Parteilisest tsensuurist Nõukogude Eestis. Party Censorship in Soviet Estonia

Tiiu Kreegipuu

Abstract


During the years of imposed Soviet rule in Estonia from 1940 to its collapse in 1991, Estonian culture and the written word were subject to Soviet censorship which due to its perseverance, extent and rigidity constrained creativity and self-expression. At the same time, archival documents and memories testify that considerable shifting could take place within this censorship which on the surface appeared strict and regulated, depending on the general ideological stance and the officials and party functionaries in place at the time. Soviet censorship is usually studied and described with the activities of the censorship office Glavlit as the focal point. However, for a more complete overview, it would be wise to keep in mind that a whole row of other institutions and authorities with the Communist Party in front also were involved in censorship matters. When it came to censorship, it was the party that had the final word – as it did with everything else – and if needed, it also acted as punisher. Apart from the role of censor, the Communist Party, its departments (with the Department for Propaganda and Agitation or Ideology in front ) and its officials also took part in hands-on censorship work, both in terms of decision-making and in dealing with concrete incidents (breach of censorship rules and censor mistakes but also in the search for and pointing out of ideological flaws). One area in which the party’s censorship activities manifested itself in a rather vivid manner was the leadership and control of the Soviet press. When analysing materials from the bureau of the Communist Party of Estonia’s Central Committee, it becomes clear that the party’s governing organs were constantly active in this area. The manifestation of problems and discussion of flaws here point to the circumstance that journalists and editors did not accept the censorship rules, but rather tried to find possibilities and means through which to modify or ignore them. Journalists’ attempts at rather making ’real journalism’ than congenial propaganda work for Soviet ideologists are particularly telling – this was during the Khrushchev Thaw of the 1960s, when several Estonian publications headed by ‘ideologically less significant’ and thus also less controlled local papers, cultural and youth journalists looked for new means and opportunities of expression. Repeated discussions, admonitions and decisions within the party’s governing organs and disputes between the party and the Glavlit censors point to a Soviet censorship which up until the end couldn’t be used in an efficient manner in Estonia. Orders and prohibitions which often were rather vague created confusion even among the censors themselves and the multi-layered system of institutions. Estonia as a peripheral area became even more obliged to follow the dictates of the centre – that is, of Moscow. This led the censorship system to a situation where it became more of an awkward and vulnerable system than an efficient machine.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7592/methis.v5i7.534

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