To the Editors:
In the chaos in Russia created by the price rises of January 1992 and by the heavy inflation since, little attention has been paid in the West to the extremely damaging effects both are having on Russian culture: in particular on the fate of the so-called “thick journals” which throughout the years of totalitarianism published the best fiction, poetry and social and literary criticism that were available in the Russian language in the Soviet Union.
Particularly courageous in constantly resisting censorship and government interference (especially under the guidance of editor in chief Alexander Tvardovsky) was (and is) Novy Mir. It is hard to explain to those who live in the West the importance of this monthly, book-length periodical, which has for years been for Russian-speaking peoples an expression of faith in the abiding qualities of Russian culture and in the idiosyncratic genius of the Russian language. Novy Mir was the first publisher in Russia not only of Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago and Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, but also of George Orwell’s 1984.
Now Novy Mir is in grave danger of being asphyxiated by the freedom which for so many years it helped to encourage. Under the new market system, the prices of paper, printing and distribution have risen in recent months to the point where each copy now costs twice as much to produce as its set subscription price. The government has provided a small subsidy but it is insufficient. The magazine is unable to secure for its own use the hard currency paid by its many foreign subscribers. Its book publishing branch has had to cease operation.
To lose Novy Mir would be to lose something unique in Russian culture, like the Bolshoi Theater or the Tretyakov Gallery. For this reason, we are appealing to people in the West—writers, artists, businessmen—to help us save the journal from extinction by making direct donations in Western currency. To preserve its position, Novy Mir will need each year for the next five years the equivalent of $190,000, as well as a new (or used) rotary press and other printing equipment to replace its present plant, which was built in 1906. To achieve this, the Friends of Novy Mir have set up two bank accounts at the Bayerische Vereinsbank in Munich, Germany, in the name of “In Support of Novy Mir” (account no. 6311113 for German DM and account no. 806328910 for any other foreign currencies). All donations will be acknowledged. Any donated money or equipment over and above what is immediately needed for Novy Mir will be used as aid to the other “thick journals” currently under the same threat. Those wishing further details can write to the undersigned.
The Friends of Novy Mir
64 East 86th Street
New York, NY 10028
October 22, 1992