The U.S. intelligence agency saw the book as a challenge to
Communism and a way to make Soviet citizens question why their
government was suppressing one of their greatest writers, according
to newly declassified CIA documents that detail the agency's
involvement in the book's printing, the Post said.
The Soviet government had banned the novel and British intelligence
first recognized its propaganda value in 1958, sending the CIA two
rolls of film of its pages and suggesting it be spread through the
Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
Moscow was both angered and embarrassed by the eventual success of
the novel and of David Lean's lavish 1965 movie version, which won
five Academy Awards and was nominated for best picture.
Pasternak's romantic epic chronicles the life of Yuri Zhivago, a
physician and poet, and his love for two women through decades of
revolutions, wars, civil war and Communist oppression. "Doctor
Zhivago" had a religious, mystical tone and its main character did
not hew to official Marxist ideology.
Russian critics denounced Pasternak as a traitor and the Soviet
publishing industry would not touch it, but an Italian literary
scout took a copy of the manuscript out of the Soviet Union and an
Italian company published it in 1957.
Shortly afterwards, the CIA became involved, according to recently
declassified memos obtained by authors Peter Finn and Petra Couvee
in their research for the book "The Zhivago Affair: The Kremlin, the
CIA and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book," which will be released in
The Post's story was an adaptation of the Finn-Couvee book.
[to top of second column]
"CHALLENGE TO SOVIET ETHIC"
One of the CIA memos said "Dr. Zhivago" had high propaganda value
"not only for its intrinsic message and thought-provoking nature,
but also for the circumstances of its publication.
"We have the opportunity to make Soviet citizens wonder what is
wrong with their government, when a fine literary work by the man
acknowledged to be the greatest living Russian writer is not even
available in his own country in his own language for his own people
to read," the memo said.
The CIA decided to have it published in foreign languages for free
distribution as a way to undermine the Soviet Union.
"Pasternak's humanistic message — that every person is entitled to a
private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of
the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state — poses a fundamental challenge to the Soviet ethic of sacrifice of
the individual to the Communist system," John Maury, chief of the
agency's Soviet Russia Division, said in a memo, according to the
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.