Political Censorship in Finnish Libraries from 1944 to 1946

Ekholm presents an overview of the forms that library censorship took in postwar Finland when the country was under the auspices of a Soviet Controlling Commission (Valvontakomissio). He demonstrates that censorship of library materials followed patterns long established in the Soviet Union. Most censorship involved the "unshelving" of "politically incorrect" (i.e., anti-Soviet) books. Nazi materials were also removed (292 copies of Mein Kampf alone). Ekholm then explores the context of Soviet "omnicensorship," which was the guiding principle for Finnish censorship. The most illuminating aspect of this practice was the formulation of the spetskhran, or closed collection. A spetskhran was a collection of forbidden books that were nonetheless cataloged and stored. The author postulates that this postwar system was a possible precursor to a long period of self-censorship throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The essay also raises some issues in the theory of censorship in libraries first by discussing a study by Lowenthal of self-censorship at California public libraries and then by looking at a study by Stieg of prewar censorship by the Nazi government in German libraries. Ekholm concludes by raising new questions about the methodology of research on censorship and argues for a hermeneutic rather than a moralistic perspective on patterns of political and self-censorship.