Samizdat Catalogue

Russian version
Online database

We offer you an online database "Samizdat Catalogue." The Catalogue will include over 6,000 entries about samizdat documents, i.e., texts that were unofficially distributed in the former USSR. In 1960-1980ies, samizdat evolved into an information system that was an alternative to the official media and literature, and highly attractive for the liberally-minded people.

The Catalogue and its publication on the Internet became possible thanks to support from the Open Society Archives at the Central European University (http://www.osa.ceu.hu).

The available version of this database is not the final one, either in information content and technical capacities. Its content is limited at this stage by the first 1,000 entries, while the rest will be posted gradually, as soon as they are completed. The final version of the database will be built concurrently, with access to new fields, particularly the comment fields.

The staff of Memorial Research Center Guennady Kuzovkin (Coordinator and Editor/Collector). Dmitry Zubarev, Sergei Sigachev (Editors/Collectors), Nadezhda Petrova (Database Designer and Administrator), Vyacheslav Krakhotin (Internet version of the database), Alexei Makarov, Alexei Belenkin and others took part in the project.

Researchers Alexander Daniel (Memorial) and Mario Corti (Research Institute of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) came with an idea to make an electronic version of the Catalogue long before the project began. In 1993, Corti attempted to initiate an international project to make a database of samizdat documents kept in the Russian and Western archives. It was assumed that the project would be supported by the "People's Archives," Memorial, and Keston Institute (Oxford) but the authors failed to raise funding (besides, the computer capacities at that time did not fit in with the scope of the project).

The program "History of Dissident Thinking in the USSR, 1954-1987" by Memorial Research Center, tuned in to this idea1. In 1995-1998 the program staff, with support of colleagues from other Memorial programs and volunteers, made a digital version of available directories/guides on samizdat documents (see the introductory note for details about these guides). Participants in this effort included researcher N. Kostenko (who suggested the idea of an Internet publication), D. Lozovan, volunteers A. Goldfine, P. Tomachinsky, O. Trusevich, and others. The first version of the database (designed by N. Petrova) was ready in 1998, and the preliminary editing of entries was completed (editor Ye. Papovian).

The results of this work became the launching platform for this project.


Introductory note

Guennady Kuzovkin, Dmitry Zubarev

Samizdat documents make a valuable source for many topics of the latest history of Russia and other countries (former USSR republics and the "socialist camp"). We will name just a few: relations between the society and the government; different forms of resistance; dissident thinking; independent self-organization of the society and culture during late totalitarianism; political control and the repressive policy of the State. The cover-all censorship, the mania of secrecy, and falsifications typical for the soviet era made samizdat a unique information resource, if not a flawless one, which did not lose its importance even now when the government archives became more accessible2.

In our view, samizdat as a phenomenon is worthy of attention, too, not merely as a noteworthy event of the public and cultural life in the 1960-1980ies but as an information phenomenon. Researchers compare it with the Internet increasingly more often, i.e., the Internet as an uncontrolled information environment (or rather, inaccessible for the total control). The analogy is all the stronger because copies of a material (replications in the World Wide Web) depend on the preferences of a reader rather than the author/publisher both on the Internet and in samizdat (the borderline between these roles was fluid in samizdat, too). Of course, the decision to publish the Samizdat Catalogue on the Internet had other reasons besides this.

The Catalogue is based on two directories to the samizdat collections, compiled by Free Europe/Radio Liberty radio station (RFE/RL).3. The history of this collection started in mid-1960ies when RFE/RL Research Department began publishing and annotating the documents which it received from the USSR. This was done both for the preparation of radio programs and for sharing the documents with a small group of scholars and specialists who studied samizdat. The first bulletin of samizdat which included the full texts of documents was published in 1968 for internal use. The publication which was intended for internal purposes soon became available to outside subscribers.

A special unit was established by early 1970ies in the RFE/RL Research Department in Munich. This unit focused on the studies and publication of samizdat. It started a collection of samizdat which grew quickly, to include 500 documents by end-1970ies and 2,500 documents by July 1973 (18,000 sheets).

The bulletin which printed uncensored texts from the USSR became known as "Samizdat Materials" (SM) since 1971. It became an almost regular weekly (40-50 issues a year).

In 1972-1978, RFE/RL published "The Collection of Samizdat Documents" (CSD) in 30 volumes (about 600 A4 pages each). CSD published about 3,000 samizdat documents.

Both SM and CSD had a limited circulation and were sent to 8 information depositories (4 in Europe and 4 in the USA), each was authorized to copy SM and CSD at their own expense. The full collections of CSD are a bibliographic rarity, at least in Russia. As for SM, Memorial seems to be the only organization in Russia which has its copy.

The department which studied samizdat was closed in 1992, and SM bulletin was discontinued. The Department's samizdat collection is truly the world's largest collection of the originals of uncensored texts that were disseminated in the USSR in the second half of the 20th century. It has been kept in the Open Society Archives since 1994 (HU OSA 300-85 C Samizdat Archives, see.: http://www.osa.ceu.hu/guide/fonds), and will be kept there for 50 years until September 30, 2044, as per an agreement4.

Our Catalogue does not claim to give the complete description of the collection but it provides the key to its published part, i.e., the texts reprinted in CSD and SM. To date, these are the largest and the most representative publications of samizdat documents (over 6,000 titles) from the former USSR. However, they are still not sufficiently well known in Russia and other post-soviet regions. We hope the publication of our Catalogue will help bridge this gap, if only some of it.

The Catalogue is based on two directories, the first one published in September 1977 (The Complete List of Documents with a Detailed Index/Ed. A. Boiter, "Samizdat Archives" Society, Munich, 1977. - 309 p.). It includes information about 3,000 samizdat documents that found their way to the West in the period through July 1977. At the same time, this directory could be viewed as an index to CSD because it includes entries about all documents published in CSD and references to volumes.

The other directory covers over 3,000 documents that came from the USSR after July 1977. They were published in SM until 1992. This directory was written in 1989 (MATERIALY SAMIZDATA : Guide to the microform collection MATERIALY SAMIZDATA : Documents numbers 30015 [23. Sept. 1977] - 63146 [9 Dec. 1988] / Arkhiv Samizdata, Radio Liberty, Munich.- Leiden (The Netherlands): IDC Microform Publishers, 1989.- 117 pp.). Our bibliographic description is somewhat tentative. The guide has never been published and is a purely internal document. The guide originated from microfilming of SM, i.e., microfilm makers brought together the titles included in the SM issues.

Our Catalogue retains the search properties of documents (primarily registration numbers, i.e., codes used in the collection) but it not fully identical with the guides on which it is based. The content of the description fields, which was different in the guides, has been synchronized, and one language is used (all editorial titles are in the Russian language). The differences in content come from the revision of the editorial titles. Editing is consistent with the Russian archival tradition which requires that this element of description should contain a brief outline of the content. Our publication is also unique in the sense that we chose 1987, not 1992, as the last year. The decision to post entries about documents through 1987 on the Internet is based on the assumption used in the "History of Dissident Thinking": by end-1980ies, the uncensored literature acquired a new quality, which was different from the "classic" samizdat.

The database and an attached complete list of entries will be available at Memorial, as will be issues of CSD and SM (Archives of Memorial Research and Information Center, fund 158).

They are available in the reading hall of Memorial at: Moscow, Maly Karetny pereulok 12. The reading hall is open from 11 a.m. till 5 p.m. on weekdays.

The terms of access to the Collection kept in the Open Society Archives (Budapest, Hungary) are available at: http://www.osa.ceu.hu/misc/2003/OSA-2003.htm


We will highly appreciate the visitors of this page, particularly authors, distributors and keepers of samizdat documents, readers of CSD/SM, and all researchers, to point out possible errors (misrepresentations)7 and propose meaningful corrections of the Catalogue entries. We ask samizdat authors whose writings were disseminated anonymously or whose pen names have not been revealed, to contact us. The authoriship is hard to attribute while describing petitions, possibly the most numerous group of samizdat documents (the authors of their texts are often lost among the signatories; sometimes they did not sign their names at all, to avoid repression). Some texts published in CSD and SM found their way to the West in a deformed way or as fragments, and this sometimes precludes their correct description. We would appreciate help in bridging these gaps.

We ask everybody who has information about samizdat collections in the government, non-government and private archives to share this information with us. A list of such collections (it could be posted on the website) would be a very useful source for research projects. Besides, this will help save them for history, as far as private archives are concerned.

Please share this information through e-mail: kuzovkin@memo.ru or by mail addressed to: Attn: Guennady Kuzovkin, Samizdat Catalogue, 103051, Moscow, Maly Karetny Pereulok 12.

Your assistance will be acknowledged at our web page. A note to a Catalogue entry to which you will contribute will certainly include reference to yourself.


G. G. Superfin (Institute of Eastern Europe, Bremen University, Germany) and N. Zanegina (Open Society Archives) provided valuable assistance in the work on the Catalogue.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Anne Comaromi (USA), researcher of samizdat periodicals, for her friendly support and proposal to render assistance, and everybody whose help, consultations and attention made this publication possible.


1 It is completely autonomous from the previous attempt in the organizational terms.

2 Samizdat is much less informative than the vast piles of official documents but it is an alternative way of recording; absent this, the reconstruction of events becomes wanting in dimension, nuances, etc.

3 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty company (FE/RL) was a merge of two radio stations in 1975. References to RFE/RL with respect to pre-1975 events should be understood in this text as "Radio Liberty." The radio station founded in 1951 began broadcasting under this name only in late 1950ies; before that, it was called "Liberation." RL was headquartered in Munich since 1953 (moved to Prague in June 1995).

4 http://www.osa.ceu.hu/misc/2003/OSA-2003.htm

5 The list includes selective titles of documents Nos. 1684, 1801, 1848, 2108, 2277, 2450, 2603, 2626, 2684, 2709, 2726, 2811, 2826, 2830, 2831, 2871, 2873, 2918, 2919, 2976, 2977, 2988.

6 G. G. Superfin, Archivist of the Eastern Europe Institute of Bremen University, made the continued index which includes the titles of documents Nos. 6315 (SM No. 53 of December 17, 1988) - 6500 (SM No. 26 of July 16, 1990) and kindly offered to send it to the archives of Memorial.

7 Both could be caused by the existence of texts as samizdat documents.