Samizdat is a term most often used to describe the underground press and publishing that occurred in the Soviet Union. It is a Russian word that literally means “self-published.” The samizdat movement began in the late 1940s as a way to get around the strict censorship laws in the USSR. Writers and dissidents would type up their manuscripts and then circulate them among friends. These copies would often be hand-written or photocopied, and they were often passed from person to person.
The samizdat movement gained steam in the 1960s and 1970s as more and more people began to challenge the Soviet government. Samizdat publications were often critical of the government and its policies. They were also a way for dissidents to share their ideas and connect with others who shared their views.
The concept of samizdat became widely known in the West with the publication of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. This work was based on the author’s experiences in a Soviet forced labor camp and was highly critical of the Soviet regime. The book was published in the West in 1971, but not in the Soviet Union. Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970, but was not permitted to travel to Sweden to receive it.
The Gulag Archipelago was circulated in the Soviet Union in the form of samizdat copies. The KGB (Soviet secret police) made numerous raids in an attempt to stop the spread of the book, but it is estimated that over 20 million people eventually read it.
Samizdat was of utmost importance to books and publishing during the Soviet era. It allowed for the spread of banned or censored books and other materials, which would otherwise be unavailable to the public. Samizdat also played a vital role in the dissident movement, as it allowed for the sharing of forbidden ideas and the publication of underground newspapers.