Introduction

‘According to my impression obtained from the study of ancient history, the leaders of former civilizations would never have allowed such an abnormality to continue for so long.

‘This opinion of mine may be confirmed by authentic information which has come down to us about the serious attitude towards daily literature taken by the rulers of our country not so long ago, in the period when it was considered one of the greatest nations, namely, when Great Babylon belonged to us and was the sole centre of culture recognized by everyone on earth.

‘According to this information, a daily press also existed there, in the form of what are called printed papyri, although of course in an incomparably smaller quantity than now. But at that time those who participated in such literary organs were only elderly and qualified persons, known to all for their serious merits and honourable lives; and there was even an established rule for appointing such men to these positions under oath, and they were therefore called sworn collaborators, just as now there are sworn juries, sworn experts and so on.

‘But nowadays any whipper­snapper can be a journalist, so long as he knows how to express himself prettily and, as is said, literarily.

‘I became particularly well acquainted with the psyche, and could in general evaluate the being, of these products of contemporary civilization who fill the newspapers and periodicals with their various wiseacrings, when for three or four months, in that same town of Baku, I happened to be present every day at their gatherings and to exchange opinions with them.

‘This occurred in the following circumstances:

‘Once, when I had gone to Baku with the intention of staying all winter with my nephew, several young persons came to him and asked his permission for their “New Society of Literati and Journalists” to hold meetings in one of the large rooms on the ground floor of his house, in which he had originally intended to establish a restaurant. My nephew at once gave his consent, and from the next day on these young people assembled, chiefly in the evenings, for their, as they called them, general meetings and learned debates.

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