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Media’s Role in the Socialist Era

Amani International Publishers, 2013, 218 p., $49,80.

Western literature was dominated for a long time by stereotype Sovietological approach, based on an assumption about the Soviet media, primarily as organs of propaganda. This limited and largely biased approach was an obvious consequence of the close nature of the USSR and other socialist countries where Western researchers had hardly any possibility to do empirical research. In the cold war era of the last century this was understandable but today - not. Openness of borders, archives, academic institutions, the opportunity to visit the media, talk with the old generation of journalists - all this offers new ways for in-depth and comprehensive examination of the role of media in the era of socialism. This new book edited by independent researcher Savas Coban does such an attempt by inviting young researchers from post-socialist countries in Eastern Europe and the former USSR. The value of this book is that it represents the work of a new generation of researchers, who has grown up in a turbulent period of change, has personal experience and family memory of how it was, and wishes to examine the recent past of their country and media system. No wonder that the authors rely not only on Western, ‘secondary’ sources of information, but also on their domestic studies published in their native language. They are familiar with Western literature about their countries, but do not take it as gospel. Taken separately, the chapters are case studies of particular media or their national media system in the period of socialism. Taken together, they create the many-voiced narrative of how the media worked in an era of socialism, and what this era was for people. As their findings suggest, media fulfilled different roles, not just political propaganda, but also education, enlightenment, mobilization, and culture. With these roles media enjoyed the large popularity and trust in society. Their findings also show how the media and citizens prepared for political change in the country. This book will find its reader among those who are interested in issues of media in post-socialist Europe and the former USSR, and also among those who work in the interdisciplinary fields of media studies and memory studies.

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