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Before glasnost , the practice was dangerous, because copy machines, printing presses, and even typewriters in offices were under control of the organisation's First Department , i. Samizdat distinguishes itself not only by the ideas and debates that it helped spread to a wider audience but also by its physical form. The hand-typed, often blurry and wrinkled pages with numerous typographical errors and nondescript covers helped to separate and elevate Russian samizdat from Western literature. In time, dissidents in the USSR began to admire these qualities for their own sake, the ragged appearance of samizdat contrasting sharply with the smooth, well-produced appearance of texts passed by the censor's office for publication by the State.

The form samizdat took gained precedence over the ideas it expressed, and became a potent symbol of the resourcefulness and rebellious spirit of the inhabitants of the Soviet Union. Samizdat originated from the dissident movement of the Russian intelligentsia , and most samizdat directed itself to a readership of Russian elites. While circulation of samizdat was relatively low, at around , readers on average, many of these readers possessed positions of cultural power and authority.

The purpose and methods of samizdat may contrast with the purpose of the concept of copyright. Self-published and self-distributed literature has a long history in Russia. Faced with the police state 's powers of censorship, society turned to underground literature for self-analysis and self-expression.

Certain works published legally by the State-controlled media were practically impossible to find in bookshops and libraries, and found their way into samizdat. The first full-length book to be distributed as samizdat was Boris Pasternak 's novel Doctor Zhivago.

Samizdat and an independent society in Central and Eastern Europe

At the outset of the Khrushchev Thaw in the mids USSR, poetry became very popular and writings of a wide variety of known, prohibited, repressed, as well as young and unknown poets circulated among Soviet intelligentsia. A number of samizdat publications began circulating that carried unofficial poetry: the Moscow samizdat magazine Sintaksis — by writer Alexander Ginzburg , Vladimir Osipov 's Boomerang and Phoenix produced by Yuri Galanskov and Alexander Ginzburg. The editors of these magazines were regulars at impromptu public poetry readings between and on Mayakovsky Square in Moscow.

The gatherings did not last long, for soon the authorities began clamping down on them. In the summer of , several meeting regulars were arrested and charged with " anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda " Article 70 of the RSFSR Penal Code , putting an end to most of the magazines. Not everything published in samizdat had political overtones. In , Joseph Brodsky was charged with " social parasitism " and convicted for being nothing but a poet. His poems circulated in samizdat, with only four judged as suitable for official Soviet anthologies. Some of their writings were close to the Russian avant-garde of the s and s.

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The show trial of writers Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky Sinyavsky—Daniel trial , charged with anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda, and the subsequent increased repression, marked the demise of the Thaw and the beginning of harsher times for samizdat authors. The trial was carefully documented in a samizdat collection called The White Book , compiled by Yuri Galanskov and Alexander Ginzburg.

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Both writers were later themselves arrested, and sentenced to prison in what was known as The Trial of the Four. In the following years some samizdat content became more politicized, and played an important role in the dissident movement in the Soviet Union. The earliest samizdat periodicals were short-lived and mainly literary in focus: Sintaksis — , Boomerang , and Phoenix Over 15 years, from April to December , 65 issues were published, all but two appearing in English translation. The Chronicle was distinguished by its dry, concise style and punctilious correction of even the smallest error.

The Chronicle editors maintained that, according to the Soviet Constitution , then in force, their publication was not illegal. The authorities did not accept the argument. Many people were harassed, arrested, imprisoned, or forced to leave the country for their involvement in the Chronicle ' s production and distribution. The periodical's typist and first editor Natalya Gorbanevskaya was arrested and put in a psychiatric hospital for taking part in the August Red Square protest against the invasion of Czechoslovakia. In , two of the periodical's close associates Pyotr Yakir and Victor Krasin were persuaded to denounce their fellow editors and the Chronicle on Soviet television.

This put an end to the periodical's activities, until Sergei Kovalev , Tatyana Khodorovich and Tatyana Velikanova openly announced their readiness to resume publication.


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After being arrested and imprisoned, they were replaced, in turn, by others. The late s, which were marked by an increase in informal organizations, saw a renewed wave of samizdat periodicals in the Soviet Union.

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Not all samizdat trends were liberal or clearly opposed to the Soviet regime and the literary establishment. Samizdat covered a large range of topics, mainly including literature and works focused on religion, nationality, and politics. Though most samizdat authors directed their works towards the intelligentsia, samizdat included lowbrow genres in addition to scholarly works. In its early years, samizdat defined itself as a primarily literary phenomenon that included the distribution of poetry, classic unpublished Russian literature, and famous 20th century foreign literature.

For instance, the USSR's refusal to publish Boris Pasternak's epic novel, Doctor Zhivago , due to its focus on individual characters rather than the welfare of the state, led to the novel's subsequent underground publication. The fact that Doctor Zhivago contained no overt messages of dissidence highlighted the clumsiness of the state's censorship process, which caused a shift of readership away from state-published material.

The majority of samizdat texts were politically focused. No unified political thought existed within samizdat; rather, authors debated from a variety of perspectives.


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  7. Samizdat written from socialist, democratic and Slavophile perspectives dominated the debates. Socialist authors compared the current state of the government to the Marxist ideals of socialism, and appealed to the state to fulfil its promises.


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    Socialist samizdat writers hoped to give a "human face" to socialism by expressing dissatisfaction with the system of censorship. However, the Soviet Union invasion of a liberalizing Czechoslovakia, in the events of " Prague Spring ", crushed hopes for reform and stymied the power of the socialist viewpoint. Within samizdat, several works focused on the possibility of a democratic political system. Democratic samizdat possessed a revolutionary nature because of its claim that a fundamental shift in political structure was necessary to reform the state, unlike socialists, who hoped to work within the same basic political framework to achieve change.

    Despite the revolutionary nature of the democratic samizdat authors, most democrats advocated moderate strategies for change.

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    Most democrats believed in an evolutionary approach to achieving democracy in the USSR, and they focused on advancing their cause along open, public routes, rather than underground routes. In opposition to both democratic and socialist samizdat, Slavophile samizdat grouped democracy and socialism together as Western ideals that were unsuited to the Eastern European mentality.

    Slavophile samizdat brought a nationalistic Russian perspective to the political debate, and espoused the importance of cultural diversity and the uniqueness of Slavic cultures. Samizdat written from the Slavophile perspective attempted to unite the USSR under a vision of a shared glorious history of Russian autocracy and Orthodoxy. Consequently, the fact that the USSR encompassed a diverse range of nationalities and lacked a singular Russian history hindered the Slavophile movement.

    By espousing frequently racist and anti-Semitic views of Russian superiority, through either purity of blood or the strength of Russian Orthodoxy, the Slavophile movement in samizdat alienated readers and created divisions within the opposition. Predominantly Orthodox, Baptist, Pentecostalist, Catholic, and Adventist groups authored religious samizdat texts. Though a diversity of religious samizdat circulated, including three Buddhist texts, no known Islamic samizdat texts exist.

    Jewish samizdat importantly advocated for the end of repression of Jews in the USSR and expressed a desire for exodus , the ability to leave Russia for an Israeli homeland. Jewish samizdat encouraged Zionism. The exodus movement also broached broader topics of human rights and freedoms of Soviet citizens. Crimean Tatars and Volga Germans also created samizdat, protesting the state's refusal to allow them to return to their homelands following Stalin's death.

    Ukrainian samvydav opposed the assumed superiority of Russian culture over Ukrainian culture and condemned the forced assimilation of Ukrainians to the Russian language. Ribs , "music on the ribs", "bone records", [35] or roentgenizdat roentgen- referring to X-ray, and -izdat implying samizdat were homemade phonograph records , copied from forbidden recordings that were smuggled into the country.

    Their content was Western rock and roll , jazz , mambo , and other music, and music by banned emigres. They were sold and traded on the black market. Each disc is a thin, flexible plastic sheet recorded with a spiral groove on one side, playable on a normal phonograph turntable at 78 RPM. Volume 23 , Issue 3. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account.

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