Incendiary print: how postcards stoked politics in revolutionary Russia

Used to mock political figures, share messages of dissent and stir rebellion, postcards were a powerful tool in Russia during the early 1900s. A new book from Four Corners explores why

As small and cheaply produced pieces of print, postcards were easily smuggled from person to person, allowing subversive ideas to be shared among a population that was largely illiterate.

“For a short time, postcards became the ultimate visual representatives of the era, charged with bringing down the old and building up the new,” says author Tobie Mathew, whose own collection of postcards is featured in the book, entitled Greetings from The Barricades: Revolution Postcards in Imperial Russia. “In their imagery, the welfare of the nation was placed at centre stage, the lives and rights of the people made a crucial matter, just as relevant to the historical record as art and autocracy.”

Often, revolutionary groups used the sale of postcards to help fund their activities, but artists, illustrators, photographers, publishers, photographic studios and bookshops were all involved in the business – often using overlapping imagery. Photomechanic or typographic images were the cheapest to produce, while chromolithographic postcards were at the higher end.

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