Literary glasnost is turning a new page in publishing in the Soviet Union, with the appearance of books formerly found only "under the table," say organizers of a superpower book swap.
The display of 1,000 Soviet books at the Boston Public Library features everthing from Russian science fiction to "Dr. Zhivago," Boris Pasternak's classic that was banned for many years in the Soviet Union."For our country which was closed, so to say, for a long time, this process has a tremendous influence on the whole population of the country," Evgueny G. Semenikhin, who is traveling with the display, said Thursday.
Censorship still exists in the Soviet Union but "now it's absolutely incomparable with what it was two to three years ago," said Semenikhin, deputy chief of the Soviet State Committee for Publishing and Printing.
The committee and the U.S. Information Agency are co-sponsors of the exchange, with 1,000 U.S. books traveling through the Soviet Union.
The display in Boston is called "The U.S.S.R.: Perestroika and Glasnost," referring to the liberalizing reforms initiated by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, Communist Party general secretary.
Georgy Ginzburg, an art photographer and publisher also traveling with the exhibit, pointed to Pasternak's books and other previously banned novels as tangible evidence of glasnost, or openness.
"They're publishing all of this which was under the table," he said.
Many notable works, however, remain forbidden, such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago," the brutal story of life in Stalinist prison camps. Recent reports, however, have indicated Soviet journals may begin publishing the works of the Nobel Prize-winning author, a harsh critic of the Soviet regime.
Glasnost also has opened doors for many artists, Ginzburg said.
"We have a group of artists who used to be considered non-conformists. Now we're publishing books on these new artists," he said.
Marshall Goldman, associate director of Harvard University's Russian Research Center, called the exchange an interesting development.
"In the old days you would have these exchanges and it would be mostly propaganda. That's different now, there's some substance," he said.
The U.S. side of the superpower book swap is called "Many-Booked America" and is a big success, currently showing in Minsk, in the central Soviet Union, Semenikhin said.
He said there are no official visitor tallies, but interest has been constant at the Soviet exhibit, which opened last week in Boston after a visit in Washington, D.C. The exhibit makes a final stop in Los Angeles Oct. 31-Nov. 11.