. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dandy Publication Pays Homage to Second City

On Dec. 25, Commersant Daily, this country's most westernized and progressive newspaper, published Commersant Dandy, one of its special projects. And like several of its previous one-time publications -- Commersant Enter about computers and Commersant Baby about children -- Dandy was put together by the newspaper's St. Petersburg office.


Commersant started a few years ago as a relatively modest weekly. By now the publishing house has grown to nearly empire status, with Commersant Daily as its flagship. Most of the Moscow-based national media tend to treat St. Petersburg as an open-air museum at best, and a somewhat backward, stale and semi-provincial city at worst. Commersant Daily, however, has always paid the northern capital its due respect.


From Commersant's first issue, St. Petersburg has been presented as the country's true second capital -- politically, financially and culturally. Unlike most other national periodicals, which often keep only one correspondent in St. Petersburg, Commersant Daily has established an entire office and employs some of the city's best journalists. Run by the adventurous Dunia Smirnova, a scriptwriter, critic, and former model and pop star, the St. Petersburg team has come up with Commersant Dandy.


It is not by chance that Dandy came out in St. Petersburg. Moscow, for all its power, wealth and modernity, is a city of more traditional Russian values. St. Petersburg, by virtue of its birth and fate, has always gravitated toward Europe. Dandyism, a culture intrinsically alien to proverbially sloppy Russians, could take root only here -- in this blend of a European and a Russian city.


The paper opens with a retrospective of the world's renowned dandies: George Brian Brummel, Oscar Wilde and even a few Russians: philosopher Pyotr Chaadayev, poet Mikhail Kuzmin and writer Valentin Stenich -- all St. Peterburgers, of course. The 12-page paper covers issues ranging from interviews with city politicians on their gastronomic tastes to reviews of the nightclub scene, travel articles and a look at "pulp fashion" -- mafiosi styles from Al Capone to the crew-cut gangsters of today.


Appropriate standards in housing and clothing, food and drink must all be met to achieve genuine dandy style. An independent spirit is perhaps most important of all. But according to Commersant Dandy, dandyism is ultimately much more than a sum total of its components. It is a "manner of living," eccentric and elegant, always balanced on a fine line of eternal conflict between boredom and the rules of propriety.


With all the variety in today's print media, there was still a style-magazine void in St. Petersburg. Commersant Dandy is an attempt to fill this void. In a society poised between a conservative Orthodox past and an unclear future, putting out a paper like this is an act of dandyism in itself.