Throwback Thursday: Blacklisted in Moscow

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post is long, but with ”Russia“ in the news a lot lately, we thought you’d find it interesting. It begins with a Letter to the Editor in our May 1965 issue. It’s followed by Editor Raymond Carlson’s response.

THE LETTER

Enclosed you will find a copy of an “Einziehungsprotokoll Nr. 219158” of the East German postal authorities. In plain English this means that they confiscated twelve magazines and some additional travel folders I mailed to my father-in-law, who lives in Dresden. One of these magazines was published by you (Grand Canyon edition of ARIZONA HIGHWAYS). As you know, the magazine is without politics, therefore the confiscation was outrageous and unreasonable. As publishers of the magazine, I believe that you must be interested in unrestricted circulation with the postal systems, so please let’s do something about this! A letter of protest by you to the Russian Embassy and the U.S. and East German postal authorities might help. If no success, a request for retaliatory action by the U.S. Post Office against East German magazines to this country might be the answer.

Walter Schroeder, Rosamond, California

THE RESPONSE

It is difficult for us to read the minds of those behind the iron curtain. Shortly after we received this letter from Mr. Schroeder, we were startled to read in our morning newspaper in a New York Times News Service dispatch from Moscow that we were blacklisted in Russia for the heinous crime of being “subversive” and for “propagandizing” and “glamourizing” the American way of life. Tsk! Tsk! Ivan! Things have changed since Ol’ Joe Stalin sat in the driver’s seat in the Kremlin. Ol’ Joe was on our mailing list (courtesy one of our American readers) for years (and with no repercussions) and his daughter was a self-paid subscriber. The dispatch was printed in many newspapers throughout the country and drew some unusual responses. The Tucson Chamber of Commerce wired an invitation to the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., inviting (via courtesy T.W.A.) three top Russian travel writers to visit Arizona and see for themselves whether we are subversive to anyone in telling the colorful story of Arizona.

Senator Paul Fannin arose to our defense in the U.S. Senate saying, in part: “Mr. President, in the ’New York Times’ of Sunday, February 7, datelined Moscow, there appeared an article written by Theodore Shabad which disclosed that Soviet authorities have blacklisted ARIZONA HIGHWAYS magazine on grounds that it constitutes subversive propaganda. Among other things, the Soviet trade union newspaper, ’Trud,’ called ARIZONA HIGHWAYS provocative literature clearly intended to conduct hostile propaganda among the Soviet people.

“Many Senators, I am sure, are familiar with ARIZONA HIGHWAYS, which is published monthly by the Arizona State Highway Department to portray the many colorful and unique beauties of the Grand Canyon state. The magazine over the years has won a well-deserved reputation for the consistently high quality of its photography and design. I feel certain that those who do know ARIZONA HIGHWAYS will be as surprised as I am to learn that it could be considered subversive or provocative in any respect, even by Soviet standards. The judgment of subversive literature, like beauty, apparently lies in the eye of the viewer ...

“… It is impossible to fake the kind of photography that appears in ARIZONA HIGHWAYS, and I hope that a qualified delegation of Soviet writers will be fortunate enough to discover this for themselves. If they should be subverted during their tour, it would be only by the compelling attraction of such nonpolitical sights as the Grand Canyon, cactus in bloom, and the vivid colors of an Arizona sunset.”

But, perhaps nationally syndicated columnist Inez Robb had the last word to say when she wrote in her column:

“Let’s not be beastly to the Russians in the matter of ARIZONA HIGHWAYS, that ravishing magazine just blacklisted by Soviet authorities and denounced as subversive literature propagandizing the American way of life.

“Let’s face the fact that to the uninitiated this monthly publication of the Arizona Highway Department exudes a faint tincture of snake oil. I have seen Ivy League types east of the Hudson examine the contents of ARIZONA HIGHWAYS with curled and skeptic lip.

“If all Americans unfamiliar with the great Southwest find it difficult to credit the publication’s magnificent color reproductions of photographs of Arizona’s glorious deserts, the grandeur of her many mountain ranges, the majesty of the Grand Canyon, the pyrotechnics of her sunsets, the extent of her open-pit copper mines, the variety and beauty of her desert flora, the impact of the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert, the grace of her mountain meadows and scenic glory of such highways as the Coronado Trail — well, if such Americans find ARIZONA HIGHWAYS hard to credit, how can we expect the comrades and the commissars to be of firmer faith ?...

“ARIZONA HIGHWAYS, one of the handsomest magazines published, only mirrors the beauty of the state and of the Southwest. And, in truth, it is subversive. Once you are hooked on ARIZONA HIGHWAYS it is habit forming — you begin to believe and then you want to go, go, go ... Yes, the Russians would do well to keep it out of their country …”

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