Military Censorship In Imperial Russia, 1904-1917

by David M Skipton, Posted: 2008-01-30 Samovar Email the Link to this Exhibit

Exhibit Categories: CensorshipImperialWorld War I

Military Censorship In Imperial Russia

Topic Summary:

The Russian Empire in the early 20th Century was the largest contiguous political entity in the world, it had a huge army and a big population, and censorship encompassed the whole of them. It is impossible to do more than show selected portions, and there is no such thing as a "complete" collection, much less an exhibit.

The study of Russian military censorship has been mostly limited to cataloging the censor marks themselves, and where possible, equating them to a location or a military outfit. Over 2,000 markings have been recorded as of 2005, but many more must exist. Working back from that information plus the postcards and letters themselves, researchers have attacked the problem empirically, but that only goes so far and the assumptions they reach can be wrong.

Relatively little in the way of archival material has been uncovered, and indeed it may no longer exist. Part of the reason for this lack of documentation is secrecy: military censorship is a function of counter-intelligence, and because the Imperial Army wanted to keep its counter-intelligence operations secret, it did not publish them during the war.

Then came the Civil War, the Soviets and the Red Army; they had the same concerns and no desire to publish what transpired in Imperial counter-intelligence because the Soviets adopted most of its procedures. To expose the workings of Imperial Russian military censorship would have meant exposing their own operations. Even today, Russian Federation military censorship methodology remains classified. Mail is mail, whether it is sent in 1915 or 2005, so it still has to be logged, sorted, examined, analyzed and routed in much the same way. The other part of the reason for lack of documentation is war. Many records were destroyed in World War I, the Civil War and World War II.