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Soviet Union

Leninist Principles

Calls for the politicization of literature and art appeared in the works of several radical nineteenth-century Russian thinkers. The literary critic Vissarion Belinskii (1811-48) called upon literary figures to channel their creative energies toward changing the sociopolitical environment. He believed that writers could influence the masses by challenging the status quo through their works. Eventually, his philosophy of criticism galvanized other writers and other artists. Several of his disciples continued to advocate Belinskii's message after he died.

Like Belinskii, both the journalist and author Nikolai Chernyshevskii (1828-89) and one of his followers, Nikolai Dobroliubov (1836-61), a literary critic, argued that progress could be achieved only if the individual human being were liberated and could espouse his or her own beliefs without feudal oppression. Both Chernyshevskii and Dobroliubov motivated writers and artists to contribute to this progress by criticizing society and presenting examples of human liberation in their works.

Following these radical ideas, the Bolsheviks, too, rejected the notion of art for art's sake. Like the nineteenth-century radical theorists, the Bolsheviks held that media and the arts were to serve political objectives. Unlike the critical realists, however, who called for protests against social injustice, the Bolsheviks used media and the arts to mobilize the population in support of the new sociopolitical system.

One of the initial means for controlling the population through the politicization of the media entailed closing newspapers deemed anti-Bolshevik. On November 9, 1917, the new Bolshevik regime declared in the Decree of the Press that all nonsocialist newspapers would be closed because they endangered the newly formed government. In the November 10, 1917, issue of Pravda--the newspaper of the Bolshevik Central Committee and the main voice of the new regime--the Bolshevik leadership stated that "the press is one of the strongest weapons in the hands of the bourgeoisie" and added that, given its capacity to incite rebellion among workers and peasants by distorting reality, the press ought to be strictly controlled. On January 28, 1918, the Bolshevik leadership decreed that "revolutionary tribunals" would be used to prevent the bourgeois press from spreading "crimes and misdemeanors against the people." On April 5, 1918, Bolshevik censors instituted further controls by mandating that the inclusion of "decrees and ordinances of the organs of the Soviet power" had to be included in all newspapers. By the early 1920s, all non-Bolshevik newspapers had been outlawed, thus giving full control to the regime. Such controls continued in the late 1980s.

Data as of May 1989