Pinkertonovshchina in Soviet Russia


The Pinkerton detective agency has been in existence since the mid 1800s. Allan Pinkerton started the agency after moving to the United States from Scotland in 1842. His goal was to create the largest detective agency in the world, and his wild success reached a paradigm in the early 1890s, when the agency employed a higher number detectives than soldiers in the US Army. Pinkerton became more prominent in American culture in the early 1900s due to their involvement in many labor issues. This prominence led to a pop-culture standing in the United States, which surprisingly caught on in Soviet Russia.

The Nat Pinkerton craze in early 20th century Russia is well documented in many books and scholarly articles. The reasons for such idolization of an American detective series are widely debated, but the most realistic cause is also the reason for the success of Sherlock Holmes in Russia: Western ideologies permeating into Eastern culture.

Western products and ideas have entered the Eastern European and Russian markets through various mediums, and the commercial craze of multiple detective series from 1907 through the 1920s was a major presence in Soviet culture. The Nat Pinkerton magazines were the most endearing for citizens of all ages because of their “cross-cultural link” to Soviet Realism. The ideologies present in the short reads often paralleled Soviet culture at the time, and allowed people to bask in the ongoing revolutionary culture that was a staple of early Soviet years. The magazines were even loved so much by early Soviet leaders, that a series known as the “red” Pinkerton was considered.

In the Soviet Union, it was a well-known fact that Lenin was a voracious reader in the crime/ detective genre. One of the major Soviet debaters, Nikolai Bukharin, thought the Pinkerton craze was interesting, but could be put to better use. This would have involved a somewhat communist Pinkerton propaganda figure, who would have stoked up young communists in all parts of the country. Because of Stalin’s reluctance to accept any type of art in the country, such a character was never created. However, the Nat Pinkerton craze did change young Soviet life through the short, but to-the-point dialogues between characters, along with the engrossing plot developments that symbolized many prominent Soviet ideals.

The Nat Pinkerton series was not be as well received in modern day Russia, but it spiked a long-standing interest in detective novels and shows, epitomized today by the recent high-budget Sherlock Holmes series on Russian television.



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