HEADING TOWARDS THE CENTURY
In 1922, when the consequences of the revolution and the civil war gradually faded away, when the New Economic Policy (NEP) started to create a more comfortable environment for living, when the revolutionary propaganda weakened, the literary almanac “Nedra” was issued in Moscow. It published literary artworks of relatively or completely unknown authors. The lyric and satiric works attracted attention of literature connoisseurs and simply intelligent public who were yearning for artful literature works. Nikolay Semenovich Angarsky (Klestov) - an active participant of the three revolutions, one of the October uprising organizers in Moscow, a prominent publisher, editor and literary critic, and, besides, a great expert in and lover of fine literature - became the almanac’s editor. Contemporaries considered him as the patron and protector of the “right fellow travelers” in literature. The first editions of the literary almanacs “Nedra”, that became the forbears of many Soviet journals, were printed under N.S. Angarsky’s edition from 1922 to 1924 at the publishing house “New Moscow”. Throughout all that time, approximately 20 collections were issued, one to three per year. Literary almanacs were quite popular, and in 1924 the cooperative publishing house “Nedra” was established in Moscow. The organizers were the “Mospolygraph” trust, the publishing house “Moskovsky Rabochiy” (Moscow Workman) and the writers’ publishing house “Zhizn” (Life). Nikolay Angarsky headed the publishing house. He had ties at the highest political levels and was able to gain permissions for the publication of works that had been prohibited by Glavlit (the Main Directorate for Literature and Publishers). Writers admired that ability, while proletarian critics hated it. Thus, for instance, Konstantin Trenev wrote to Angarsky about one of his works: “It would be extremely strange to doubt the censorship admissibility of my tale after you have made it possible (hats off to you!) for the “Fatal eggs” to pass.” On the other hand, Nikolay Chuzhak, reviewing the activity of the “Nedra” publishing house in 1925, furiously concluded: “It is impossible for Glavlit to fight on its own this evil product: there is only one recipe to paralyze the constant by-pass ways of the publishing house that stubbornly reaches its goals by all possible means: deprive the publishing house’s editor of the special “backstage” yet mighty support.” The revolutionary past, ties with the party and own literary taste of Nikolay Semenovich played a major role in determining the selection of authors and the development direction for the publishing house.
⌈ Vikenty Vikentievich Veresaev, who, in addition to his literary work, was a consulting editor to the publishing house “Nedra”, described the following incident in his memoirs: “I was finishing my novel “In a dead end”. It was supposed to be published in the “Nedra” almanac. The chances of the novel passing the censorship phase raised a lot of worries. Angarsky N.S., the editor of the publishing house “Nedra”, had some official relation to the then deputy chairman of Sovnarkom (Council of People’s Commissars) Kamenev L.B. In December 1922 Angarsky asked Kamenev if it was possible to arrange a reading of my new novel at his place. – That is just great! – responded Kamenev. –Everyone is free on the first of January. We shall invite some people and listen! On the first of January my wife and I arrived in the Kremlin to Kamenev. The audience were slowly gathering, most of them were not familiar to me. The novel was written in a form of separate episodes, so to say – in the blanc et noir style: one party member told me that for some of the episodes I should be put to a cellar, for others – proposed as a candidate to the party”. ⌋
The publishing house “Nedra” holds a special position among Soviet book publishers. It printed books of, arguably, all authors constituting the “Golden Fund” of Soviet literature: Alexey Tolstoy, Ilya Erenburg, Alexander Serafimovich, Vikenty Veresaev, Alexander Green, Alexander Neverov, Panteleimon Romanov, Artem Vesely, Boris Pilnyak, Maksimilian Voloshin. Books of popular contemporary foreign authors were also published, including, inter alia, Knut Hamsun, John Galsworthy, Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffman, Andre Maurois, Marcel Proust, Herbert Wells. It goes without saying, when we speak of Nedra, we cannot forget to mention Mikhail Afanasievich Bulgakov. In October 1923 Mikhail Bulgakov met Nikolay Angarsky. After the high appreciation of Bulgakov’s prose, Angarsky becomes his main publisher during 1920- s.
In the winter of 1924, Mikhail Bulgakov’s story “Diavoliada” was printed in the fourth issue of the literary almanac “Nedra” and one year later it was published as an individual edition. The writer sees his last name on a book cover for the first time. However, very soon the press distributes negative reviews, and just in a couple of months the whole print run is confiscated by OGPU (Joint State Political Directorate). Confiscation of the book that had been admitted by Glavlit (the country’s main censorship body) – was a real scandal in the publishing world of 1920s. Unfortunately, that edition practically did not live up to modern days, because OGPU confiscated the whole print run. However, in March 1926 Nikolay Angarsky succeeded in obtaining a Glavlit’s permission for the second edition, so the story came out to light again, but already with the changed year of issue to 1926.
⌈ On 20 April 1925 Angarsky complains in his letter to Veresaev that Bulgakov is “hard to take through censorship. I am not sure that his new novel “Sobachye serdtse” (Heart of a Dog) will pass. The situation with literature is bad in general. Censorship bodies do not comprehend the party’s policy.” Boris Leontiev, secretary of the publishing house “Nedra”, informed Bulgakov on 21 May 1925: “Sarychev from Glavlit said that trying to clean “Sobachye serdtse” is useless: “the work is unacceptable as a whole” or something like that”. Nikolay Angarsky, who had liked the work, managed to hand it over to Lev Kamenev while he was taking rest in Borzhmi, but the latter opined that “this sharp contemporary pamphlet must not be published under any circumstances”. ⌋
Nikolay Angarsky naturally combined his editorial activities with fulfillment of the ruling party’s instructions. So, in November 1922, by the order of Mossovet Presidium (Executive Committee of the Moscow Council), N.S. Angarsky (Klestov) was sent to work in the Berlin representative office of Mosvneshtorg (Moscow foreign trade entity), where he continued to promote the publishing affairs, search for new manuscripts, including authors who were abroad at that time, Ilya Erenburg, Alexey Tolstoy, memoir literature, letters. In August 1923, Angarsky spent two weeks in Paris where he had several meetings with the literature youth from the Russian emigration, some poems of the young poets were published in the Nedra almanac (№3, year 1923). During the same period of time he met with Alexander Kuprin and Konstantin Balmont.
⌈ On 19 October 1923 Mikhail Bulgakov made a short note in his diary: “Looking forward to a reply from “Nedra” regarding “Diavoliada”. One week later, on 26 October, the writer added some details to the note: “On the way from “Gudok” I came by P.N. Zaytsev at “Nedra” (their managing editor). My story “Diavoliada” has been accepted, but they pay maximum 50 rubles per sheet, besides, I will not get the money before the next week. The story is silly, good for nothing. But Veresayev liked it a lot.”⌋
After 1923, upon instruction from the Party Institute of CC RCP(b) (the Central Committee of the Russian Communist Party of the Bolsheviks) N.S. Angarsky performed several trips around European countries with the official goal “to collect and buy materials for the biography of V.I. Lenin”. Such operations are amply financed, purchased documents are brought into the country without a customs check, or even with diplomatic post, to observe full secrecy. Angarsky buys an archive of Lenin’s letters from Plekhanov’s widow for 5 thousand dollars, pays 10 thousand franks to Menschikov, a former official of the police department, for leaflets and brochures. Lenin’s manuscript on the agrarian issue written by Lenin for Alexinsky, a deputy of the 2-nd State Duma, was purchased for 1,5 thousand dollars. In addition, five or six thousand dollars was spent “on trifles”. However, the true luck for Angarsky was the purchase and import to Russia of the archive of the Provisional Government’s secret police department. In 1929-1936 Nikolay Angarsky works as a trade representative of the USSR in Lithuania, then in Greece. His influence on party life within the USSR weakens. “Nedra” publishing house remains unattended and for that reason is included into the State publishing house for fiction literature, and almost for 30 years the name “Nedra” was forgotten in the publishing business. In 1936 Angarsky assumed an honorary post of a chairman of the All-Union foreign trade association “Mezhdunarodnaya kniga” (International Book) and completely withdrew from business. The afterlife of the “Nedra” publishing house’s founder turned out to be sad. He became the victim of the repressions millstone and was arrested on 12 May 1940, accused of espionage and on 6 July 1941 sentenced to death by shooting. On 27 July 1941 he was shot on the “Kommunarka” shooting range, rehabilitated in 1956. The name “Nedra” was forgotten, but did not disappear…
On 13 March 1963 the Central Committee of KPSS (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) adopted a resolution “On the establishment of the Supreme Council of National Economy of the USSR”. One of the resolution items provided for the transformation of the “Ministry of geology and subsoil protection of the USSR – into the State Geology Committee of the USSR”. According to rumours, during the preparatory meetings for the resolution, some of Khrushchev’s first deputies, may be Alexey Nikolaevich Kosygin himself, made an irritated remark regarding the quality of materials published by the ministry of geology. “You have lots of specialized publishing houses, but it is impossible to find the necessary figures” – he told off the minister Peter Yakovlevich Antropov. Unfortunately, it is unknown, who prompted the right name to the minister, but on 10 August 1963 the Council of Ministers of the USSR, using several technical literature publishers, “Gostoptechizdat”, “Gosgortechizdat”, “Gosgeoltechizdat” and “Geodezizdat”, founded a new dedicated publishing house – “Nedra”, and in 1964 it opens a branch in Leningrad. The main tasks set before the newly created Publishing House, according to the Resolution of the Council of Ministers’ Press Committee dated 20 March 1964, were the issue of scientific and technical literature for mining, geology and geodesy, exploration of mineral resources, operation of mining equipment. The boundary period between 1960-s and 1970s was the time of explosive development of science and technology in the country, discovery of the Great Oil in West Siberia. The numbers of titles and print runs of scientific and professional publications in the Soviet Union during that time were among the highest in the world. In those years the publishing house “Nedra” issued scientific, industrial and technical, educational and reference literature for the oil, gas, coal, peat and mining sectors, developed new areas – published books in the fields of geology, geophysics and geodesy that received a great impact for growth at that period, and also printed periodical journals.
In such conditions the publishing house earned a constant readership not only among experts, but far beyond the borders of the professional community. The publishing house’s brand name became widely recognizable both inside the country and abroad. In 1973 its book produce included 600 titles with the print run of 4,6 mln. copies. Such a wide scale activity was noticed and in 1979 the publishing house “Nedra” received its first big award – the order “Znak Pocheta” (the Badge of Honour Order) for the fruitful and outstanding work of publishing scientific and technical literature aimed at strengthening the economic, scientific and technological links between the USSR and other countries. Effectively, in 1980-s “Nedra” was the largest and most significant publishing house of the USSR. From 1964 to 1987 the publishing house’s director was Mikhail Sergeevich Lvov. His work in the book publishing business Mikhail Lvov began in 1941 when he was appointed as the head of “Gostoptechizdat”; in 1964 he became the director of the multi-sector scientific and technical publishing house “Nedra”. For 45 years Mikhail Sergeevich promoted scientific and technical knowledge, thereby making a great contribution to publication of scientific and technical literature. Publishing house “Nedra” was always in the forefront among publishing entities. Years passed. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the publishing house, just like the whole country, was going through hard times. Print runs decreased, laws changed, but demand for quality science literature, textbooks, reference books remained quite high, nevertheless. This factor, no doubt, supported Nedra Publishers during the storm, because the publishing house’s reputation among academic and science circles was very favourable. The publishing house survived, became stronger, obtained new ties and work experience in the new market conditions. All that laid down the grounds for the formation of its own unique book publishing style. In 1997 “Nedra” was awarded a Diploma of the nation-wide competition “Book Art” for the preparation and issue of the “Diamond history” edition. For over 20 years already Nedra Publishers act as a member of the Russian Publishers Association (“ASKI”), repeatedly win prizes at competitions for the best book publishing project.
AT NEW SPEEDS
Today the pace of life accelerates dramatically. Repute of Nedra Publishers has been tested with time, but to keep up with the leading roles, changes are imperative. Under the flag of Nedra Publishers cooperation projects are run with leading international brands in the publishing business, the range of publishing products expands, new authors emerge, many of whom are the best in their professional fields. Quantitative and qualitative change of the audience, expansion of topics and customer geography – these are the main factors accompanying the publishing house development. Nedra Publishers issue books and periodicals in Russian and English, translate texts to 100 languages of the world, publish series of books and separate literary works in foreign languages. The publishing house exists and works in the contemporary information society. This means absolutely different and much more dynamic realities, as compared with only 10 years ago. Today, beside the traditional print version, a digital format is a must have for publishers. The same requirement relates to the most popular literary works of the past. Extension and modification of the product range, information, analytical and marketing services – are the essential components of Nedra Publishers’ modern policy. Nedra Publishers do not stand still. Apart from the professional contemporary literature, the publishing house produces art albums, memorable books on the history of organizations and industrial sectors, re-prints editions of forgotten authors, prepare fiction literary works for publishing. Research in the field of digitalization of educational and scientific work is also underway. Relying on the fundamental historical background, Nedra Publishers aspire to the future!