Monday, May 13, 2024

Russian Samizdat Today ‘isn’t Underground Literature as in Soviet Times but a Form of Contemporary Art,’ ‘Meduza’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 10 – Samizdat, the Russian term for self-published material, was widespread in the last decades of the Soviet Union and served as an important means for making available works that communist government didn’t approve of and the ideas of those who hoped to change or even overthrow that regime.

            With the end of censorship and the rise of the Internet, samizdat almost completely disappeared. And the final nail in its coffin appeared to be a 2001 Russian law that allowed anyone to publish any work without official permission as long as some typographer agreed and the number of copies involved was 999 or less.

            But increasing repression under Vladimir Putin and the increasing unwillingness of printing firms to publish materials likely to get those who agree to do so in trouble, samizdat has reemerged in Russia, although much of it is not so much political as artistic, a sharp contrast with Soviet times.

            The Meduza news portal surveys this development by means of an interview with Anna Dial, an artist and the founder of The Unknown Person publishers ( (

            Dial, who has chosen to leave Russia, says that most of the materials publishers like hers issue are experimental art rather than political; but she suggests that as repression has increased since the start of Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine that has begun to change and more and more of these publications do feature explicitly political content.

            Among the many points she makes about this phenomenon, one is especially noteworthy. Almost none of the products of this new samizdat ever find their way in the regular media or the Internet. As a result, they remain below the radar screens of both the regime and of those who hope to understand what the Kremlin is doing. 

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