Sunday, July 26, 2015

"Pravda" Means the Truth

Rabin Man Shakya
Former Lecturer of Journalism, Peoples Campus, RR Campus.

Pravda means the truth and Izvestia means the news in Russian. Pravda and Izvestia were the top daily newspapers across the Soviet Union until its disintegration in 1992. But even during the period of the Soviet Union, I have heard the Russians say: In the Pravda ( The Truth), there is no news and in the Izvestia ( The News), there is no truth.

To a considerable extent, it was true. Pravda was full of information and stories about the activities of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, about its meetings, plenums and congress. The Pravda was notorious for printing the verbatim speeches of the general secretary of the central committee of the CPSU. Apart from that, the Pravda also used to publish well-written stories on culture, science, literature, economics, sports etc.

During my decade-long stay in the former Soviet Union (1979-1989), I had to read the newspapers Pravda, Izvestia and other Soviet newspapers in Russian, because there were no other options. Foreign newspapers and magazines were dubbed as bourgeois and hence strictly prohibited in the Soviet territory. Only the newspapers of the fraternal Communist Parties were allowed to be sold in the main cities of the Soviet Union.

Pravda's materials and stories were presented in such a way as to indoctrinate the party ideas and messages into the people effectively. Many a times, stories of heroic achievements of industrial and agricultural production made banner headlines. But the Pravda did not believe in the sensationalization of news, so it never printed celebrity, scandal and crime news.

The newspaper Pravda was the official mouthpiece of the CPSU from 1917 to 1992 until the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Pravda was the only newspaper in the history of print journalism in the world having the single issue circulation of 12 million copies everyday and was the largest circulation newspaper in the world until 1992. Pravda was printed and published daily from 42 cities of the former  Soviet Union simultaneously.

The reporters and correspondents of the Pravda were deployed all over the Soviet Union. And there were bureaus of the Pravda in more than 50 countries of the world, and the bureaus  were manned by the Soviet journalists.

The other important newspapers except Pravda and Izvestia during the Soviet period were : Komsomolskaya Pravda (Komsomol Truth), Trud (Labor),  Selskaya Zhizn (Rural Life), Literaturnaya Gazeta  (Literary Newspaper) and Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star) and so on.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the Pravda witnessed a lot of vicissitudes. Ownership of the Pravda was sold to a family of Greek entrepreneurs. The Pravda had a big fortune during the Soviet regime. Not any more. It used to be printed everyday and like I said at certain point its daily circulation exceeded 12 million copies. But today the Pravda's circulation is about 100,000 copies a day and is brought out only three times a week. Fortunately, the newspaper still comes out from the Pravda's same old office building at Pravda Street in Moscow.

The Pravda is still the mouthpiece of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation is one of the strong opposition parties in Russia today. But paradoxically the website Pravda. ru is  totally different from the original newspaper and is pro-Kremlin and pro-Putin.

Well, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) and the Soviet authorities very well knew the importance of newspapers and mass media. Newspapers, magazines and mass media were used as the effective means of propaganda and publicity during the Soviet period.

Nepal was not untouched by the propaganda wars of the Superpowers. Nepal was flooded with many Soviet newspapers and magazines  in Hindi and English at that time.  "Soviet Bhoomi"  (Soviet Land) was an illustrated news magazine published in Nepali from Kathmandu by the Information Department of the Soviet Embassy in Nepal. The price of the "Soviet Bhoomi" was cheap and affordable for the Nepalese people. The Americans, not to lag behind, also used to publish "Swatantra Vishwa" (Free World) from Kathmandu. Likewise, Radio Moscow used to broadcast news and other programs in Nepali on a daily basis until 1992.

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