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The Current Digest of the Russian Press (formerly The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press)

Reputations are subject to change. Consider this 1950 statement about Lenin in the Soviet press: “The ideas of Leninism are exerting ever greater influence on the course of world history. On the basis of an analysis of the laws of capitalism during its imperialist state, Lenin and Stalin have demonstrated that the crash of capitalism is inevitable, that no forces whatever can ward off this crash.” In 2010, however, public opinion in Russia reveals a different perspective:

“For the 140th anniversary of Lenin’s birth, the All-Russia Center for the Study of Public Opinion conducted a study of attitudes toward him in present-day Russian society. Thirty-one percent of Russian citizens are inclined to believe that the memory of the leader of the world proletariat will be preserved, but that no one will follow in his path any longer.... Only 6% believe that Lenin’s ideas will again light people's way to a better future.”

These quotations come from a title that has also varied to reflect changing times. Founded in 1949, the Current Digest was first published as The Current Digest of the Soviet Press (1949-1991), followed by The Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press (1992-2010), and now The Current Digest of the Russian Press. In March, AU Library greatly increased the accessibility of this publication to this community with the acquisition of the online version which covers 1949 to the present. For more than six decades, the publishers of the Digest have carefully translated selected representative articles from the Soviet and then the Russian press into English without editorial comment so that researchers can draw their own conclusions.

Researchers in internal and international politics will have compelling reasons to use this database. From this view of Stalin, “By inspired labor to the glory of their native land, soviet people are demonstrating their limitless love and devotion to their beloved Stalin,” to Putin’s perspective on Medvedev (He “will not have to try to convince people of his liberal views. But he is no less a Russian nationalist, in the good sense of the word, than I am. I don't think that our partners will find him easier to deal with. At any rate, he is someone who is patriotic and who will most energetically assert the interests of the Russian Federation on the world stage."), researchers can follow the fortunes of figures such as Khrushchev, Brezhnev, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin, and their counterparts in other countries through a Soviet and then a Russian lens. Russian perspectives on contemporary issues such as the war in Afghanistan are also readily available:

The operation in Afghanistan has been recognized as a historic mistake made by the Kremlin; it was at that time also that Washington made its historic mistake by allying with the most radical Islamist sects.... There is an opinion that in Afghanistan the United States repeats Soviet errors. This is not completely true, or rather, this is completely wrong. Americans are making their own mistakes, many of them rooted in their past collaboration with the Taliban....

The database may be surprisingly useful to researchers in other disciplines from the arts to literature to the sciences. For the first, one can follow the official and then unofficial reports on the famous Bolshoi ballet. For literature, one can see authors such as Pasternak and Solzhenitsyn condemned and then reprieved. For the last, various reports on the Tunguska explosive event in Siberia, long a subject of curiosity among Western scientists, make for fascinating reading as Soviet scientists debate its origins—comet/meteor/asteroid/Martian landing? Chernobyl is covered from inception, “Peaceful Atom at Work,” to the first cryptic message on the incident, “An accident has occurred at the Chernobyl Atomic Power Station; one of the nuclear reactors has been damaged. Measures are being taken to eliminate the consequences of the accident. Aid is being given to the victims. A government commission has been established,” to aftermath. Journalism students will also find much to study in the changing nature of a state-controlled media to the present day.

For assistance with using The Current Digest database, please contact the Reference Desk.

Search tip: Change search results to chronological order or reverse chronological order by clicking on the “Date” button.

Bonus Feature: The Soviet Press on New Genres of Western Music

On rock and roll
And now we see the triumph of rock ‘n roll, a rhythm of pure neurasthenia with a sexual and narcotic basis. Again, this not a specific dance, but a style or manner. Dozens of "melodies" are composed for it every week. Every week discs of ten of the most popular of them are played over the radio on the so-called hit parades (through which some people have managed to make millions in profits). The voices of psychiatrists and psychologists are heard ever louder, pointing out the relation between this form of music and the continuously growing juvenile delinquency. (1957)

On the Beatles
Yes, in Poland I was at one concert, but I honestly confess that I simply could not stand more than one number. Imagine, it began with a very simple, extremely simple song motif, the ensemble of electric guitars played calmly, all was respectable. And suddenly-a violent scream, a squeal, and the audience as well as the performers went into a wild ecstasy. The extremely loud sound of the ensemble of electric guitars, magnified by amplifiers at full volume, and drums to boot. Maybe this is only acceptable by a certain age group-I could not bear such artistic violence. The Beatles are already out of fashion, though... (1966)

On jazz
From the moment of its birth to our times, jazz has been torn by its dual nature. Folk and anti-folk elements have become indissolubly interwoven in it. For this reason jazz has given rise to both the sensual, erotic, "music of the fat men" and to the beautiful "blues " of William Handy and George Gershwin. For this reason jazz motifs can be heard both in the taverns of Harlem and in the repertoire of Paul Robeson. The answer to the question of which of the mutually contradictory elements will gain the upper hand in this complex ideo-artistic organism is wholly linked with the general fate of progressive art in the United States. (1955)