Underground print culture and independent political communication in communist regimes: samizdat as typosphere in Central and Eastern Europe from the 1960s to the 1980s.

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The term samizdat refers to “self-published”, independent, uncensored, illegal publications in the communist countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union from the late 1950s to the late 1980s. Samizdat created islands of dissent and free press despite of official censorship, propaganda, and political repression. This paper explores the political context, genres, topics, political discourses, and communication technologies of samizdat. It also offers a novel interpretation (based on concepts by Febvre and Martin, McLuhan, Ong, Eisenstein, Darnton, and Lotman), positioning samizdat in the long-term history of European print culture. Looking back from the 21st century information society, we may see samizdat as a part of European writing and printing history; the Central and Eastern European branch of print culture that rose successfully against long-term censorship and introduced an underground free press in the second part of the 20th century; a contribution to democratic political change and transnational cultural exchange; and a precursor of self-published citizen journalism and blogging.