Soviet Censorship in Latvia: Rare Lists of Banned Publications Acquired

Friday, September 4, 2015

Hoover Archives has acquired internally distributed confidential lists of Latvian, German and Russian books to be confiscated in Soviet-occupied Latvia per orders of GLAVLIT, the Main Administration for Literary and Publishing Affairs.  With printed notes on front wrappers translating to “For official use” and “Distributed by list.”  Among the titles to be removed are numerous publications of the Latvian avant-garde, but also books by Russian émigrés published in Riga.

A good overview of censorship in Soviet Latvia in the 1940s is provided by James Fraser in his recent book Publishing and Book Design in Latvia (Riga: Neptuns, 2014):  “Libraries were not the only institutions to be affected by Glavlit, antiquarian booksellers and people selling books at markets were also affected.  Glavlit employees participated in arrests carried out by the Ministry of State Security (MGB) and confiscated home libraries.  Lists of banned books were compiled one after another.  After the publication of  [the fourth list in 1946] Glavlit complained to the Council of Ministers that it lacked the resources to ‘destroy 5,500,000 removed books’.” 

Fortunately for the Latvian people Soviet-style cultural genocide was not fully successful.

Maciej Siekierski  siekierski [at] stanford.edu