SAMIZDAT - DEFINITION
I take Aleksandr Daniel’s definition (which I heard also from Dmitrii Prigov) of samizdat as a special “mode of existence of the text” (Daniel’, “Istoki i smysl” 17 - Please see “Selected Sources”). The production of Soviet samizdat occurred outside of official print institutions and censorship. Characteristic of the distribution of samizdat was the fact that it happened beyond the author’s control. Daniel’ also described samizdat in terms of “socially significant” texts. This qualification might be confusing. It is not any particular content that defines samizdat. Social significance in the case of samizdat should be understood in terms of distribution. For a text to have been samizdat, there should have been some kind of public resonance, some reason people beyond the author’s or editor’s immediate private circle wanted to see and share the text, although it may not have been a political reason. I wrote more about a definition of samizdat and the reasons for a specific geographic and chronological delimitation of “classic Soviet samizdat” in an article “Samizdat and Soviet Dissident Publics” forthcoming in Slavic Review (Spring 2012). We confront a methodological problem – does everything that everyone claims to have been samizdat in fact count as samizdat? I think not. An example is the experimental artistic edition Zov (The Call, no. 1, Sakhalin, 1957) (See Source SAMI, 48-49). While it may have been important for the formation of the friends in Eduard Shneiderman’s group, no mention of it by others has been found. Wall newspapers like Kul’tura (Culture, 1956) (SAMI, 37-39), cannot be samizdat because they physically existed within institutions and were subject to the control of authorities (A different example is the samizdat distribution of photographs of the wall newspaper MENESTREL’). Student editions produced and circulated outside of direct official control, might, however, be samizdat. In the case of the early student edition Eres’ (Heresy, no. 1-2, 1956) Boris Vail’ described a handwritten student journal produced without the knowledge of their literary organization’s faculty sponsor or any other institutional authorities (VAIL, 129-130). Thanks to Vail’’s “thick” description of the history of the edition, designating the edition “samizdat” seems justified. In the Database we have erred on the side of inclusiveness. If we found archival copies and/or mentions of an edition in the print record as samizdat, we tended to include it, unless a description of the edition gave grounds for exclusion.