Russian Samizdat, Children’s Literature, and the Sunset Years of the Soviet Empire

Olga Bukhina wrote a fascinating piece on the C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia in the Soviet Union. My parents were regular consumers of Samizdat, but I don’t remember seeing the Narnia books in their hands — perhaps, it’s the overtly Christian message that put them off. My parents weren’t interested in religion or science fiction, but I was, and just a few years later I devoured Lord of the Rings when it was officially published in 1991. (Of course, it’s entirely possible that my parents read it without my knowledge. Parents are apt to do things like that…)

Narnia was not just a religious threat; in the Soviet context, it was clearly political. The message of these fairytales turned out to be much more dangerous than particular words and images that could be eliminated by censorship. The words of the faun Mr. Tumnus, “It is winter in Narnia, and has been for ever so long… Always winter and never Christmas; think of that,” in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia. New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 2001, p. 118), resonated to the reader as an image of the Soviet political winter without any hope for change; the change being symbolized by Christmas.

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