May 15, 2024

The Power of the Zine


The Power of the Zine
"The Unknown Person" is Anna Dial's publication company.  Anna Dial archive. 

Russian artists have dealt with government censorship for centuries. Even famed poet Alexander Pushkin had to have his work signed off on by Tsar Nicholas I, because the autocrate feared Pushkin's influence during the unstable years following the Decembrist Uprising.

Soviet artists and writers created a system of publication and distribution known as "samizdat" ["self-publishing"] through which great works such as Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago and Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich were distributed domestically and sent to publishers abroad ("tamizdat" – "publishing over there"). 

Anna Dial, who was born in Kamchatka but has lived in Montenegro since the outbreak of the war in Ukriane in 2022, follows in this tradition. In 2018, Dial created a publishing house called "The Unknown Person" (Neizvestny Chelovek) to produce her art in the form of "'zines." Dial described her zines as something "between a book and an art object," containing comics by Dial and stories or poems by her collaborators. Her comics feature feminist heroes, frank and humorous depictions of bodies, and everyday realities of womanhood.

Dial began to draw comic books inspired by the atmosphere of war in 2022, yet found that they were immediately removed from store shelves or banned from the galleries where she worked. She decided to turn to the methods of her artistic forebears and began publishing her work on her own. 

Since the war began, censorship in Russia has drastically increased, so Dial's collaborators began anonymizing their work and more closely monitoring their distribution network. Dial emphasized the importance of keeping physical copies of their work: "You see, social networks can disappear at once – some of them are now blocked in Russia – but the zine will remain there, as it stood on the shelf." In the future, Dial hopes for an archive memorializing this time in history, as it was seen by samizdat artists. 

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