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Published in: Society 3/2022

26-05-2022 | Forum Article. Russian Regress: Reading Victor Zaslavsky in a Time of War

Censorship in the Soviet Union

Author: Victor Zaslavsky

Published in: Society | Issue 3/2022

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Abstract

The article provides a historical and conceptual overview of censorship, one of the foundational institutions of the Soviet state. Censorship was institutionalized in 1917 and expanded into “omincensorship,” a system which encompassed not only newspapers and philosophical works but also children’s literature, religious writings, and all manner of foreign publications. As a result of extensive surveillance and harsh punishment, self-censorship became an unwritten rule for self-preservation.
Footnotes
1
For a typical example, consider the 1939 Central Committee memorandum decreeing that “all texts of radio interviews and transmissions, without exception, require prior control by the censorship organs; all printed works destined for publication and dissemination, without exception, require prior censorship by the Glavlit organs” (Goryaeva et al. 1997: 359).
 
2
See T. M. Goryaeva’s introductory essay, “Kul’tura i tsenzura: mify i real’nost’” in Goryaeva et al. (1997: 8–9).
 
3
Salvemini’s speech was published under the title “Non posso tacere” in Teodori (1998: 31–34).
 
4
This fascinating document was made available online in 2019: pentextnn.ru/censorship/russia-after-1917/laws/kpss/18-avgusta-1966-23-avgusta-1990/1969–7-janvarja-postanovlenie-sekretariata-ck-kpss-o-povyshenii-otvetstvennosti-rukovoditelej-organov-pechati-radio-televidenija-kinematografii-uchrezhdenij-kultury-i-iskusstva-za-idejno-politicheski/ (retrieved 10/23/2021).
 
5
The noted Russian-American linguist R. Jakobson has highlighted the effect of invasive and inflexible censorship upon the history of Russian literature: “a sense for reading between the lines becomes unusually keen in the reading public and … the poet indulges in allusions and omissions or – to use a Russian idiom – in ‘Aesopian language’” (Jakobson 1975: 50). The poet L. Loseff has defined Aesopian language as “a special literary system, one whose structure allows interaction between author and reader at the same time that it conceals inadmissable content from the censor” (Loseff 1984: x).
 
Literature
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go back to reference Sentalinskii, V. 1995. Raby svobody v literaturnykh arkhivakh KGB: Babel', Bulgakov, Florenskii, Pil'nyak, Mandelshtam, Klyuev, Platonov, Gorky. Moscow: Parus. Sentalinskii, V. 1995. Raby svobody v literaturnykh arkhivakh KGB: Babel', Bulgakov, Florenskii, Pil'nyak, Mandelshtam, Klyuev, Platonov, Gorky. Moscow: Parus.
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Metadata
Title
Censorship in the Soviet Union
Author
Victor Zaslavsky
Publication date
26-05-2022
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Society / Issue 3/2022
Print ISSN: 0147-2011
Electronic ISSN: 1936-4725
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12115-022-00721-z