Samizdat Is Russia’ Underground Press


Samizdat copies

“Censorship existed even be fore literature, say the Russians. And, we may add, censorship being older, literature has to be craftier. Hence, the new and remarkably viable underground press in the Soviet Union called samizdat. The word is a play on Gosizdat, which is a telescoping of Gosudarstvennoye Izdatelstvo, the name of the monopoly‐wielding State Publishing House. The sampart of the new word means ‘self.’ The whole samizdat—translates as: ‘We publish ourselves’—that is, not the state, but we, the people. Unlike the underground of Czarist times, today’s samizdat has no print ing presses (with rare exceptions): The K.G.B., the secret police, is too efficient. It is the typewriter, each page produced with four to eight carbon copies, that does the job. By the thousands and tens of thousands of frail, smudged onionskin sheets, samizdat spreads across the land a mass of protests and petitions, secret court minutes, Alexander Solzhenit syn’s banned novels, George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, Nicholas Berdyayev’s philosophical essays, documents of the Czech Spring, all sorts of sharp political discourses and angry poetry. The impudence of the movement, even at this time of heightened persecution, reaches a point where in vitations to an evening get‐together include whispered lures that ‘a poet published by samizdat will be present’. … Western Sovietologist cannot study samizdat on the spot. The K.Q.B. would quickly net him. But comprehensive channels of information do thrive between samizdat and its Western sympathizers. I have just returned from a swing through several European centers of such information. … Files and piles of the most diverse underground publications were placed before me. Facts, rumors, personal experiences, ideologies were offered by old Western hands in Kremlinology and the latest Russian perebezhchiki (‘crossers‐over,’ as defectors call them selves). In this report, necessarily, not all the sources of my data can be identified. …”
NY Times (March 1970)
Creating an Underground Press: Samizdat in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc
Google: Samizdat Past and Present, Tomáš Glanc
amazom: Samizdat: Voices of the Soviet Opposition, George Saunders

The review article deals with participation of independent media in the debate on the notion of Central-Eastern Europe in Czechoslovakia and Poland. Participants of this debate (Polish, Czech and Slovak writers, intellectuals and journalists) symbolically neutralized the cold-war division of the world (iron curtain) and liquidated barriers between socialist countries being the parts of the Soviet empire.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

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