In the essay, The Writers who Defied Soviet Censors, Benjamin Ramm chronicles the story of samizdat, which is really the story of self-publishing in Russia vs state publishing. The author goes back in history to understand how information in the form of ‘political tracts, religious texts, novels, poetry, speeches and music’ was secretly circulated by anonymous writers. Russia, previously the USSR, has a long history of radical pamphlets, jailed writers and revolutionary zeal often quashed.
The complete process was summarised pithily by dissident Vladimir Bukovsky: “Samizdat: I write it myself, edit it myself, censor it myself, publish it myself, distribute it myself, and spend jail time for it myself”.
This essay is fascinating as it brings the present crises across countries into the spotlight- think Wikileaks and internet gags. The medium may change but the problem of censorship remains the same. Can a writer armed with nothing but her fingers change a narrative controlled by huge players? Impossible as it may seem, the writer tries.