Valentina Parisi

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2012/2013
discipline Literature
Post-doctoral fellow in Slavic Studies at Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane, Firenze

Research project

Samizdat in the Context of Reading Practices in Soviet Russia


It is generally assumed that samizdat as a self-publishing strategy was a key form of dissident activity which aimed to spread forbidden works within and beyond the borders of the Soviet Union and insofar to discredit or undermine the authority of the Soviet State. But from a different viewpoint, samizdat can be also analyzed as a self-significant medium which challenges to a great extent our presuppositions about how a published text should look like. In particular, while it established a parallel level of textual production and dissemination, samizdat recalled to life aspects of scribal culture which have been marginalized by the invention of the printing press.


During my research stay in Budapest, I am collecting relevant data about self-publishing in the USSR at the Open Society Archives (OSA), with a major reference to the extensive collection of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Research Institute. RFE/RL is an essential source for the post-war political, social, and economic history of Eastern Europe, providing one of the world’s largest samizdat collections. As long as I am concerned, I propose to look at the samizdat/tamizdat texual production, and the increasing consumption of Western literature smuggled from the West, in the theoretical framework provided by the reader-oriented theories of interpretation and, in detail, by the term “interpretive community” coined by Stanley Fish. The goal of my research is to investigate whether samizdat/tamizdat authors and readers could be defined as an interpretive community, i. e. as a group of like-minded individuals who share similar assumptions about how a text should be read. 


In addition to Fish’s patterns, I mean to determine how this interpretive community thought these self-published texts originated by a compulsory pre-Gutenberg situation should be composed. The question is of fundamental importance in order to ascertain whether the so-called underground culture in the USSR has been only the negative counterpart of the official discourse - as some observers argued - or, on the contrary, an independent network of shared knowledges. As long as meanings are actualized in the process of reading, thanks to the interaction between the text and the reader’s expectations, projections, judgments, and assumptions (Iser 1970), in my analysis of Russian samizdat translations of Western literature I will try to find out which elements underwent a reassessment because of re-articulation of the original texts performed by samizdat readers. 


By raising questions concerning the reception of texts outside their place of origination, I will point out the fundamental role played by samizdat/tamizdat in promoting a free flow of information that during “perestrojka” became the conceptual background on which the “new” Russian literature was perceived. At the same time the depiction of selected emblematic cases of self-publishers will enrich the empirical group-portrait of unofficial Soviet intellectuals.



Valentina Parisi holds a Ph.D in Slavic Studies from the University of Milan. She has been a post-doctoral fellow at Istituto Italiano di Scienze Umane in Firenze. She is also active as a literary translator from Russian, Polish and German and a literary consultant for several leading Italian publishers.

Selected publications


The Exceeding Reader. Soviet Samizdat Journals, 1950s-1990s, Il Mulino, Bologna, 2013.


‘The Tamizdat Journal “A-Ja” and Russian Unofficial Arts in the 70s-80s’, in F. Kind Kovács and J. Labov (eds), From Samizdat to Tamizdat: independent media before and after 1989, Berghahn, New York / Oxford, March, 2013. 


‘Contro Gutenberg : variazioni samizdat sul tema del libro d’artista’, Progetto Grafico, vol.11, 2007, pp.36-41; in English, ‘Anti-Gutenberg: Samizdat variations on the Theme of Art Book’, Progetto Grafico International, 2011, pp.42-45.


„Das Buch verlassen“: Lew Rubinsteins Künstlerbücher, 1972-1974, Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an der Universität Bremen, Arbeitspapiere und Materialen, vol.82, 2007.


‘Tra Kant e Duchamp: oggetto artistico e spettatore nell’opera di Andrej Monastyrskij’, Materiali d’estetica, vol.14, 2007, pp.193-215.


‘Zwischen Unstimmigkeit und Andersdenken. Inoffizielle sowjetische Kunst auf der Biennale di Venezia 1977’, in A. Raev and I. Wünsche (eds), Kursschwankungen. Russische Kunst im Wertesystem der europäischen Moderne, Lukas Verlag, Berlin, 2007, pp.158-163.


‘Jurij Alberts „Kunst anstatt Philosophie“, oder Was die Moskauer Künstler über Conceptual Art wussten und wie sie sie interpretierten’, in H. Hamersky, H. Pleines and H.H. Schröder (eds), Eine andere Welt? Kultur und Politik in Osteuropa 1945 bis heute, Ibidem Verlag, Stuttgart, 2007, pp.113-118.


junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
Central European University - Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Humanities and Social Sciences
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2015/2016
Central European University - Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Humanities and Social Sciences
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Central European University - Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Political Science
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Central European University - Institute for Advanced Study
discipline Social Anthropology