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Russian Literary Journals, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy in St. Petersburg, 1877

by Linda Mayhew

How to publish under censorship.

In Russian Literary Journals, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy in St. Petersburg, 1877, editors, writers, censors, and business people will compete to produce a successful literary journal, which requires a nuanced understanding of political philosophies and writing styles as well as solid finances and social connections. Roles, including Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, give students the option of producing their own creative work, analyzing an existing work, or commenting on social issues in Elena Shtakenshneider’s literary salon. Then, writers must produce work that meets with a censor’s and editor’s approval and gets published. Editors and writers affiliated with the most successful journal will shape Russia’s literary and political future, receiving national recognition and meeting with Tsar Alexander II to make recommendations on future reforms. This interdisciplinary approach to studying literary journals allows students to explore a range of ideas leading up to the Russian Revolution: panslavism, populism, Russian Orthodoxy, women’s role in society, and the impact of these ideas on the literary community.

This is a Level 4 game that is still under development but has been approved by the Reacting Editorial Board (REB) for general use. A detailed explanation of the editorial process and game levels can be found on our REB Page.



Cultural and Social History; International Relations; Literature/English; Political Science and Government; Religion; Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies; World History

19th Century; Late Modern Period

In a Few Words
Censorship, creativity, and social justice.

Europe, Asia

Themes and Issues

Class, Gender, Free speech/censorship

Player Interactions 

Factional, Non-factional, Competitive, Collaborative

Sample Class Titles

Reacting to Revolutionary Ideas; Literature and Revolutionary Politics in 19th Century Russia; Russian History

Notable Roles

Sofiya Perovskaya, Aleksander Nikitenko, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Level 3 game (what's that mean?

Money, Rolling Dice

Chaos and Demand on Instructor 
This game is moderately demanding on the instructor. The chaos depends on whether or not the Populists choose violence over education. If they choose violence and the Slavophiles are committed to persecuting them, the game can feel chaotic. Otherwise, the chaos/violence seems to come out of nowhere on the last day.

Primary Source Highlights
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy; The Grand Inquisitor by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Using the Game

Class Size and Scalability 
This game is recommended for classes with 15-30 students.

Class Time  
For this game, 8 or 17 sessions are recommended, including setup, plus 1 debrief session.

Possible Reacting Game Pairings
This game can be used on its own, or with other games. These pairings are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive or prescriptive.  Russian Literary Journals may pair well with:


You can adjust the assignments to fit the desired learning outcomes of your class. This game can include traditional paper/research/thesis-driven writing, journalism, creative writing, and criticism. Not all roles are required to give formal speeches.


Reacting Consortium members can download all game materials below. You will be asked to sign in before downloading.  

Please Fill out the Permissions Request Form Before Using Russian Literary Journals in Your Class!


All students need a Gamebook, which includes resources and historical content. Members can download the Gamebook, and provide it to students for free or at cost.

Updated Feb 2022. .pdf file.

Instructor's Manual and Handouts

The Instructor's Manual includes guidance for assigning roles, presenting historical context, assignments, activities and discussion topics, and more.

Updated 2022 .pdf file.

Role Sheets

Students also need a Role Sheet, which contains biographical information, suggestions for further reading, and role-specific info or assignments.  

Updated February 2022 .zip file


Linda Mayhew

Linda Mayhew is the Humanities Program Coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin.

Reacting and Related Titles

  • The Wanderers: Traveling Artists in Russia, 1863


"The author has chosen an ideal moment of tension between ideas and people! She certainly has a deep knowledge of the literary sphere of the late 19th century. If I had all the time in the world in a 19th century Russian history course, a course on political revolutions, etc., I would use this game as it sets up the Russian Revolution perfectly."

"I appreciate that out of 24 characters, 7 of them are women and almost all of them are vital to the game. Of course, you can’t include women if they aren’t in the history but it would have been easy to make this game male dominated. "

"The source material is impressive and rich, and the focus of the game on the literary scene provides great insight into the politics and logistics of publishing. High art, radical politics, nationalism, and the business of publishing all appear here. There’s a lot of potential here. I’d love to see the game in action."


Members can contact game authors directly

We invite instructors join our Facebook Faculty Lounge, where you'll find a wonderful community eager to help and answer questions. We also encourage you to submit your question for the forthcoming FAQ, and to check out our upcoming events


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