5 Russian Books That Were Banned in the Soviet Union—Part II Posted by Maria on Sep 30, 2019 in Literature
Last time, we looked at several Russian books that, for various reasons, never saw the light of day in the Soviet Union or sometimes in their author’s lifetime. Some of these books were initially snuck out and published abroad and only came out in Russia in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
4. Мастер и Маргарита (The Master and Margarita)
The author, Mikhail Bulgakov (Михаил Булгаков), never saw “Мастер и Маргарита” published in his lifetime. At the time of Bulgakov’s death, the novel (роман) was unfinished, and his widow (вдова) edited and compiled it.
This novel features two parallel stories. In the first one, the devil (дьявол) with his entourage (свита) visits Soviet Moscow to see if humans have improved and to punish them for their follies. In that same universe, a lonely writer (писатель) meets an unhappy married woman named Margarita (Маргарита, a nod to Gretchen from Faust).
The second story is the plot of a novel the master is writing about Jesus (normally Иисус, Иешуа in the novel) and his interactions with Pontius Pilate (Понтий Пилат). At the end of the novel, the timelines converge, and the characters’ (персонажи) paths cross.
5. Архипелаг ГУЛАГ (The Gulag Archipelago)
The author of this book, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Александр Солженицын), based his work in part on his own experiences in the Soviet labor camps (трудовые лагеря), which came to be known as gulags from the Russian acronym ГУЛАГ (Main Directorate of Camps). The Gulag Archipelago has a “patchwork” structure, with different parts looking at the establishment of the system, the recruitment of inmates and guards, daily life in the camps, and the fates of specific inmates. The book covers the period between 1918, after the Russian Revolution (революция), and 1956, when Nikita Kruschev (Никита Хрущёв) delivered a secret speech denouncing the cult of personality (культ личности) towards his predecessor Joseph Stalin (Иосиф Сталин).
The book was written in secret between 1958 and 1968 and smuggled out to Paris. After existing copies were seized by state security forces in 1973, Solzhenitsyn gave the green light to have the book published abroad. The Gulag Archipelago was not published in Russia until 1990. Currently, the book is studied in Russian secondary schools.
Have you read any of the books on this list? Are you aware of any other books that were banned?
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