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State publishing house of the Russian Republic.

Gosizdat was the most important publishing house in Soviet Russia between 1919 and 1930, and played an important role in the creation of the Soviet publishing system. After coming to power, the Bolsheviks nationalized most private book publishers and printers, transferring their assets to local party and state organizations, which used them to set up their own publishing operations. When the new publishing system proved too disorganized and chaotic, Gosizdat was founded in May 1919 to provide a centralized alternative. Gosizdat started as a contract-printer, receiving most of its editorial content from other Soviet institutions, though it did produce some titles independently. It also acted as a regulatory body overseeing the work of remaining local publishing houses, controlling their access to raw materials and enforcing political censorship. Gosizdat's production during this period consisted primarily of short agitational and military titles, though it also published some longer scientific works. These books and pamphlets were state-funded and distributed at no charge. Gosizdat's output was almost entirely in the Russian language.

With the onset of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1921, the Soviet publishing industry and Gosizdat underwent dramatic changes. Publishing was decentralized, as Soviet institutions were permitted to open their own publishing operations, and books became priced commodities. Gosizdat lost its regulatory functions and focused on producing its own books, though it continued to do some contract printing. Unlike most Russian-language publishing houses, whose production was specialized (at least in theory), Gosizdat remained a universal publishing house, issuing works on a wide variety of subjects, including fiction, children's literature, scientific texts, propaganda, and works on Marxism and Leninism. It had monopolies on the publication of Russian literary classics and textbooks. Gosizdat issued between 25 and 40 percent of Soviet Russian-language book production (measured by pages) each year in the 1920s. Gosizdat also published a number of important periodicals. During the 1920s, Gosizdat absorbed a number of prominent Soviet publishing houses, including Krasnaya nov, Priboy, and Zemlya i fabrika.

Gosizdat was techically part of the Commissariat of Enlightenment, though in practice it answered directly to the Communist Party's Central Committee, which appointed its board of directors, reviewed editorial appointments, and monitored its work. Gosizdat acted as the Central Committee's main book publisher and was afforded special privileges, including large state subsidies and freedom from external ideological censorship.

In August 1930, Gosizdat provided the foundation for a new, centralized publishing conglomerate, the Association of State Publishing Houses (OGIZ), into which most existing Soviet publishing houses were merged. Even after this time, it was not uncommon for Soviet sources to use the term gosizdat to describe the Russian Republic's main publishing operation, whatever its official name. Variants of the term were also used to describe the main publishing house serving some republics or languages: The Tatar State Publishing House, for instance, was known as Tatizdat or Tatgiz. Specialized Russian-language publishing houses were also popularly known by similar acronyms; for example, the State Technical Publishing House was Gostekhizdat.

See also: censorship; central committee; samizdat


Friedberg, Maurice. (1962). Russian Classics in Soviet Jackets. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kassof, Brian Evan. (2000). "The Knowledge Front: Politics, Ideology, and Economics in the Soviet Book Publishing Industry, 19251935." Ph. D. diss., University of California, Berkeley.

Kenez, Peter. (1985). The Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization, 19171929. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Brian Kassof

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