The figure of official of local government of the Russian Empire in the second half of nineteenth century. traditionally attracted considerable interest from the public. However in the second half of the nineteenth century this problem became the subject of active discussion, which is associated with a process of broad public discourse and new tendencies in Russian literature and publicism.
Research on public perception of identity of the official of local government can be achieved by analyzing of periodical publications. One of the most successful source in this plan is the magazine «Russian Vestnik», in which publicistic materials were combined with artistic works. This contributed to the popularity of magazine, periodicity (1856-1860 – twice a month, 1861-1906 – once a month) and personality of editor M.N. Katkov. This influential publicist and literary critic headed the editorial office of the magazine from 1856 to 1887. The latter factor was determinative for substantial evolution of general tonality of the magazine publications – from the liberal end of 1850 to strictly conservative in further period that coincided with the worldview transformation of M. N. Katkov.
Problems of Russian officials in the pages of magazine were raised by specialists of rights (O. Gradovsky, A. Polyumbetskyy, S. Barshev, M. Zarudnyi etc.), officials-practician (S. Hromeka, W. Bezobrazov, A. Fet, S. Slavutynskyi, B. Hotyaintsov etc.), writers (M. Saltykov-Shchedrin, A. Afanasiev-Chuzhbynskyy etc.) and anonymous authors («N»; «DV», «PB», «D. D»), social and professional identity of which is difficult to establish.
Lawyers and officials mainly focused on the problems of local government, only occasionally referring to the personality of official. Literary men demonstrated quite vibrant and emotive images. In the works of Alexander Afanasyev-Chuzhbynsky, M. Saltykov-Shchedrin figures of officials were submitted at various levels through the prism of their career, material security and personal life. Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin paid attention on strict subordination within the bureaucratic corporation practice of contemptuous attitude of provincial officials to their colleagues of district level and meagre salaries of minor officials, which explains their dissatisfaction with the service.
The common thread in the works of M. Saltykov-Shchedrin is the problem of bribes. According to him the worst is the “moral bribe” – a service for which the official has to pay: small, but persistent signs of attention, flattery, formal dinners and more. The writer believed that bribe was a feature of provincial officials.
Voluminous layer of criticism and reflections concerns functionary of police department. In the works of publicist and police officer S.S. Hromeka were analyzed the problem of morality of functionaries, legal conscience of society, the impact of public opinion on the activities of functionaries. Analyzing the problem of police in Russia he drew attention not only to the shortcomings of the personal staff of functionaries but also the lack in Russian society of respect for laws, for personality and respect for people engaged in legal proceedings or protect the public peace. Instead of laws and personality in Russia canons of fashion, etiquette and uniforms were more respected. That is why functionaries no matter how tried to be moral, would still have to please rich and noble, humiliating themselves, but gradually moving up the career ladder. Other difficulties in the work of police S.S. Hromeka called excessive paperwork. For example mayor whose powers are concerned almost all life issues at the town, every step had to reflect on paper. In this context author considered ideal London police, which engaged in purely police matters.
Also contributors of journal discussed issues of total dependence of functionaries from imperfect legislation (A. Fet « Echo of rural judge ») and their excessive service load. Publicist V.P. Bezobrazov actualized issues of trust to functionary, stressing that almost all functionaries of local government have long been a favourite subject of Russian satire. On the contrary he highly valued Institute of world mediators where, according to him, came the best people that are really trying to improve situation.
Thus, the analysis of publications of «Russian Vestnik» for the period of 1856 – 1900 has allowed to distinguish some basic aspects concerning functionaries of local government. This question about their educational, moral and cultural level, the problem of material security, the problem of bribes, the issue of compliance of occupied positions and attitude of functionaries to fulfilment of their duties. Inextricably associated with this and more general problems concerning legal maintenance and functioning of local government and the level of legal conscience in Russian society. Such a discussion on the pages of popular and mass magazine was extremely important feature of development of civil society and encouraged government surrounding to solve problems of management system. Also because of publicism to active discussion were involved representatives of the public, thus carried out dialogue of authority and society.