Samizdat Is Russia’ Underground Press

1960s: Days of Rage

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…

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