This essay discusses the reading of literature in the environment of censorship preceding the disbandment of the U.S.S.R. The Soviet authority's mission was to forestall the collapse of the Communist regime by attempting to strengthen censorship and other repressive measures. The author considers censorship as a social system with powerful control over information and reading, restricting the public's access to the world's various cultures. Some specific features of the cultural situation under censorship are emphasized: the high prestige of literature, which was almost the only source of spiritual freedom; the creation of the black market for books as an alternative to the official book publishing and distribution system; the reproduction and dissemination of illegal literature and texts (samizdat). The author explains the role of the spetskhran--a closed special library collection of forbidden literature. The author states that because of censorship during this period and the constant struggle against it, there is a huge impediment to many areas of development caused by the energy spent by readers to overcome the prohibitions rather than create cultural treasures.