...any citizen of any country should have under any circumstances at any time the possibility of expressing any opinion'. Karel van het Reve, 1969
When censorship and repression made life for dissident writers in the Soviet Union impossible in 1969, the Alexander Herzen Foundation was established in Amsterdam to publish Russian literature and texts that could not be openly published in the Soviet Union. The Alexander Herzen Foundation was an initiative of Karel van het Reve, Jan Willem Bezemer, Frank Fisher, and his wife Elisabeth Fisher-Spanjer.
Both Bezemer and Van het Reve had been in touch with the Soviet regime. Bezemer, professor of Russian history at the University of Amsterdam, and Van het Reve, professor of Slavonic literature in Leiden, had been Moscow correspondents for Het Parool in 1963 and 1967-68, respectively.
Especially Van het Reve had become acquainted with Russian dissident circles. Probably his background - having been raised in an orthodox communist milieu that he left at the end of the 1940s - made him very well suited to contact dissidents. He knew the style of argumentation of communist authorities and had an elementary knowledge of such illegal practices as secret handling of manuscripts.
Read more about:
- Background information on the Alexander Herzen Foundation Amsterdam
- Translation of an article by Karel van het Reve (pdf) on the freedom of speech with a list of literature and sources
This contribution was made by Huub Sanders on the occasion of 3 May World Press Freedom Day. Read all contributions on World Press Freedom Day.