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Soviet Independent Press 1987-1992: a Guide to Holdings at the Library of Congress

The policies of glasnost' and perestroika led to the "new press" in the USSR, dealing with previously sensitive topics such as politics, religion, sex, or the market economy. This guide covers the Library's collection of such titles in Russian.


Image of selected Russian independent press titles
Selected titles from the Soviet Independent Press collection. 1987-1992. Library of Congress European Reading Room.

The Gorbachev era in the Soviet Union saw the publication of thousands of independent newspapers and periodicals. These dealt with previously sensitive topics such as politics, religion, sex, the market economy, and the occult, among others. In 1989 the Library of Congress began to collect these materials and amassed a large enough collection to issue a finding aid in 1991: New Soviet and Baltic Independent Serials at the Library of Congress: a Holdings List. That original list included not only Russian-language materials, but also titles in the Baltic languages, Ukrainian and Belarusian. Materials continued to arrive at the Library even after the publication of the holdings list. Today the collection numbers close to 1900 titles in the Russian language alone. This guide is an updated version of the original holdings list, but for the Russian-language titles only.

The rise of the "new press" in the Soviet Union dates from 1985 and the introduction of the policies of glasnost' and perestroika. As of mid-1991, it is likely that close to two thousand independent newspapers and journals were being published in the U.S.S.R. The exact figure is not known since bibliographic control over this category of publication is incomplete. Precisely because it was a category new to the Soviet publishing scene at the time, definitions and terminology relating to the "new press" were in a state of flux. In Russian, the phrases nezavisimye izdaniia and neformal'nye izdaniia are the most frequently used, but the older term samizdat can also refer to the new publications which, in contrast to the older samizdat works, are published, rather than manuscript, items. In English, the phrase "independent" publications is commonly accepted, although the terms "unofficial," "informal," or samizdat are also found. The Soviet press law of August, 1990, of course made the terms "independent" and "unofficial" technically inaccurate, since many titles of long-standing, e.g. Literaturnaia gazeta, became independent of their original founding organizations.

The Library of Congress began to collect Soviet and Baltic independent publications on a large scale in late 1989, when the Library negotiated agreements with exchange partner libraries in the Baltic republics to provide a large portion of the independent press output from those republics, in both Russian and in the Baltic languages. In 1990 the Library of Congress established its Moscow Acquisitions Project that included office space and acquisitions staff in downtown Moscow for the express purpose of acquiring Soviet independent serial publications (as comprehensively as possible) and ephemera (on a selective basis). As of September 2010, the Library of Congress collection of Soviet independent serials (newspapers and journals) in the Russian language had grown to 1,875 separate titles from many regions and republics of the former Soviet Union. In addition to the intake from the Moscow Acquisitions Project and from exchange partners in the Baltic republics, a number of issues have been donated by readers and Library staff after returning from visits to the Soviet Union. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign also enriched the collection in 2010 with a donation of 185 issues. An initial holdings list of the collection was issued in May 1991, but was quickly outdated due to the continued growth of the collection. This revised holdings list provides brief bibliographic and holdings data for the collection of Russian-language titles. The print collection was retained after microfilming, but use of the microfilm is preferred. Limited use of the original print materials may be an option in some cases. Both microfilm and print are held by the Library's European Reading Room. The original May 1991 holdings list is still available on the European Reading Room website, but the 2012 list is replaced by this guide.

This updated guide and holdings list incorporates only Russian language titles, regardless of place of publication, thus there are materials from all of the former republics of the Soviet Union. Also included are a handful of titles in English, French, and German. The scope of the collection is newspapers and journals published 1987-1992. In 2012 the Library of Congress microfilmed the Russian part of the collection. In 2023 a small collection of issues was discovered which was not microfilmed. These issues are included in the guide under the relevant tile entries with a note that they are available in print. They are stored together in a separate container with the remaining print holdings which were microfilmed. In the future, the Library will produce updated holdings lists and microfilm for the titles in the Baltic, Ukrainian and Belarusian languages as well. Therefore, this guide supercedes the 1991 list only for materials in the Russian language. The old list should still be consulted for information about titles in languages other than Russian, English, French, and German.

Materials about the Library of Congress Independent Press Collection

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to additional online content are included when available.

Related Resources in the Library

A related Library of Congress collection of Soviet and Russian youth counterculture and rock culture described below is from the same time period and may be of interest to researchers. Also listed below are several additional published resources held by the Library of Congress. One bibliography of note that is not held by the Library covers the collection of independent press in the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace: Independent press of the former Soviet Union serials (1992). Contact Hoover directly for details.

Related Online Materials