Postcards and the Russian Revolution

Short, angry missives pinged across the world – Russian propagandists used postcards to get their message across.

Pin-heads: postcard showing the Imperial government bowled over by the threat of revolution, Russian, 1905. Courtesy Tobie MathewIn 1878, Russian mail workers intercepted four postcards sent from Moscow to St Petersburg. Each contained a series of short codes relaying chess moves, paired with an innocuous-sounding message. One, dated 29 October, reads: ‘Our club is growing, but the players are all bad – we haven’t yet had a single decent game.’

Across a covering note describing the postcards as suspect, an agent of the secret police has scrawled: ‘Chess!!!’ – the three exclamation marks pouring scorn on the notion that the messages might have anything to do with board games. This Imperial policeman was convinced that the king these players were manoeuvring against was in fact the tsar himself.

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