E-Mail: kuzovkin [at] memo.ru
Soviet Samizdat and Germany: the Unknown Pages in the Life of Raisa Orlova, Wife of Lev Kopelev
My project involves studying and memorializing the phenomenon of Samizdat. The Memorial society's History of Dissent in the USSR programme has been carrying out research in this area for many years, the present work constitutes a continuation of our studies.
Although the USSR’s collapse made a large number of new materials available to the public, this didn’t deflate the value of Samizdat documents. Samizdat challenged the official ideology and chronicled the re-evaluation of communist experience. To the modern reader it provides historical sources reflecting the evolution of ideas in post-Stalin society. Samizdat is an ever-important tool for dispelling the myths around Communist practices concealed by ideological pressure and censorship. The emergence of Samizdat as an alternative system of information is documentary evidence to the freedom of speech being repressed.
My project focuses on some unknown pages in the life of Lev Kopelev's wife Raisa Orlova (1918-1989) Orlova and Kopelev could be called the founders of Samizdat; their efforts helped the phenomenon gain visibility and impact in society. The Kopelevs' apartment was a 'portal' between Moscow and European culture, helping Samizdat cross borders. This year will see the anniversaries of the events of 1968 – a milestone in European and global history. It was in 1968 that Samizdat started to be seen as an important social institute. The Kopelevs were linked to many Samizdat texts and events of 1968 (e.g. protests against the suppression of the Prague Spring, notably the Red Square rally).
Few people know that Raisa Orlova was among the first to preserve the memory of Samizdat using Oral history methods. In the early 1980s she recorded dozens of interviews on this topic for the newly established Research Centre for East European Studies at the Bremen University. The story behind the interviews hasn’t yet been well documented, primarily because the Communist Party leadership jealously guarded its information monopoly up until Perestroika. Although there was no mass repressions for Samizdat activities, information about who participated cold harm friends left in the USSR. Thus the interviews were not intended for publication and their existence kept secret until the 1990s.