Editors' Introduction: Russian Scholarly Journals: The Limits and Potential of Communication

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Russian Journal of Communication


Scholarly journals have been a fixture in the European intellectual landscape for centuries. The first two academic journals appeared in Europe in 1655: The Parisian Journal des sçavans, which included a range of content from scientific material to legal reports, and the English The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, which was published at its editor's personal expense and included contributions by Charles Darwin, Michael Faraday, and Isaac Newton. In Russia, the first scholarly journal was published in Latin (with selected pieces translated into Russian) as Commentarii Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae. It was housed at the newly founded St. Peterburg Academy of Sciences, a pet project of Peter the Great and philosopher G.W. Leibniz, and was released in 14 volumes between 1726 and 1746. By the late-imperial period, the system of scholarly periodicals in the Russian Empire had developed into a broad network covering nearly all popular academic disciplines of the day; for instance, in the field of philosophy (which included psychology), there were roughly 20-25 journals in active publication at any given time during the first 15 years of the twentieth century. However, with the unrest and revolutions of the early twentieth century came the rapid collapse of this scholarly infrastructure: by 1920, the number of active journals in philosophy had fallen to zero and the number of journals on Russian/Soviet territory did not reach five until after Stalin's death in 1953.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russian journals have experienced a period of turmoil and investment that mirrors the broader history of the country itself. The Russian scholarly community has seen the explosion of short-lived, independent journals in the first half of the 1990s; the collapse of that system in the second half of the 1990s following political and financial default; the rapid expansion of online and print journals in the 2000s; and the widespread adoption of subscription databases by institutions of higher education in the 2010s, which have brought Russian regional publications to Moscow as well as an extensive selection of international journals to leading universities (that can afford them) across Russia. The Russian scholarly community has also made great strides in establishing local databases of Russian-language periodicals, either through the controversial list of "leading journals" released by the Higher Attestation Commission (VAK), a national government agency that sets standards for the awarding of advanced academic degrees, or through the development of academic citation indexing and search services based on bibliographic content available through the electronic academic library eLIBRARY.ru.


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