News

Samizdat is a tea fungus: an exhibition dedicated to uncensored literature opened in St. Petersburg

The opening of the exhibition was very much expected, some literary critics went specially from Moscow

The opening of the exhibition was very much expected, some literary critics went specially from Moscow

A photo: Sergei SELEDKIN

The exhibition “Erika takes four copies” has opened in the “Fountain House” of St. Petersburg. What kind of aunt she is, where and what copies she takes, it is difficult for young forbidden programmers to understand, but those born in the USSR, of course, will remember “Erika”, a typewriter into which four thin sheets of paper could be filled through a carbon paper. And some will sing the song of Alexander Galich:

Their names were not scattered from the stages,

In super they are not squeezed cloudy:

Erica takes four copies.

That’s all!

– And that’s enough.

A photo: Sergei SELEDKIN

Soviet piracy through “Erika” was called “samizdat”. The organizers definitely fell into the request that was in the air: the opening of the exhibition was very much expected, some literary critics went specially from Moscow, apparently expecting revelations in the Shakespearean spirit: “I will tell you the truth that is worse than any lie.”

But the surprise was that the institution chose to talk about samizdat with a generation of bloggers and neophytes, presenting the exhibition as a set of selfie locations filled with Soviet-era artifacts: elk and saiga horns, soldering irons and radios, and a red bathroom.

Mysterious red bathroom - a place for printing photos in the pre-digital era

Mysterious red bathroom – a place for printing photos in the pre-digital era

A photo: Sergei SELEDKIN

There were already several mentioned in the title “Erik”, they were allowed to be touched and printed through carbon paper, but still the most popular exhibit was not a printing unit, but a kombucha in a jar, which the organizers of the exhibition wittily passed off as an unauthorized copy.

– Wow, our grandmother has one on the window, – the visitors rejoiced.

Kombucha in a jar was wittily passed off by the exhibition organizers as an unauthorized copy

Kombucha in a jar was wittily passed off by the exhibition organizers as an unauthorized copy

A photo: Sergei SELEDKIN

It is impossible to say that there was no literary part at all. Several samizdat books in showcases and an uncensored alphabet hung on the walls were responsible for it. Posters “forbidden”, “Defectors”, “deficiency”, plates on the bones – popularly explained to the younger generation the essence of the phenomenon.

An experienced radio amateur knew how to upgrade the radio with a soldering iron, so that later he could catch the transmissions of Seva Novgorodtsev

An experienced radio amateur knew how to upgrade the radio with a soldering iron, so that later he could catch the transmissions of Seva Novgorodtsev

A photo: Sergei SELEDKIN

“That’s all,” as Galich sang, “and that’s enough.” If someone had other expectations, then you can remember the words of Arshavin, and those who find it expensive to go to St. Petersburg and spend two hundred rubles can look at the pictures here and read the most interesting explanations of the terms from the museum halls.

The saiga horns were somehow also dragged into samizdat

The saiga horns were somehow also dragged into samizdat

A photo: Sergei SELEDKIN

DEFICIENCY

A constant shortage or absence of goods and services that cannot be purchased despite the availability of money. In the 1970s and 1980s, almost everything became in short supply in the USSR, especially in cities and villages: sausage and green peas, condensed milk and toilet paper, books and clothes. Scarcity was one of the consequences of the planned economy and an eternal topic of jokes.

SMALL GARDEN

In the early sixties, the first coffee maker appeared in a small corner of the “Culinary” department on Malaya Sadovaya Street in Leningrad. There one could drink a cup of coffee, including the “triple” (that is, triple strength) popular among poets, later banned as an alleged narcotic. Cooking soon became a favorite meeting place for young artists and poets, an informal cultural center where ideas, books and self-publishing were exchanged. In the history of Leningrad literature there is the concept of “Poets of Malaya Sadovaya”. In 1973, the coffee machine was removed, which marked the end of the history of the informal literary community of the “Lesser Sadovtsy”.

SAIGON

In September 1964, a cafe was opened on the first floor of the building at the corner of Nevsky and Vladimirsky prospects, which for the next 25 years was a constant place for communication between the literary and artistic underground, bohemians and all sorts of non-formal people. It received the unofficial name “Saigon”, associated with the Vietnam War, reports about which did not descend from the pages of newspapers. In the Soviet press, Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, was portrayed as a city of all sorts of vices. According to Viktor Toporov, the name came from the instructive phrase of a local policeman: “What are you smoking here! Disgrace! Some kind of Saigon staged!”

A photo: Sergei SELEDKIN

SOFIA VLASIEVNA

The secret designation of Soviet power in the speech of Soviet dissidents. There were also combinations of Vera Mikhailovna (Higher Measure) or Galina Borisovna (State Security). However, unlike the aforementioned counterparts, Sofya Vlasyevna, as a personification of the political system, turned into a folklore character with some individuality.

“PIE”

Transferred prohibited literature. Since telephones could be tapped and simple one-to-one communication in public places could be monitored, samizdat distributors came up with ciphers. Literature passed from hand to hand was called “pie”. You could hear dialogues like this:

– Did you try the “pie” I gave you last week?

Yes, I really liked it.

You can give it to your wife to try.

– Thanks! We’ll be returning the pie plate next week.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button