It’s been several years that historians and critics specialised in the ex-USSR have debated on the precise definition of samizdat.
Several among them consider that we should not confuse the phenomenon of “samizdat” with “underground” in the Occidental sense of the term; the underground often produced works that the authorities could never be aware of. Above all else and regardless of the means of production, to qualify as “samizdat” the work must have first been formally forbidden from being publishing.
In other words, the prohibition of a particular work by the Soviet powers and the risk associated with its production and/or its circulation gives the samizdat its particular character. From this, and if we adhere to such a definition, we can no longer class as samizdat singular productions of those who we would call “dissident” but admit that the copyist, distributor or the reader of samizdat were as exposed to sanction as were the authors. Besides the majority of these proscribed authors were already long dead: Mandelshtam, Bulgakov, Pilniak, Gumilev, Tsvetaeva as well as many others. Of course it is imperative to not forget the immense number of foreign authors like Freud, Leon Uris, Burroughs, James Hadley Chase and all the 19th century authors deemed decadent; on discovery of the simple act of reading one of these texts, let alone the participation in their diffusion the wrath of the official services would be instant.
The Masha and Jacques Sayag Collection of Russian Samizdat has no other objective but to pay homage to the anonymous people who were courageous in their research for original texts to extract them from the lead-lined tomb the totalitarian State has relegated them.
This collection is the living witness of a period where typewriters, photocopiers and computers constituted the clandestine arms in the fight against the cultural amnesia to which these men and women were condemned.
Whether known or not, they are all, here, infinitely and gratefully thanked for having searched in their drawers the yellow aged copies that, they had begun to forget and it is above everything else to pay homage to them that we have wanted to bring these samizdat into the light.