It, as a generic phenomenon, is inherent in the nature of Bolshevism, and arose literally from the first days of the victory of Soviet power, from the decree on the press, from the closure of all "bourgeois newspapers". Then the “cleansing” of literature and libraries began.
On November 8, 1923, Maxim Gorky wrote to Vladislav Khodasevich:
“From news that stuns the mind, I can report that ... in Russia, Nadezhda Krupskaya and some M. Speransky are forbidden to read: Plato, Kant, Schopenhauer, Vl. Solovyov, Taine, Ruskin, Nietzsche, L. Tolstoy, Leskov, Yasinsky (!) And many more such heretics ... All this is by no means an anecdote... The first impression I experienced was that I began to write a statement to Moscow about leaving mine from Russian citizenship.
But even against this background, the bacchanalia with illustrations for Pushkin's works is amazing. Suppose a suspicion arose in the inflamed brain of one paranoid: he saw a swastika on Pushkin's finger. But after all, his report was checked by almost all the NKVD - and they "saw" this very swastika, and much more...
Although, of course, one should start with the fact that that anniversary itself was, to put it mildly, incomprehensible in its essence. Never before or since has there been such a loud, deafening literary celebration. So it was called - "anniversary", "100th anniversary". It is clear that they wanted to attract Pushkin, put him at the service of the “general proletarian cause”. The Pravda newspaper wrote:
“100 years have passed since the hand of a foreign aristocratic scoundrel, a mercenary of tsarism, shot the greatest Russian poet. Pushkin is entirely ours, Soviet, for the Soviet government has inherited everything that is best in our people. Ultimately, Pushkin's work merged with the October Socialist Revolution, like a river flows into the ocean.
But it turned out that they were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the death of Pushkin.
The apotheosis of absurdity and official celebration was a solemn meeting at the Bolshoi Theater with the participation of "all leaders" headed by Stalin on February 10, 1937 - the day of the poet's death. The meeting was broadcast live on the radio throughout the country.
In 1937, monuments to Pushkin were erected in the cities of the USSR, streets and squares were named after him, festivals, evenings, and competitions were held. Pushkin's name was in every newspaper, sounded from every loudspeaker on the street. An academic collection of his works has been published. They also printed 200 million school notebooks with portraits of the poet, illustrations for his works on the covers. Among them - an illustration for "The Song of the Prophetic Oleg", "At the Lukomorye there is a green oak", a portrait of Pushkin and the painting "By the Sea".
It was they who were declared "counter-revolutionary distortion".
Pavel Postyshev, Secretary of the Kuibyshev Regional Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, sent a memo to Stalin and People's Commissar of Internal Affairs Yezhov:
“On the first sample, where a reproduction from a painting by the artist Vasnetsov is reproduced, on Oleg’s saber, the first four letters of the word “down” are located upside down, the fifth letter “I” is located at the end of the cloak to the right of the saber. The letters VKP are placed on Oleg's legs - on the right leg "B" and "P", on the left "K". In general, it turns out a counter-revolutionary slogan - "Down with the CPSU." On one of Pushkin's covers, a swastika is placed on the ring finger, and on another sample, where a reproduction from Aivazovsky's painting is reproduced, there is also a swastika on Pushkin's head, in the place where the ear is located.
Deputy People's Commissar of Internal Affairs Lev Belsky reported to Stalin:
“The investigation into the release by the trust of school supplies and stationery of the People’s Commissariat of Industry of the RSFSR of student notebooks with covers containing counter-revolutionary distortions established: made changes to these drawings, which led to a counter-revolutionary distortion of the drawings..."
And so on, including everything that Postyshev "saw".
Schools and shops were ordered to confiscate all "counter-revolutionary" notebooks. 200 million copies.
A bacchanalia, a panic began. Meetings were held in schools, the students were explained that these were “intrigues of enemies”. Paranoia is contagious, some zealous Komsomol members destroyed covers with portraits of Nekrasov and Voroshilov.
They arrested "the main culprits of counter-revolutionary distortions" - the artists Mikhail Smorodkin and Pyotr Malevich. And again, incredible - Malevich was released a year later: his wife, with a typographical cliché in her hands, went around dozens of offices, showed that there was no "counter-revolutionary distortion". But Smorodkin was not touched by the unheard of recognition of the "error of the organs", he served time in the camps of Kolyma and Altai, then - exile in Biysk and was released only after Stalin's death. The fate of authorized Glavlit Budanov, who endorsed the covers, is unknown.
Vigilant Postyshev, with whose denunciation the all-Union paranoia began, was shot in 1939 as "a member of the center of the Right-Trotskyist organization... an agent of Japanese intelligence".
Almost 40 years later, in 1975, the Moskovsky Rabochy publishing house published Pushkin’s Selected Works, where the famous poem “He lived between us” (about Adam Mickiewicz) was cut off on the eleventh line: “When peoples, forgetting strife, into a great family unite." And - point. Although Pushkin has nine more lines: "Our peaceful guest has become our enemy ...", etc. Apparently, the then ideologists and censors-editors decided that these lines would remind of the Polish uprisings, would negatively affect Soviet-Polish relations, undermine the inviolability of the socialist camp. And therefore, without any doubt, they reduced the classic.