photo by Vladimir Mekler, Leningrad, 1988
These pages present a description of the varied forms of dissent and independent, unofficial culture in the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1991. Beginning with the era of destalinisation in the 1950s, conflict with the establishment sharpened in the mid 1960s. As the period of Khrushchev’s Thaw came to an end, bringing a return of ostracism and censorship, the voices of dissent multiplied, and the Soviet Union’s so-called “Second culture” became increasingly organised in the 1970s via the samizdat network. The clandestine production of almanacs, literary magazines and dissenting works allowed non-conformist ideas to circulate, above all in Moscow and Leningrad. Seminars, conferences and readings were organised in opposition to official Soviet culture in places and ways hidden from the authorities. During the 1980s, under Gorbachev, many of the leaders of the independent second culture became protagonists of a new, more liberal period.