What trouble could the old Soviet newspaper Pravda cause these days? The Cold War is over. The Soviet Union is gone. The freshest addition of Pravda no longer gets pasted up all over Moscow for the masses to read at their leisure. Now days, the circle of readers who peruse Pravda is quite small, and I dare say that within that little circle at least half of the readership consists of academics like yours truly, who spend most of their working hours shuffling around post-Soviet libraries, requesting and reading archived issues of the old Soviet daily. I honestly don’t mind reading Pravda. The language is clear and efficient, even a little intellectual. And sometimes, especially in the paper’s early years, the articles are actually interesting. Even very interesting if you get lucky. No, reading Pravda is not the problem. The problem is that Pravda is HUGE. That’s right. Literally HUGE.
Like bigger than your average poster huge. The thing is, the newspaper was especially designed for the reading public, who were literally expected to read it in public, on citywide bulletin boards in parks, squares, cultural centers, workers’ clubs, and factories. It is a wall-newspaper in the best sense of the word, and each page is a little over half my height (Admittedly, at 5’1″ I’m not very tall. But still…). And when an entire month’s worth of Pravda is archived, it is tightly bound into a seriously oversized booklet. A very heavy oversized booklet. A booklet that is difficult to schlepp around the library if you have two free hands and legs that don’t cause you to teeter. The degree of schlepp difficulty doubles if you are aided, wobbly, and have only one free hand. So absurd is are the scenes that transpire in the face of such a task that I felt it would be best illustrate them with a few (amateur) comics. (Disclaimer: There is a deficiency of refined artistic talent and skill in what follows. If you expected high art, it would be best to navigate away from this page now.)
Anyway, a day of Pravda-centric research usually goes something like this:
Step 1: Face off.
Step 2: Attempt to schlepp discretely. Unintentionally attract post-Soviet library lady’s attention.
Step 3: Concede that independent schlepping is impossible. Accept help offered. Sniffle to self. Move toward reading desk. Move on…
“Sometimes that’s just the way it goes…”