Komar&Melamid, “Meeting between Solzhenitsin and Böll at Rostropovich’s house”, 1972 (detail)
Criticism of Soviet policies and attempts to evade censorship involved intellectuals, editors and the media in the West. Dissent is defined not only as ideological or political opposition to the Soviet regime but also as adopting aesthetic principles in contrast to approved cultural norms. Indeed, the West has often framed any example of free expression within the USSR as dissenting. Following the XX Congress of the CPSU and the crisis in Hungary in 1956, the Left in Europe was divided. Destalinisation in the USSR led to a process of self-examination within many national communist and socialist parties and paved the way for greater dialogue with voices that were not aligned with the Supreme Soviet. After 1968 and the Prague Spring, criticism of Soviet policy increased; it was in this context that the samizdat and the tamizdat served as links between independent culture in the USSR and the West. Reception of Soviet dissent was far from homogenous given the diverse identities of Western readers and viewers (the alternative Left, Catholic intellectuals, conservatives and so on). This section focuses on the magazines, events, congresses and editorial projects that propagated free voices from within the Soviet Union in the West, exploring both the politics and artistic choices regulating the channels of dissemination.