In the USSR, censorship of the media was carried out by the agency Glavlit, (Glavnoe upravlenie po delam literatury i izdatel'stv Narodnogo komisariata prosvesshcheniia RSFSR), the Main Administration for Literature and Publishing of the People's Commissariat for Education RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic). Founded in 1922, Glavlit held ultimate editorial power over all printed materials as well as overseeing public speaking and the performing arts via its counterpart agency, Glavreperkom.
Glavlit's main office was in Moscow and oversight was placed under the auspices of the party leadership's supervision. There were also subordinate Glavlit administrations in the USSR's republics, provinces, districts and in almost all cities. Party committees oversaw each of these administrations. Glavlit censorship boards were assigned to newspaper and publishing houses and they could stop publication of printed material that revealed state secrets or contained "politically harmful" information. While the term tsenzura (censor) was not formally applied to the agency's responsibility, the work undertaken by Glavlit was instead referred to as kontrol. Control was applied to pre-publication, post-publication and retroactively to works published in the past deemed politically harmful on account of their being in circulation.
In 1931, Glavlit authorities tightened censorial authority due to the State's consolidation of all publishing and printing in the USSR. By 1939, Glavlit's reported organizational structure consisted of 6,027 employees working to control 7,194 newspapers, 1,762 periodicals, 41,000 books, 92 radio stations, 70,000 libraries, 4,681 printing presses and over two million wrappers of foreign literature. Another report from 1940 stated there were 5,000 censors working throughout the Russian Republic alone. In fact, the number of censors outnumbered the amount of professional writers working in the Soviet Union.
By the mid-1940s, there were seven divisions of Glavlit and each division corresponded to various sectors within the agency. The first division oversaw control of military and state secrets and it was staffed by personnel of the armed forces, the second division controlled foreign literature coming into the USSR, the third division directed information (incoming and outgoing) of foreign correspondents, the fourth division oversaw preliminary control of books and magazines produced by the central publishers of the USSR, the fifth division controlled published works printed outside the central publishers and it had authority to administer local control in the autonomous republics. The sixth division oversaw preliminary control of major newspapers and broadcasting materials for TASS (the telegraph agency) and the Soviet Information Bureau. The seventh division managed withdrawal of literature and exerted control over Soviet literature produced for export. The seventh division oversaw control at printing enterprises and implemented the "Rules of production and publication of the works of the press". In addition, Glavlit had a personnel department to manage its large staff of employees sitting in almost every Soviet publishing house and newspaper entity throughout the USSR. Smaller literary businesses typically did not use in-house Glavlit personnel but instead, sent manuscripts to a censor whereby corrections and deletions were appealed back through the Glavlit chain of command.
Artists commissioned to design posters for the government interacted with Glavlit on a regular basis because the agency vigorously controlled poster development from verbiage to design. Poster artists were obligated to tender their drafts to Glavlit censors for final approval before printing. For a poster to be formally approved for publishing, Glavlit assigned a letter and five-digit code on each poster indicating their endorsement. This code was also applied to books, musical scores and other printed matter. Glavrepertkom (Main Administration for Control of Repertory, Glavnoe upravlenie po konroliu za repertuarom) used a similar code on phonograph records and films.
In addition to Glavlit, censorship extended into the inner-workings of the Moscow Soviet. One such example was when Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Central Committee in 1985. At the time, the OrgOtdel (the department of the Moscow Soviet controlling work related to elected representatives) expunged the term perestroika from the printed versions of Gorbachev's speeches. Ironically, it was the era of perestroika that loosened Glavlit's control to help bring about popular culture reforms in the USSR.
En tandem with the USSR's collapse in 1991, Glavlit was dismantled. In its place was GUOT, the Main Directorate for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press and Other Media. In an ironic twist, while the post-Soviet GUOT maintained degrees of censorship in Russia it also played a role in de-censoring Glavlit's previously restricted material.