May 15, 2024

The Power of the Zine


The Power of the Zine
"The Unknown Person" is Anna Dial's publication company.  Anna Dial archive. 

Russian artists have dealt with government censorship for centuries. Even famed poet Alexander Pushkin had to have his work signed off on by Tsar Nicholas I, because the autocrate feared Pushkin's influence during the unstable years following the Decembrist Uprising.

Soviet artists and writers created a system of publication and distribution known as "samizdat" ["self-publishing"] through which great works such as Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich were distributed domestically and sent to publishers abroad ("tamizdat" – "publishing over there"). 

Anna Dial, who was born in Kamchatka but has lived in Montenegro since the outbreak of the war in Ukriane in 2022, follows in this tradition. In 2018, Dial created a publishing house called "The Unknown Person" (Neizvestny Chelovek) to produce her art in the form of "'zines." Dial described her zines as something "between a book and an art object," containing comics by Dial and stories or poems by her collaborators. Her comics feature feminist heroes, frank and humorous depictions of bodies, and everyday realities of womanhood.

Dial began to draw comic books inspired by the atmosphere of war in 2022, yet found that they were immediately removed from store shelves or banned from the galleries where she worked. She decided to turn to the methods of her artistic forebears and began publishing her work on her own. 

Since the war began, censorship in Russia has drastically increased, so Dial's collaborators began anonymizing their work and more closely monitoring their distribution network. Dial emphasized the importance of keeping physical copies of their work: "You see, social networks can disappear at once – some of them are now blocked in Russia – but the zine will remain there, as it stood on the shelf." In the future, Dial hopes for an archive memorializing this time in history, as it was seen by samizdat artists. 

You Might Also Like

Like this post? Get a weekly email digest + member-only deals

Some of Our Books

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod: A Novel in Many Voices

Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

Life Stories: Original Fiction By Russian Authors

The Life Stories collection is a nice introduction to contemporary Russian fiction: many of the 19 authors featured here have won major Russian literary prizes and/or become bestsellers. These are life-affirming stories of love, family, hope, rebirth, mystery and imagination, masterfully translated by some of the best Russian-English translators working today. The selections reassert the power of Russian literature to affect readers of all cultures in profound and lasting ways. Best of all, 100% of the profits from the sale of this book are going to benefit Russian hospice—not-for-profit care for fellow human beings who are nearing the end of their own life stories.
Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar

Bears in the Caviar is a hilarious and insightful memoir by a diplomat who was “present at the creation” of US-Soviet relations. Charles Thayer headed off to Russia in 1933, calculating that if he could just learn Russian and be on the spot when the US and USSR established relations, he could make himself indispensable and start a career in the foreign service. Remarkably, he pulled it of.
Turgenev Bilingual

Turgenev Bilingual

A sampling of Ivan Turgenev's masterful short stories, plays, novellas and novels. Bilingual, with English and accented Russian texts running side by side on adjoining pages.
The Samovar Murders

The Samovar Murders

The murder of a poet is always more than a murder. When a famous writer is brutally stabbed on the campus of Moscow’s Lumumba University, the son of a recently deposed African president confesses, and the case assumes political implications that no one wants any part of.
Okudzhava Bilingual

Okudzhava Bilingual

Poems, songs and autobiographical sketches by Bulat Okudzhava, the king of the Russian bards. 
A Taste of Russia

A Taste of Russia

The definitive modern cookbook on Russian cuisine has been totally updated and redesigned in a 30th Anniversary Edition. Layering superbly researched recipes with informative essays on the dishes' rich historical and cultural context, A Taste of Russia includes over 200 recipes on everything from borshch to blini, from Salmon Coulibiac to Beef Stew with Rum, from Marinated Mushrooms to Walnut-honey Filled Pies. A Taste of Russia shows off the best that Russian cooking has to offer. Full of great quotes from Russian literature about Russian food and designed in a convenient wide format that stays open during use.
The Latchkey Murders

The Latchkey Murders

Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...

About Us

Russian Life is a publication of a 30-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.

Latest Posts

Our Contacts

Russian Life
73 Main Street, Suite 402
Montpelier VT 05602

802-223-4955