Samizdat books are a piece of Russia
n tradition that became huge in the Soviet Union under Khrushchev
's regimes. In Soviet Commmunism
, during and after Stalin
and academics were tightly controlled by the State. If something did not help further or glorify the Revolution
and all that it stood for (what it stood for was obviously a very subjective
issue), then it was not acceptable for public consumption
. As a result, many artists and intellectual
s saw their works suppressed, or were themselves imprisoned or killed.
However, publishing a samizdat book was a way in which unacceptable ideas could be published. Typically, the author would give his/her work to a friend with a typewriter who, using carbon paper, would type up the work up (piling paper/carbon paper upon paper/carbon paper and pressing really hard on the keys), then sew it together into a crude binding. These books, particularly in the 1960s, found an easy way to be disseminated through many of the social circles in Soviet society who would get together and read these hand published books. When a person was done with the book, he or she would simply pass it on to another friend to read and enjoy it.
Many famous books came out of the samizdat tradition. Doctor Zhivago was published in this fashion and was smuggled out of the USSR where it was published for general consumption and won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1958. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and the Gulag Archipelago were also published as samizdat as well. Solzhenitsyn's resulting publishing of the book in West was the final straw that had him forcibly removed from the Soviet Union (where he later returned as a crack-pot ultra nationalist later on :).
The Soviet government, during Khruschev's regime, was rather lenient to these forms of self-expression. Brezhnev attempted to curb these forms of dissent, but was unsuccessful in the end. The use of samizdat was one of the many ways that Russians bucked the totalitarian state in which they lived.