversial policies of glasnost and perestroika – earning it a reputation as a “flagship of glasnost” (and, conversely, as a “yellow” newspaper among hard-line Communists). It was during this time that Moscow News became a platform for advocates of radical reform, as well as a forum for discussing traditionally taboo subjects, such as the repressions and show trials of the 1930s, the Katyn massacre of Polish officers by Soviets (not Germans), and more. A particularly notable coup for the newspaper was the publication of an interview with Boris Yeltsin after his dramatic removal from the Soviet Communist Party leadership.
Like many newspapers, Moscow News faced financial challenges after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was forced to cease all foreign-language editions, leaving just the English and Russian (which ceased in 2008), and underwent several changes of ownership, including, for a time, the outspoken oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Throughout these transitions, the newspaper worked to maintain its reputation as an influential voice for critical, independent reporting. Ultimately, it was forced to cease publication in early 2014 when its owner, state-funded news agency RIA Novosti, was shut down by President Vladimir Putin.
Its own tumultuous history makes Moscow News an essential resource for understanding the various political and social shifts that occurred during the Soviet and post-Soviet eras, and provides a unique record of how the media adapted to these changing times. The Moscow News Digital Archive contains most published issues (1930-2014, approx. 60,000 pages), including issues of the newspaper’s short-lived sister publication Moscow Daily News (1932-1938).
The Moscow News Digital Archive offers scholars the most comprehensive collection available for this title, and features full page-level digitization, complete original graphics, and searchable text, and is cross-searchable with numerous other East View digital resources.
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This guide is intended to serve as reference for instructors who wish to integrate Moscow News articles as primary source reading within their courses. Instructors are encouraged to leverage the material as they see fit including integrating within syllabi, assigning as reading for class preparation or use in online courses as background for discussion posts. The articles identified in this guide are also a valuable resource for guided research.