Pornography and Democratization: Legislating Obscenity in Post-Communist Russia

Synopsis

Pornography and its control is a persistent issue of debate in the Western world. Our notion of modern liberal democracy rests upon a belief that every individual has the right to self-determination. Yet few people are willing to tolerate pornography unrestricted. Instead, complex models and practices are created in which personal freedom and state control intermix uncomfortably. As the former communist states of Eastern Europe strive to become liberal democracies, this unresolved issue from the West becomes their problem as well. In this book, Paul Goldschmidt explores the politics of pornography and censorship in Russia today as a facet of the overall process of creating a liberal democracy in the former Soviet Union. The author clarifies the complex Western debate over pornography by suggesting four basic paradigms that underlie legislative approaches to pornography: conservatism, libertarianism, anti-pornography feminism, and anti-censorship feminism. A survey of sexually explicit Russian literature and the history of Russian reactions to pornography reveals a heavy reliance on conservatism as an approach and on censorship as a policy. Using newly available archival material and exclusive interviews, the author explores this reaction of Russian officials to the problem of free speech. In the process, two indigenous alternatives to the response of censorship appear: the civil rights approach against pornography and the sex-education approach. Both strategies were pioneered by Western feminists, but they are taking on different manifestations in the Russian milieu. The conclusion is that these new approaches provide an encouraging sign of progress towards Russia's goal of creating democracy. This multidisciplinary study of what is required to create an effective and democratic policy response to the challenge of pornography will prove of interest to scholars of various fields, including democratic theory, feminist political thought, and Russian politics and history.