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CENSORSHIP DURING THE OCCUPATION OF ESTONIA.
On the basis of the information provided by Jüri Anti (Postimees, 30 January 1999, 1. 6): on 5. September 1939 the Prime Minister, Kaarel Einpalu, gave a secret order to Ministers Ants Oidermaa, Karl Selter and Nikolai Viitak notifying that the forwarding of information concerning home and foreign policy shall be regulated by censorship. Information on war and foreign policy forwarded by newspapers had to be approved by ETA and the director of ETA had to clear internal information with the State Propaganda Office, foreign information with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the SPO and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in their turn had to clear the information with the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Estonia.
I The mutual assistance pact between the Soviet Union and the Republic of Estonia was concluded on 28. September 1939. On 11. October 1939 the delivery of a Russian newspaper Nasha Gazeta (issued in Sofia) to Estonia was banned by a resolution of the Chief of Internal Affairs because it poured scorn on the situation in our ”friendly neighbouring country”. The issues of the above mentioned newspaper found in Estonia dating from 11. and 25. September had to be confiscated and destroyed. The introduction of Helsinkin Sanomat and Dagens Nyheter was also prohibited. In March 1940 the State Propaganda Office was reorganized into the Information Centre. The tasks of the latter had been defined very vaguely but in an explanatory note attached, tasks ”especially concerning the present time” were referred to.
In spring 1940 the borrowing of anti-soviet literature from the State Library was prohibited. (At the same time, from autumn 1939, the Library had already started to complete volumes of soviet books and from November the Soviet Union started negotiations concerning radio broadcasts in Russian which could be rejected in Estonia on the pretext of their bad quality.) In spring 1940 the general meeting of the Estonian Librarians’ Association decided to submit a memorandum to the Ministry of Education concerning the banning of picaresque novels and popular literature. Before the occupation of Estonia a couple of other expatriate editions in Russian were banned and destroyed.
II The first publication to be banned after the occupation of Estonia was Vesti Dnja (22 June). During the next 2-3 months 212 newspapers and journals were banned by a resolution of the Chief of Internal Affairs. As at 29 July the list of banned popular authors totalled 29 (A. Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo etc.) At first some individual books were banned (A. Sipelgas Punase päikese lapsed, K. Traks Punases keerises. Nõuga jõu vastu etc.). Any kind of collaboration with foreign journals was prohibited by the regulation of the Minister of Interior Affairs. Foreign literature could not be brought into Estonia any more. By the beginning of September all textbooks, handbooks and reference books used in schools up to that time were banned.
On 15 August the Ministry of Education of the ESSR sent a circular to municipal and county school boards and to the principal of state schools on the basis of which 1) reactionary literature, 2) literature justifying and supporting capitalist exploitation, 3) anti-soviet, and 4) anti-communist literature had to be removed from school libraries.
Another regulation from 16. August banned works which were 1) anti-USSR, 2) anti-ESSR, 3) against the vital interests of the working people, and 4) against building up socialism. All theological literature and works by Zinovjev, Rõkov, Trotski and Buhharin had to be removed.
A regulation of the Chief of Internal Affairs, Harald Haberman, dating from 22. August, provided that 1) anti-USSR slander and agitation literature, 2) literature justifying the ideology and “exploitation of upper bourgeois exploiters”, 3) literature inciting chauvinistic anger and hostility, and 4) all theological literature had to be removed. The above mentioned literature had to be removed by 1. September and in Southern Estonia to be sent to Tartu University Library (destroyed) and in Northern Estonia to the State Library at Toompea (not destroyed). These regulations were vague: in a letter from the Estonian Booksellers’ Association to the Ministry of Education it was stated that “although there is a will to be loyal, it is beyond their powers and reason.”
From 23. August a commission, with its chairman August Alle, was formed at the Ministry of Education in order to compile lists of banned books and publications. A representative of the Information Centre on this commission was N. Puusepp, who regulated the overall sphere of publishing, libraries, radio, cinema, literature and arts. He was the one to introduce the working principles to the other members of the commission. The ten members of the commission included writers August Jakobson, Mihkel Jürna, Paul Rummo, Rudolf Sirge, Aleksander Sibul and the Principal of the Tallinn Central Library. The catalogues of the Tallinn Central Library were used in compiling the lists. List No. 1 contained 130 works in Russian. List No. 2 contained memoirs and other biographical books in Estonian, fiction and children’s books. List No.3 banned magazines, monographs, brochures, manuals, all editions of the publishing house Loodus, Tänapäeva romaan etc. List No. 4 , the longest of the lists released, included Russian and other foreign books, journalism, literature on theology, education, politics, philosophy, and history etc. These four lists were published in the Hariduse Rahvakomissariaadi Teataja and at first they were not kept secret. In addition to these there was a list of 111 banned plays and a list of partly banned books (mainly schoolbooks) which were allowed to be used temporarily. List No. 5 was the most voluminous, completed on 19. November 1940 and it was not published. It contained more than 100 children’s books, books in Russian etc. The total number of books banned by the commission was 1552, 904 of them in Estonian, 141 in foreign languages and 507 books in Russian. 20 authors were completely banned. This literature had to be removed from libraries, book stores, second-hand book stores and publishing houses. At the end of 1940 the Soviet Union system in relation to library science came into force in Estonia. Libraries of societies and associations were banned. Only public libraries, special libraries (science), defense, navy and SARK system libraries remained. The incumbent librarians (especially in public libraries) were largely replaced by “loyal citizens”.
On 2. September 1940 the Publishing Centre of the Estonian SSR was launched whose tasks included the total management and inspection of publishing activities and also the inspection of the book market.
A regulation dating from 20. October 1940 provided that all editions, no matter who the publisher, were to be reviewed by the officials of Glavlit.
Glavlit, the Literature and Publishing Board, was founded on 23. October 1940. From that time on the censoring of literature became more thorough and secret. The first head of Glavlit was Olga Lauristin. The number of books destroyed during the pre-war period is not known, the losses caused by the war have to be added as well. Different opinions exist, but in the opinion of Friedrich Puksoo, the Principal of the Tartu University Library at that time, this number reached approximately 200 000 volumes.
In the opinion of Eero Medijainen three different periods can be observed in the pre-war Soviet period: 1) till the end of August – preparative period. The laws and terminology from the period of the Republic of Estonia seemed to be still in force, the authorities tried to justify formally what had happened, 2) from August till November - books were destroyed in large numbers on the basis of the lists, no other justification was looked for but everything was still relatively public. 3) the launching of Glavlit – secret mass destruction.
Within a year the structure of book publishing, distribution and storage created over twenty years, was destroyed. Almost all aspects of the trade and the people involved, were taken under government control, the destruction of published materials was stopped by the war.
III During the German occupation the removal of books from book stores and warehouses continued. In November 1941 List No. 1 including works to be removed from Estonian book stores and public libraries was issued. It was kept secret, meant for official use only, and the compilers were anonymous. The books to be removed were divided into seven categories: 1) Soviet Russian literature published between 1917 and 1941 except classics and purely scientific works with no communist comments or introductions, 2) communist literature in all languages, 3) English and French literature from 1933 in the original and translations, except new editions of classics, 4) literature published in 1940/41 during the government of Estonian communists, except purely scientific works, 5) Jewish literature in all languages, 6) works by non-Jews having emigrated from Germany since 1933, 7) anti-German literature in all languages. As literature belonging to the first three categories was easy to define, the list contained works belonging to the last three categories only. This list No.1 contained 197 completely banned authors, only 16 Estonian authors among them (those who were involved in political activities during the years of Soviet occupation). The second list of banned books contained individual works, anonymous editions from Soviet times, periodicals and publishing houses whose whole production was banned. Such lists were not published any more, only circulars concerning the banning of single works appeared. For example, in March 1943, masonic and occultist literature was banned. Special preservation departments in scientific libraries were founded during the German occupation. From the school year 1942/43 only textbooks allowed by the Haridusdirektooriumi Teataja could be used in schools.
It cannot be said that the lists of banned literature during the German occupation were directed against Estonian national culture but the orientation was clearly political. Similarly to the policy of the Soviet Union, literature dealing with sexual questions and literature analyzing the essence of a totalitarian state were banned; the same works and authors were banned.
If the head of a book store or a library had any doubts concerning certain books, he/she had to turn to the Haridusdirektoorium in whose competence the libraries belonged. In order to acquire the right for publication of a manuscript, it had to be sent to the Haridusdirektoorium which sent it to the Kirjastusamet then, from 1942, to the State Commissariat located in Riga. The publishing as well as the inspection of editions was managed by Rahvakasvatuse Peavalitsuse Kirjastusamet together with Amt für Verlagswesen which was under the control of the Kindralkomissariaat. The system of duplication of institutions characteristic of the German occupation was practiced in the field of journalism, too. German censorship belonged within the competence of the Kindralkomissariaadi pressidetail; Estonian censorship to the Eesti Omavalitsuse Pressiamet and to Rahvakasvatuse Peavalitsus in Tallinn included pre- as well as post-censorship.
IV Post-war years
Already in February 1944 in Leningrad, Nigol Andresen, the People’s Commissar for Education, obliged, by his decree, the head of the department of National Education to personally notify teachers and librarians who had been nominated for positions in Soviet Estonia that first of all they had to gather data about educational workers, to list all the textbooks used in their district and to temporarily close school and public libraries. In November 1944 an order was given to remove all fascist and anti-soviet literature from libraries. The destruction of books continued according to the secret decrees of Glavlit and now they concentrated on the destruction of Central Libraries (in the pre-war period it was not managed). A great loss to Estonian culture was the destruction of the Tallinn Central Library between 1946 and 1950 with its 150 000 volumes (including the archives of Estonian literature) which had survived the war and, so far, the years of occupation.
Orders concerning the removal of literature in Russian and literature in Estonian published during the Soviet time were given by Glavlit in Moscow and these were in accordance with the ideology of the Soviet Union. For example, works by Ahmatova and Zoshtshenko were banned after the Leningrad case of 1946 etc. The initiation of campaigns for the destruction of different types of books (e.g. religious literature) came from Moscow. On the whole, the lists of banned literature at that time were dominated by Soviet publications. For example, in 1952 the lending out of Russian and Estonian newspapers and journals issued between 1944 and 1949 to students was absolutely prohibited. Publications issued during the first year of the Soviet occupation and during the war behind the front line were under special preservation. Or, in other words, yesterday’s newspaper was the most severely banned.
As far as the literature of the German occupation (which had to be completely destroyed) and Estonian literature from the time of the Republic of Estonia are concerned, collaboration with local literary scholars was necessary but it was difficult to find them. A large number of bibliophiles had emigrated because of the events experienced during the first Soviet year, many of them had been killed, were in prison, or had left their professional work. A job in Glavlit was not prestigious, its employees were mainly semi-literate Estonians in Russia. They made gross errors, for instance, banning the works of F. Schiller and W. Shakespeare. They used the aid of the staff of the special preservation departments (all founded in the years 1945-1950) of Tartu University Library, the State Library and the Library of the Academy of Sciences whose obligation was to inspect book collections and to make proposals to Glavlit about banning certain books. Anti-Soviet, counterrevolutionary, anti-Semitic, pornographic, paedophilic books, books advocating religious cults and nationalist literature” were confined in the special preservation departments. The employees of the special preservation departments only seemed to belong to the staff of the library, in reality they were in subordination to Glavlit and fulfilled their tasks eagerly. For example, while Glavlit were inspecting the special preservation department of a state library in 1956 in relation to removing the ban on some Estonian writers, they found several literary works from the time of the Republic of Estonia which ”they had not actually banned but which were harmful” were listed as already banned. Publishing was already under government control in the pre-war year. Immediately after the war strict control over each and every sheet of printed paper was established. At the beginning of June, 1945, all typewriters and duplicators were registered. An unblemished political past was required of publishers. A quarter of the works published were socio-political and in 1947 a requirement was established to draw up a three-year publishing plan.
The destruction of books culminated in 1949 in the total destruction, without any lists, of any literature in a foreign language. For example, foreign literature from the State Library placed in the confirmation hall of the church in Preesi street was shredded. It is not known how many books were destroyed but the contractor got 19 000 roubles for his work. As the definition ”foreign literature” meant ”literature published outside the Soviet Union since 1917” (this is a quote, I know that there was as yet no Soviet Union in 1917) it also included Estonian literature. Still, they did not start to cut it from one end but the destruction was carried out according to lists and categories of different publications. Step by step, by 1952, almost everything that had been published during the period of the Republic of Estonia was banned, for example an order dated 12. August 1949 stated that the journals Looming and Eesti Kirjandus and Eesti Entsüklopeedia must be destroyed by burning at once. There was a general rule that if the number of publications was small, they could be destroyed by burning, if the number was large, they had to be shredded and sent to the main refuse dump. In 1950 a large amount of Estonian literature dating from the Soviet time in connection with the case of the bourgeois nationalists was also banned.
In 1949 the lists of banned literature were not enough any more, lists of allowed foreign literature were issued - the so-called list of classics in Estonian contained 109 authors, mostly writers from the end of the previous century whose books were translated until the middle of the 60’s. (Only with the publishing of Loomingu Raamatukogu from 1957 onwards did anything new start to appear.) The list of foreign authors allowed in Lithuania was similar but not exactly the same. Actually, in relation to Estonian and Russian literature, the classics were preferred (Vilde and Bornhöhe, Pushkin and Tolstoi). The situation was reminiscient of living in the intellectual world of the previous century. At the same time there were authors, for example, Oskar Luts, who were published during the period of the Republic of Estonia, in the first year of the Soviet occupation, throughout the time of the German occupation and in the post-war years.
V Post-Stalinism Soviet period
From 1955, by the order of Glavlit, works by Estonian authors began to be released from the special preservation department. At first, works by writers scorned as bourgeois nationalists - Nikolai Karotamm, Eduard Päll, Johannes Semper, Friedebert Tuglas, Mart Pukits, Paul Viiding, Kersti Merilaas, Oskar Tooming and Hans Kruus – were brought to light, later, writers murdered by the Soviet powers – Jaan Anvelt and Jüri Parijõgi – were added to this list. The first writer, having emigrated because of Soviet pressure, to be removed from the list of banned authors was Aino Kallas, soon Marie Under, Johannes Aavik, Gustav Suits and others were also removed. The small and large Eesti Entsüklopeedia and Eesti biograafiline leksikon with a supplementary volume were re-allowed. At the same time political literature published during the time of Stalin was optionally sent to the special preservation department. Also banned from 3. January 1956 were all calenders, booklets issued by organisations and political parties, syllabuses and teaching methods of schools and other educational institutions, topographical maps of the army, song festival programmes, reference books of towns and counties and ”series of detective and picaresque novels (except works by classics and well-known authors)”, also works published during the German occupation, except literary classics published in the Republic of Estonia between 1918 and 1940.
By 1956-1957 so many works by Estonian writers and literary men were re-allowed by Glavlit that for the sake of clarity, a new list of 63 Estonian authors whose works were to be removed, was drawn up. 20 of them were expatriate authors. Besides politicians the list included brilliant representatives from almost all fields of Estonian intellectual life – cultural scientists and historians (Olaf Sild, Peeter Tarvel, Oskar Loorits, Gustav Ränk), clerics and theologians (Hugo Bernhard Rahamägi, Johan Kõpp, Eduard Tennmann), literary scholars and art critics (Hanno Kompus, Ants Oras, Richard Antik). Authors still banned included Heiti Talvik and Henrik Visnapuu, Juhan Jaik and Karl Adson, Karl Ast-Rumor, Pedro Krusten, August Mälk, Albert Kivikas and – what a surprise! – Karl-August Hindrey, ”for his active work in Sweden” but who had passed away several years previously. This literature did not reach the reader, partly because only a few copies had been preserved and they were kept in the archives but also because in any case they remained in the special preservation departments.
During the political meltdown correspondence with the homeland was re-established and expatriates started to send books in their mother tongue published in foreign countries to Estonia. Of course, these were sent to relatives and friends, not to Glavlit. However, they had already confiscated the parcels at the customs and destroyed them. For instance, on 28. November 1958 Bernard Kangro’s collections of poems Pühapäev, Suvihari, Tulease and Seitsmes öö, Eesti kirjanduse lugu by Gustav Suits, Tee kaevule by August Mälk, Kaugelviibija käekõrval by Pedro Krusten, Kas mäletad mu arm by August Gailit, Rambivalgus süttib by Liina Reiman, Talupoja laul by Jaan Lattik, Kogutud novellid I by Friedebert Tuglas and many other books sent by mail were burnt. Continuously, at least once a month, the best of Estonian literature being published at that time was sent to the ”auto-da-fé”. Books were destroyed only according to their place of publication with no regard to the contents. As a result, together with collections of poems by Marie Under, Kalju Lepik and Bernard Kangro, the Väike Illimar by Friedebert Tuglas and a translation of J.W. Goethe’s Faust into Estonian were burnt. Among books by foreign authors which were burnt, M. Leblanc’s Õõnes nõel and M. Dilas’ Novõi klass which analyzed communist society, strike one’s eye. Every month tens of copies of the latter went into the fire. Later the ”auto-da-fé” was partly substituted by special preservation and many parcels even reached the recipients. For instance, in the first half of the year 1959 Glavlit inspected 1228 books sent to Estonia by mail, 685 of which were delivered to the addressees and 543 held by the censorship. 16 of these books were given to the Central Committee of the Estonian Communist Party, 81 to the special preservation department of the State Library, 27 to the Literary Museum in Tartu and 1 to the Security Committee of the Estonian SSR.
In 1962 all the lists of banned books were invalidated and replaced with two contracted registers. One of which was meant for all libraries and contained works published in Estonian SSR to be removed. The other list, not meant for all libraries, was not completed until 1966 and contained books published in the Republic of Estonia from 1918 until 1940 and during the German occupation.
In 1960 there were special preservation departments in six Estonian libraries. Glavlit had the following data about them:
native literature foreign literatur
The Library of the Academy of 20 067 16 080
Sciences of the Estonian SSR
The State Library of the 14 788 48 434
The Library of the Institute for Party 2861 63
History of the Estonian SSR
The Library of the Ministry for 934 476
Foreign Affairs of the Estonian SSR
Tartu State University Library 26 613 66 899
The Archive Library of the Literary 32 200 8780
Museum of the Estonian SSR
During the 1960’s and 70’s the censoring of books continued in the established manner and pursuant to the political attitudes of the Soviet Union. The censorship became stricter again from 1982 to 1984 due to a new wave of Russification. Inspectors from Moscow removed religious and German fascist literature from libraries.
In September 1987 a commission was launched with representatives from the State Library, Tartu State University Library, the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Estonian SSR and the Archive Library of the Literary Museum of the Estonian SSR. The task of the commission was to choose appropriate literature on the basis of the decrees by the Ministry of Culture of the USSR and Glavlit. Within the year 1988 most Estonian books from the period of the Republic of Estonia and the German occupation were returned to the main catalogues and foreign-Estonian literature began to be released from special preservation. An inter-departmental commission was formed at the Ministry of Culture of the Estonian SSR in order to examine publications removed from libraries and second-hand book stores. This was, perhaps, the end of Soviet censorship.
Data concerning the activities of Glavlit are missing from the year 1976, these were transferred to Moscow by a decision of a commission led by Kurt Ingerman. Lepo Sumera, Minister of Culture at that time, and Andra Veidemann, head of a similar commission which functioned (did not function) parallel to that of Ingerman, should have more precise information about this period.