Magnitizdat was the slyly humorous nickname for the unofficial practice of dubbing and distributing reel-to-reel audio tapes in the post-Stalinist Soviet Union. In this article I reflect on magnitizdat's cultural significance through an examination of several amateur reel-to-reel recordings of avtorskaia pesnia, the musical genre most closely associated with the first generation of magnitizdat dubbers in the 1960s. After drawing parallels between the rhizomic, uncensored distribution of reel-to-reel tapes and samizdat's dissemination of uncensored texts, I move on to consider the differences—in scale, ideological charge, and ontological status—between the two practices. After outlining the similarities that link magnitizdat (and, by implication, samizdat) to contemporary practices of Internet file-sharing, I conclude by suggesting that we might profitably reimagine the relationship between the Soviet underground and the post-Soviet grassroots as one where continuities overwhelm disjunctures.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.