On April 1, 1923, the first Soviet issue of the legendary "Ogoniok" magazine was published. This printed publication, the oldest of the surviving magazines in the country, and Russian sibling of "Life", "Time", or "Paris Match", was suspended in 1918 by the October Revolution and the Civil War*. Unlike many other pre-revolutionary publications, it managed to steer through the tough times and see its revival in 1923. The impact it had on the formation of the Soviet people’s outlook and viewpoint cannot be underestimated.
The first issue of Ogoniok was released on December 21, 1899 and classified as a weekly art and literature edition. As of 1902, Ogoniok gained enormous popularity with the readers and its circulation was increasing rapidly. Already in the 1920s, it topped all of the other printed media by the abundant photography, which comprised over a third of the magazine’s content.
Regardless of the thrive of the Soviet print media in the years of the New Economic policy, the decision still was made to bring Ogoniok back to life, though restructured and revamped.
Regardless of the harsh working conditions – the entire editorial board were squeezed into one tiny room – Ogoniok still managed to be issued with relative consistency, and in two years, in 1925, its circulation raised by 12 times. Its unique features: literate, yet slightly official tone, abundance in visual materials, and classic appeal distinguished it from other publications. In the 50s, the image of the magazine was completed when poems and stories by famous modern writers were put in, which in the era of a book deficit, multiplied the magazine’s value significantly. Each copy also had a glossy insert, featuring masterpieces of the world art, which were also inaccessible elsewhere. In other words, Ogoniok (which in Russian means "little flame") was more of a torch for the Soviet people in the world of art and literature.
In the 80s, the years of perestroika and glasnost, Ogoniok became the sounding board of democracy and liberalism; it was the first source to publish a series of ruthless exposures of political crimes and corruption, adding a new feature to the magazine’s concept.
The rocky 90s and the advent of the market relations exacerbated the competition, putting Ogoniok on the road to becoming another glossy magazine. Though a number of changes did take place, the major concept of the magazine, that is, focus on people and their lives, stayed unchanged.
Today, hit by the world crisis and defeated by glossy competitors, Ogoniok did find itself at death’s door. The publication was suspended for several months and in the dark about its future, until recently, when it has been acquired by a new owner, who is optimistic about its future and plans to uphold the century-long traditions of the beloved people’s magazine.
*The Civil War – the fight for power that occurred following the overthrow of the tsarist regime, lasted from 1917-1923, between multiple social and political groups, resulted in the victory of the Bolsheviks and establishment of the Soviet system.