The Soviet view of publishing


“Publishing, like the other mass media, is regarded by the Soviet authorities primarily as a means for the realization of official policies. The ‘right to publish’ is granted only by the Party authorities, and only to publishing-houses or other organizations (never to individuals), and may be revoked at any time. Party and government organs assume a very direct responsibility for the nature of what is published and for its dissemination, and the Soviet public is encouraged by low book prices and large edition sizes to read the material produced under these conditions. Publishing enterprises are normally expected to cover the costs from sales income (although book prices are fixed by the state), but subsidies are provided to maintain the output of certain types of book at what are regarded as acceptable prices. This applies especially to school textbooks, and to many of the books published in the minority languages of the Soviet Union. The selection and quantity of books to be issued are heavily influenced by the central authorities’ views on the priority to be given to different types of publication, and by available paper and printing resources which are allocated by the government.

Supervision of the publishing industry by the Communist Party is exercised through the Department of Propaganda of the Central Committee, which also has close links with the main censorship organ (Glavlit). Operational control of the industry is in the hands of the State Committee for Publishing, Printing, and the Book Trade, which has the status of a ministry. It directly administers most of the main Moscow and Leningrad publishers, and controls other houses indirectly through its subordinate publishing administrations in the constituent republics. Some important publishers are under the joint control of the State Committee for another public organization, such as the Academy of Sciences or the Writers’ Union. The State Committee is responsible for the economic planning of the entire industry, and also for overseeing the preparation of all publishers’ annual publication plans and for monitoring their fulfillment.”

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Russia and the Soviet Union, General editors: Archie Brown, John Fennell, Michael Kaser, H.T. Willetts, Cambridge University Press, 1982.