Tamizdat offers a new perspective on the history of the Cold War by exploring the story of the contraband manuscripts sent from the USSR to the West.
A word that means publishing "over there," tamizdat manuscripts were rejected, censored, or never submitted for publication in the Soviet Union and were smuggled through various channels and printed outside the country, with or without their authors' knowledge. Yasha Klots demonstrates how tamizdat contributed to the formation of the twentieth-century Russian literary canon: the majority of contemporary Russian classics first appeared abroad long before they saw publication in Russia.
Examining narratives of Stalinism and the Gulag, Klots focuses on contraband manuscripts from Khrushchev's Thaw to Stagnation under Brezhnev. Klots revisits the traditional notion of late Soviet culture as a binary opposition between the underground and official state publishing. He shows that even as tamizdat represented an alternative field of cultural production in opposition to the Soviet regime and the dogma of Socialist Realism, it was not devoid of its own hierarchy, ideological agenda and even censorship.
Tamizdat is a cultural history of Russian literature outside the Iron Curtain. The Russian literary diaspora was the indispensable ecosystem for these works. Yet in the post-Stalin years, they also served as a powerful weapon on the cultural fronts of the Cold War, laying bare the geographical, stylistic, and ideological rifts between two disparate yet inextricably intertwined fields of Russian literature, one at home, the other abroad.