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Discourses of Regulation and Resistance

Censoring Translation in the Stalin and Khrushchev Era Soviet Union

Samantha Sherry

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The first in depth study of the censorship of translated literature in the Soviet Union

Despite tense and often hostile relations between the USSR and the West, Soviet readers were voracious consumers of foreign culture and literature as the West was both a model for emulation and a potential threat. Discourses of Regulation and Resistance explores this ambivalent and contradictory attitude to the West and employs in depth analysis of archive material to offer a comprehensive study of the censorship of translated literature in the Soviet Union.

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Note on Transliteration
Theorising Censorship: Russian and Western approaches
Censorship modes and practices
Structure of the book
Part I: Context
Chapter 1: Translation and translators in the Soviet Union
The development of translation in Soviet culture
Soviet translation theory
The official image of translators
Translators as apolitical intellectuals
Chapter 2: The Soviet censorship system
Censorship and the control of foreign literature
The spetskhran
Glavlit’s interventions in the text
Publishers’ role in the control of foreign literature
Editorial censorship: the link between state and author
Translators as censors
Part II: Case Studies
Chapter 3: Censorship in the Stalin period: Internatsional’naia literatura
A fragile cosmopolitanism
The rhetoric of Soviet superiority
Political and ideological taboo
Fascism and anti-fascism
The war: a sudden reversal
Puritanical censorship
‘Sovietising’ foreign culture
Chapter 4: Censorship in the Khrushchev Era: Inostrannaia literatura
Choosing texts: external interference and internal debates
The cold war
Puritanical censorship: euphemism and structural censorship
Trimming foreign texts
Chapter 5: Resisting Censorship
Aesopian translation
Working outside the system: samizdat translations
Resisting censorship: a complex blend of practices

About the Author

Samantha Sherry is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the department of Medieval and Modern Languages, the University of Oxford


Discourses of Regulation and Resistance is a nuanced examination of the censorship of translated literature in Soviet Russia. Based on archival research, Sherry’s study reveals Soviet censorship to be shifting, unevenly applied, and often internalized. The book makes a real contribution to the study of translation in totalitarian states.

Brian James Baer, Kent State University

Sherry’s study advances our understanding of both censorship and translation in the Soviet period... The abundant examples of original passages along with their published translations into Russian is one of the best features of Sherry’s study.

- Carole Any, Trinity College, Slavic Review

Readers will find value both in the close analyses of specific texts as well as in the judicious use of previously unpublished materials, and they will come away with a far better appreciation of the way in which, as is remarked in the conclusion, the censoring of translation was not simply a straightforward operation, but rather a process that involved negotiation among all concerned: party officials, editors, and translators. The story of how all that played out makes for as entertaining reading as many of the literary works themselves.

- Barry P. Scherr, Dartmouth College, Slavic and Eadt European Journal

Sherry’s study draws upon a wealth of archival research, as well as wide reading of memoirs by translators and editors and translations themselves, that reveal much about translation in the Soviet literary and censorship systems. Sherry’s account is populated by characters from among the pantheon of Soviet translators, and her use of memoir and archive materials brings them to life.

- Emily Lygo, University of Exeter, Modern Language Review

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