Buttons like this one appeared around Moscow in the wake of comments Yegor Ligachev, Central Committee member and then-protégé of Gorbachev, made during one of the final days of the Nineteenth All-Union Party Congress in June 1988. Yeltsin, whose clashes with Gorbachev over the pace of reforms had rendered him persona non grata at the conference, nonetheless managed to slip in with the help of delegates representing the region of Karelia, where he was well-liked. Under the gaze of the television cameras that had been admitted in a concession to glasnost', Yeltsin delivered a fiery speech that criticized perestroika for its "declarative character." Advancing beyond the misery of the Soviet present, Yeltsin argued, required a thorough analysis of that misery's origins — an assertion that strongly suggested that socialism was not the panacea Party doctrine held it to be. After Yeltsin finished and left the room, Ligachev said: "Boris, you are wrong!" This line and variations on it — like this artifact's "Boris, you are right!" — became an instant meme, outliving both Ligachev and the Party to become one of the ironic watchwords of post-Soviet public discourse.
This poster, credited to G. Belozerov, advertises glasnost' ("publicity" or "openness"), Mikhail Gorbachev's signature perestroika-era policy. At the top of the frame is the masthead of Pravda [Truth], the longstanding official press organ of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The pristinely blank page beneath plays on a popular dictum that incidentally skewered another Soviet paper of record, Izvestia [News]: “there is no truth [pravda] in News [Izvestia], and no news [izvestia] in Truth [Pravda]” (see also Obshchaia gazeta). The red pencil at the bottom of the page, which would ordinarily connote censorship, in this case bears the opposite message: it is inscribed with the word “GLASNOST.” True informational legitimacy, Belozerov’s poster suggests, does not proceed from static, hoary Party symbols like Lenin’s profile, seen in the upper left-hand corner. Instead, legitimacy derives from the real-time dynamism of an entirely new, responsibly sourced text, written by hand in brightly colored pencil.
This pamphlet dates to just before the only referendum in the history of the Soviet Union, which took place on 17 March 1991. Soviet citizens were asked, "Do you consider necessary the preservation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as a renewed federation of equal sovereign republics in which the rights and freedom of an individual of any nationality will be fully guaranteed?" This document's orientation is definitively pro-USSR: between the large-print words "RUSSIA VOTES FOR THE SOVIET UNION," it displays the ballot of a voter who has answered the question in the affirmative, crossing out the word "no." Ultimately, over 77% of respondents — 113.5 million Soviet citizens — would agree with this hypothetical person. The Soviet Union existed for just 9 more months before officially dissolving on December 26, 1991.
This ad exhorts Soviet citizens to vote against the preservation of the USSR in the All-Union Referendum that would take place in March 1991. The top text reads: "On 17 March, it's up to you." Below the maps, from left to right: "A Russia with no rights in a 'renewed' union, OR a sovereign Russia composed of a union of sovereign republics." The black-framed boxes feature ballots with the "right" answers selected: a "no" on the question of preserving the USSR, and a "yes" on a separate question, also decided on 17 March: "Do you believe it necessary to introduce the post of President of the RSFSR, to be elected in a universal vote?" These hypothetical ballots predicted the future with 50% accuracy: on 17 March, 70% of respondents voted against the dissolution of the Union, while 71% voted for the establishment of a popularly elected President. The first person to occupy this newly created position would be Boris Yeltsin, elected on 12 June 1991.
Along with Pravda, the still-extant daily Izvestia ["News"] was, between 1917 and 1991, an official mouthpiece of the CPSU. Its reputation for propaganda is distilled in the ironic late-Soviet dictum "There's no truth in News [Izvestia], and no news in Truth [Pravda]." The close alliance between Izvestia and state power remained in force even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. During the 1992 economic crisis, when financial difficulties forced several important dailies to cease publishing for several days, President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree stipulating subsidies to publications with especially large readerships. In February, the heads of various newspapers, including Izvestia, met with Press Minister Mikhail Poltoranin to discuss the details of the decree's implementation. "Power to the Fourth Estate," Izvestia's account of that meeting, took pains to emphasize that, to quote media studies scholar Ivan Zassoursky, "the press could be financed by the government and be independent of it at the same time." (Media and Power in Post-Soviet Russia: 17) This delicate balance turned out to be unsustainable, with the scales quickly tipping in favor of state influence: when Izvestia was privatized in November 1992, a dominant stake fell to Vladimir Potanin, an oligarch with close ties to the government. In 2005, Izvestia was sold to the state-owned natural gas giant Gazprom; in 2008, it passed into the hands of Sogaz, a Gazprom subsidiary, and Yury Kovalchuk, a Russian billionaire and close Putin associate. The question of its "independence" from state interests has thus been rendered moot.
By the second day of the three-day-long August Putsch (see GKChP press conference), the self-styled GKChP or "State Committee on the State of Emergency" had shut down many of the newspapers that had gained a hard-won independence during perestroika. In response, the editors of Nezavisimaya Gazeta [Independent Newspaper], Argumenty i fakty [Arguments and Facts], Kommersant, and others banded together and formed Obshchaia gazeta, or "Common Paper." Depicted is the front page of the paper's first issue, which featured a jointly authored article entitled "Democracy must know how to defend itself: A declaration by the editors-in-chief of periodicals whose publication has been stopped in violation of the  Law on the Press." The first line of the article reads: "Our 'common paper' was born of a common misfortune: the anti-constitutional coup d'état that this country is currently experiencing." Obshchaia gazeta's staunchly pro-Gorbachev, pro-reform position exemplified the Russian media's general hostility toward the putschists and galvanized resistance. By 21 August 1991, the putsch was over: the GKChP capitulated and Gorbachev returned to Moscow. By 24 August, the CPSU was no more; the Union it had governed for over 70 years would soon follow. Obschaia gazeta ceased to exist shortly after the coup's end, but was revived in the mid-1990s as the press organ for the Yabloko party (see Grigory Yavlinsky's 1996 political ads). In 2002, after years of financial difficulties, the publication was purchased by business magnate Vyacheslav Leibman, who promptly shuttered it.
A representative bestseller list from 1995, from a series published in Knizhnoe obozrenie.
An article from Limonka, displaying the early aesthetics and ideology of the National Bolshevik Party.