Cultural Revolutions

No Nongovernmental Publishing Houses

I recently returned from a visit to Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev, and there is no question about there being more freedom to express ideas. But reports of change are exaggerated. There are still no nongovernmental publishing houses. Two of the more popular journals, Ogonyok and Literaturnaya Gazeta, are sold out quickly and there is a waiting list for subscribers. More are not printed because of a supposed "paper shortage," though every kiosk in Moscow is well-supplied with Lenin's works. And no publication, no matter now adventuresome, attacks Gorbachev.

I could purchase Russian language editions of dead literary greats like Akhmatova, Tsvetayeva, or Bulgakov in the state-run shops open only for foreigners with foreign currency. These same books were unavailable to the Soviets at their own bookstores. All of these books would sell on the street for at least ten times their shop price. Bibles on the street would sell for about one-fifth of an average monthly salary. I stayed at major Intourist hotels, but none of them had European editions of American or even European papers. I could not find them at airports, train stations, or major newsstands.

When I returned home I read an AP story of a visiting Soviet official who said his country is "as open as the Wild West once was" and how the "USSR now has limitless opportunities." That's ridiculous. Soviet consumers still...

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