January 8, 2023

1943. The "British Ally" Newspaper in the Soviet Union

British Ally
"Sailor of the Soviet cruiser of the Black Sea Fleet project 26-bis 'Molotov' I. Chertov reads the newspaper 'British Ally'" (Photo by Yevgeny Khaldeisource)

From Newsweek, August 9, 1943, pp. 79-80:

Britansky Soyuznik

We are behind the British in selling America to Russia. Bill Downs, Newsweek and CBS correspondent in Moscow, gives some journalistic reasons why:

"Why don't you Americans do something similar?"

Increasingly, Russian military and government officials toss this question at correspondents in Moscow. With the query, they usually pass a copy of an eight-page, picture-crammed tabloid that is telling the story of Great Britain to Russians from Stalin down to the lowliest Red Army private.

Britansky Soyuznik (British Ally) is the only publication sponsored by a foreign government in Russia.* It was started shortly after twenty Britons, all assigned to public relations, arrived in Moscow six months ago. Its original circulation was 20,000, but Moscow relaxed paper restrictions to permit a 5,000 increase. About half the circulation goes on public sale at a ruble a copy; 9,000 go to subscribers paying 52 rubles a year; and the remainder to a free list that includes, besides Stalin, all high government officials and army generals. Libraries, provincial newspapers, leading journalists, film and radio committees, and foreign embassies also are on the circulation list. The political section of the army takes thousands of copies for distribution to troops and front-line newspapers.

The staff of Britansky Soyuznik says it could easily distribute three times the paper's circulation. So great is the demand that copies are passed from hand to hand and sometimes are resold for as much as 80 rubles apiece. They swiftly vanish from the newsstands of Moscow and Kuibyshev.

The paper is subject to the Russian censorship but has little difficulty. It shuns political ideology and sticks strictly to features and photos of British troops in action and factory workers, farmers, and production on the home front. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, and the rest of the empire are represented also. The bulk of Soyuznik's material comes via the Soviet Relations Division of the Ministry of Information in London. The tabloid is plugged on the Soviet radio, in Pravda, Izvestia, and other Russian newspapers.

Soyuznik is only part of the British public-relations job. The group also distributes pamphlets on the British war effort, English books to libraries and troops, and photos to the Soviet press. Last month, a special film attaché arrived to handle the exchange of all types of movies. Negotiations are under way for a radio tie-up.

By contrast, the United States has only one public-relations man assigned to Russia. He is Comdr. John Young, former publicity head of the New York World's Fair, who now is in the United States. He was brought to Moscow by Ambassador William H. Standley early this year.


*Although Washington has no plans for an American counterpart of Soyuznik, the OWI is negotiating for an outpost in Moscow. It hopes to get one by autumn.