Pravda (Truth) was a newspaper published by Leon Trotsky in Geneva and Vienna between 3rd October, 1908 to 23rd April, 1912. It resumed publication in St Petersburg by the Bolsheviks on 22nd April, 1913. The offices of the newspaper was transferred to Moscow on 3rd March, 1918.
The Soviet press is officially owned and more rigidly controlled than any other of the state properties. It is frankly and proudly a kept press-kept by the government, the Communist Party, the trade-unions, which are but different names for the same centralized power. The very memory of an "independent" newspaper, in serious disagreement with the government, has faded out.
Every sentence in every paper has been censored. Not merely what it actually says but the inflections and overtones of its dreaded voice are political weather-vanes to the initiate. Its very silences are portentous. An editorial is the equivalent of an official pro-nunciamento. The faint hint of a new attitude toward some sector of the population in a random article may foreshadow destiny for millions. The kind of news published, the stress placed on an occurrence, the failure to mention certain events at home or abroad, all have an importance they do not possess where the press is relatively free.
The whole ethical baggage of journalism in democratic countries has been thrown overboard by the Bolsheviks. No claim is made for "unbiased" or "objective" reporting. No pretense is made of newspaper independence and no reference is ever made to the freedom or dignity of the Fourth Estate. All this baggage, in fact, the communists regard as a piece of bourgeois hypocrisy. The press is not primarily a conveyor of news at all. It is first of all an agency of the Soviet regime in accomplishing its political economic objectives. Its full force is always focused upon the achievement of specific practical results.
In the editorial offices on the top floor of the slate-gray five-story Izvestza building, a prominent Russian newspaperman was explaining this to me one evening.
"But how about truth and facts:" I prodded him. "Here am I, a stranger in your midst. What you print is my chief source of information. Can I believe it."
"If it's printed, it's truth for us. We don't know and don't care about bourgeois notions of facts. We Soviet journalists are not just reporters. We don't boast of standing above the turmoil like recording angels. On the contrary, we are in the thick of the fight, pioneers in the job of changing our country. If certain information retards this work, we would be crazy to print it. As far as we are concerned, it is then neither news nor truth. It becomes plain counter-revolution."
"Well," I smiled, "maybe that explains the first political anecdote I heard in your country. I understand that it's your oldest and best-known popular Soviet joke. I refer..."
He laughed. "I know, I know. There is no truth in the News (Izvestza) and no news in the Truth (Brava)."
The surface of the Soviet press is painfully drab and monotonous. When news and views are prescribed from a central source there is small margin for originality of style or content. The stilted repetitious language of the Party "theses" prevails throughout, since safety for the news writer and commentator lies in conformity. Originality, even as to the phrasing of a thought, is dangerously on the borderline of heresy. Why risk a startling metaphor or an individual turn of thought when the orthodox formulation of every current theme, from the campaign to raise more potatoes to the drive to liquidate a million kulak families, is at hand?