Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Samizdat: Fighting Censorship (Portfolio IX)

Samizdat: Fighting Censorship

Imagine if you lived in a country where everything you wrote was under scrutiny. All your essays and books would be checked according to the will of the state and censored if they opposed that will. Anything not published or distributed under the explicit approval of the state would be seen as illegal and would render you as a criminal and dissident of the state. This was the daily reality for people living in the Soviet Union from Stalin’s years until the Gorbachev era. Even so, many published and distributed their censored works without state approval, and this action came to be called Samizdat.

Samizdat was a grassroots form of dissidence that started in the Khrushchev Thaw as a sort of outcry against the censorship and oppression of the state. Poetry was perhaps the most popular form of free, “anti-state” expression. In 1958 after a monument to Vladimir Mayakovski was opened in the center of Moscow, many Muscovites especially students began to meet at this place known as the Mayak and to have public readings of poetry. It was until 3 years later that the state cracked down on them and arrested several of the regular attendees. However, the samizdat continued to spread giving rise to a moderate dissident movement throughout the Soviet Union. The samizdat eventually helped to bring about the lifting of censorships through Gorbachev and the fall of the Soviet Union.

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