German newspapers sent to Czar Peter the Great have just been returned from Moscow on microfilm. And West German researchers are jubilant. The 2,600 newspapers, dating back as far as 1631 and mostly unknown five years ago, are among the oldest in the world and have been gathering dust in the Moscow state archives for three centuries.
They were among the many foreign newspapers to which Peter the Great and his predecessors regularly subscribed during the 17th and 18th centuries as Russian influence and power grew.
Elger Bluhm, head of the press research department at Bremen University, which has obtained the microfilms, said they would fill important gaps in knowledge of the period and give an insight into how well the Russian court was briefed on international affairs.
Early newspapers, like the printing press itself, developed quickest in the German states, and the first monthly news sheets date back to the end of the 16 th century. They contained a good selection of foreign news, including battle reports, court stories, economic items, and shipping intelligence.
News was generally supplied by merchants or traders, and primitive news agencies developed with individuals or groups supplying news to several outlets at once, Mr. Bluhm said.