The Soviet State: A Study of Bolshevik Rule

By Bertram W. Maxwell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
THE SUPERVISION OF THE PRESS AND POPULAR AMUSEMENTS

THE LEGAL STATUS OF THE PRESS

A free press in the democratic sense never existed in Russia. From the introduction of printing in Russia in the middle of the sixteenth century, the printing and publishing trade was controlled and harassed. In fact, the deacon Ivan Feodorac, who introduced the printing press into Russia, had to flee from Moscow on the peril of his life. Some authority always supervised and censored the printed word; the clergy at first, and later on, the police. To be sure, at some periods of Russian history before the October Revolution there were temporary respites of censorship. Indeed, a short while after the Revolution of 1905, the administrative chains were taken off the Russian press for a little while, but in a short time a reaction followed, and the press was muzzled as effectively as ever. Underground presses, however, flourished in Russia, and the revolutionaries knew ways and means to continue their existence in spite of raids and arrests. The short-lived Kerensky government established freedom of the press, but with the coming of the Bolsheviks conditions changed.

An understanding of the ideology of Russia is necessary for an intelligent discussion of the press. Any repression or control which the Soviet government exercises is, in accordance with the Bolshevik doctrine, a guarantee of liberties for the "toiling masses" over against the "exploiting elements", which are not necessarily the bourgeois but may be certain workers themselves. In short, it is not merely the protection of the existing form of government or the safeguarding of the state, but an assurance of the dominance of the Communist Party over all elements. It is unblushingly a dictatorship that knows no bounds in its intoler

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