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"Dorozhe zhizni" ["Dearer than life"] unpublished samizdat typescript

 Collection — Box: BW-18, Folder: 3
Identifier: MS-0887

Content Description

This collection contains one unbound, typescript of a fictional novella written in Russian. It was written by an anonymous author in approximately the 1960s. Titled “Dorozhe zhizni” [Dearer than Life], the unpublished novella is a fictionalized account of a man’s personal experience in a Soviet Gulag run by the NKVD. Annotations are written in Russian in the margins and on the back of the pages. One footnote references Vladimir prison, in 1939-1940. Vendor records note the manuscript may be a form of samizdat.


  • Creation: approximately 1960s

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Contact Special Collections for more information. This collection is open for use.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

Samizdat refers to literature written and circulated in the Soviet Union during the period between Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Works were intended to circumvent strict regulations on freedom of expression and often featured critiques of topics such as politics or culture, or republished ‘western texts.’ To avoid regulations on the press, samizdat publications were usually hand-typed for person-to-person distribution.

The NKVD (Naródnyy komissariát vnútrennikh del [People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs]) was originally created in 1917 under the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) to oversee police work and prison and labor camps. It was reorganized in 1934 to serve as the interior ministry for the USSR and oversaw law enforcement until it was dissolved and replaced with the Ministry of Internal Affairs in 1946. During the 1930s, the NKVD ran the GULAG, a system of forced-labor camps and political prisons, and carried out operations of mass-deportations, counterintelligence, political repression, and mass-executions. The GULAG was officially disbanded in the 1950s.


Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Gulag.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Samizdat.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“NKVD.” Wikipedia. August 20, 2021.

Biographical / Historical

No biographical information about the creator of this collection is available at this time.


.167 Cubic Feet (1 legal-sized folder)

Language of Materials



This collection consists of an unpublished Russian novella typescript written by an anonymous author during approximately the 1960s. The typescript describes a fictional prisoner's experience of a Gulag and the NKVD.

Custodial History

This typescript came from the personal papers of Moscow theatre director Elizaveta Isaakovna Kotova.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Rossica in February 2016.

Processing Information

This collection was processed in August 2021 by Julia Deros

Guide to the "Dorozhe zhizni" ["Dearer than life"] unpublished samizdat typescript
Julia Deros
2021 August
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
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Baltimore MD 21218 USA