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Conference “Tamizdat: Publishing Russian Literature in the Cold War” (New York, December 10-11, 2018)



December 10-11, 2018


Hunter College of the City University of New York


The Division of Russian and Slavic Studies at Hunter College (CUNY) is pleased to announce a call for papers for an international conference on tamizdat, or publishing Russian literature outside Russia. Contraband manuscripts from the Soviet Union, published abroad with or without their authors’ knowledge or consent, served as a powerful weapon on the literary fronts of the Cold War. The conference seeks to define tamizdat as an integral phenomenon of post-Stalinist culture and situate it in the context of its more familiar and better researched domestic counterparts, samizdat (unofficial self-publishing) and gosizdat (state publishing). In an effort to explore the patterns of circulation of manuscripts behind the Iron Curtain and their migration through it, we invite scholars to revisit the traditional notion of Soviet culture as a dichotomy between the official and underground fields and to look at it instead as a transnationally dynamic three-dimensional model, with tamizdat at its base.


Comprised of manuscripts rejected or never submitted for publication at home but smuggled through various channels and printed abroad, tamizdat contributed to the formation of the twentieth-century Russian literary canon. Suffice it to say that the majority of representative works of this canon (with a few important exceptions, such as Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich) were first published abroad long before they first saw the light of day in Russia, already after Perestroika. Mediating the relationships of many authors in Russia with the literary establishment, on the one hand, and with the nonconformist underground, on the other, the prospect of having their works printed abroad, not to mention the consequences of such a transgression, affected these authors’ choices and ideological positions vis-à-vis both fields.


We encourage original papers from any discipline that explore tamizdat from a theoretical, comparative or historical perspective, or trace the itineraries of individual manuscripts and the stories of their first publication and reception abroad. Of particular interest are works by authors who were still alive at the time their writings appeared in tamizdat. While the conference focuses primarily on manuscripts written and published in Russian, we welcome proposals that deal with non-Russian literatures of Eastern Europe, as well as with the translation of literary manuscripts from behind the Iron Curtain into foreign languages.


Please send abstracts of approx. 500 words by August 15, 2018, to


Organizers: Yasha Klots (Hunter College, CUNY) and Polina Barskova (Hampshire College)


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