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Too Much to Ban: Policing the Graphosphere in Paul I’s Riga (with Greg Afinogenov and Discussant Linda Mayhew)
December 6, 2023 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Join us for another 19v seminar!
In April 1800, after a century of building an intellectual infrastructure around foreign texts, the Russian Empire under Paul I banned all importation of books and music from abroad. Using materials from the Latvian State Historical Archive (LVVA) in Riga, my paper looks at the underappreciated prehistory of this decision: the crisis of the Riga censorship office, then run by the Ukrainian academician Fëdor Tumanskii. Paul’s censorship mandate covered not just books and newspapers but printed materials of all kinds, including everything from Jewish ritual texts to sheet music to the watermarks on blank paper – adding up to effectively the entirety of what Simon Franklin has called “the Russian graphosphere.” Riga, the entrepot for an exceptionally literate consumer population, posed special problems in this regard: as Tumanskii found, the ambitions of imperial censorship came to far exceed its capacity, leading to the bankruptcies of several leading booksellers. The ban was one solution to his problem. In the end, Alexander I would temporarily loosen censorship again before restoring it in an even harsher form and Tumanskii would end up as the inmate of an insane asylum after accusing the entire leadership of imperial Livland of fomenting a Jacobin conspiracy.
This event will be hosted on Zoom.