The US secret service during the years of the Cold War contributed to the publication of the novel by Boris Pasternak as propaganda
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States during the Cold War as part of the campaign against communism organized the release of Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago novel at the end of the 1950-s and distributed it in the West and among Soviet citizens. This statement was made by American journalist Peter Finn and the Netherlands Slavist Peter Kuve.
In an article in the Washington Post based on their book, The Zhivago Case: The Kremlin, the CIA and the Battle for the Prohibited Book, which collects CIA documents and interviews with former and current intelligence officers, they claim that in Washington during the Cold War, Pasternak’s novel was considered one of the tools of propaganda against the USSR. This is evidenced by the 130 declassified documents of the special services concerning the CIA's participation in the publication and distribution of the book. This also applies to the release of the novel in Russian in the Netherlands in the year 1958 and further distribution - both in the West and in the Soviet Union.
According to declassified data, the publication of the book was handled by the Soviet department of the CIA under the direction of the director of the department Allen Dulles. The operation was authorized by the administration of President Eisenhower. The documents prescribe "in no way demonstrate" the involvement of US intelligence services in the publication of the novel.
In total, during the Cold War, the CIA secretly distributed over 10 millions of copies of books and magazines banned in the USSR and Eastern Europe into the territory of Soviet countries. One of them was the novel "Doctor Zhivago."
In 1956, the Soviet "Goslitizdat" refused to release "Doctor Zhivago" for, the CIA documents clarify, "a hidden but critical image of the influence of the Soviet system on the life of a sensitive intellectual." In the same year, Pasternak sent a copy of the manuscript to the Italian publisher and member of the Italian Communist Party, Gianjacomo Feltrinelli, and in November 1957, the novel is published in Milan.
In January, 1958, the leadership of the CIA received a message from the British intelligence services with pictures of the pages of the novel Pasternak. It said that a copy of the work will be sent to the headquarters of US intelligence within a month. The British side expressed hope for its early publication both in the UK and in the USA.
After that, the CIA issued a message in which it recommended all its employees to “distribute the publication as much as possible” in the West, so that Pasternak won recognition and was nominated for the Nobel Prize.
The Office explained that “Doctor Zhivago” carries “the most important propaganda value - not only for its promise and provocation, but also for the circumstances in which it was written: it is possible to make Soviet citizens think about what is wrong with their government, even if it’s good a literary work written by a man who is recognized as one of the greatest living Russian writers cannot be published in his country in his language for his own people. "
In July, 1958, the head of the "Soviet department" of the CIA, John Mori, wrote in one of his memos that "Doctor Zhivago" represents "a direct threat to the worldview that the Kremlin imposes."
“Pasternak’s humanistic message — that everyone has the right to privacy and deserves respect, regardless of his political loyalty or contribution to the state’s work — bears a fundamental challenge to Soviet ethics, which dictates sacrificing an individual in the name of the communist system,” Mori emphasized.
According to the authors of the book, for the first time, the CIA attempted to distribute the Russian-language edition of “Doctor Zhivago” at the World Exhibition in the summer of 1958, in Brussels, where 16 of thousands of USSR citizens arrived. The book was printed in Russian in September 1958 of the year in the Netherlands with the assistance of the local Internal Security Service (BVD). 200 copies of the novel were sent to the headquarters of the CIA, about 450 - to offices in Western Europe. 365 books sent to Brussels.
The Russian emigre Catholics helped spread the CIA novel, placing the publication in a small library of the Vatican Pavilion. Some of the Soviet citizens who received the novel, the authors of the book clarify, tear off the cover, and scatter pages in their pockets.
Cover of the first edition of the novel "Doctor Zhivago." Photo: hoover.org Cover of the first edition of the novel "Doctor Zhivago."
The CIA recognized the operation as successful. The only problem for them was the refusal of the Dutch publisher to enter into a contract with the copyright holder - Feltrinelli. As a result, the Russian-language edition of Doctor Zhivago turned out to be illegal, which aroused the interest of the press and gave rise to rumors about involvement in the publication of the CIA book.
In October, Pasternak 1958 won the Nobel Prize. The authorities of the USSR, considering the novel anti-Soviet, attacked the author with criticism. “The worst thing is that Pasternak was a member of the Writers' Union. The WRITER changed the Motherland, ”Sergei Mikhalkov said at the meeting about him.
The Soviet Department of the CIA responded to these events by publishing a paperback edition. John Mori, in a memo, explained that "there was a tremendous demand for romance among students and representatives of the intelligentsia."
This time, the security services decided to print copies at the CIA headquarters, using the first Feltrinelli text and attributing the publication to the fictional Parisian publisher Société d'Edition et d'Impression Mondiale. By July 1959, at least nine thousand copies had been printed.
In 1959, CIA officials distributed two thousand books in Vienna at the World Festival of Youth and Students. In addition to the publication in Russian, there were distributed copies of the novel in Polish, German, Czech, Hungarian and Chinese. According to the authors, Russian emigrants crowded around the buses of the Soviet delegation and threw copies of the novel into the open windows.
In addition to Doctor Zhivago, the CIA distributed 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell and God Who Outdid Hope at the festival (a collection of essays by six writers and journalists who were communists in the past and wrote about how disappointed they were their beliefs).
The English journalist Francis Stonor Saunders, in the book The CIA and the Art World: The Cultural Front of the Cold War, wrote that with the CIA during the Cold War, he actively promoted the American authors Somerset Maugham, Ezra Pound, Howard Hunt.
The secret services financed and took part in the activities of the so-called “Congress for Freedom of Culture”, an anti-Soviet public organization that included poets, historians, intellectuals, writers, and artists.
The Congress supported national industry organizations in all Western European countries, its goal was to promote a new and politically acceptable culture.
It included such famous personalities as George Orwell, Bertrand Russell, Ernest Hemingway, Arthur Koestler, Jean-Paul Sartre, and many others. The Secretary General of the Congress was a Russian émigré, composer Nikolai Nabokov, a cousin of the famous writer. The authors themselves did not know the source of their support.
In the book of the Soviet historian Professor Nikolai Yakovlev "The CIA against the USSR" from 1983, the theory of the launch of the CIA "Operations Solzhenitsyn" is put forward. It was built on the idea of anti-Soviet propaganda by financing and promoting the writer's creativity.
To sponsor anti-Soviet publicists, the CIA stood up complex financial chains to “cover the traces” of their involvement. For this, according to Saunders, the special services organized around 170 various funds. Among the mediators in financing were the Rothschild and Ford funds.
In addition to literature, the CIA promoted the development of modern art as weapons anti-soviet propaganda. Intelligence agencies secretly supported the work of artists such as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko and others.
Much attention was paid to the promotion of abstractionism, the elimination of realistic art, which was associated with socialist realism. The intelligence services also “promoted” the animation, American jazz, and their agents worked in the film industry, publishing houses, museums.