When the CIA Did Good: The Washington Post presents the Story of How the Agency Distributed Pasternak's novel, Dr. Zhivago
And so, the CIA chief urged Americans who had contact with Soviet citizens to use the novel to engage them in a discussion of the merits of free speech and the worthiness of individual freedom and compare it to the plight of the Soviet citizen living in an unfree society. Whether or not travelers to the Soviet bloc countries did this is unknown, and of course, in those days there were not too many Western tourists running to see the Soviet Union.
Even the KGB agents watching Russian students at the Youth Festival in Vienna were not immune to the novel’s power. The article ends with a nice anecdote. The agents told Russian students to take the book and read it, but leave it in Vienna and not try to bring it into the USSR when they returned home.
It is good to be reminded that as our security agencies are denigrated and regularly attacked, to know that in the heady days of the Cold War, they called some things correctly and took the right steps.