Adam Bernstein of The Washington Post writes the obit for an officer and a gentleman:

Isaac Patch, a Cold Warrior who led a CIA-financed book distribution program that smuggled hundreds of thousands of banned or hard-to-find texts into the Soviet Union, died May 31 at his home in St. Johnsbury, Vt. He was 101.

In 1956, Mr. Patch became the New York-based director of special projects at Radio Liberty. His chief legacy was orchestrating the distribution of banned Russian-language works as well as Western books never before translated into Russian. His work was modeled on Radio Free Europe’s CIA-financed book-printing operation, which had been in operation for several years.

In his memoir “Closing the Circle,” Mr. Patch described the mission: “To communicate Western ideas to Soviet citizens by providing them with books — on politics, economics, philosophy, art, and some technology — all denied them by the Soviet dictatorship.”

His assignments had included visiting Russian bookstores and sending volumes back to Washington — a task that later helped him make important connections and convince him of the general hunger in Russia for reading.

The CIA financed the effort — at first with a modest $10,000 — under the rubric of a new company called Bedford Publishing. Bedford made available works by James Joyce (“A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”), George Orwell (“Animal Farm”), Boris Pasternak (“Doctor Zhivago”) and Vladimir Nabokov (“Pnin”), among others.

Soviet citizens abroad could get the books for free at Bedford’s offices in New York, London, Paris, Munich and Rome. Bedford also provided the books gratis to Western travelers — doctors, lawyers, engineers, artists and journalists — en route to the Soviet Union.

A network of intermediaries ensured that the books arrived at their final destinations within the Soviet Union. In his memoir, Mr. Patch said the recipients of Bedford’s services included the dissident Soviet writer and Nobel laureate Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Svetlana Stalina, the daughter of the late Soviet dictator.

Full obituary is here

ob-main-patch100011402345390 Mr. Patch, shown here in the 1950s, died May 31 at 101. (Family Photo)

About these ads