Foreign Language Press, Novosti Press Agency, 8 Nentori Publishing House, Foreign Language Publishing House Hanoi, and Progress Publishers were all , dare one suggest once familiar, state publishing imprints that provided alternative and contending information and interpretation. They were presented as propaganda outlets by western media network, no less partisan and working to a status quo agenda than their ideological counter-parts.
In a print-screen digital age other sources of information are out there if one searches. The old enduring print on paper was reliant on sympathetic distribution networks ranging from direct subscription (and what was always assumed) subsidised commercial arrangements, the radical book scene and informal channels through friendship or political groups circulating material. Circulation of foreign-language material, competing in a well established domestic media market, was always going to be a difficult and fringe activity. These state publishing houses produced material to promote their country, state policies and views and establish a voice that promted documents of records as well as those of persuasion.
The mass market potential to register a questioning view point was/is a herculean task at the best of times, and even given the new internet platforms available, the question would remain how to attract a reading audience. To build a relationship of trust with one’s readership was an endeavour shared across all Medias, that desire to communicate; a common feature on all Progress books is their “request to readers,” which reads: “Progress Publishers would be glad to have your opinion of this book, its translation and design and any suggestions you may have for future publications. Please send all your comments to 21, Zubovsky Boulevard, Moscow, U.S.S.R.”
Progress Publishers was a Moscow-based publisher founded in 1931.Just in case you want to collect First editions published by Progress Publishers they have “First Edition (year)” printed on the copyright page with no additional printings listed. They were noted for its English-language editions of books on Marxism-Leninism such as the (now complete 50) hardbound volumes of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.
Progress Publishers took over the role of the Foreign Languages Publishing House the state-run publisher of Russian literature, novels, propaganda, and books about the USSR in foreign languages in 1963 , occupying the premises of the offices of the Foreign Languages Publishing House situated at the Zubovsky Boulevard. Their logo had the Sputnik satellite on one side, and on the other is the Russian letter ∏, for Progress.
The Co-Operative Publishing Society of Foreign Workers in the U.S.S.R., Moscow – whose large album on the History of the Civil War in the USSR was one-time ubiquitous upon leftist bookshelves – had shared the offices throughout the cold war era. The FLPH was created to centralize all works bound for non Soviet readers. They published in all subjects, but specialized in politics and literature, the classic Russian authors alongside the contemporary output that faded from memory.
Progress Publishers concentrated its activities inthe late 1970s/early 1980s by hiving off specialise publishing areas to other publishing houses.
- publishing literature was given to a new imprint, Raduga. Again Raduga published many of the classics of Russian Literature, and few contemporary novels. There was also a large selection of children’s books were published under the Raduga imprint.
- Mir Publishers took on the sciences. Mir published technical and scientific titles, as well as children’s science books. MIR Publishers which handled the publishing of scientific and technical books in the Soviet Union, including translations into foreign languages, still exists, although they apparently only publish in Russian now. Although titles from the Soviet era can be found at http://mirtitles.org/
The other best known purveyors of English languages books and booklets from the Soviet Union was that of Novosti Press Agency / APN created in 1961.
The task of Novosti Press Agency / APN – Novosti means News in Russian was “to contribute to mutual understanding, trust and friendship among peoples in every possible way by broadly publishing accurate information about the USSR abroad and familiarizing the Soviet public with the life of the peoples of foreign countries.”
APN’s motto was “Information for Peace, for the Friendship of Nations”. It was a major international operation with APN bureaus in over 120 countries, publishing 60 illustrated newspapers – including Moscow news – and magazines in 45 languages, and as a Publishing House put out over 200 books and booklets.
According to Yuri Bezmenov a “journalist” for Novosti Press Agency, it was a disinformation and propaganda agency controlled by the Soviet non-military intelligence agency (commonly known as the KGB), and the biggest propaganda and ideological subversion organization of the U.S.S.R.
He wouldn’t be the first co-opted “journalist” to spread disinformation in the Western world. In the field of Cold war studies there is a growing body of studies on the British state’s own contribution to what Susan Carruthers’ calls Winning Hearts and Minds in her examination of propaganda and media manipulation. Philip Taylor’s survey British Propaganda in the Twentieth Century: Selling Democracy, Paul Lashmar and James Oliver’s Britain’s Secret Propaganda War unearths lurid ‘dirty tricks’ based on Public Record Office releases from the FO’s Information Research Department (IRD) while Andrew Defty’s Britain, America and Anti-Communist Propaganda 1945–53 closely examines the IRD and its relationship to the Americans, while an overview is explored in John Jenks’ British Propaganda and News Media in the Cold War. But no-one would believe that the anti-communist narratives of the fifties and the media manipulation techniques faded away, just ask Colin Wallace.
With the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union the former state publishing companies no longer operate as they once did. Elsewhere the FLPH of Vietnam was transformed, now Thế Giới Publishers (World Publishers) is Vietnam’s official foreign language publishing house. It was established in 1957 “to introduce readers around the world to Vietnam” through publications in English, French and other foreign languages. It publishes Vietnam Cultural Window an English language bi-monthly illustrated magazine, as well as a quarterly academic journal, Vietnamese Studies.
China’s Foreign Languages Press (FLP) established in 1952, has published, in 43 languages, over 30,000 book titles, including the works of Party and State leaders, records of party Congresses and books providing information and commentary on China, totalling over 400 million printed copies. Beijing Review is still available on subscription with content reflective of the rising superpower that China has become. However you will not be able to order Mao Zedong’s “little red book” of Quotations, or those buff coloured paperbacks of Marxist classics that sustained western radical leftists in days gone by.
Some Progress Publishers Pdf editions
Books from Vietnam http://www.thegioipublishers.vn/en/home/
Books from China www.flp.com.cn