Searching for prototypes of the computer and modern means of communication took journalist Tigran Paskevichyan back to the 1950s, when Soviet dissidents created samizdat.
Samizdat, a type of dissident activity in the Soviet Union by which individuals secretly published censored publications and distributed them by hand, according to Paskevichyan, was a space and opportunity for free expression much like the Internet: it was an alternative to the state propaganda machine much as the Internet is today. Samizdat was passed from person to person, on the basis of recruiting a network of friends, supporters, and new people.
These ideas and parallels that Paskevichyan envisioned have turned into a film. His short, 35-minute documentary on samizdat, "[Making] the Impossible, Possible: In Search of a Prototype," screened on January 29 at The Club in Yerevan, describes the creation and development of samizdat, the story of its various incarnations, and the activities of devoted samizdat publishers in the Soviet Union, who worked underground, knowing that they could be imprisoned or exiled for years.
The film also features the work of Armenian dissidents and samizdat authors. They mainly addressed issues of preserving the Armenian national image and the purity of the Armenian language and calling for Armenia's separation from the USSR, declaring Armenia an independent state.
Also present at the film screening was co-author of the fourth issue of the underground Paros newspaper Azat Arshakyan, who in 1981 was sentenced to six years' imprisonment along with Ashot Navasardyan for that issue. Arshakyan said they signed their names on that issue of Paros, distributed copies of the paper at night, placing them in residents' mailboxes, and in the morning, they handed one copy over to the general prosecutor. He told the audience: "There won't be a second USSR; there won't be Customs Union, Glavlit [General Directorate for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press under the Council of Ministers of the USSR]."
The film is but one component of this project about samizdat. Paskevichyan launched a Facebook page to complement the film, where he shares the large amount of information and archival materials he gathered while making the film but which didn't make the final cut.
Photo (from left): Tigran Paskevichyan, Azat Arshakyan
Photo credit: Suren Ter-Grigoryan