Edgar Rice Burroughs
(____) Burroughs, Edgar Rice (1875-1950). Tarzan Nepobedimyi.
Photocopy of an original typescript. 20cm. 258 + 282pp. Bound in burgundy cloth-covered boards, spine and corners black morocco with original textile bookmark. 1975
Perhaps the best place to start with the Tarzan novels as samizdat is with the release of the Tarzan films in the Soviet Union. Production of Soviet films in the years between 1945 and 1952 slowed to a trickle due to a combination of budget cuts, post-war rebuilding as well as an increasingly complicated censorship that stifled creativity. To combat the “cinema famine” the Politburo decided in the late 1940’s to release films which had been looted from Germany. The resounding positive reception of these films was enough for more releases to be planned and in 1951 the Tarzan movies were released. Letters of outrage were sent to the Soviet Press decrying the film as personifying animal primitivism and condemning the movie as presenting a bad influence for the Soviet youth. At least small section of the young viewers did not think so and a subculture was formed recognisable by their “Tarzan haircuts”. Although a very small group mostly localised in the major cities, the subculture (stiliagi – translated as dandies, dudes or hipsters) represented an obsession with anything American, jazz music, movies and literature.
While there had been a little Edgar Lee Burroughs published before the full force of the Soviet censorship apparatus was in place, the public demand is proven by the deluge of Tarzan books published in 1991.
(____) Burroughs, Edgar Rice. Tarzan i “Inostrannyi Legion” (Tarzan and the Foreign Legion).
Original typescript, 2nd copy. 412pp. Bound in red morocco covered boards, black spine and corners w/ original bookmark. Moskva: 1972.
These detective samizdat is part of a collection all similarly bound from the same binding factory which we have nicknamed “The Red Samizdat”. While the majority of samizdat in our collection consist of smudged looseleaf sheets, drab covers and amateur bindings that convey the furtive secrecy that surrounded their possession the “Red Samizdat” are luxuriously bound in red and black leather with gilt titling emblazoned across the spine. These samizdat were evidently destined for readers who little feared any official reprisals and their existence provides for us an entirely new element to samizdat distribution across the Soviet Union.
It is very well known that Leonid Brezhnev’s son was an immense fan of American popular and decadent culture, in particular Westerns and Tarzan. Given that he was beyond the grasp of the Secret Services he would have films and books purchased or copied in the West and have them smuggled to him by various means, usually a diplomatic pouch. Literature would also be copied in the embassies abroad to be sent back to Moscow on the premise that they needed to be reviewed. Usually the barely veiled pretence would result in copies being sent to high-ranking officials in the Politburo.