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When Books Were Weapons in the Cold War
on July 1, 2014
During the Cold War, the CIA was engaged in relentless global warfare with the Kremlin. The agency used a host of front organizations and phony foundations, spent many millions of dollars to fund concert tours, art exhibitions, magazines, academic research, student activities and book publishing. All theses were weapons in the covert action against the Soviet Union masterminded by George Kennan, who was the intellectual author behind this. One estimate says that some 10 million books and periodicals were distributed by the CIA in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. "Doctor Zhivago" was one of those books which was printed and distributed clandestinely in the main Russian cities.
This book, which is just one episode in the colossal ideological battle between the two superpowers, is excellent and is very original. The authors have put in a tremendous effort in researching its topic, using many untapped archives and interviews. It reads like a fast best-selling political thriller. This is a fascinating account of the propaganda machines the USA used against the Eastern Bloc, showing Pasternak's and his friends' courage and it shows to what extent the battle for the minds of the readers in the East was conducted. It is also a detailed story about the cultural and intellectual background of the thirties to the fifties in the USSR.
This battle over the publication of "Doctor Zhivago" was one of the first efforts by the CIA to leverage books as instruments of political warfare. It was Khrushchev himself who admitted in the end that the Russians "caused much harm to the Soviet Union "and added that he was "truly sorry for the way he behaved toward Pasternak".
There were additional writers who followed Pasternak's way, among them Solzhenitsyn and Brodsky.This book is highly recommended.