Pražáková, K. Die Nachrichtenmedien des 16. Jahrhunderts und das Bild von Russland im Königreich Böhmen, in: Proslogion: Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Social History and Culture, 2019. Vol. 5 (2). P. 30–57.
Kateřina Pražáková, PhD in history, researcher, Historical Institute of the Philosophical faculty, University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice] (370 05, Tschechien, České Budějovice, Branišovská 31A)
The study focuses on the development of reporting in Early Modern Europe. In the Kingdom of Bohemia the first news media, reporting letters and handwritten newspapers, occurred in the middle of the 15th century. Their reliability was appreciated much, but they were quite expensive. Therefore, just members of royal families, courtiers and other powerful noblemen could afford to order them initially. In the middle of the 16th century the situation started to change and also other social groups like rich trades, craftsmen or clergymen or scholars started to buy or borrow the handwritten newspapers. They were also ordered by some town councils and stored in the town halls.
Usually, handwritten newspapers were headed by the place and date of origin of the news. On the other hand, they nearly never contained a signature of the author. Their authors and copyists announced their names only to the customer. They feared the wrath of some powerful people, since they often revealed very detailed data in their newspapers, such as the number of soldiers involved in a military campaign.
Printed newspapers and leaflets also originated in the 15th century like the handwritten ones. Their advantage was that the printers were able to make more copies of them at once, so they could sell them for a lower price. Therefore, the printed newspapers and leaflets could be purchased also by lower nobility, merchants and common craftsmen. On the other hand, till the middle of the 17th century the printed media were disadvantaged by the slowness of the printing process. The printed newspapers and leaflets were often issued, when the news had been already known. To increase the attractiveness of the printed newspapers in this situation their authors concentrated on detailed descriptions of the events and they also took the advantage of dramatic illustrations. This definitely supported the success of the printed newspaper in the society, but at the same time led to the strengthening of the propaganda side. Printed media were usually much more tendentious than handwritten newspapers.
The first news on events in Russia occurred in the reporting of the Kingdom of Bohemia at the beginning of the 16th century. Czech nobles cared about the conflicts between Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and Russia in the first decades of the 16th century a lot, since at that time the Kingdom of Bohemia was ruled by the members of Jagellonian dynasty. When Ferdinand I. of Habsburg became the king of Bohemia, the interest in Russian affairs declined. It raised again in 1560ies in connection with the Livonian wars. Till the beginning of 1570ies the majority of reporting media described Russians as brutal raiders. Especially printed leaflets depicted cruel actions of the tsar Ivan IV and several of them gained much attention. However, the negative image of Russia in the reporting media of the Habsburg monarchy started to change partly after the death of Sigismund II Augustus. During the elections of Polish kings and in the first years of the reign of Stephen Báthory the Habsburgs were seriously considering possibilities of cooperation with Ivan IV. Therefore, they supported a more favourable image of the czar in the reporting. However, when the power situation in Poland changed again at the end of 1580ies by the reign of Sigismund III Vasa and the Habsburgs’ interest in cooperating with Russia declined, the image of Russians in the news deteriorated again.
Key Words: Handwritten newspapers, leaflets, image of Russia, Livonian war, Ivan IV, Habsburg-Russian relations, propaganda