Staunton, August 2 – On August 1, 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev ended the Soviet-system of pre-publication censorship. A year later, the Communist Party collapsed and the Soviet Union then disintegrated, an indication that authoritarian regimes cannot long survive without censorship and making Vladimir Putin’s moves to re-impose it in Russia all the more worrisome.
Commenting on Gorbachev’s action, Andrey Malgin notes that “Putin has not introduced pre-publication censorship; but this isn’t required. A whole complex of laws and decrees have been adopted in recent years allowing for the closure of any organ of the press, TV channel or radio station not to mention website” (kasparov.ru/material.php?id=55BD9DFB3D897
Soviet censorship, Malgin says, “not only prohibited and permitted manuscripts but also carried out a form of secondary control – the destruction of books that had already come out. Up to the summer of 1990, book stores and libraries were sent lists of books and records” that had to be handed over to Glavlit for destruction.
This system allowed the Soviet regime to ensure that the media echoed and promoted the party line, whatever it was. Most notoriously perhaps, Malgin says, was the way in which Soviet censorship between the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and German invasion of the USSR blocked any criticism of Hitler or Nazism, even the most roundabout.
Obviously, Putin does not yet exercise that kind of control, and things slip through he won’t like. One did last week, and it is already being featured on opposition websites and Facebook: “RBK Daily” published a picture of Putin talking to Sergey Mironov under the headline, “The Triumph of Greyness” (charter97.org/ru/news/2015/8/2/162727/