Demonstration by the Polish trade union Solidarnosc in the pilgrimage city of Tschenstochau (Poland). The illegal trade union Solidarnosc grew into a mass movement that could no longer be stopped.
Source: AP Photo

Samizdat

Books and magazines could only be published with the permission of the authorities in the GDR. The state censored and banned works it did not approve of. With the birth of a subculture and opposition groups, a multifaceted underground literature scene developed in the 1980s.

Texts were produced, duplicated and distributed illicitly without official approval. Banned books were copied out and then circulated. The Russian word samizdat - self-publishing - was adopted into the German language to mean this kind of production and distribution of illegal writing. The powers-that-be could no longer fully control this form of critical comment. The scale of their distribution was limited, however.

Vaclav Havel’s essay “Living in Truth” was produced in underground self-published form – called samizdat – in 1980. The German translation was distributed as a manuscript in the GDR. In his much-discussed essay, Havel attacked the hypocrisy of the communist dictatorships, encouraging the opposition to voice their critical views in public.
Source: Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an der Universität Bremen
Typed carbon copies of a lecture by the dissident philosopher Rudolf Bahro. Banned writing had to be painstakingly duplicated in the GDR. The few copies were passed on from one person to the next.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
The Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s novel The First Circle was initially published in samizdat form in the late 1960s. This was one way of evading state censorship in the Soviet Union to a certain extent.
Source: Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an der Universität Bremen
The civil rights activist Bärbel Bohley and others published the book Document – 40 Years in samizdat form in 1989. The editors had interviewed East Germans on their view of conditions in the GDR. The book presented a picture that was diametrically opposed to the official view. It was also published in West Germany in autumn 1989.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Publications by opposition groups from the late 1980s. Underground newspapers were circulated in small print runs, circumventing state censorship. This was where people could read news not mentioned in the official GDR media.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Publications by opposition groups from the late 1980s. Underground newspapers were circulated in small print runs, circumventing state censorship. This was where people could read news not mentioned in the official GDR media.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Publications by opposition groups from the late 1980s. Underground newspapers were circulated in small print runs, circumventing state censorship. This was where people could read news not mentioned in the official GDR media.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Publications by opposition groups from the late 1980s. Underground newspapers were circulated in small print runs, circumventing state censorship. This was where people could read news not mentioned in the official GDR media.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Publications by opposition groups from the late 1980s. Underground newspapers were circulated in small print runs, circumventing state censorship. This was where people could read news not mentioned in the official GDR media.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Publications by opposition groups from the late 1980s. Underground newspapers were circulated in small print runs, circumventing state censorship. This was where people could read news not mentioned in the official GDR media.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Publications by opposition groups from the late 1980s. Underground newspapers were circulated in small print runs, circumventing state censorship. This was where people could read news not mentioned in the official GDR media.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft
Publications by opposition groups from the late 1980s. Underground newspapers were circulated in small print runs, circumventing state censorship. This was where people could read news not mentioned in the official GDR media.
Source: Robert-Havemann-Gesellschaft

The samizdat production of newspapers and books had a long tradition in the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia in particular. For instance, the Czech writer Vaclav Havel demanded the freedom of the word and openly criticised the dictatorship. His works were officially prohibited and could only find their way into readers' hands through samizdat.

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