Tuesday, October 11, 2005

19th Century Russian Prince Predicted Blogs

Thanks to Nathan at Registan for this curious news story from the Moscow News:
Prince Vladimir Odoevsky, 1803-1869, was a gifted man. Apart from writing philosophical books, stories for children and composing pieces of music, he also wrote science fiction, trying to imagine what his country would look like in 2,500 years, in 4338.

The fact that among other utopian inventions Odoevsky described something very close to the Internet and blogging was brought to public attention by — surprise, surprise — a blogger. Ivan Dezhurny, a Russian poet and singer, is generally fond of futuristic literature. Reading Odoevsky’s novel “Year 4338”, written in 1837, Dezhurny republished selected bits of the book on his personal blog to the delight of his readers.

Odoevsky suggested in future there would be a kind of connection between houses that would allow people to communicate quickly and easily, the way they do now via the Internet.

“Houses are connected by means of magnetic telegraphs that allow people who live far from each other to communicate,” Odoevsky wrote.

Even more interestingly, Odoevsky suggested every household would publish a kind of daily journal or newsletter and distribute it among selected acquaintances, a habit which Russian bloggers immediately recognized as blogging.

“We received a household journal from the local prime minister, which among other things invited us to his place for a reception,” one of Odoevsky’s characters tells a friend.

“The thing is that many households here publish such journals that replace common correspondence. Such journals usually provide information about the hosts’ good or bad health, family news, different thoughts and comments, small inventions, invitations to receptions.”

However, Odoevsky, a prince and a wealthy man, could not imagine people taking so much bother to keep their acquaintances updated on their daily affairs. He suggested the job would be carried out by the butler.

“The job of publishing such a journal daily or weekly is carried out by the butler. It is done very simply: receiving an order from the masters, he makes a notice of what they tell him, then make copies by camera obscura and sends them to the acquaintances.”

Odoevsky’s book contains other curious predictions, such as the threat of the Earth colliding with a comet and Russians planning to fire rockets at it to prevent the collision.

Literature theorists say the unusual remoteness of Odoevsky’s predictions — 2,500 years — could be explained by the slow pace of life that Russian society led in the 19th century.